BEING BORN AGAIN
(It's not what you might think...)
PART 1: What Does The Bible Say?
PART 2: Be Born Again....Don't Be Deceived !!
PART 3: What Some People Teach
PART 4: What Can You Do To Be Born Again?
PART 1: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
"Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Him by night, and said to Him, 'Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nicodemus said to Him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?' Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 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.' The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.'" (John 3:1-8)
Jesus said that unless a person is born again, he can not see the kingdom of God. He can not choose the things of God because he can not see them; he is dead in his sin. Before a person is born again, he is spiritually dead. In verses 5-6, God says that the new birth is a spiritual birth. God's people are born of the Spirit; this work is accomplished by God. Unless God accomplishes this mighty work in the life of a person, he can not enter into the kingdom of God.
In Ezekiel 18:4, God says, "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. THE SOUL WHO SINS WILL DIE." In Ephesians 2:1-2, God confirms His Word by saying, "And you were DEAD in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world..." In Ephesians 2:5, God says, "...even when we were DEAD in our transgressions, [GOD] MADE US ALIVE together with Christ (by GRACE you have been saved)."
In Romans 3:9-18, God reiterates our spiritual condition before Him: "What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, 'There is NONE righteous, NOT EVEN ONE; there is NONE who understands, there is NONE who seeks for God; ALL have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is NONE who does good, there is NOT EVEN ONE....There is no fear of God before their eyes."
This is our spiritual condition before God: WE ARE SPIRITUALLY DEAD. This is why Jesus said that unless a person is born again, he can not see the kingdom of God. When a person becomes born again, it is the result of the mighty work of God; God literally resurrects a person's spiritually dead soul back to spiritual life! In Colossians 2:11-13, God puts it this way, "...and in Him you were also circumcised with A CIRCUMCISION MADE WITHOUT HANDS, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also RAISED UP WITH HIM through faith in THE WORKING OF GOD, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were DEAD in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, HE MADE YOU ALIVE together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions." When God makes a person spiritually alive, this is the act of being born again; this is the act of God's saving grace in the life of a person!
In Ezekiel 36:24-27, God says, "For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." This is what it means to be born again; this is what it means to be saved. God must give you a new heart and put His Spirit within you; these are things which only God can do; THIS IS THE WORK OF GOD.
PART 2: BE BORN AGAIN....DON'T BE DECEIVED !!
"There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:9-13)
Did the world receive Jesus?...No. Did God's own people receive Jesus?...No. Is this any different today?...No! But, look at these verses... Don't they teach that if a person receives Jesus and believes in Jesus that he is saved? At first glance, they appear to teach this and many people quote these verses in such a way as to mean just that. However, let's take a closer look at the last two verses...
Verse 12 says "as many as received Him." BUT, just previously in verses 9-11, we learned that NO ONE receives HIM (we also learned this from Romans 3:9-18). The crucial question which arises is: How then can I receive Him??? What is a true conversion? Verse 13 reveals what the true conversion is as well as what three false conversions are: THE ONE TRUE CONVERSION IS when a person is born of God. THE THREE FALSE CONVERSIONS ARE 1) being born of blood, 2) being born of the will of the flesh, and 3) being born of the will of man.
Let's take a closer look at this...
The only person who can TRULY receive Jesus and believe in Jesus is someone who has FIRST been born of God (Jesus said this in John 3:1-8 as we read earlier); this is a TRUE CONVERSION. In Romans 9:15-16, God says, "...I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then IT DOES NOT DEPEND ON THE MAN WHO WILLS or the man who runs, BUT ON GOD who has mercy."
However, God also states that there are three other methods of conversion; each one of these methods serves only to DECEIVE a person into believing that he is saved when, in fact, he is not.
ONE FALSE CONVERSION is being born of blood. Just because a person's parents are Christians, does NOT mean that he is or will be a Christian because he came physically from their bodies (a blood descendent); a person who thinks he is a Christian just because his family members are, is a person who is deceiving himself into thinking that he is saved. Likewise, a person is NOT saved by any special physical characteristics he may have; for example, belonging to a certain race or ethnic background, speaking a certain language, being male or female, growing up in a Christian home, etc. "For he is NOT a Jew who is one OUTWARDLY; NEITHER IS circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. BUT he is a Jew who is one INWARDLY; AND circumcision is that which is of the HEART, BY the Spirit, NOT BY the letter [of the Law]; and his praise is not from men, but from God." (Romans 2:28-29)
THE SECOND FALSE CONVERSION is being born of the will of the flesh. A person can NOT be saved because he wants salvation. Salvation is NOT the result of a person's will, or his choosing God, or his making a decision for Jesus, or his accepting Christ, or his believing on Him. Salvation does not result from any action of a person's will. We learned this earlier in Romans 9:15-16. Furthermore, in PART 1 of this article, we learned that a person is SPIRITUALLY DEAD and therefore is NOT able to TRULY believe or receive Jesus prior to being born again.
