HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
August 27, 2007, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Once is not enough

Dr. Tom Rakow, pastor, Grace Bible Church, Silver Lake

Who needs to be born again? Do drug addicts and murderers need to experience the new birth? How about Sunday school teachers, church board members, and even pastors?

Years ago, during Bible college, I volunteered for a ministry at the Cook County Jail in Chicago. It was a big facility with many different cell blocks. Each of these cell blocks usually had about 20 to 30 prisoners.

There was a common area where they could gather when not in their bunk. The handful of volunteers would go to these different units and then speak through the bars to whomever would listen.

I especially remember one occasion, when I was talking to a man that had an unusually wild look in his eyes. He was in jail for child abuse.

I read John, chapter three through the bars to him. Many people realize that this chapter contains the verse, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

However, many people don’t realize that Jesus was actually talking to a religious leader by the name of Nicodemus. According to the Bible, Nicodemus was not only a religious leader, but he also believed that Jesus had performed miracles, and that Jesus was also a teacher who had come from God (see John 3:1-2).

Nevertheless, neither this man’s religious position, nor his basic beliefs were enough. Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” (3:7b).

I held the Bible so the prisoner in the Cook County Jail could follow along with me as I read the text aloud. I then asked him, “Now tell me – who do you think needs to be born again?”

I’ll never forget his answer. He said, “You know, pimps and prostitutes – people that are in and out of jail all the time. They need to be born again. Not me, I’m going to be getting out of jail in a year and a half or two years.”

One evening, four or five days later, I was walking back from the grocery store to my dorm room. I passed in front of a house on a darkly lit street. There was a beautiful African-American woman sitting on some house steps.

She said, “Hey! Where are you going?”

I said, “I just bought some groceries and I’m going back to my dorm at the Moody Bible Institute.”

I could tell she was embarrassed by my answer, and even more embarrassed when I asked her, “What are you doing?”

She was a prostitute and responded, “You know.”

I asked her if I could sit down next to her – to which she consented. I happened to have a Gospel of John in my pocket. I pulled it out and I read John, chapter three to her, and then asked, “Now, who do you think needs to be born again?”

She said, “When it gets cold, I won’t be out here on the streets. I don’t do this year-round.” From her perspective, you had to be a full-time prostitute before it was necessary to be born again.

How about you? Have you been born again?

A while back, I met a fellow in Wyoming who had been a pastor for 25 years, but did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. One Sunday, during an adult Sunday school class, he was outside of the classroom when he overheard his daughter comment that she did not think her dad (the pastor) had been “born again.”

This caused him to search the Scriptures and he eventually surrendered his life to Christ – and experienced what it meant to be “born again.” He had been religious, but now, his entire ministry and life changed.

How about you? Have you been born again?

The fact is, whether one is religious or unchurched, rich or poor, educated or lacking in education, it is not enough to be born once.

According to Jesus Christ, “You must be born again” (John 3:7).

Have you been born again?

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