One of my favorite stories on being "born again" comes from singer/songwriter Rich Mullins. He said he was being interviewed by a representative from an evangelical program that wanted to have him as a guest but felt like they needed to check him out beforehand because of rumors they'd heard.
They asked him how old he was when he became a Christian, and he said, "I guess about 2 or 3." "So young?" they responded, "What happened?" Rich said that in Sunday School they sang a song, "Come into my heart, Come into my heart. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus..." The woman said, "Well, that's not what I meant. You couldn't have possibly been old enough to understand what you were praying." And then Rich responds, "Lady...we never understand what we're praying. And God in His mercy does not answer our prayers according to our understanding, but according to His wisdom."
Rich goes on to talk about how he was baptized at the age of 10 because after saying a bad word in front of his mom he knew he'd sinned and needed to get right with God. The lady pressed further and said, "No, but what we really want to know is when were you born again." Rich said, "Lady, which time?" He goes on to explain that he used to get born again about once a year, then at college it turned into more of a quarterly thing. Finally, by the time he hit his forties, he was getting born again about 4-5 times a day.
When Are We Saved?
As a Christ follower in this faith tradition we call Brethren, I believe that people ought not to be baptized until they can really understand what is they are professing when they call Jesus Lord of their lives. Rich's story brought up a great question, though. When do we ever really know what we're praying when we ask God into our hearts? I think we have to admit a certain amount of ignorance out of humility. We never know fully what we are getting ourselves into, but in faith we attempt to put our whole selves in God's hands. And in our imperfection, we have to continually give ourselves over to God as we mess up and discover parts of ourselves that we didn't even know we had that must be given to God.
Brethren have put voice to this process by saying, "I am saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved." Salvation is not an event, but a process. What Jesus accomplished through his life, cross, and resurrection is being accomplished in us continually and will someday be accomplished in its fullness when all things are made new. Accepting salvation as a free gift of grace (Eph 2:8-9) is the first step of working out that salvation through an active faith made concrete in our lives (Phil 2:12, Ja 2:18).
As a pastor, this makes my job both way more difficult and way easier at the same time. It's more difficult because I cannot simply get folks to pray a prayer and be settled til they get to heaven. I have to actually love, care and invest in them. Yet it's also way easier because it means I have the opportunity to freely meet them where they are and guide them through the next step in their journey with Jesus. It's an enormous privilege. It also gives me the freedom to acknowledge that I am still being saved in the process as well. I am still learning and growing. I am still making mistakes, being forgiven, and being healed.
What about you? Where are you in the process? I invite you today to have that conversation with Jesus, and invite your friends and family as well.
The following is an article written by former pastor of GFBC, John Drexler. We reshare his gracious words here with great affection. Pastor Drexler currently serves at First Brethren Church of Burlington, IN.
I grew up in an Independent Baptist Church in New Jersey just 8 miles west of Philadelphia. I knew virtually nothing of the ordinance of foot-washing until I applied for admission to Grace Theological Seminary, a Grace Brethren School located in Winona Lake, Indiana. The application asked if I practiced foot-washing as an ordinance (the last few words helped me realize they were not talking about personal hygiene). I asked my dad, a Baptist pastor, for his opinion. He explained that he believed the Act was for the disciples benefits, but the message of service was the lesson to be learned from Jesus's action.
So, off to seminary I went, ready to defend myself against those who would attempt to compel me to wash someone's feet, or even worse, allow someone to wash mine. I had some very dear Brethren friends who attempted to show me the error of my ways, and even took me to a threefold Brethren communion service. This only served to make me more adamant that this couldn't be a Jesus-ordained practice, because it was too, dare I say, yucky.
Now jump ahead nearly 30 years. I was asked to preach at the First Brethren Church of Goshen, a very loving community of believers, as their pastor. This meant (horrors) I would have to participate in the foot-washing portion of the communion service. In my research, I was amazed at how Jesus's words seemed to be addressed to the whole Church, not merely just the disciples. He said, "I have set you an EXAMPLE (emphasis mine) that you should do as I have done for you," and "now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." (John 13:15 and 17 NIV) That was all I needed to erase my Prejudice, but it still seems so awkward and personally invasive.
When the time finally came that I was to attend my first Brethren communion service as a participant, I looked forward with dreadful anticipation of someone washing my feet other than my mom or myself. I spent a few minutes explaining to the folks the whys and wherefores of foot-washing and why I believe Jesus ordained this to be perpetuated in His memory. I spoke to them of how it in itself has a threefold purpose (3 is a big number in the Brethren denomination). First, it speaks to us of service and serving one another. Secondly, it teaches humility. It's tough to be proud when someone far more Godly than yourself is on his knees washing your feet and explaining the love of Christ. And finally, it's because of the need for daily spiritual cleansing through the Word and confession of sins. Jesus said on that same occasion, "a person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean though not every one of you. (John 13:10 NIV )
So, I ventured forth for my first experience with foot-washing. We had a wonderful saint of God in our congregation at that time, Dr. Charles Munson, a former professor at Ashland Seminary. When this dear old man got down on his knees to wash my feet, I felt somewhat like Peter; terribly unworthy of his serving me. After he was helped to his feet and sat down, I in turn washed his feet. That was glorious.
I still can't say that after 13 years I enjoy having someone wash my disgusting feet, but I believe that is what the Lord commanded, and in doing so I am blessed.
As we approach Easter, our congregation is already making plans for gathering together for Communion on Maundy Thursday - March 29, 6:30PM. This year we once again have the pleasure of joining our sister congregation, Jefferson Community Church, as we remember this special night together.
As Brethren, we uniquely relive the love Jesus displayed to his disciples during their last meal together by sharing a meal together, serving each other through washing one another's feet, and finally sharing in the bread and the cup (the symbols of Christ's body and blood given for us). It’s more than just a strange tradition we preserve for fun. Sharing in the common meal, the humble service of footwashing after Jesus' example, and the remembrance of his gift for us forms us as a people when we engage in this together.
In our meal together, we celebrate the abundance of God's provision in love and the joy of his presence with us. In the service of footwashing, we enact the same servant love that bound the twelve together in that upper room. In the sharing of the bread and the cup, we remember Christ's body given and blood shed as a reminder of the love that compels us together to give up our lives as well in favor of a love still greater.
Sharing in Threefold Communion together is a physical reminder for our community that we were made to serve one another in humility, to share community in love, and to give our lives like broken bread and poured out wine for the sake of the world’s salvation - just like our Savior did for us.
I hope to see you all at our Three-fold Communion service! May the family come together to tell the story once more.
Updates and devotional thoughts for and from our faith family.