The heading read “Just another sinner, Born Again.” Above it was a was an imposing head shot of Donald Trump.
The article by Lincoln Mullen appeared in Wednesday’s Atlantic magazine. My friend, Andy Diestlekamp, shared it on facebook yesterday. Andy tagged me since I had posted about James Dobston’s claim that Donald Trump had been converted, then quickly began to back track.
Regarding the Mullen piece Andy noted, “This article is a must read for all professing Christians. Not only does this reveal the unequal yoking that politics has the potential of creating, but it also exposes the unscriptural oversimplification of the gospel among the ‘evangelical.’”
I agree, Andy. Not only in terms of the issues of politics and religion, but by its misinformation regarding the new birth.
The article repeats a common Protestant teaching “to be born again, one must make a decision to pray, repent of sins, and accept Jesus’s salvation.” They cite the teaching of Billy Graham, the evangelist to many Presidents, and Campus Crusade founder, Bill Bright, who popularized what he called “the four spiritual laws.” The tract teaches to pray the sinners’ prayer and promises “you can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer.”
What does the Bible say about being born again?
Jesus first introduced the concept to a Jewish religious leader, Nicodemus, in John 3. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus was perplexed by the statement. He wondered how one could enter his mother’s womb and be born again.
Jesus replied,”Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
The new birth is not physical, but a spiritual birth. It is something that effects a change in the life of the sinner. The idea of a “new birth” speaks to a new way of living. It means to begin again. It implies that there is change from one’s past life.
The new birth is often referred to as the Biblical doctrine of regeneration. The apostle Paul expressed it in these words:
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7).
The apostle Peter referred to the new birth in this way.
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:22-23).
It is apparent that the new birth involves several elements:
(1) We receive it by the grace of God. We didn’t earn it.
(2) It is prerequisite to enter the kingdom of God.
(3) It comes through Jesus Christ, sent to be our Savior.
(4) It involves the Holy Spirit and His revealed Word, called the imperishable seed.
(5) It requires baptism.
In many circles baptism is denied as having a part in the new birth. Yet, the idea of both “water” and “washing” fit Jesus command, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16;16). When the first gospel sermon was preached on Pentecost, Peter commanded those believing hearers “To repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).
And when Saul of Tarsus had his encounter with Christ on the Damascus road and fearfully cried, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” He was told to go into the city and there he would receive instruction. The Lord sent a preacher, Ananias, who taught Saul the gospel, then concluded his lesson with this exhortation: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’ (Acts 22:16)
Sadly both the secular and the religious world loosely use the expression “born again Christian.” Evangelicals, too often, include someone in their number whose conversion is questionable at best. And unbelievers as a pejorative term to mock Believers.
Oh, and by the way, “born again Christian” is redundant. If you’re born again, you are a Christian. And then you begin to produce the fruit of the Spirit including love, joy, peace, patience and self-control.
Who’s born again? As Jesus said in the Mountain Message, “You will know them by the fruit they bear.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman