Monday, November 28, 2011

What does it mean to be born again?

I came to faith in Jesus at age 43. In my youth and in adult life I never was exposed much to church or Born Again believers or the things of Jesus. A few minimal run-ins, a week or two at a bible camp in some dank church basement here or there and that's about it. As an adult in New England, which is rife with false religions and atheists, I never bumped elbows with "Jesus freaks" as they are known up there.

That said, there is a vocabulary associated with Christianity that a person hears at some point in their lives just from listening to news clips or seeing movies or television. "You have to be born again," or "He's saved" are examples. I never knew what they meant. I do now. I'll do my best to explain them.

According to the definition using scriptures at Christian Research and Apologetics Ministry, "Born Again" means "The term Born Again refers to new birth enjoyed by Christians upon conversion and regeneration. It is a work of the Holy Spirit within a believer. It is related to faith in Christ and Him crucified (John 3:3-5). It means that the person is no longer dead in sins (Eph. 2:1), no longer spiritually blind (1 Cor. 2:14), and is now a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17)."

Why do we need to have a new birth in Christ? Well, we're all sinners. Sinning means we all do, think, and say wrong things. No one likes to hear that they are born sinful. They say, "I've done nothing wrong. I am not a murderer. I'm not like Hitler! I live a good life. Babies aren't sinners!" But the fact is, we are born with a nature that is permeated with badness. If you ever saw a child willfully throw their peas to the floor you are witnessing sin. If you ever had a two year old throw a tantrum because they didn't get their way, you are witnessing sin.

This was brought home to me in this video. In it, a small child is shown to be throwing a tantrum. Now, most people think that children do this simply because they are too young to control their emotions and their internal desires get the better of them. And that is true! But the video also shows by example that children even as young as this one know what they are doing when they rebel. He has his tantrum only when his mother is in eye view, he cries only when his mother is in sight, and he repeatedly positions himself to rebel purposely and for maximum effect.



We have a sin nature. From birth.

Now, Jesus came to take the penalty for God's wrath for all this sin. He is Holy and the Judge. If we commit crimes against Him, he can't just let it go, can He? A judge in a court on earth would not do that. You do the crime, you pay.

Being born again happens when a person recognizes their sin nature, that they are a sinner, and that this sin is separating them from God. It is very, very, very hard to do this, because our sin blinds us to this fact. You might ask, if sin is so pervasive and blinds us to the degree of our own position before God, what hope is there to ever get out of it?

Jesus! And the Holy Spirit! And God! John 6:44 says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day."

John 12:32: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself."

It's the Holy Spirit that brings understanding of our position before God as sinners, through the reading and hearing of God's Word, being burdened with thoughts and guilt of the bad things we do, hearing the Gospel and His free pardon to us. He enlightens us and reveals to us who Jesus really is and what He has done for all mankind. We may know about Him, as I did for 43 years, but we will not know Him and His lovingkindness toward us unless we first understand that we sin.

Once we are born again, a one-time event, He then sends the Spirit inside us to help us grow away from our sinful nature and become more Christlike. We will never be completely away from our sinful nature until we are in heaven. At that time the transformation process of cleansing sin from our literal body, begun at the new birth, is completed. He gives us a new body! No more sin! And we can finally be with Him, the Sinless and Holy One, in heaven.

It is really simple. We do bad things, and they aren't just murders and rapes and robberies, but even gossip and slander and lust in the heart or lust through the eyes is sin. Everyone who was ever born on earth is a sinner- except Jesus. So by definition no one on earth can go to heaven. Here is what Jesus said on the matter:

"The New Birth

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him. Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?" Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”

"Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. " (John 3:1-17).

That's kind of hard to understand, and impossible to understand if you are not a Chrisitan saved by Jesus. But essentially it means, we're born sinners, we won't go to heaven when we die, we'll go to hell. To save us from hell, Jesus died on the cross as the sacrifice required to pay the price of His wrath for sin. Jesus was resurrected on the third day and ascended to heaven. Anyone who believes this Gospel by faith will be born again. He sends the Spirit into you and the Spirit changes you from the inside out. You're a new creation! Born again!

Born a second time, from sinner to believer growing in Christlikeness. You're qualified for heaven, and will be with Jesus for all eternity instead of your default destination: hell.

Being born again is wonderful. I'm just sorry I wasted all the prior years, but Jesus' timing is perfect and His plans are accomplished right on schedule.

