Just a few days ago, I had lunch with a man who during our conversation asked what it meant to be born again. He admitted that he had little idea as to its meaning and we might suspect that he is not alone in his confusion. Pollsters and the general public use the term as a label to describe a certain kind of Christian. There is the larger Christian world and within that world, a certain segment who are “born again” Christians. But I ask you, is there any other kind of Christian? For Jesus said, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Jesus addressed these words to Nicodemus, a highly respected and influential man in Jewish society, a religious leader who had come to Jesus saying some nice things about Him. But Jesus, knowing this man’s heart and need, told Nicodemus that he needed to go back and start all over again. He needed a new beginning effected by God, a spiritual birth, a supernatural birth. We all do, because in our natural birth, we were born in Adam and in sin, sin that has defiled us and disabled us and deadened us spiritually. In our fallen condition, we can do many things – we can outwardly reform our ways, we can make ourselves more moral and respectable, even more religious but one thing we cannot give ourselves is a new heart that is spiritually alive unto God and that embraces the salvation freely offered in Christ, and thus be converted. The new birth is God making us what we could never make ourselves to be, a new creation. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Being born again or regeneration is a once-for-all irreversible spiritual transformation. God changes what we are on the inside, not just temporarily, but eternally.
Jesus said, “You MUST be born again” (John 3:7). It is a universal necessity. What Jesus said to Nicodemus, he says to everyone, everywhere. It is an indispensable necessity. Without it we can neither see (John 3:3) nor enter (John 3:5) the kingdom of God. Everyone in God’s kingdom has been born again. It is an unchanging necessity. Despite all the advances in technology and mankind’s accumulated knowledge, time has not made us better. Society is just as corrupted and dead in sin as it was in the year 2000, in 1000, or in 100.
Christ likened the act of regeneration to the wind in John 3:8. Just as we cannot create the wind or control the wind or contain the wind – it blows where it wants, from what direction it wants, as strong or as soft as it wants and is completely out of our hands, so is the work of God in regeneration. It is God’s work alone. He effects it to whom He wills, where He wills, when he wills. James 1:18 says that “of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth”. That means that no lost person is beyond God’s renewing power. No heart is inaccessible to His sovereign work. He can enter the innermost being of any person that He wishes. The new birth is designed that way, to be entirely the work of God in order to drive us to God, to despair of any power in ourselves, and to look to God alone to give us a new heart and a new nature, to make us a new person in Christ.
The sure evidence of the new birth is conversion. “Old things are passed away, all things have become new”. Sinful pleasures and habits that we once loved now have no interest to us. What we once avoided like the plague, now that is what we love, God’s will, God’s word, and God’s people. Being born again is not an add-on, it’s not a luxury item for a special group of Christians. It’s what makes you a Christian! “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:7).