What Does It Mean to Be Born Again?
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The words born again have been repeated so often that we forget their meaning. When Jesus first told Nicodemus (a very wise and religious man, by the way) that he had to be "born again," he was misunderstood. The words still are, but there's no reason why they should be.
What it means is that the heart -- the inward person, not the outward -- is made new. For the person who experiences this, it is Day One. The body is not new, but the inner person is. The slate is wiped clean, and God views the person as brand-new.
This is only the first step, of course. The newborn must grow, and some grow faster and healthier than others. But before there is growth, there must be this new birth.
A Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to speak with Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are proof enough that God is with you."
Jesus replied, "I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God."
"What do you mean?" exclaimed Nicodemus. "How can an old man go back into his mother's womb and be born again?"
Jesus replied, "The truth is, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven. So don't be surprised at my statement that you must be born again. Just as you can hear the wind but can't tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can't explain how people are born of the Spirit."
Jesus called a small child over to him and put the child among them. Then he said, "I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven."
"I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life."
We died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised as he was. Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also share his new life.
Those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!
It is by his boundless mercy that God has given us the privilege of being born again. Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead.
For you have been born again. Your new life did not come from your earthly parents because the life they gave you will end in death. But this new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.
Can a person lie, or be deceived, about being born again? Certainly. Jesus and the apostles understood this. While they warned against judging other people's spiritual conditions, they did promise that we could know from a person's "fruit" whether there had really been a new birth:
If we love other Christians, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life. But a person who doesn't love them is still dead.
"A healthy tree produces good fruit, and an unhealthy tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, the way to identify a tree or a person is by the kind of fruit that is produced.
"Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as `Lord,' but they still won't enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven."
"Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God."
The Book of God's Promises -- Copyright, 1999 by J. Stephen Lang. All rights reserved, used with permission.
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