6 comments:

  1. I find it interesting how many people out in this world don't actually know what BORN AGAIN really means! When one accepts Christ as thier savior and goes on living as Christ following Gods comandments and statutes Repenting and Baptised they are BEGOTTEN of God not born again!!!! One is BORN AGAIN when one is changed on the Day Christ returns.1Corin.15:50-51 Changed into spirit beings. John 3:1-8 That which is born flesh is flesh that which is "born" spirit is spirit! Do you see!!Also 1Peter1:23 says when you are born again you are incorrupted-Don't sin!1Corin.15:52-53 says we will be changed in the blink of an eye to spirit beings and will be incoruptable- will not sin. And become imortal- spirit-BORN AGAIN!

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  2. Hi ANonymous,

    The definition of born again is at John 3: 1-21. Jesus is responding to Nicodemus's questions about how to be saved from God's wrath and inherit eternal life with Him in peace.

    I think you are splitting hairs between the terms "born again" and "begotten." Begotten means born. However, the not-splitting hairs comes because we are born into this world in sinful flesh with a sin nature. When we repent of our sins and accept Jesus as Lord and Saviror, we are born again, this time the Spirit comes into us to regenerate us into a new creature. However, we still sin. We still have that old man, that ole sin-nature in us.

    In the original language, Greek, the terms born again in the John 3 verses are "gennēthē" (to beget, to bring forth) and "again" is the Greek word "anōthen" meaning from above. It literally means Jesus brings births us into new life life from above.

    Being born again does not mean we don't sin. We do. Look at Peter, sinning with the Jews when he and Paul having to confront him to his face. Look at Paul who said he does what he doesn't want and can't do what he does want. (Rom 7:15-19). However we have the Spirit in us to help us resist our sin nature and sin less and less. On the day of the rapture (not the second coming) we are changed into incorruptible flesh and our sin nature will be gone. At no time do we become spirit beings (unless we die and are in heaven without our body, waiting for the day of the rapture to get our new body).

    I think your confusion stems from a misunderstanding of the timing.

    1. Repent unto salvation = born again. Spirit comes into us. Live the Spirit filled life on earth for however many years until we die or are raptured.
    2. Rapture = changed into incorruptible flesh. Dead are raised and changed and living are changed.

    Hope this helps.

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  3. I want to bring to attention a minor detail I think may be important. All too often it is preached to first turn from sin and then turn to Jesus. When the Holy Spirit drew me to salvation, He caused me to recognize my need for Jesus. He did not tell me to stop doing so and so and then come to Jesus. Repentance is moving from a life lived without Jesus to a life with Jesus. Once this takes place the Holy Spirit reveals the areas of your life that need cleaning. I believe this is true repentance and salvation.

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  4. Isn’t it odd that if Baptists and evangelicals are correct that their “born again experience” is the true and ONLY means of salvation, the term “born again” is only mentioned three times in the King James Bible? If “making a decision for Christ” is the only means of salvation, why doesn’t God mention it more often in his Word? Why only THREE times? Isn’t that REALLY, REALLY odd?

    Why is it that the Apostle Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, NEVER uses this term? Why is this term never used in the Book of Acts to describe the many mentioned Christian conversions? Why is this term only used by Jesus in a late night conversation with Nicodemus, and by Peter once in just one letter to Christians in Asia Minor?

    If you attend a Baptist/evangelical worship service what will you hear? You will hear this: “You must be born again: you must make a decision for Christ. You must ask Jesus into your heart. You must pray to God and ask him to forgive you of your sins, come into your heart, and be your Lord and Savior (the Sinner’s Prayer). You must be an older child or adult who has the mental capacity to make a decision to believe, to make a decision to repent, and to make a decision to ask Jesus into your heart.”

    It is very strange, however, that other than “you must be born again” none of this terminology is anywhere to be found in the Bible! Why do Baptists and evangelicals use this non-biblical terminology when discussing salvation?

    Maybe "accepting Christ into your heart" is NOT what being born again really means. Maybe…making a “decision” for Christ is NOT how God saves sinners!

    Gary
    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

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    Replies
    1. Gary, what you're talking about is "decisional regeneration."

      Paul Washer preaches about the standard contemporary invitations, not only contained in Baptist churches, here in condensed version, 10 min
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYy4ubngaJo

      and here in full sermon 1 hour
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shxQcczYuAA

      if one cannot stream videos, an essay is here
      "What is decisional regeneration / decision theology?"
      http://www.gotquestions.org/decisional-regeneration.html

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