“You must be born again.” The religious leader who heard these words first spoken 2,000 years ago seemed stunned by them. This, Nicodemus, a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews, had already acknowledged his belief that Jesus Christ had come from God, “for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Chapter three of the Gospel of John records this intriguing conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, giving us a vital key to the kingdom of God.
Both believers and unbelievers still use Jesus’ words “born again,” and many, like Nicodemus, are still confused by them.
Nicodemus asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?”
Nicodemus was thinking in terms of the flesh. Jesus had to explain to him, “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.'” Jesus also explained that unless a person is born again, he cannot see or enter the kingdom of God. Obviously, this born-again experience, whatever it is, is absolutely necessary and of the utmost importance. We cannot take it lightly, for Jesus spoke imperatively, “You must” – a command from God.
You can imagine the incredulous look on the face of Nicodemus. He couldn’t believe such a thing. All his life he had been taught that good works were the key to heaven-that if a person observed all the laws and requirements of God, he would have entrance into heaven. He said to Jesus, “How can these things be?”
You see, Jesus was talking about things of the spirit. He compared the spirit with the wind. You cannot see it; you don’t know where it’s coming from or where it’s going. But it is real, and you see its effects. You see what it does to the trees. You see the leaves that are caught up in the wind. You see the little swirls of dust. You feel the wind on your face. Jesus said, “So is every one who is born of the Spirit.”
The Flesh Versus The Spirit
The problem was that Nicodemus, like all human beings, was of the flesh. He was from the earth. Flesh is mortal. It is subject to death, decay, and corruption. It is filled with self-pity, self-pride, self-love.
An awesome fact exists about the flesh: everything we see, everything visible, even our own bodies, are perishing. Many people try everything imaginable to ignore or forget this, but the fact always remains. The Bible says that things which are visible are temporary but things which are invisible are eternal (see 2 Corinthians 4:18).
The truth is that we dwell in a mortal body which will soon return to dust.
Our old state, our old nature, and even all our good deeds are insufficient. God is totally and absolutely holy and righteous. He is perfect. We cannot fellowship with Him now or in the next life in the imperfection of our present nature. Perfection and imperfection are incompatible.
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). By our very self-seeking nature we are sinful and imperfect. And sin results in death, and eternal separation from God. This is the result of our earthly nature. It is obvious that we need a new nature, a nature that God can look upon with acceptance. A nature that stands justified before Him. We need a new birth. You must be born again.
There are four important things about this new nature, the new birth, that you must know.
A Free Gift
First, the new birth is free, a gift from God! We cannot earn it. We cannot work for it or else we could boast, and no one shall boast before God. An imperfect creature cannot earn or deserve such merit from a holy God. “For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). This free gift comes to us by grace, or unmerited favor (see Ephesians 2:8,9).
Only God’s supreme love makes such a free and wonderful gift possible. God did not automatically excuse our sinful condition. He paid the greatest price. You see, sin must be punished. God in His holy and righteous nature must judge sin. Not to do so would deny His very nature. He Himself has decreed that “The wages of sin is death.”
No Greater Love Than This
The most magnificent and incomparable act of love in all of history is that God took our sins and death upon Himself. Jesus, the Son of God, took the punishment in our place. He became our substitute.
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus Christ, “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
That is why Christ chose to die-to make the supreme love gift of taking all our punishment upon Himself, to reconcile the world unto God. He totally identified with our sinful nature when He hung on the cross, and became sin for us though sinless Himself, so that we might have the free gift of forgiveness and life.
The Mystery Revealed
The second important fact about this new nature is that it is actually the nature of the only perfect Person who ever lived, Jesus Christ. Only Jesus is good enough. Only He is perfect. Only His life is acceptable to God. It is only as we partake of His life that we become acceptable to God. Being “born again” is nothing less than receiving the actual life of the living Christ – His Spirit actually entering us and bringing our spirit to life. Our spirit is joined with Him” (1 Corinthians 6:17). We then become one with the perfect One. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me: (Galations 2:20). The mystery is now revealed, “that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generationswhich is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26,27).
Jesus’ identification with us is complete. In His death, He bore our sins and suffered our death. In His resurrection, He became our life, so much so that in His Spirit we are even joined with Him. Now when the Father looks upon us He sees only the righteousness of Jesus. We are accepted. We have been born again!
“If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The Abundant Life
The third important fact is that when we are born again, we become a new creature, now. The heavenly promise is for the future and will be wonderful beyond understanding. However, at the new birth we immediately begin to experience the life of God as He guides us, walks with us, and indwells us. We experience the fruit of His Spirit such as love, joy, and peace. As we are filled with His Spirit, we experience His supernatural power manifested in life situations. Life takes on new meaning. Everything is in a new perspective. Jesus said that He came, not just to get us to heaven, but that we “might have life, and might have it abundantly” (John 10″10).
How To Receive Him
The fourth important fact to know is how to receive this gift. Doesn’t every act of giving require a giver and a receiver? God, the Giver, holds out the gift to everyone. It is not His will that any should perish (see 2 Peter 3:9). But to receive a gift requires that we agree to a need. We must agree as the spirit of God shows us that we are, indeed, sinful creatures in need of God’s forgiveness and grace. “Unless you repent, you will likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
Repentance means to change our mind, to turn. We must change our mind about our condition and our direction away from God. And turn to Him.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
We receive Christ by an ingenious method that only God could devise. It is not by works, because our abilities would vary and everyone would not have an equal chance. It is an opportunity that is equal regardless of intelligence, sex, age, race, social status, or wealth. It is by faith.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith: and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God: Not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
To receive Christ, we must acknowledge our need and who He is. Then we simply turn to Him by faith and put our trust and reliance in Him. We receive Him by invitation. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).
Do you want to be born again, right now? Do you want a new nature? Do you want to receive the most wonderful gift in the whole universe, the life of Christ Himself? Then simply but sincerely pray:
“Dear Lord Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of God. I believe that You died for my sins and rose from the grave. I invite You into my heart and receive You right now. Thank You for forgiveness. Thank You for a new life. Help me to be what You want me to be and live Your life through me. Amen.”
If you sincerely prayed that prayer, God says that you have new life and that you are a member of His eternal kingdom. He desires close fellowship with you during this life and desires for you even now to live victoriously as a child of the King! Also, since He died for you, He wants you to live for Him.
“And He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
As we are born again, God immediately implants a new nature within us. Some outward change may be dramatic and instant; some may come gradually. As with any newborn, our new nature needs nurture and growth.
Talk to Him frequently. And listen to his voice within you. That’s what prayer is. Read and meditate upon His Word, the Bible – another way He speaks to you. Finally, He wants you to fellowship with other believers and be a functioning part of His corporate Body — so find a Bible-believing church and attend regulary.