You may remember the old TV show that has now been revived called, “To Tell the Truth.” A visiting panel of guests tries to determine which of the contestants is actually telling the truth. Two out of three are there to deceive the panel, while only one is sworn to “Tell the Truth.” Often, the liars do a great job and receive more votes than the real contestant! I sometimes feel that same scenario is being played out in the church today…
I tell people that we might be living in the most difficult time in all of history when it comes to being a real Christian. Our battle against the world, the devil, and the flesh may be greater now than at any time. Think about it.
The world is more appealing to the fallen nature of man than at any time in the past. We are living in what many believe is the greatest time to be alive, especially when it comes to the ease and pleasures of life. Many even think this is as good as it gets. Even some Christians are afraid of death, believing that this life may be better than heaven itself. Of course, that is a deception of the enemy and to be expected. After all, Satan has thousands of years of experience in deceiving mankind and has become quite proficient in the art of deception. And oh, by the way, that is his greatest weapon against humanity. In addition, we have discovered new levels of depravity, all while presenting it as the accepted norm in today’s society.
So, it is no wonder that we are living in a confusing time, when it comes to understanding what it means to be a Christian. For example, some statistics say that 85% of Americans are Christian. If that number were half true, I doubt that our country would be in the mess we are in today!
Many people think that they are a Christian if they were born in America. After all, America is a Christian nation – right? This confusion is only compounded by those raised in Christian homes, grew up attending church, or maybe walked the aisle and prayed the “sinners’ prayer.” Keith Green, a Christian singer and song writer who died in a plane crash years ago, would often say, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than going to McDonald’s will make you a hamburger.” How true.
The problem with all of this is that many assume they are a Christian by association or through a simple prayer. Yes, a simple prayer can change everything – if change is the fruit of that prayer. The question we must ask ourselves, however, is: What makes a person a Christian – according to the Bible?
All the things I mentioned above can play a role in someone becoming a true believer. Being born in America probably makes it easier to find faith in Christ, than if you were born in a Muslim or Hindu nation. The same is true for those raised in Christian homes, who attend church, or even pray a sinner’s prayer. Yet, none of those things in and of themselves is a guarantee that a person will become a true follower of Jesus Christ. I know, because many of those things were true in my life – before I was saved.
In John 3:1-5, Jesus has an encounter with a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews. I believe Nicodemus was a sincere man, seeking to know more about God. So, he came to Jesus and said, “We know You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God and with Him.” “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’”
According to Jesus, a person must be born again to see and to enter the kingdom of God. Being born once won’t get you into heaven; we must be born again. We must be born of both water and the Spirit. Water birth refers to naturally being born into this world; Spirit birth ushers us into God’s eternal kingdom.
I grew up attending church, but that did not make me a Christian. I definitely had religion; I was what you might call a “hybrid Christian.” I started out Baptist, attended Catholic school and mass every day for three years, and then attended a Lutheran Church for several years before going in the Air Force. I even had a bit of Pentecostalism growing up. While none of that ever changed my life, it did, however, make me think I was on the narrow road to heaven. If you had asked me, back then, if I believed in God and Jesus Christ, I would have answered, “Yes!” My upbringing and church attendance led me to believe I was a Christian – but I was not born again.
But on March 15, 1971, I was born again, and my whole life changed. When Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again, He was talking about something as real as natural birth, but in the spiritual realm. He was referring to a birth where the spirit of a person is made alive! You see, it is not enough to have an intellectual understanding of Christianity; we have to experience a work of God’s grace in regeneration. We have to be made new! One pastor said it this way, “We have to believe, until we come to faith in Christ.” That’s what happened to me on March 15, 1971. God, the creator of the universe, entered my life, and I was forever changed. I entered the kingdom of God that day and never looked back.
When the church losses its zeal for God, she will often revert to a watered-down form of the gospel. We try to make it more appealing to the natural man, and in so doing, we lower the standard of God’s Word. We eliminate words like – sin, repentance, holiness, and the fear of God. Those are considered harsh and negative words that often repel people from the church. Back in the 80’s, I attended a couple church growth conferences, while pastoring in Columbus, Ohio. The key word back then was ‘relevant.’ The church needed to be relevant to the culture if we were to reach people. That decision, to be relevant, lowered the bar of the gospel and opened the doors for the world to come in. We sold out the conviction of the Holy Spirit for a man-made gospel that appeals to the carnal man.
Today we are left with a form of godliness but have lost the power of God. A modern gospel has led many to believe they can live like hell and still go to heaven. That is not the case. Many Americans believe they are a Christian for all sorts of reasons, some of which I mentioned at the beginning of this article. But don’t be deceived: Knowing about Jesus – and knowing Him – are two different things. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life, that they might know You, the One true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3) Jesus was talking about knowing God personally, intimately – not just knowing about Him. Being born again not only means entrance into God’s eternal kingdom, but entrance into the very heart of God.
If you have been born again, you will know it. God’s Spirit lives inside of you, and you know that you are His. (Romans 8:16) If not, the invitation is still available to all who believe. Being born again can happen anywhere, at any time, in a moment of time. Paul tells us in I Timothy 2:4 that God, “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And so, He waits for us to come to Him. He waits for us to seek Him with our whole heart. If we do, He has promised to make Himself known to us. “I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity…” (Jeremiah 29:14)
If, after reading this article, you are not sure where you stand with God, let this be your day of salvation. God’s grace is available to every person who humbles himself, repents of sin, and accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior. On the Judgment Day, when you hear, “Will the real Christian please stand up!” make sure there is no hesitation in your response.
~ Paul Moore