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A Toyota ad says that their four-wheel drive vehicle has been "born again". That should inspire many evangelicals to buy a Toyota and slap a fish sticker on it. Imagine being able to take your car to heaven with you because it's been born again too!

It's so easy to say one is born again without seriously thinking about what it means. Now that the secular world has picked up on this overworked religious cliché, it may force Christians to think more seriously about exactly what the difference is between them and the latest Toyota.

People often ask us if we are born again Christians. My reply: "Are there such things as Christians who are not born again?"

If being born again is necessary to be a Christian, then anyone claiming to be a Christian is claiming to be born again. It's as easy to lie about one as it is to lie about the other; so neither claim means much in itself.

Born-againers have done what Toyota is doing: they've taken a valid biblical phrase and stuck it on their very unbiblical product. When did any disciple of Jesus in the Bible ever say a little prayer "asking Jesus into his or her heart"? And when did anyone ever teach such a shallow ritual in the Bible?

The verse used to support "asking Jesus into your heart" is Revelation 3:14-20, where Jesus speaks to a lukewarm church and says he is standing at the door knocking to come in, but they have locked him out, saying, "I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." It sounds exactly like the born-againers themselves are the ones to whom he wants to come.

Then, two weeks after you've asked Jesus into your heart, "spirit-filled" born-againers will tell you that you must ask his Holy Spirit to come in as well. Now, if it wasn't his Spirit that came in the first time, what was it? And on the basis of Romans 8:9, one wonders where the non-spirit-filled Christians stand.

While much is fuzzy in evangelical thinking, there's nothing fuzzy about their demand for a precise moment accompanied by a conscious act on the part of the born againee to mark their rebirth. I can't remember my first birth, but my existence today proves I was born. Similarly, if a person is following Jesus today, I am convinced he or she was born into God's family at some time in the past. And the fact that born-againers haven't a clue as to what Jesus requires from his followers suggests to me that they've never been born again.

No one was concerned about exactly when life began until they started trying to justify abortion. Similarly, born-againers want to get the ritual over and done with so they can then justify disobedience to Jesus. (Because for them, after you've completed the ritual, you no longer have to obey Jesus. In fact, if you do, you will be accused of trying to "work your way to heaven".)

They read our pamphlets and say we have not preached the gospel because we have not told people to ask Jesus into their hearts. What we do teach is love, sincerity, and obedience to Jesus ... things that take a lifetime to complete! (1 John 4:7)

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