Friday, April 27, 2007

Born Again -st-ness-ism

There is much correction needed in my former evangelicalism. I agree. I would not be where I am standing now had I thought all was well. It was in the process of observing the things going on inside and those outside me that made me try to understand, how is Christianity "suppose to work"? I had questions, questions like - what really is the Gospel? What is the nature of faith and Christian life? Is it a trip of one victory to another? Is the Bible about me and how I could have good success? I did discover that what I formerly thought was true was not all that true and it needed adjustments. Like any naive believer, I was influenced by people I admired who lived behind the pulpit. They were sincere dynamic and yes, charismatic pastors whose teachings I absorbed and parroted. They represented what Christianity was all about. They were well meaning people, they taught what they believed the Bible said. But, there were things that were wrong. Now, I am like a boy who seemed to have discovered where the real goodies are and enthusiasm gets ahead, often it being manifested in a somewhat critical way.

I hope my readers who visit from all over the world (mainly in the USA, Australia, UK, Canada) [but I do not mean to imply I got tons of them, but this is the world of the internet, they can be in India or Malaysia, no matter] do not judge that this one blog site is just against anything going on in evangelia or in Romanism. I hope they do not visit this blog to entertain themselves by joyously wondering, now what is he against this time? That would be boring wouldn't it? Besides, such novelty will wear out. I hope they find that somewhere in the bowels of this site, they find some of my blogs that does not kill but rather make alive, make the soul sing through Christ and His Gospel. I hope so.

So I put the picture of Whitfield here for a reason, to discuss the subject of "born again-ness". I have to thank Steve for jogging my mind on this. When I realized the work of Jesus was for me, I did not know the term born again. The pastors of the Assemblies of God felloweship where I first attended after believing told me that this was what happened to me. The term was foreign to my consciousness, I knew about being "saved", but not about "being born again". From then on I heard about it and even going to ministry that was the subject of my teaching and my theme. Like Whitfield I preached on "you must be being born again", as if one can do something to do that. Sometimes questions are good and so a few years ago, I did an exercise to see if the Apostles in Acts preached on this theme. So I scrutinized each sermon I could find in Acts. Shockingly, I found no sermon enjoining people to be "born again" like I did (and like my pastors did).

In John 3:5, being born again does not mean it is a command, rather it is a description of what should happen to us to see the kingdom of God, it does not imply nor taught that we can do something about it. Indeed the verses even discuss the role of "water and the Spirit" in John 3. As Steve said, Nicodemus wanted the "how". In Acts, the disciples did not focus on this for this is the effect of something - it is the effect of the Holy Spirit. I noticed the disciples in Acts concentrated on proclaiming the Law and the Gospel to their hearers. Their sermons were different from mine - and I should say, far different from Mr. Whitfield's too. Under the disciples, people came to faith, they were indeed born again, but the effect was not their theme, the Gospel was the disciple's theme and focus.

So do I want people to be born again? Yes, but that is something I can not do for myself nor for someone else, nor for themselves. The same way I did not decide to be born, neither did they, so I nor they can decide to be born again. But here is what I as a preacher can do - I can faithfully tell them the problem of their sin, and tell them the solution that Jesus did for those sins. Now, let's see if they don't get born again.


D. Engebretson said...

As a fellow blogger I share your desire not to be always perceived as just being "against something." There is a lot of that out there. Hopefully we will both retain that balance between warning of false teaching while trying to shed light on the Truth some may not know.

Re: being 'born again' - It is true we cannot do this ourself. The very concept of birth rules this out. How can one 'birth' oneself into the world to begin with? John 3 is truly about Baptism, as Jesus so clearly indicated that it was being born of "water and the Spirit." However, one can come to faith through the Word alone as well, as demonstated by the thief on the cross. Baptism is, as I think Augustine may have termed it, a "visible Word." It is a means of grace as is the proclaimed Word itself.

L P Cruz said...

Pastor Don,

I will be blant like you, John 3:5-7 is about baptism.