In my last column we began looking at one of the most basic misconceptions that many have regarding Christianity, namely, what it actually means to be a Christian.
In pursuit of a Biblical answer to this question we looked at John 1:12-13, “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (NASB).
Perhaps there is no passage clearer than the one cited above when it comes to defining what a Christian is or what a Christian is not. One is not born a Christian according to that text and in a related concept, please note that verse 12 speaks of “the right to become children of God.”
Now if it is a right based upon belief as this passage states, then we must realize that the common belief that all human kind are children of God is in fact an error. If all humans are already children of God by virtue of birth, then the right spoken of in this passage is meaningless — why would a child of God be given the right to become a child of God? If we are already his children, then the observation by John at this point is meaningless.
Sensing the confusion, God answers the question through the pen of the Apostle with verse 13, explaining that the Christian life does not begin by natural birth (not of blood), it does not begin by personal effort (not by the will of the flesh), nor does it begin by affiliation with a certain church or denomination (nor of the will of man).
A person becomes a Christian one way and one way only: he or she is “born of God.”
What does that phrase, “born of God” mean? The common way this concept is expressed is by the term “born again.” I once heard a person from a certain denomination making disparaging remarks about another by stating, “Well you know (that person) is a born again Christian.”
I have news for you, there is no Christian anywhere who is not a born again believer. That is what our text says. And Jesus speaking on the subject of what it takes to become a child of God said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3, NASB).
Please note that Jesus’ statement from John 3 is clear: only those who are born again will see the kingdom of God.
Entrance into heaven is not based upon one dying; that is a common misconception many hold. Entrance into heaven is based upon being born again, that is what Jesus affirms in John 3:3 and he says it as a universal exclusive. John 1:12 tells us how we can be born again, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,” ( NASB).
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was fond of preaching “You must be born again!” One man, taking offense at Mr. Wesley’s harping on this subject, complained to him, “Why are you always preaching, You must be born again, You must be born again?” Wesley just smiled and said, “Because you must be born again!” If we miss this simple truth, we’ve missed the entirety of the Gospel message and the essence of what it means to be a Christian. Have you been born again?