“Being born again” has become a very much abused term. Anyone who takes a fresh interest in something is said to be “born again”. However, we must not be afraid to assert that “being born again” is a thoroughly biblical term. But it does not refer to just having a new interest or attitude; rather it refers to having a completely changed life.
Is the new birth important? Such a question draws us to the words of our Lord Jesus and the conversation He had with Nicodemus. The words of the Saviour are: I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again (John 3:3b) and you must be born again (John 3:7b). The clear implication of these words is that all true Christians are born again. It is only those who have the new birth that have entry into the kingdom of God. Accordingly, there is nothing more important than this. To be born again means that we have a new life which will be enjoyed with God forever in heaven.
Should we call ourselves “Born Again Christians”? Using the term “Born Again Christian” can be misleading. This is because it can infer that there are others who are just as much Christians as ourselves, but do not call themselves “born again”. However, we must make it clear that to be a true Christian we must be born again. Or, to put it the other way around, if you are not born again then you are not a Christian; you have not seen the kingdom of God and you are not on the narrow road which leads to eternal glory. So if we use the term “Born Again Christian” let us be aware of the possible implications of speaking that way.
What is this new birth? It is the event whereby God, through His Spirit, brings new life into the heart of a person. God says of our natural condition that we are dead in transgressions and sins (Eph 2:1b). It is impossible for us to manufacture spiritual life within ourselves. We need help from outside. This help comes from God and God alone. He comes to make us new creatures by giving us a new nature. It is the new birth.
How does the new birth come about? Peter, in writing to the dispersed Christians, says: For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God (1 Pet. 1:23). From this statement we gather that God always grants the new birth in association with the Word of God. The new birth comes to those who hear the Word of God and, accepting that it is true, commit themselves to following it. This means that we embrace the heart of the message of the Bible, the gospel. Accordingly, the one who is born again recognizes who God is, confesses their sins and believes in Jesus Christ as the Saviour who once died on the cross to take away their sins. John draws the connection between belief and the new birth when he says of our Saviour that to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:12-13).
This raises the question as to whether or not my faith leads to me being born again or results from me being born again. If we are correctly handling the word of truth we recognize that the new birth must come first. This is because, as we have established, the soul of man naturally has no life towards God; we are dead. Without God working no man can repent and believe the gospel. So the new birth must come before faith. However, practically speaking they happen simultaneously. This is because everyone who is born again at that same instant believes in Christ unto salvation. In speaking in this way we are really looking at the same thing from different perspectives. One is the actual order; the new birth comes before faith. The other is the order of experience; the new birth and faith come together.
How is the new birth shown? Quite simply the new birth is displayed by a new life. In many ways the book of Ephesians deals with this change. As non Christians we followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath (Eph. 2:2-3). But now we are born again we have put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24). Accordingly, if someone says they are born again the test of that confession comes in observing the character of their life. A born again person displays, in the generality of their life, a desire to be like God.
How can I know if I am born again? The answer here focuses on what are the signs of new life in Christ. Do I love to read my Bible? Do I love to speak of the things of Christ? Do I love to be in church? Do I love righteousness? Do I love to be with God’s people? Do I acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? If we can say “yes” to these questions then we can know that we are “born again”. And in knowing that we can glory with thankfulness in all that God has done for us.
(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of August 2008)