I gave my life to Christ on Christmas Eve, 1994 in Riverside, California at Harvest Church. Harvest Church is better known statewide for its “Harvest Crusade” festivals every year that pack the Anaheim Angels baseball stadium. The senior pastor, Greg Laurie, leads the meetings every year by bringing the same “why we’re in need of salvation” message that changes thousands of lives. I was eight years old, and though I had vaguely heard of Jesus through my grandparents taking me to church, it wasn’t until that night on Christmas Eve that I clearly understood and heard that I needed to surrender my life to God, to become saved, and be “born again.”
The term “born again” refers to Jesus’ teaching in John chapter three while he is speaking to Nicodemus. Nicodemus had heard the phrase before, but didn’t understand the meaning and questions Jesus as to what it means. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Additionally, John 1:12-13 says, “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God.”
In Christianity, we believe in immortality. Immortality in the sense that our souls will live on forever after this life. On earth, immortality seems to be that ever-present subject out of the realm of possibility and out of arm’s reach. People want youth forever. People try to find immortality through fame, infamy through horrific acts, or seeking after the latest and greatest health crazes. People have desires to live forever, and that’s okay–they should. They’ve been hard-wired to long for that by God. But the perspective of immortality needs to be shifted from immortality on earth to where we are actually immortal. That is in eternity. Whether you do something or you do nothing to partner with Christianity’s beliefs, it’s the Christian belief that you will find eternal life or immortal life. The question isn’t if you have it, the question is where you’ll have it. If I told you I would give you an all expenses paid vacation for five years, you’d probably be pretty excited. But then if I told you it was to outer Siberia, you probably wouldn’t be too happy. We need to consider the sacrifice to the destination of where our eternal ticket is punched. Our bodies will not live forever, but our spirits are immortal. The question isn’t how you can achieve it; it’s where it will be achieved.
Romans 2:6-7 “God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life.”
You were created an earthly and eternal being, and thus, have already achieved immortality as a created spiritual being by the Lord God Almighty. Just as you wouldn’t want a five-year-expenses-paid trip to Siberia, you have to know that you also can’t just go to an airport, pick an airplane headed to Hawaii, hop in first class and go. There’s a price to be paid for you to do that. Our eternal destination is no different. The only way to get to heaven is by paying the price for sins against God that lead to death, a price no one on earth has the ability or wallet size to pay for. The cost is not financial, it’s spiritual, and the spiritual cost is pure righteousness. Fortunately for us, Jesus Christ the son of God, paid that price for us. And the tickets that he paid for us to get there are plentiful enough for all of us. The catch here is that even though Jesus has enough tickets for all of us, it doesn’t mean that we all have a ticket. We have to come to Christ to get it. He is the only way to get to heaven. Having paid for the tickets doesn’t mean they were magically shipped around the world to everyone who now carries them. He is handing them out, and crazily and radically enough, he is going around to EVERYONE’S door and knocking to offer such a gift. The beauty of salvation isn’t just a “get out of hell” card. Once you have the ticket, you enter a community of believers, and a kingdom family. The kingdom of God can be tapped in to as a believer here on earth. As Jesus taught us to pray “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” we’re taught to bring the kingdom ON EARTH as it is there. Jesus shows us the model of bringing heaven to earth. For example, there is no sickness in heaven, Jesus gave us his same authority to lay hands on the sick and heal them! Not only have we been destined to walk in the spiritual things of heaven, we’ve also been called into a community of believers that are structured “to build one another up.” Jesus loved us so much he chose to conquer death and offer us eternal life. It was Jesus that chose to put death under his feet and destroy it to live in eternity with us. The gift of salvation is a gift of pure love.
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
To be forgiven of your sin, you need to reach out and accept what Jesus has done. That looks like confessing to God, letting him know you’re aware that you’re a sinner and not good enough to get to heaven. That looks like acknowledging and choosing to believe that Jesus actually died for you and putting your faith in him as your Savior and Lord. John 3:14-15 says that through this faith you will go to heaven when you die and you’ll start having a life on this earth that is more than worth living as well. The truth the world and even many believers need to hear is that God loves you. God not only loves you unconditionally, he loves you with more longing, fervor, and hunger than you could ever imagine. No past history of wrongs, regardless of how bad, could change that; and no good deed or great work could increase it. He is in love with you because you are made in his image and made to be his children and brought into a family of God. You were made to not be alone. You were made to live in community, to do life through love, giving, humility, and companionship, and God’s love can provide all of that to you and more. Being born again is to be made new: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Being born again is to be born into the family of God as a beloved son or daughter that gets all of the same rights and privileges as the citizens of heaven, because once we are adopted in, or accept our ticket, that’s exactly what we become, citizens of heaven. When our sins are forgiven, we’re not just an “improved” version of our old self–we’re a completely new person! We’re no longer bound to any of the guilt or shame that previously held us down; instead we are, spiritually speaking, a brand new creation.
