One of the most startling and offensive claims of the New Testament is that religious people must be converted and born again. We often forget who Jesus and the apostles were talking to in their recorded ministries. Most often, they were talking to religious people, people who went to the synagogue on Sabbath, who heard the Scriptures read, who participated in the feasts and tried to keep the law of God. And yet Jesus came to them and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). Jesus even insisted on this with a seminary professor of His day, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). Later, Peter preached the same thing in the temple in Jerusalem: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). And so the same message is for us and for every generation. Unless you are born again, you will not see the kingdom of God, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
What does this mean? It means that God Himself must take up residence in you. It means that you need to have a new heart, so that sin no longer has mastery of you. It means a new hope and a new love in Christ filling you such that you want to serve Him with all that you are, that you look forward to the day when all the nations worship Him, and that you long to see Him face to face and be with Him forever.
So, are you born again? Does Christ live in you? Have you died and is your life hidden with Christ in God? Do you know that peace, that joy, that hope? Do not say, well, I’m in Church aren’t I? Do not say, well, I got baptized didn’t I? Do not say, well, I go to a Christian school or my parents are Christians. No, those are all true gifts and true blessings, but only as they nurture a true and living faith. So as we gather for worship this morning, do not miss the most important thing. Do not miss Jesus.