Few men in all of history were used as mightily by God in the spread of the gospel in America and England as George Whitefield. A peer and one-time partner of John and Charles Wesley, the English Methodist was a pioneer of open-air preaching, proclaiming God’s offer of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus to more than 25,000 people at once. Said to have preached some 18,000 sermons, more than 3,000 were on one subject. Imagine that: what could have been so captivating that he could have spoken on it so often?
Regeneration, the new birth.
The work of the Holy Spirit giving spiritually dead people new life, giving us new desires—especially the desire to worship, honor, and obey Jesus.
Wherever he went, Whitefield proclaimed that “you must be born again” (John 3:7). It was a strange message in his day when preaching tended to be timid and apologetic, Whitefield’s passion resounded in the hearts of many who turned to Christ for salvation. But some who heard were confused about his unceasing proclamation of this one truth. Famously, one hearer confronted Whitefield on the matter, and asked him why he kept preaching that we must be born again.
Whitefield looked at him and replied, “Because, sir, you must be born again.”
Why was he so insistent on proclaiming this truth—why did it matter to him so much? Why devote no less than one out of every six sermons he preached to one subject? What was so special about this need to be “born again”? Whitefield understood, as we should, that we need this message because it is central to the Christian life. Indeed, there is no Christian life without it.
To enter the kingdom of God, you must be born again.