Born Again: What Does It Mean?
It’s no wonder that “outsiders” don’t understand. Christians very often misunderstand and mis-apply their lack of understanding of being “born-again”. I have long been “born-again” but have long avoided freely making that statement to anyone- especially in answer to Christians who like to ask the question, “Are you a born-again Christian?”
All too often I have found people who ask this question turn out to be somewhere near the fringes of weirdness close to that of serpent-handlers.
While bringing insight and understanding to unbelievers isn’t likely possible, it is hoped that this writing brings understanding to fellow Christians.
Born Again! What’s it mean?
Yet 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)
A person becomes a child of God because that position is given to him who chooses to believe that Jesus is all that He claims He is, and who will receive Him and acknowledge Him for who He is. Becoming a child of God is not earned or deserved; it happens when a decision is made to believe and is something God does. According to John 3:3-5, becoming a child of God requires rebirth- being born in the spirit and is called being “born again.” Only God’s Holy Spirit gives birth to the spirit. Becoming a child of God is spiritual birth, something impossible for man to do himself.
Birth & Baptism! Is there a relationship?
I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ (John 1:33)
The “baptism of John” (baptism of water) in compared with the “baptism of Jesus” (baptism in Spirit). John’s baptism is a baptism of obedience. It’s a command of Jesus and is the occasion in which the believer makes a public proclamation of his decision to believe and follow Christ. It’s a part of the decision in the flesh to turn from sin and follow Christ.
Jesus’ baptism is baptism of the spirit in which the spirit of man is born: Jesus replied, “I assure you, 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 birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:5-7)
Being “born again” is an event of spiritual awakening in the physical man through which occurs the process (called sanctification) where man is made in Christ’s image. While the flesh will someday die, it is this newly born spirit that lives forever, though for a brief time co-exists with the flesh. The time of this co-existence is a time of conflict between the will of the sinful flesh and the will of the spirit.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” … Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:1, 2, 5)
Only God’s Holy Spirit can give life to the human spirit. John 1:33 says “I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'”
Many people have come as far as the Pharisees- and have even gone to church for years- who believe Jesus is a great teacher who has come from God and who has performed great miracles. But, like the Pharisees and unlike Nicodemus, they haven’t believed…they haven’t been born again.
Evidence of being “born-again”- is there any?
The evidence of being born again is not in my works, but in His fruit. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8,19)
I tend to try to steal glory that belongs to God. You see, there are others who from time to time see “light” and/or “goodness” in my life. When they do, it’s not by what I do, but what God does through me despite me. But I sometimes claim the glory, as if the good that God did was my own doing.
God’s light is great and powerful- it needs to be in order to be seen through the muck and mire of this crud-covered vessel named Bruce. From time to time God must enable people to see me as He sees me. I thank Him when He does because I consider it a great privilege and honor when He causes opportunities for our relationship to be shared.
Others see the light and goodness of God in my life only so long as I continue to strive to be close to the Truth, close to God. On rare occasions that others are able to see His light and goodness through me, I must be most careful to give credit where credit is due- to God.
Again, the evidence of being born again is not in my works, but in His fruit: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.” (Galatians 5:22-26)
Born Again and New Wine: What’s the connection?
…the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” (John 2:9, 10)
The miracle of new wine being transformed from plain water represents the effect Jesus will have upon the lives of people who will decide to follow Him. My son Bryan one day made the observation that the character of water is that it is flavorless. The influence of transformation of water by Jesus brings out aroma and flavor.
Bryan also observed that the serving of the good wine first was symbolic of “ritual.” It is our human nature to attempt to always put forth our own “positive” attributes. I find much truth in this observation as I find it easy to fall into a “religious” mode when I spend brief periods with other Christians that I don’t know or who don’t know me well. As I spend more time with people, my “religious” guard goes down and my real self begins to show- the water. Then, to my surprise (and perhaps to the surprise of others), God does something through me that reveals a change of water into the best of wine- and more evidence of the born-again reality.
HOW IS A PERSON “BORN-AGAIN”? CHECK OUT: How Do I Become a Christian?