(My column from the local newspaper)
I was at a conference recently and I met the 'John 3:7' man. A most remarkable and interesting man. Have you seen him on television standing behind the goal posts at the big matches with a poster saying 'John 3:7'? Maybe you've wondered what on earth John 3:7 means. It's a reference to something Jesus said in John chapter 3 verse 7, which reads 'You should not be surprised at my saying, "You must be born again".'
This phrase 'born-again' tends to get people's hackles up. But it was spoken by the one who came to save us: the Lord Jesus, the Saviour, the Son of God, the Messiah. So whether we like it or not we have to take it into account.
It made me think of a friend of mine, also a minister, who recently told me this incredible story.
He had been preaching at the funeral of a young person. Many young people were there. In his preaching he laid before them the tremendous fragility and uncertainty of life. He urged them to look beyond this world, to lift their eyes from the seductive pleasures of life and to think of what life is really about.
He pleaded with them to take the words of our Lord Jesus in John 3:3 to heart. There Jesus is speaking to a very religious man and says that being religious isn't enough, 'Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."'
He explained that we are all born as enemies of God. He explained that throughout our lives we continue to offend God. He explained that there was a way of escape. He unfolded for them God's offer of a fresh start - as if you had been born all over again - all the wrongs of the past, present and future wiped away.
That's an incredible offer - but something else happened that amazed me too.
On the day after the service a person who had been present at the funeral visited the homes of many of the young people and told them that what they had been told was wrong - that they did not need this fresh start that God offers, that they did not need, as the Bible describes it, to be 'born again'.
I find that incredible. Who would you rather believe? Jesus? Or one who contradicts our Saviour?
I'll leave you to judge who is right:
'Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."' - John 3:3
And he says it again in John 3:7, 'You should not be surprised at my saying, "You must be born again".'