THE THIRD FALSE CONVERSION is being born of the will of man. A person is NOT saved because a pastor or priest tells him that he is saved. There is NOTHING that any person can do to save any other person. A person can NOT save another person no matter how hard he tries (e.g., by his arguments, evangelism, or any other works).
Another part of Scripture in which God talks about different kinds of conversion experiences is Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. Again, God describes a total of four different conversions: one true and three false. The language is different, but the message is the same: God saves His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). The people of the world will try to receive the Word of God, but can not because God has NOT prepared their hearts to receive it (Matthew 13:10-15; Romans 9:18). GOD IS IN CONTROL, NOT MAN (read Romans 9:14-23).
PART 3: WHAT SOME PEOPLE TEACH
Some people teach that salvation (being born again) is a free gift which God extends to all mankind and that it is up to mankind to reach out and take hold of this free gift which God is offering to everyone.
The ONLY truth to the previous statement is that salvation is a free gift of God; in Romans 6:23, God says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
However, the rest of "the Gift Approach" is a hideous lie.
First, God does NOT extend His salvation to everyone: In Matthew 1:21, God says, "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save HIS PEOPLE from their sins." Again, in Romans 9:27, God says, "...Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is THE REMNANT that will be saved." "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and MANY are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and FEW are those who find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)
Second, it is impossible for anyone to TRULY reach out to God in ANY way; remember that God clearly says that before He saves us, we are SPIRITUALLY DEAD; it is impossible for a DEAD person to take ANY action on his own. Furthermore, in Ephesians 2:8-9, God says, "For by GRACE you have been saved through faith; and that NOT OF YOURSELVES, it is the gift of God; NOT AS A RESULT OF WORKS, that no one should boast." If salvation were partly based on whether or not a person reaches out to God, then salvation would be based partly on a person's WORKS. However, God clearly states in Ephesians that salvation is NOT THE RESULT OF WORKS.
TWO-PARTY CHECK APPROACH.
Some people teach that salvation (being born again) is like a two-party check which God has completely filled out and signed with one exception: the recipient of the two-party check must also sign the check in order for the check to be valid. Again, this may sound like a very nice analogy, but it is a lie. Salvation (being born again) is NOT THE RESULT OF WORKS. The Bible says that before we are born again, we are DEAD IN OUR SINS; it is impossible for a dead person to sign a check; signing a check is a "work" (especially for a dead person!).
RECEIVE AND BELIEVE IN JESUS APPROACH.
Some people teach that all a person has to do to become born again is to believe in Jesus, or to receive Jesus, or to accept Jesus, or to make a decision for Christ. These people quote several Bible verses such as John 1:12 and John 3:16 which say: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name..." and "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."
We already discussed John 1:9-13 in PART 2 of this article.
There is nothing wrong with John 1:12 or John 3:16 or the many other verses like these verses. The problem is the way in which people use these verses. In 2nd Timothy 3:15, God commands His people to "be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, HANDLING ACCURATELY THE WORD OF TRUTH." Many caring, loving, well-meaning people DO NOT handle the Word of Truth accurately. A chief example of someone who does not handle accurately the Word of Truth is the Devil; take a moment to read Matthew 4:1-11; you will notice that the Devil quotes the Bible correctly and in context; however, he does NOT handle it accurately. On the other hand, Jesus is the perfect example of someone who handles the Word of God accurately; again, carefully read Matthew 4:1-11.
In 1st John 3:23-24, God says, "And this is His commandment, that we BELIEVE IN THE NAME OF HIS SON JESUS CHRIST, and love one another, just as He commanded us. And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him...." Believing in Jesus is a COMMANDMENT of God. Earlier, we learned from Ephesians 2:8-9, that salvation is NOT THE RESULT OF WORKS. If a person thinks that he is saved by obeying God's commandment to believe in Jesus, then he is only deceiving himself into thinking that he is saved; being born again is NOT the result of obeying God's commandments.
