Some years ago, I walked into a Christian bookstore and greeted the shopkeeper, who just happened to be a member of our church. At that moment, she was talking with a customer while at the same time unpacking a recently-arrived box of books.
When she saw me, she simply raised up the book on the top of the books in the box, and showed me the cover of the book in her hand. It was a serious book on theological issues, but the cover was a lively picture of a great big question mark.
The book was titled The Questions Your Minister Is Most Often Asked To Answer. The shopkeeper had simply shown me the book cover, without saying a word. She and the customer in front of her both looked questioningly at me as if to say, “What would you say to this?”
Without another word, I simply responded by saying, “That’s easy. The question I am most often asked to answer is, ’Do you have a key to ______________ – you fill in the blank?’”
As facetious as I was with that shopkeeper that day, there ARE a few questions that I am asked as a minister of the Gospel more often than others. Yes, most of the time in my years of ministry, and especially the closer I lived to the church – a few times it was right next door or just down the block, people would knock on my door and ask if I had a key to one of the church buildings or closets or sheds or cabinets.
I did not read the book that shopkeeper showed me that day, or even purchase the book, but I suspect that the author of the book had questions more significant theologically and spiritually than the location of a key to one of the church buildings.
In this day and age, where churches who are intent on meeting the needs of the interested public, who may or may not be interested in becoming members of their congregations, those questions are most often answered on the church’s website. There is usually a button somewhere on that site with a title of “FAQ.” The FAQ is an acronym for “Frequently Asked Questions”.”
My intention, over the next several weeks, is to attempt to provide biblical answers to some of the more prominent FAQ’s which you may be asking. Those questions may be things as simple as “What does it mean to be born again?” or “Can anyone be absolutely sure they are going to heaven when they die?” or “How can I really know what God’s will is for my life?”
These questions are indeed some of the most prominent and most-often-asked by people who are bold enough to ask at all. As best I can, I will also attempt to provide other answers, based upon the Scriptures to questions which you may have.
But let’s start with the basics. The other day, a retired fellow approached me and, when he discovered that I am a minister, he asked me a question. He said, “I am a child of the ’70s. Went through Vietnam and all that involved. When some of the guys and I would talk, they would often challenge me to be born ‘again.’ We would laugh it off and ask, ‘Wasn’t once enough? Look where we are!’ Now that I am nearing the end of life, I am more concerned than ever about what that means. Can you tell me what it means to be born again?”
That fellow was asking a very genuine question. Back in the (19)70s, the term “born again” was used a lot. There were several very popular books written on the subject. Chuck Colson, the former “Hatchet Man” in the Richard Nixon administration, when he wrote his autobiography, entitled it simply, Born Again. Even Billy Graham wrote a book entitled How to be Born Again.
But these men were not the first to use the term. In the Bible, Jesus Christ first coined the phrase in talking with a very wealthy religious leader (Is that possible? – for religious leaders to be wealthy?) by the name of Nicodemus. Jesus had been teaching and his teaching had attracted a great many followers. Nicodemus could not come openly in broad daylight to Jesus with his sincere questions, lest he face the wrath of his fellow leaders. Hence, Nicodemus came by night. (Check it out for yourself in John 3:1-21).
In their conversation, Nicodemus acknowledged that because of Jesus’ miraculous signs, he (Nicodemus) knew that God was with him. But Jesus did not let him just get away with that. He told him that unless he was “born again” he could not get anywhere close to the Kingdom of God.
The essence of that statement is found in verse 16 of John 3 – which has been called the most important verse in the Bible: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Being ‘born again’ simply means that one is believing (trusting) in the Son, Jesus Christ, for his or her eternal destiny. It is not being good enough – how can you ever be good enough? It is not going to church – going to church will not accomplish the task, even as driving into your garage will not make you a garage mechanic, or a car! It is not giving a lot of money – one cannot purchase a ticket for heaven, the price is too high.
My friends, the essence of the Christian life is that it begins with you and I placing our trust in Jesus Christ alone for our eternal life, which by the way begins the moment you do.
My retired friend has not yet placed his trust in the Savior, but he is still asking questions, and he has more of them almost daily.
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette and the News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Port William UMC.