Hooked on Phonics

by Tad Lindley

In 1987 a new reading program hit the market. It was called Hooked on Phonics. If you had television back then, maybe you remember it. It was supposed to dramatically improve your reading skills. Capitalizing on the Hooked on Phonics program was a T-shirt that read, “Hukt on Fonix rely wurkt for me!”

Hooked on alcohol or drugs?

If you have ever had a drug or alcohol problem, you remember how incredible it felt the first time you drank or the first time you shot dope or smoked marijuana. You were on top of your game. You used to be ugly and weak, but now you were hot and strong. Fast forward the calendar. Now you’ve been hooked for a long time. The opposite sex no longer finds your worn out self so attractive. You have broken dreams and hearts trudging a long trail of tears. What started off like the answer to all of life’s problems caused your whole life to fall apart. If you’re hooked on alcohol or drugs, you need to get hooked on phonics!

Jesus tells man, “You must get hooked on phonics”

One time a guy came to Jesus at night (John 3:1-21). His name was Nicodemus. Paraphrasing the conversation, Jesus told him, “Nicodemus, you’ve got to get hooked on phonics!” I am including the first eight verses here in case you do not have a bible:

3 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Key points

In the 8 verses above, there are a couple of key points. 1) We cannot enter or see the kingdom of heaven unless we are born again (3:3,5). 2) According to Jesus, being born again means we are born of water and of the spirit (3:5). 3) We must be born again (3:7). 4) When a person is born of the Spirit, there will be a sound that you hear, much like when we hear the wind (3:8). Please check me and make sure my key points agree with what Jesus is saying in the Bible verses above.

Where’s the phonics?

I am going to go into the original language of the New Testament, Greek. The word “phonics” did not originate in English. It comes from the Greek word, φωνὴν, which is pronounced fo-nay. It is a sound that relates to language. The word, φωνὴν, occurs 40 times in the New Testament. Thirty-eight times it is translated as “voice”, twice as “sound”. When Jesus told Nicodemus, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof…”, the word translated as sound is actually φωνὴν, or fo-nay. Jesus was telling Nicodemus that when a person is born of the Spirit, it will be like when the wind blows, you cannot see it come or go, but you can hear the φωνὴν of it. Literally you will hear the voice.

On the day of Pentecost

When you read the Book of Acts in the Bible, you will see in chapter 2 verse 1-4 that they were born of the Spirit. Guess what happened? They spoke in tongues. Just like we hear the sound or the voice of the wind blow, the people heard them speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. The same thing is described in Acts 10:44-48 and 19:1-6.

Do you want to get hooked on phonics?

If you are hooked on things that started out great, but have caused your life to crumble and fall apart, then it’s time to get hooked up with something far greater. Being born of the Spirit is like drugs or alcohol in reverse; a tremendously empowering experience, but instead of your life disintegrating, your life starts to come back together. According to Jesus, we all need to be born again. The question is, “Do we want to be born again?”

The people who heard the Holy Ghost outpouring in Acts 2 when they realized they were not saved, asked the apostles, “What shall we do?” Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins [born of water], and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost [born of the Spirit]. (Acts 2:38) If you have not been born again, what is keeping you? Get hooked on phonics now!

Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.