Last week I was on a trip to New Orleans where headquarters for the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing is located. I was staying in the Landmark Hotel, located near the Louis Armstrong International Airport.
Seated in my rental car, I was mentally going over the route to the Naval Support Activity. Cruising along Interstate 10, working my way over to the east side of New Orleans, I was flipping through the radio stations. As you might expect there is quite a selection to choose from. I was looking for some local talk show to catch up on the local issues and happenings in New Orleans. They are in the Hurricane Season which has put everyone on a state of alert after last year’s devastation. Plus, there has been the recent reelection of the controversial mayor of the Big Easy, Ray Nagin. I finally settled on a station that caught my attention because of the topic “Born Again.” No, this was not on one of the many religious stations in the New Orleans market. By the station’s own description, they are conservative and secular.
What caught my attention was the program host talking about the term “born again.” “This might be interesting,” I thought. A caller was on the line who was obviously a Christian because he was attempting to explain to the radio host what the term “born again” means. I quickly deduced that two things were happening: 1) The caller was valiantly giving his best effort to define both the meaning and experience of being born again, and 2) The host was not the least bit interested in giving his caller the opportunity, but instead made disparaging remarks about the “religious right,” and specifically the term “born again.” I listened to this for a few minutes before moving on to another station, but here’s some of what I heard from the host: The term Born Again is simply a tool used by religionists to make other people feel religiously inferior. And, using this term is nonsense because either you believe or you don’t, according to the host.
For a brief moment I considered placing a call to the radio program, but figured the host wouldn’t be any more interested in hearing what I had to say than he was his current caller. That’s assuming I even managed to get through. Not to mention I was in the car driving through a city where you need to always be paying attention. So, instead, I have decided to share my thoughts with you.
The first thing I would want to share is this: the term “born again” is not something religionists fabricated for personal use in attempts to convert people to the Christian faith. Many of you remember the 1976 presidential election when then Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter referred to himself as a “Born Again” Christian. I remember how that was received in the media! The jokes and snide remarks were everywhere. In an effort to present himself as being a human who wrestles with life issues, he commented that he had at times lusted. Well, this merely added more fodder to the media frenzy!
The second, and most important thing I would say about the term “born again” is that Jesus himself used this term. It first appears when Jesus has a visit from a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Jesus says to him, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Understandably, Nicodemus is confused and says so. He mumbles something about the impossibility of a man entering his mother’s womb a second time to be born. Jesus says, “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the spirit is spirit.” In other words, don’t confuse the two – something the radio host I was listening to failed to acknowledge.
Being born again is something that God brings about in a person’s life when they have arrived at the point where they understand that they can do absolutely nothing to save themselves from their sin nature, and that the only way they can ever get to heaven is if God makes the way. Enter: Jesus – God’s Perfect answer.
You see, because Jesus is divine, he alone is capable of preparing me for heaven. In my sinful condition I do not qualify for heaven. So when I submit to Jesus I allow him to make the necessary changes in my life. Further, I understand that it is only through him that I am made suitable for heaven. This is what it means to be born again – my heart changed by God’s hand.
This also explains why those who have had this experience want others to have the same experience. It is truly life-changing.