Greg was a successful businessman who was going after his dream of being an airline pilot. He was the kind of guy who cared for his wife and kids and wanted the best for them. When he met with me, he explained that he had grown up in a church of a different denomination.
While in college he met Kathy, who was a Baptist. Greg willingly put aside his parents’ complaints about marrying outside his church and married her. He asked me, “Do I need to take a class or pay some dues to be a part of this church?” “How do I become a member?”
In my years of ministry, I have never had anyone offer to pay “dues” to get into church! But it did give me an opportunity to share with him a biblical truth that is foundational for the Christian faith.
It was the same question that the learned religious leader, Nicodemus, asked Jesus in John Chapter 3 when he asked our Savior about His ministry. Jesus replied to this man, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).
I explained to Greg that for a person to be a part of this church or for them to be a part of the Kingdom of God, they too must be born again. I shared with him in the book of John the wonderful story of Jesus and Nicodemus and how it applied to him.
There are many modern-day church goers who are just as surprised by Jesus’ words as was Greg. They understand going to church, trying to live a moral life, paying their bills, obeying the law, giving money to the church or charity. But when you start talking about their need to be born again, they stare at you as if you have three eyes.
If you look at John Chapter 3, you can see that the rebirth that Jesus is describing is not a physical rebirth but a spiritual rebirth. It means a change in a person’s inner being and a change in our basic nature.
Why is this so important? Actually, it has a lot to do with what is wrong with our world and what will really cure its ills. For years humanity has been trying to cure what ails society through knowledge, science, invention, discovery, philosophy and materialistic advances. While much of this has made life easier for us, the one thing that has not improved is man himself. We still continue to steal, murder, lie, cheat, etc. Human nature has not changed from the beginning of time.
The problem is we are trying to change the exterior when it is the interior of man that needs to be changed. Humanity does evil things because we are sinners at heart. Therefore, to stop from sinning, the heart must be changed. That is why Jesus said, “You must be born again.”
What does Jesus mean by “born again?” It means to have a personal experience of conversion to Jesus Christ. How does this happen?
It all begins when we realize our need to turn from our old ways and turn to Jesus. The best term to use is “repent.” One must repent, or change directions.
A person who repents has a change of mind and heart and has turned to Jesus. There are three elements of repentance.
First, you must come to hate your sin because of what it has cost God to forgive it. It was your sins and mine that nailed Jesus to the cross. Sin is so terrible that Jesus had to die for it.
Second, you must confess your sins to God. To confess really means to “agree” with it. You have to admit that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness.
Thirdly, you must quit your life of sin and turn by faith to Jesus. You can’t change your life on your own, but with God’s help you can. God will send His spirit to help you! All He (God) asks is that you trust Him. When you seek a new life, He will do the converting and changing. Only Jesus can give this new life.
The moment you, in prayer, cry out to God and confess to Him that you are a sinner in need of a savior and that you are willing to turn away from a life of sin and turn to Him, God will work a miracle in your life. Jesus Christ, in the person of the Holy Spirit, comes to live in your life. In an instant, you are born again. In an instant, you become a new creation and are adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:15).
Greg did this. As I met with Greg, I shared with him how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He went home that night, having heard what it truly takes to be a part of God’s family. Later that week he called and shared with me, his voice quaking with emotion, that he had asked Jesus to be the Lord of his life.
I introduced him to the church the next Sunday as a new, born-again believer in Christ.
In the words of an old preacher friend, “You can join a temperance society and become reformed, you can join a literary society and become informed, you can join a secret society and become uniformed, but if you are joined to Christ, you become transformed.” Let Jesus come into your life!
Dr. Dennis R. Culbreth is the senior pastor at Jasper’s First Baptist Church. www.jaspersfbc.org