Romans 3:23 states that, “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” You see, no matter how “good” we are, no one lives up to the standard of God’s glory without Jesus covering us. Mother Theresa herself wasn’t good enough to get to heaven without Jesus covering her iniquity (immoral behavior). We can’t get there through works, but rather only through the grace of God (Eph. 2:8-9). At the cross of Calvary, the righteous demands of God were satisfied. This was made possible because Jesus paid it for us. The Bible teaches that if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, and asked him to forgive you of your sin, then when you die you will go immediately into the presence of God in heaven. What about the non-believer? As they too are immortal, the Bible says if a non-believer dies, they will go to hell. It’s a message many don’t like to hear, but it’s true.
Becoming born again is about confessing with your mouth and believing in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 10:9). The gospel message of being born again isn’t about scaring you into submission. Rather, the focus is on close intimacy with Jesus. The world often finds religion and what Christians call a relationship with Jesus to be synonymous. But there is a vast difference between the two–mainly freedom and authority. In relationships, so many in the world have experienced abuse in some form. For many, that abuse came through as an idea of submission meaning you’re a slave, or have no rights, sacrificing to the person holding power over you. Because of this dysfunctional paradigm that much of our culture has experienced or endured, any idea of giving control of one’s life over to an omnipotent God could seem even more overwhelming when one might consider you’d never escape him. But that is not true. Godly submission allows us to walk into a freedom not experienced before. God, the very creator of love, doesn’t twist or abuse such a faith placed in him. He exalts and honors us in the choices we make. If our heart is beating with the very one who gave it to us, we find new levels of love, understanding, purpose, place and power. To be a Christian doesn’t mean to be judgmental, condemning, or a finger-pointer. If we look at the model of Jesus and his ministry, we find that being a Christian actually means being unconditionally loving, accepting, and honoring.
One of the greatest human fears is death. I would propose to you that this fear comes from a lack of knowing where we will wind up when we die. Without assurance of what comes next, it’s human nature that anyone would fear the unknown. But as Christians, we have been given a promise to where “next” is for us. It is this assurance of life beyond the grave that brings peace, hope, and confidence in who I am, who I was made to be, and where I know I’ll be going. This wondrous grace and hope are available to all, and the gift of being born again is as sure as the rising of the sun. You need only but to accept it.
John 14:1-3 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
The silver lining in all of this is that being born again isn’t just about eternal, immortal life. It’s also an invitation to more in the here and now. It’s an answer and solution to all that is available in the kingdom of God to you right now. It’s about a community with God, a body of believers that are able to cope with life’s problems, deal with the challenges that relationships bring, and more. You see, God didn’t just promise us life beyond the grave, but he also promised us life IN life, abundance in the midst of life BEFORE death. The Bible says we go from glory to glory. That means that we don’t go from worse to even more dire straights – it means we step into a glory and anointing that surpasses worldly knowledge and an understanding into a higher perspective and truth. In conclusion I’ll leave you with this: Christ is the answer. Christ is the only answer. We are born again and made new in his image, and with Jesus… life can be changed completely, including yours.
Becoming born again is about confessing with your mouth and believing in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.
“Our generation has never seen a man crucified except in sugary religious art… A crucified slave beside the Roman road screamed until his voice died and then hung, a filthy, festering clot of flies, sometimes for days– a living man whose hands and feet were swollen masses of gangrenous meat. This is what our Lord took upon himself, ‘that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.’ ‘Thou shalt not’ is the beginning of wisdom. But the end of wisdom, the new law, is ‘Thou shalt.’ To be Christian is to be old? Not a bit of it. To be Christian is to be reborn, and free, and unafraid, and immortally young.” –Joy Davidman (From Smoke on the Mountain, © 1954, Westminster Press, p.20)