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Hebrews 13:3

Born Again?

You have more than likely heard the term 'born again', but what does it mean?

There was a Pharisee whose name was Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish Ruling Council and was a teacher of the law for the Jewish people.  He came to Jesus one night to speak with Him.  Maybe he just had a desire to speak with Jesus about a particular topic, or wanted to know more about Him before making any kind of commitment to follow Him.  Let's look first at this entire conversation from John 3.

John 3 (NIV)
Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

3 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

In verse 5 of John 3, Jesus replied here in the NIV with the words 'Very truly I tell you...'  In the King James version He uses the words 'verily, verily, I say unto thee...'  Whenever Jesus used these words in the Bible, what He was saying to us is that what I am about to say is VERY IMPORTANT, so listen up.  Keep in mind that Nicodemus fasted two days each week, spent two full hours a day in prayer and gave a tenth of all he earned to the church.  So why did Jesus tell Nicodemus that he has to be born again?  It was because Jesus could read Nicodemus' heart like a book.  Jesus knew that Nicodemus had spent his time covering himself and clothing himself with religious matters, but had not yet really found true fellowship and relationship with the Father.

What is this new birth?  In verse 4 Nicodemus asked Jesus 'How can someone be born when they are old?'.  Nicodemus knew that Jesus was special and in verse 3 admits that he believed that Jesus was a teacher who had come from God and Nicodemus wanted to understand this concept.  Nicodemus could understand natural birth, the physical birth of a newborn baby in the material world, but Jesus was speaking about a spiritual birth and not a physical birth at all.

We cannot inherit or acquire this new birth from our parents or grandparents.  One is not a born-again Christian because one was born into a Christian home and have Christian parents and grandparents.  Neither can we work our way into a real relationship with God through a religion or by practicing in a religion, or by doing religious things.  Let's look quickly at a few verses from Titus 3, verses 5-7.

Titus 3:5-7 (NIV)

5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Personal change, improvement or reformation isn't enough either.  This new birth is not like sticking to a New Year's resolution or turning a page in your life, changing your ways or turning over a new leaf.  Isaiah 64:6 says "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away."  All of our own righteousness is like filthy rags Isaiah says.  Some of us have changed ourselves and changed the way we behave on the outside, but deep down inside, we have never been spiritually changed.  This is exactly what Jesus was trying to get across to Nicodemus in John 3 quoted above.  Only the Holy Spirit can perform the kind of change and new birth that Jesus was speaking of.  Being born from above is a supernatural act of God, not simply a change of personal behavior.

The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins; He disquiets us because we have sinned against God, we sense our uncleanness and what separates us from God.  And then the Holy Spirit regenerates us, gives us this new birth.  That is the moment when we are born again.  The Holy Spirit comes to live in our hearts to help us and guide us in our daily lives.  The Spirit of God gives us assurance, gives us joy and peace, produces fruit in our lives and opens our spiritual eyes and teaches us the Scriptures.

Let's look at a series of other verses in the Bible that may be helpful.

John 1:13 (NIV)
13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

1 Peter 1:23 (NIV)
23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

Ephesians 4:20-24 (NIV)
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3:5-10 (NIV)
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Romans 12:2 (NIV)
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

In these verses John and Peter talk about being born of God and being born of imperishable seed and Paul speaks about putting on the 'new self' and being transformed by the renewing of your mind.  There are also an enlightening series of verses in 1 John chapters 2 through 5 and that we should now look at.

1 John 2:29 (NIV)
29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

1 John 3:9 (NIV)
9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.

1 John 4:7 (NIV)
God’s Love and Ours
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 5:1 (NIV)
Faith in the Incarnate Son of God
5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.

1 John 5:4 (NIV)
4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

1 John 5:18 (NIV)
18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.

In these series of verses in First John, we clearly see this concept of being 'born of God'.  This new birth, or being 'born again', is a transformation performed by the Holy Spirit of God, born into the family of God, through Christ Jesus' death on the cross, so that we can be called the adopted children of God.  Let's look at some verses that talk about this idea of being adopted.

Ephesians 1:5 (NIV)
5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—

Romans 8:23 (NIV)
23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

Romans 9:4 (NIV)
4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.

Let's now begin to finish up this idea of what it means to be born again.  Some people have thought that people who claim to be a 'born again Christian' are in some kind of cult, or some kind of weird theology way out on the fringe of the larger church body, but that just isn't the truth.  These are the very words of Jesus Christ Himself who tell us that in order to be with Him, in paradise, in Heaven, after our earthly deaths, we must be born again of the Spirit of God.  The author/webmaster here at Grace Family Church experienced this new birth back in April 1985.  Speaking from personal experience, outside of biblical text, when I personally surrendered to Jesus Christ, when I felt as if I poured myself out into a puddle of submission at the foot of the cross, I felt the very Spirit of God, I felt clean, refreshed, whole, satisfied, content, filled to overflowing and with an inexpressible joy that words cannot express.  You too can feel this way and if you have not yet experienced this new birth, this conversion, this repentance or what most Christians call being 'saved'.  Then I urge you to pursue this experience and hunger for it.

There is still a pervasive mystery to this idea of being born again.  Above in the exchange with Nicodemus in John 3 verse 8, Jesus says "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."  Jesus did not attempt to fully explain this concept to Nicodemus.  Our little and very limited minds cannot fully understand the things of God, we come to Jesus with the faith of a child and just believe in Him and put our faith in Him and what He says.

How does being born again happen?

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First we must hear the Word of God.  Romans 10:17 (NIV) Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.  In 1st Corinthians 1:21 Paul says "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  It does sound rather foolish that words from the Bible have the power within them to penetrate our hearts and minds and to change our lives, but they do actually have this power, because these are God's holy words and they come from the One who created all things.

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Secondly is the Holy Spirit's work.  John 16:8 tells us that the Holy Spirit will prove the world to be wrong about sin, righteousness and judgment.  "When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:"  The Holy Spirit changes our desires, the way we live, our temperament and nature and even our reasons for living.  He can and does give us new purposes and helps us with new goals.  2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"  In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul says "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;"

bulletJesus says that we have to be born again.  How do we become born again?  By repenting of sin.  That means we are willing to change the ways in which we lived.  We say to God, “I’m a sinner, and I’m sorry and I'm turning from my wicked ways.”  It’s a simple and childlike statement from the heart.  Then by His grace and through our faith we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  We are willing to follow Him in a new life of obedience, in which the Holy Spirit is a helper to us as we read the Bible and pray and witness to others.

If there is a doubt in your mind about whether you have been born again, I hope you will take the time right now and settle that question for good.  In 2 Corinthians 6:2 (NIV) it says "For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation."

If this page helped you come to a repentant, God-ordained, born again relationship with Him through His grace and your heartfelt and childlike faith in Jesus Christ, we'd like to know about it.  God bless you and please pass this page onto others.

 

 

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