John 6:28-29 says, "[The multitude] said therefore to Him, 'What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'" Notice what is going on here: The people wanted to do something for their salvation; in fact, they wanted to do God's work. Jesus tells them very plainly what THE WORK OF GOD is; THE WORK OF GOD (not the work of man) is that God's people believe in Jesus whom God has sent. When GOD PERFORMS THIS WORK in the life of His people, then and only then are His people born again; then and only then are His people able to TRULY believe in Jesus and receive Jesus. If a person tries to accomplish this work on his own (just as the multitude wanted to), his efforts (no matter how good they may be) will NOT result in his being born again.
Many people teach that a person must choose Christ, or accept Jesus, or make a decision for Christ in order to be born again. However, God does not depend on people to make decisions for Him; God makes His own decisions. In Ephesians 1:3-5, God says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as HE CHOSE US IN HIM BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love HE PREDESTINED US to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, ACCORDING TO THE KIND INTENTION OF HIS WILL." In John 15:16, God says, "YOU DID NOT CHOOSE ME, BUT I CHOSE YOU, AND APPOINTED YOU..." In John 13:18, God says, "I do not speak of all of you. I KNOW THE ONES I HAVE CHOSEN; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who eats My bread has lifted up his heal against Me.'"
The issue is NOT have you chosen Jesus, or have you accepted Jesus, or have you made a decision for Christ. THE ISSUE IS: HAS GOD CHOSEN YOU? HAS GOD ACCEPTED YOU? HAS GOD MADE A DECISION FOR YOU?
SINNER'S PRAYER APPROACH.
Many people teach that if you repeat a special prayer with them, then you will be born again. They say, "You can be born again SIMPLY by praying and asking Jesus Christ to work a miracle in your life. You can do it AT THIS VERY MOMENT. It is your HEART'S attitude that counts. We suggest the following prayer that may guide you."
Being born again is NOT the result of simply repeating a few magical words at this very moment. Our hearts' attitude does NOT matter. God describes the condition of our hearts before Him in Jeremiah 17:9: "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" Our hearts need serious spiritual surgery which only God can perform. In Ezekiel 36:26-27, God says, "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." This is what it means to be born again; this is what it means to be saved.
God must give you a new heart and put His Spirit within you; these are things which only God can do; God does these things in His time (NOT when we think He should); we must WAIT ON GOD to accomplish His saving work in our lives; we must trust Him and hope in Him to perform His saving work in our lives, if it pleases Him to do so.
PART 4: WHAT CAN YOU DO TO BE BORN AGAIN?
By now, you probably know the answer to this question. You might not like the answer, but you know it! However, let's take some time to explore this question and to review what we've learned.
Consider your physical birth for a moment. Did you have any control over whether or not you would be born? Did you have any control over where you would be born? Did you have a choice of whom your parents would be? Or your brothers or sisters? Did you decide what time in history to be born? Did you have any control over your physical appearance or sex? Did you decide what your racial background would be? Of course, the answer to all of these questions is ABSOLUTELY NOT. God is in control of each of these things (and far more). The Bible says that God is spirit (John 4:24). DO NOT THINK FOR ONE MOMENT THAT God is only in control of your physical birth and NOT your spiritual birth. TRULY being born again is the sole WORK OF GOD (just as your physical birth was).
So, what can you do to be born again? What can you do to be saved?
In yourself, there is NOTHING that you can do to be born again. Before salvation, we are all SPIRITUALLY DEAD and totally unable to respond to God. This is our predicament--our pitiful and helpless predicament--which is a result of our sins and rebellion against God our Maker.
Being born again is entirely in God's hands; it is THE WORK OF GOD only. God is the only one who can help you. You must throw yourself altogether on the mercies of God. As you see your hopeless condition as a sinner who is headed for Hell (eternal torment and punishment), begin crying out to God that He might save you. Remember, God would be justified in condemning to Hell every human being who has ever lived.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus....that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." (Romans 3:23-24, 26-28)
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
"Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)
How can you know when you become TRULY saved? ONLY God can give you assurance. Begin asking God to make you truly humble and broken before Him as you continue seeking His mercy. Keep reading the Bible with the desire that God will bring your will into submission to His will.
"The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works. All Thy works shall give thanks to Thee, O Lord, and Thy godly ones shall bless Thee. They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom, and talk of Thy power; to make known to the sons of men Thy mighty acts, and the glory of the majesty of Thy kingdom. Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endures throughout all generations." (Psalm 145:8-13)
"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18) "...But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word." (Isaiah 66:2) "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." (Psalm 51:17)
"I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear, and will trust in the Lord. How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood." (Psalm 40:1-4)
"Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:30- 31)
Click to read more on Being Born Again ( A track written by J.C. Ryle)
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