When Nicodemus, a Jewish leader, was praising Jesus, Jesus told him the awful truth, that a man must be born-again, for him to see or enter God’s Kingdom
IN 1954, we were drilled copiously on the catechism of our Church when we were preparing for baptismal examination. Nobody mentioned anything about the new birth. Four years later, I went through the same catechism again, preparatory for receiving the Holy Communion. Nobody mentioned also anything about being born-again. In fact, I never heard anything about it until the end of the civil war, when Ihuoma, one of my cousins, returned from Enugu and started talking about the Scripture Union and ‘born-again’.
I could not make anything out of what she was saying, a lady, who never missed any of our ‘jumps’ and I knew her boyfriend. She did not preach to me but was only exciting herself in the strange doctrine that seemed to consume her. In 1971, I went to the Methodist Church Ogui, Enugu, to look for my girlfriend, and unknown to me, the Scripture Union members were holding a Guest Service and Ihuoma was there with them. Their recitations, drama and message centred on ‘born-again’. Imagine! Though I was convicted, I determined not to do anything like that. Thank God that I did in 1972.
When Nicodemus, a Jewish leader, was praising Jesus, Jesus told him the awful truth, that a man must be born-again, for him to see or enter God’s Kingdom – John 3:3-5. In verse 7, He told Uncle not to be surprised that he needed to be born-again. We have members in various Churches, who are there for years, yet, not born-again. During evangelism one day, I asked someone, if he was born-again. With great pride, he told me the name of his Church, a very great Church really. “So all the people there are born-again?” I asked him.
Two months ago, a woman and her daughter came to Lagos from Port Harcourt, where they live, for their Church convention. The mum came to greet me. Appreciating her for coming all the way from Port Harcourt, I asked her whether she was born-again, a question I might not have asked, if I had considered her Church, one of the best. She told me that she is. After celebrating her, I asked her the year she did that. “I was well brought up,” she told me. I objected and she left.
A few days later, I sent for her daughter, and asked her the same questions I asked her mum. Like her mum, she claimed that she was well-brought up. I told her that there is nothing like that. I reviewed to her the intimidating CV of Cornelius, the Roman Army officer, who was, devout, feared God with all his family, known for his giving habit, always praying, and even saw a vision. “Thy prayers and alms are come up for a memorial,” was God’s testimony about him, yet, he was not born-again. That was why God told him to send for Peter, who would minister to him. Peter came and ministered Jesus to him. Hearing this, thank God, the lady gave her life to Jesus. A few days later, I went through the Bible with her mum, and thank God, she also gave her life to Jesus.
Last month, Pastor Sule, my beloved brother from the Assemblies of God, and I, went to Ogun State to witness a ceremony. “I like you,” I told a lady there, “can I come and sit near you for discussion?” I asked. She accepted. “What do you do for a living?” I asked her and she told me that she is a Photographer. “Married?” I asked again, and she acquiesced. “Which Church?” I asked her. She mentioned curiously, the same great Church the two women above attend. “Are you born-again?” I asked, and that is my usual question, often, offensive to some people. “No, sir,” she replied. “How long have you been in that Church?” I asked her. “Two years,” she told me, a response that sent shivers of cold into my spine.
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“Does your husband attend the same Church?” I asked and she said that he does sometimes. When I asked her why he does not attend regularly, she said that it is because of his work as a barber. “Who patronizes him on Sunday mornings, when people are in the Church? How many wives does he have?” I asked strangely. “Two,” she replied, dodging the first question. I did not waste any time again before sharing the Gospel with her and to God’s glory, she gave her life to the Lord Jesus. I told Pastor Sule to lead her to the Lord.
Imagine what would have been the fate of these three women, had I not asked them if they were born-again and when they did that! Today, nobody talks again about being born-again as we did in the past. In those old, good days, that was the message in the Church and in the buses. Today, to our shame, medicine sellers have replaced Gospel preachers in the buses. In the Church, many people do not like to hear ‘Born-again’, and to please them, we have compromised, preaching what excites them, stressing anointing and how it breaks the yoke. Yes, it does. We quote great Scripture to justify this, and we are right. They are in the Bible but not the main message. A few years ago, Prosperity Message made the waves, exciting believers and unbelievers. Who would not like to be a Billionaire? The standard of living by the Pastors justified their Message. Why not, when the source of huge tithes some members were paying was not questioned!
There was a time that ‘Land Deliverance’ took the centre stage. Individuals, family members, and sometimes, the entire village, were subjected to it. They were very willing to pay the huge amount of money they were tasked, including the people, who had never entered the Church before. The denominator was contribution of the money requested and participation in fasting that could stretch for days. If anyone did not want to fast, his money would do it for him. The man of God would fast for him, so long as he would pick his bill! For renouncing the covenant your dad made, may God have mercy on you, if he died when you were a baby, since you would show them his grave! May God also have mercy on some of the old trees, as they would be condemned and cut down, being the hibernating homes of ravenous demons that were causing barrenness, retrogression, deaths, et cetera.
It is unfortunate that we have left the heart of the Gospel – being born-again – as if it is no longer true. Has Jesus changed the qualification of entering Heaven? To enter our universities, JAMB insists on: Pass at the credit level, at least five subjects in not more than two sittings, which must include English and Mathematics. Is it possible to circumvent this? If a boy, who does not meet this standard, enters any university and attends lectures all the time, can he graduate? If with all our imperfections, he still cannot, how then can someone manage to enter Heaven without being born-again? Let us repent by going back to the message Jesus gave us.
For further comment, Please contact: Osondu Anyalechi: 0802 3002471; firstname.lastname@example.org