Coach Dave Daubenmire NewsWithViews.com, reprinted with permission
I posted this article once before but it is timeless and needs airing and consideration again and can I add constant consideration. You hear that phrase thrown around a lot these days. Seems like everywhere I go, I run into folks who claim to be “born again.” As I wrote in last week’s column, who am I to judge the salvation of another.
But the kicker is, the strange places that I run into these “born again” Christians. As I have stated before we do some ministry on the streets and it always sets me back a notch or two when I hear “born again” come out of some folk’s mouths. I find them heading into abortion clinics, outside strip clubs, drinking and swearing at Ohio State Football game parties, sleeping on the streets, and yelling at the referee at high school basketball games. Yep, those “born again” Christians are everywhere. Nearly 85% of Americans, or so George Barna tells us. Maybe we should look at that term.
John 3:1-7 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
I have said often that I am not a Biblical scholar. I haven’t spent one minute in formal “cemetery” training. Most of my education has been in the “school of the wilderness (hard knocks),” and when I find something that challenges me I do as the Bereans, “in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Although I don’t think he is a theologian, former New York Yankee great Yogi Berra always said “you can look it up.”
Read the full passage of John 3. It includes John 3:16, the Scripture hung in football stadiums around America. It is in this chapter that Jesus speaks about being “born again.” Pardon my lack of formal training, but I believe that the phrase “born again” is scarcely seen again throughout Scripture. You will certainly find the term “repent” many more times than you will “born again.”
Why in American Christianity do we have so much “born-again-ness,” but so little repentance?
Allow me to fast forward to the Crucifixion scene. It is at the death of Jesus that Nicodemus once again appears and except for John 3 and John 19:38, we don’t hear much about him. He was present to hear Jesus’ treatise on being born again, and was there to give Christ’s body a burial. Other than that, we don’t know a whole lot about him.
But here is what trips me up, (must be a root jutting up on the path in the wilderness), where does Nicodemus walk the aisle and say the sinner’s prayer? Where does he come to an altar, have brothers lay hands on him, and get up a brand new man? What stadium full of men did he do that in? If we are to pattern ourselves after the Scriptures, certainly someone can point me to where Nicodemus “came to Christ.”
Yet, by the millions, we have drawn people to an altar, had them repeat a simple prayer, told them they were “born again” and on their way to Heaven, only to see them with their face painted, beer in hand, screaming at a football game the next weekend. So my question is, how do you really know if the “Sinner’s Prayer” really takes? How can you be sure that the latest convert really is “saved”? Is saying a prayer really all that is required to get to Heaven?
If Nicodemus never walked an aisle and repeated a prayer, how can we assume that he was “born again”? And if he didn’t, can we assume that walking an aisle and saying a prayer will make us “born again”? Sorry to shake your theology, but I’m just trying to be a good Berean.
I know of churches that keep records of how many “salvations” they have witnessed. “How do they know?” I ask myself. Are they counting those who are “saved,” or those who said the prayer? Are those numbers really the same?
Judas was one of Jesus’ closest followers, so close he kept the cheque book. Yet at the end of the story it is clear that even though he was a follower of Jesus, Judas was never “saved.” Yet we hear nothing about Nicodemus being a follower, or a disciple, or saying the Sinner’s Prayer, yet at the end he was there taking care of his Saviour’s body.
Born Again….what does that mean? How did Nicodemus seemingly “get it,” while one of Christ’s disciples didn’t?
One thing that I always notice when we work with the homeless is that all of them have said the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Because so many different ministries reach out to this hurting group with food and clothing, the homeless almost feel an obligation to repeat a prayer. “Say a prayer, get a sandwich? Why not!” As we minister to them amidst the smell of urine, alcohol, and drugs they will all tell us that they are “born again.” Seems they had a prayer the week before with another group who was offering supplies.
They have said the prayer, they have “received Christ,” and they are “born again.” You see, they have made Jesus their Saviour, they have not made Him their Lord.
Lord---a person who has authority, control, or power over others; a master, chief, or ruler.
The homeless are no different from many in the Church. They have no problem receiving the benefits of Christ’s death; they just don’t want to fulfil the requirements of His new life. They want Jesus to take them to Heaven; they just don’t want to be bothered with Him now.
What did Jesus have to say about this? Read Matthew 7. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
Judas said all the right things, but Nicodemus, somewhere along the line, had a change of heart. Which one is with Jesus today?
Unfortunately, Christianity has been Americanized. It looks nothing like the first-century church. In a nation where abortion is legal, 50% of the church is divorced, homosexuals want to marry and heterosexuals don’t, government is corrupt, and there is a battle over the legality of Christ, eighty-five percent of Americans think they are on the winning team.
My coaching career was spent mending broken programs. I remember walking the halls and inviting young men to come out for the team. I assured them that the team was open to anyone who wanted to play, and that the team needed them in order to be successful. That “football evangelism” over the years produced a great amount of fruit.
But here was the catch. The team was open to anyone, but once you were on the team there were certain expectations you were required to follow. No drinking, smoking or drugs, no long hair, keep your grades up, respect your teachers, and represent your school with honour. Isn’t it amazing? Today you have to follow more rules to be on a football team than you do to be on God’s team. God doesn’t care how you behave, but your football coach does? Give me a break!
John 3:19 “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
So, where do you stand? I’m not interested in whether you walked an aisle and said a prayer. I don’t care how much money you give to your church, if you sing in the choir, or if you have been elevated to the role of pastor or deacon. Is Christ your Lord?
Luke 6:46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Everyone loves that Saviour part….few can swallow the Lordship requirement.
Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is there will your heart be also. ….24 No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Born again, huh? Accepted Christ as Saviour, did you? On your way to heaven…despite how you live? Living your best life now, are you? Jesus said our best life would be later.
Who do you serve or follow? Who is your Lord? That’s how you know if you are “born again.”
© 2006 Dave Daubenmire - All Rights Reserved Coach Dave Daubenmire, founder and President of Pass The Salt Ministries www.ptsalt.com and Minutemen United www.minutemenunited.org, is host of the high octane Pass The Salt radio show heard in Columbus, Ohio.
In 1999 Coach Daubenmire was sued by the ACLU for praying with his teams while coaching high school in Ohio. He now spends his energy fighting for Christian principles in the public domain. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org