What is: “Born Again” ?
aymon de albatrus
“Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Joh 3:3)
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and stays for ever.” (1Pe 1:23)
These two little words “Born Again” have been used and much misused in 2000 years, indeed they have been ridiculed and cursed in every possible way. These days the phrase, "born again" is practically used by people of all religious denominations and all religions, as well as by people who profess no religious faith.
But it has been in use within Christianity since the earliest days of the Christian religion for the words were firstly uttered by the Lord Jesus Christ to a master of the Law, Nicodemus that understood them not, responding with sarcasm: “Nicodemus said to 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?” (Joh 3:4) Yet, Jesus expected Nicodemus to know about the "new birth" from the Old Testament: (Jer 31:33; 32:39; Eze 11:19; 18:31; 36:25-27; Psa 51:10; Isa 1:18-20; 55:6).
But what does it really mean to be “Born Again” ?
The phrase "born again" literally means "born from above." It is a spiritual transformation, being born again, is an act of God whereby eternal life in His presence is imparted to the person so that he may believe the things of God. It is a change of heart, a new nature, imparted sovereignly by God to His elect at the predisposed time: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Eze 36:26-27) With this act of God the elect’s previously carnal mind is transformed into a spiritual one capable of understanding and obeying God’s statutes. And with that new spiritual mind the now redeemed soul will assuredly go to Christ and receive all the blessings of belonging to the family of God.
Being “Born Again” is TOTALLY a sovereign act of God initiated by Him for His pleasure, man has nothing to do with it, and he just receives it passively. “For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Phi 2:13)
be born again - It is evident, however, that Nicodemus understood it not as referring to a birth from above, for if he had he would not have asked the question in (Joh 3:4). Our natural birth introduces us to the commencement of life on this valley of tears; the beginning of our existence introduces us to a world of sin. We early go astray. All men transgress. The imagination of the thoughts of the heart is evil from birth (Gen 6:5).
We are conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity, and there is none that doeth good, no, not one (Rom 3:12). The carnal mind is enmity against God, and by nature we are dead in trespasses and sin (Psa 14:2,3; 51:5; Rom 8:7). All sin exposes men to misery on this earth and hereafter. To escape from sin, to be happy in the world to come, it is necessary that man should be changed in his principles, his feelings, and his manner of life.
This change, or the beginning of this new spiritual life, is called the new birth, or regeneration, or born again. It is so called because in many respects it has a striking analogy to the natural birth. It is the beginning of spiritual life. It introduces us to the light of the Gospel. It is the moment when we really begin to live to any lasting purpose. It is the moment when God reveals Himself to us as our reconciled Father, and we are adopted into His family as His sons.
And as every man is a sinner (Rom 3:23), it is necessary that each one should experience this change, or he cannot be happy or saved. This doctrine was not unknown to the Jews, and was particularly predicted as a doctrine that would be taught in the times of the Messiah (Deu 10:16; Jer 4:4 31:4,33; Eze 11:19; 36:25; Psa 51:12).
This dramatic change in the New Testament is called the new creation: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Co 5:17; Gal 6:15) and life from the dead, or a spiritual resurrection: “And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;” (Eph 2:1; Joh 5:21,24).
he cannot see - To see, here it means that if a man is not born again he cannot understand spiritual things nor is fit to be in God’s Kingdom in His presence, as spelled out in (1Co 2:14; 6:9-10).
the kingdom of God - The meaning is, that the kingdom of God is so pure and holy that it is indispensable that every man should experience this change, or he could not enter in it, nor partake of its blessings. This is solemnly declared by the Son of God by an affirmation equivalent to an oath, and there can be no possibility, therefore, of entering heaven without experiencing the change which the Saviour contemplated by the new birth. And it behoves every man, as in the presence of the Holy God before whom we must all soon appear, to ask himself whether he has experienced this change, and if he has not, to give no rest to his eyes until he has sought the mercy of God, and implored the aid of His Spirit that his heart may be renewed: “Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?” (2Co 13:5)
HOW TO PROVE IF ONE IS BORN AGAIN:
The evidence of being Born Again manifests itself in basically two elements: REPENTANCE and BELIEF.
REPENTANCE: This means acceptance that God is, that He is the creator of all things and thus the owner of all things including our lives, He is the Governor of all things and the Disposer thereof. He has the full right of life and death over us and thus we are fully responsible of our behaviour towards His commandments and we know that all men, every one that has ever lived (except the Lord Jesus Christ), has offended the laws He has imposed on us, these transgressions to His Law is sin (1Jo 3:4) and His Word (the Bible) tell us that all have sinned (Rom 3:23), so there is NO excuse.
Part of Repentance is full recognition of what God is and who we are in relation to Him. We are created beings totally dependent on Him and accountable to Him for all our doings according to His statutes. Having accepted this truth the other part of repentance is to admit we have failed to keep His just commandments and therefore we are guilty of transgression and deserve whichever punishment God prescribes. The only way to escape these punishments (Hell) is trough the spilled blood of Christ who died on the cross to expiate the sins of His people.
