Jesus said, "You must be born again." To which people today reply, "What me?"

A generation ago, the need to be born again was not only a central feature of the gospel, as it is in every generation; it was also effective element in an evangelistic presentation because it reflected a sense of need with which the hearers resonated. Today is very different. Unbelievers have a hard time with the concept of being born again for a simple reason: why do I need to be born again when there was nothing wrong with the first time?!

The sunnily optimistic view of man's nature has now been almost universally adopted. This takes the ground out from under our evangelistic endeavours. The genuine good news that Jesus came to deal with the problem of sin seems irrelevant to those who have already believed the false good news that man is inherently good.

If I am good already, the only good news I want to hear is about how my life can be better. Better healthcare, better education, better economic growth, better environment - all the hot button issues every time an election rolls around. And, sadly, the promises that the politicians make offering good news of 'change for the better' in these very issues is mirrored in the good news promised by preachers of a gospel now geared to the felt needs of a new generation. The prosperity gospel and the prosperity political platform platform are two sides of the same counterfeit coin. It's the only good new that people who have believed the apparently good news that I'm a good person really want to hear.

Paul's masterful approach in Romans is the only way to go. People need to believe the bad news about human sinfulness before they can hear the good news about salvation. There are at least two grounds for encouragement of preachers and those engaged in personal evangelism if they will pursue this counter-cultural approach.

The first is pragmatic. G.K Chesterton was right in observing that original sin is the one scientifically verifiable doctrine of Christianity. A 1999 study by Montreal University psychologist Richard Tremblay surveyed 511 children under 18 months of age. His work, published in Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, may not have technically been the scientific discovery of original sin, but it clearly demonstrates that there is something flawed in human nature long before an imperfect environment spoils us. He discovered that 70% of infants grab things, 46% push, 27% bite, 24% kick, 23% fight, and 21% physically attack. This is before the little darlings could have learned such behaviour. Perhaps the most effective form of pre-evangelism would be to spend a couple of days in a pre-school.

But the second reason for hope is that the Holy Spirit has been sent with this express purpose: "He will convict the world concerning sin..." (John 16:8). He has the facts on his side, and his power is not limited by the falsehoods of the intellectual fads of our generation. The Gospel still is the power of God for salvation. It is good news, even for people who have no sense of needing the good news. You must be born again! What me? Yes, even me!


Gary said...

Isn’t it odd that if the Baptists and evangelicals are correct that their “born again experience” is the true and ONLY means of salvation, the term “born again” is only mentioned three times in the King James Bible? If “making a decision for Christ” is the only means of salvation, why doesn’t God mention it more often in his Word? Why only THREE times? Isn’t that REALLY, REALLY odd?

Why is it that the Apostle Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, NEVER uses this term? Why is this term never used in the Book of Acts to describe the many mentioned Christian conversions? Why is this term only used by Jesus in a late night conversation with Nicodemus, and by Peter once in just one letter to Christians in Asia Minor?

If you attend a Baptist/evangelical worship service what will you hear? You will hear this: “You must be born again: you must make a decision for Christ. You must ask Jesus into your heart. You must pray to God and ask him to forgive you of your sins, come into your heart, and be your Lord and Savior (the Sinner’s Prayer). You must be an older child or adult who has the mental capacity to make a decision to believe, to make a decision to repent, and to make a decision to ask Jesus into your heart.”

It is very strange, however, that other than “you must be born again” none of this terminology is anywhere to be found in the Bible! Why do Baptists and evangelicals use this non-biblical terminology when discussing salvation?

Maybe "accepting Christ into your heart" is NOT what being born again really means. Maybe…making a “decision” for Christ is NOT how God saves sinners!

Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

Gary said...

Five questions that Baptists and Evangelicals should ask themselves

1. Does the Bible state that a sinner is capable of choosing righteousness/choosing God?

The Bible states that the sinner must believe and repent, but are these actions initiated and performed by man of his own intellectual abilities, or are faith, belief, and repentance a part of the entire "package" of salvation? Are faith, belief, and repentance part of the "free gift"? Does God give you faith, belief and repentance at the moment he "quickens" you, or does he require you to make a decision that you want them first, and only then does he give them to you?

2. Is there any passage of Scripture that describes salvation in the Baptist/evangelical terms of: "Accept Christ into your heart", "Make a decision for Christ", "Pray to God and ask him to forgive you of your sins, come into your heart, and be your Lord and Savior (the Sinner's Prayer)". Is it possible that being "born again" is something that God does at a time of his choosing, and not something that man decides to do at a time of his choosing? Is man an active participant in his salvation in that he cooperates with God in a decision to believe, or is man a passive participant in his salvation; God does ALL the work?

3. Is the Bible a static collection of words or do the Words of God have real power, real supernatural power? How does the Bible describe the Word? Is it the meaning of the Word that has power or do the words themselves have supernatural power to "quicken" the souls of sinners, creating faith, belief and repentance?

4. Does preaching the Word save everyone who hears it or only the "predestined", the "elect", the "called", the "appointed" will believe when they hear the Word?

5. WHEN does the Bible, if read in its simple, plain, literal rendering, say that sins are forgiven and washed away?

Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals