I have many great childhood memories with my Dad. Somehow I still remember sitting in the Pitt theater with my Dad in 1977 watching Darth Vadar on that big screen in front of me. Or in 1980 standing in that longline wrapped around the Buccaneer theater to see the sequel. Or a few years later, randomly hiking with my Dad through a field of grass that was over my head. We ended up on a railroad track and walked for what seemed like miles. I can still remember driving for hours to a UNC football game where my Dad walked me around the campus showing me where he had once lived. I remember thinking, how in the world does he still know his way around this campus? I was sure he hadn’t been there in ages. Or that major snow in the early 80s where we got 18 inches. That night my Dad tossed me on an old wooden sled and pulled me around the entire neighborhood. I’m not sure how he did it because I can’t even pull that old sled today.
Then there was that one Thanksgiving when my Dad gave in and took us to Cleveland Ohio to watch wrestling live. My Dad drove me to school every single day until the 10th grade. I have great memories of my Dad taking us on our “Fort Macgruder” weekend getaways. Which consisted of BuschGardens & Water Country. When I was 14 years old my Dad would take me out to Sunset Point neighborhood which had no houses at the time. That is where he taught me to drive, in a gigantic station wagon. Shortly after that he took me to Wilmington to test drive cars. I had no idea he could actually drive a manual transmission until he peeled out of the dealership with a cloud of smoke behind. When I was in the 11th grade I remember standing by the fence at my high school track meet. I was terrible at track. But I will never forget looking down the field and seeing my Dad walking up in his suit pants and tie. I had no idea he was coming to watch me score dead last in the mile run. But he showed up.
Then there was the summer of 1992 when he signed my first ever apartment lease. Or in 1996 when he took me to Winston Salem to my very first job interview. A couple weeks after that I remember immediately picking up my gigantic cellular phone and calling home from I40 in Raleigh. My Dad answered the phone and I told him that I had been offered $10K more to work for another company. My Dad said “I hope you said yes! “
These were all very great memories. But the memory with my Dad that has the most significance of any was a November day in 2003 when I sat across the kitchen table from him, with my life upside down. My Dad stared me in the face and said, “Son, what you need is to be born again”. But I had no idea what he was talking about. It was as if he was speaking a different language to me.
In the Bible, John Chapter 3, the well respected Jewish leader named Nicodemus came to Jesus one evening. This was a man who was known amongst the people as a Godly man. The people thought he was “religious”. He was a teacher of scripture. He had all of the credentials of a man that should be going to heaven. But then Jesus broke some hard news and told him very plainly: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Much like the conversation with my Dad, Nicodemus had no idea what Jesus was talking about. The words “born again” made no sense to him either.
Growing up our family would go to church quite frequently. However, for me, it was just something that we did. It was merely a routine on a Sunday morning. We would go through the exercise of putting on uncomfortable clothes because that is just what you did on a Sunday morning, when you lived in the Bible Belt of the South. But, if we would behave ourselves, my Dad would let us stop for candy at the gas station afterwards. Nothing changed for me during my childhood in regards to church. I believed there was a God, he had a son named Jesus that died on a cross, and I would regularly pray to Him when I had a need for something in my life. Where I lived, nearly everyone had heard of God, Jesus, the cross and most people knew the phrase that “Jesus saves”. That was the depth of my faith. Church was something we did on Sundays and the rest of the time we just lived a life our own way where we tried to uphold decent morals.
However, when I was in middle school, something changed for my Dad. In our view, my Dad had turned into a “church guy”. He had gotten “religious” somehow. I didn’t understand it and it didn’t make much sense to me. In fact, I think we use to even make jokes about how my Dad was now “religious”. He started waking up rather early and reading his Bible. He started doing Bible studies. He became different. He acted different. But what really happened? He was born again.
My Dad started going to a Sunday School class and he read the book of John. Through reading the Gospel of John, Jesus saved my Dad and transformed his life. The Gospel of John was the turning point in his life. You see, through the Gospel of John my Dad recognized that he was a sinner just like we all are. He realized that because of the sin in his life he was separated from God. He couldn’t know God, couldn’t get close to God, and worst of all, because of the just punishment for sin, he could not spend eternity with God. He realized that living a moral life, doing good deeds, and just believing that God exists was not enough to remove his sin and get him into heaven. He learned that there is nothing any human can do to make up for the sin in their lives.
But….because of the enormous love of God, he sent his son Jesus Christ down to earth to take this punishment for all sinners. The punishment that we all deserve, Jesus took it for us. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, all of our sins are forgiven and we can now be reunited with
God and live with him forever in Heaven. All we have to do is trust that he has already paid the price for our sin, repent, and ask him to be our Lord and Savior. When we do this, He changes our heart, and we are born again. When we are truly born again, Jesus completely changes our lives. He changes our hearts and starts to slowly make us more like Him each day. This is what happened to my Dad. This is why he changed. He was born again.
I still didn’t understand this until many years later in my life. I continued living as I always had, trying to be a good person, believing there was a God, and hoping I was doing enough good things to get myself into Heaven. But I’m thankful that this Good News of Jesus eventually made sense. I now understand what my Dad meant when he said “You need to be born again”. We all need to be born again. Why? Just as Jesus was telling Nicodemus, there is no other way to see heaven. We have to be born again to see the Kingdom. Thankfully, ALL of us can be born again.
Jesus offers salvation to all people. There is no other path to God or way to Heaven except through Jesus. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are from, or what you’ve done in your life. He has already paid the price for all sin, no exceptions. We just have to receive this free gift. Jesus holds out this gift to all people, but if we don’t take the gift, we don’t receive His salvation.
How do we take the gift and become born again? We simply ask Him through prayer. Through prayer, we confess to Him that we are a sinner and we know there is nothing we can do to make up for our sin. Then we tell Him that we know He took the full punishment of our sin when he died on the cross and rose again. Tell Him you want to turn away from your old life and live a new life for Him, your new King. Then, you can rest in the confidence of knowing that your future is secure…..because you are born again in Christ.
It is certain. One day we will all leave this earth. For those who have been born again, we will stand face to face with Jesus, completely righteous and perfect. Not because of anything good we have done. But because of what He has done.
I am very thankful for my Dad, and all of my Family. I'm extremely grateful for the greatest Father ever, who loves ALL people so much that he sent his only Son Jesus Christ to die in our place. Therefore, if anyone puts their Faith in Jesus, they will be born again and live in the Kingdom of God forever.
John 3:1 – 3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, aruler of the Jews. This man came toJesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has
come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with
him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly,I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”