The Bible says that there is no redemption of sin without true repentance, thus Repentance is composed of two parts: firstly recognise that we did not create ourselves: “Know you that the LORD he is God: it is he that has made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” (Psa 100:3). Nor we are a product of a cosmic soup (evolution) but it was God that created us from nothing for His pleasure and therefore we are responsible to Him, and secondly having realised that we have come short of the mark and must be truly deeply sorry for having offended the trice holy God (Rom 3:23), asking the forgiveness through the divine name of Jesus Christ (Rom 6:23). The born again believer has godly sorrow in his heart, not just carnal sorrow: “For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death.” (2Co 7:10)
Repentance is a gift of God: “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance to life.” (Act 11:18)
In essence the truly “Born Again” person says in his heart: "I'm sick of sin and living my own way. I want to live under God's commands!"
The second proof is BELIEF: BELIEVE means believing that Jesus died for the sins of His elect, that He was buried and rose on the third day and accepting His sacrifice for you. It does not mean to recite some mystical prayer such as the “sinner’s prayer”, that is no use for salvation, it only serve to give a warm feeling inside, but it does not actually save anyone. The true statement is what the Bible gives: “That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” (Rom 10:9)
One is able to freely say that statement only if one is already born again from Heaven as stated above, in other words he has received from God a new heart and being counted between the elect of God. The principle is similar to that of water Baptism, baptism does not save anyone, but baptism demonstrates that one is already saved.
Similarly, carnal belief does not save anyone, for even the demons believe that Christ is, and tremble but are not saved (Jam 2:19) but true belief (in your heart) in the works of Christ for His elect, demonstrates that one is born again. In other words, true salvific belief is a knowing inside that you are saved and that proves you have truly received salvation: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1Jo 5:13)
Belief is another gift of God: “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brothers beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2Th 2:13-14)
The Born Again believer is enabled by the Spirit of God to say knowingly “Jesus is Lord”: “…….. no one is able to say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit” (1Co 12:3).
TEN EVIDENCES OF BEING BORN AGAIN
These are what Jonathan Edwards called "holy affections." Measure yourself against each one, a born again believer should have full score, if not then better seek a mature Christian to help you on the way.
These 10 points are not intended for condemnation for in this life no one is perfect, except the Lord Jesus Christ: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom 8:1)
They are intended as a mark to aim with all our might and must be all present in a born again believer, as much as to the extent God has granted grace.
"But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you ... and things that accompany salvation..." Heb 6:9
1. SUBMISSIVE RESPECT
A BA (Born Again) is absolutely sure that God IS and has the Highest respect and fear of Him. He does not consider his opinion to be more important or more relevant than God’s. He accepts God’s commandments as being binding and absolutely true, and Jesus Christ is the complete Lord and Master of his life.
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1Jo 1:8)
2. SCRIPTURE OBEDIENCE
A BA reads the Bible frequently seeking to obey Scripture as he reads the Word of God. He is in submission to It and never in rebellion against God. He is most thankful to God for having revealed Himself in the Bible.
“But whoever keeps his word, in him truly is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” (1Jo 2:5)
3. SOCIETAL REJECTION
The BA does not love the world, nor his money, his carnal pleasure or any possession. Nothing means more to him than the Lord Jesus Christ and His approval and he is readily willing to forsake all for the love of Christ.
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1Jo 2:15)
4. STEADFAST FAITHFULNESS
Every BA is faithful to a regular assembly with God's people in a local church. He cannot bear being away from church attendance for weeks at a time without any real guilt about it. He desires very much the fellowship with the saints in the assembly in this life and in the one to come.
"They went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us" (1Jo 2:19)
5. SECOND COMING ANTICIPATION
A BA is continually aware that Jesus Christ will return for His own soon, and he is eagerly looking forward to His coming to get him. He lives his life to reflect the fact that Jesus may come today and he is ever ready to meet Him at any time.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure.” (1Jo 3:2-3)
6. SIN CONSCIOUSNESS
A true BA is deeply troubled by sin in his life and wishes very much to sin less. Nevertheless he definitely sins less than when he become conscious of having being born again from above and having made a profession of faith in Christ. He definitely does not enjoy his sin, for it affects the happiness that Christ has given him. He is fully aware that God is Omnipresent and sees all his sins.
“Whoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1Jo 3:9)
7. LOVE FOR BRETHRENS
A BA has love for other believers in Jesus Christ, he enjoys being in their company, and definitely prefers to be with the people of God than with the people of the world. Christians are his dearest friends with whom he will spend eternal life.
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brothers. He that loves not his brother stays in death.” (1Jo 3:14)
8. SUPPLICATIONS ANSWERED
A BA is a man of prayer, as Jesus was. Looking to his life he can point to specific answers that could have come from no one but God. It is a normal and regular thing for him to converse regularly with God as a trusted beloved friend.
“And whatever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” (1Jo 3:22)
9. SHARP DISCERNMENT
A BA has no difficulty at all to sort out Christianity from the claims of other religions. He does not see the other religions as the same as Christianity for Christianity alone claims to be the only way to God and there is only one name given under heaven by which we must be saved, the Lord Jesus Christ. He does understand the doctrine of Christ, and Him crucified, and believes that Jesus Christ is indeed God.
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1Jo 4:1)
10. SPIRIT AWARENESS
The BA is fully aware that the Holy Spirit of God lives in him and that He teaches him things of God from the Scriptures on a regular basis. He is also conscious that the Holy Spirit convicts him when he sins and restrains him from sinning freely, making him cry out: “Abba, Father”.
“Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” (1Jo 4:13)
Being born again equates to salvation, it is an unmerited gift of God that He grants to whom He wills for reason of His own that we do not know. Every truly born again believer should be able to open his arms bow his head, bend his knees and humbly say: “Thank you Lord for having saved my miserable life”.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Co 5:17)