“Born Again?” What Does It Mean & Why Do We Need It?
I remember, when I was little girl, I was in a church Sunday school class when our teacher asked us to raise our hands if we would like to be born again. I recall that being a really weird statement. She continued by saying something about us praying and asking Jesus into our hearts. All of this felt so wild to me and I really had no idea what she meant by saying all of this but I skeptically raised my hand anyway.
Now if I’m being honest, I didn’t raise my hand because I wanted to pray a prayer, read the Bible more or even ask Jesus into my heart (whatever that meant). It actually had more to do with me really wanting one of the Kit Kats in the candy basket that she was holding. I often think back to that memory knowing that if I truly understood the significance of being born again, that Kit Kat would pale in comparison to becoming a child of God.
Where is Being “Born Again” Found in the Bible?
Jesus first introduced the concept of being “born again” in his interaction with a man named Nicodemus found in John chapter 3. In order to understand the passage more clearly I’m going to explain a little background on the characters as well as what’s going on at this time in the Jewish community.
Jesus, Nicodemus & The Pharisees
Now Jesus is one of our main characters in this passage. To give you a little snippet of where Jesus was at in this time of his life he had just begun his public ministry. At this point, he had already called some of his disciples to follow him, given a variety of Scriptural teachings to different crowds of people and had been performing miraculous signs and wonders.
The religious teachers at the time, called Pharisees, had caught wind about Jesus, his teachings, his ministry and became weary about what he was doing. The Pharisees saw that Jesus taught as one who had authority, he shared wise revelations of the Scriptures and to top it off miracles, signs and wonders followed wherever he went. Sounds pretty great right? It is except the rising popularity of Jesus, his miracles and his teachings left the religious teachers at this time feeling threatened and confused. How could it be that this common Jew who didn’t have an official religious position could know so much? How is it that he would be able to perform these types of miracles?
Nicodemus Asks the Question
Enter Nicodemus, he is the other main character of this particular dialogue in John 3. To begin with, Nicodemus was a great and profound religious teacher of the Jewish religion. Not only was he a well known Pharisee but he was also a member of the Sanhedrin. A member of the Sanhedrin in this era was kind of like a governmental role. To put it in short, he was one of the most educated and influential leaders.
Nicodemus was also observing Jesus’ ministry with the other pharisees. However, instead of feeling threatened by Jesus, he acknowledged the authority Jesus had. He could not argue against the wise teachings and miraculous signs. He met with Jesus seeking to have a conversation about what he had been seeing and hearing. You can find this dialogue in John 3:1-8 or read it below.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus 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 be amazed 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
What Does Being “Born Again” Mean?
As you can see, Nicodemus knew that God was with Jesus because of the signs and wonders that Jesus displayed. When he acknowledged so, Jesus said these famous words “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3). After Nicodemus heard this it didn’t make sense. How could a person be physically born a second time? The thing is, Jesus wasn’t speaking about being born again in the physical sense. He was referring to being “born again” in the spiritual sense while teaching it in a metaphor or a comparison to the significance of a physical birth.
Similarities Between A Physical Birth & A Spiritual Birth
Now, when you think about a physical birth it’s truly a wonderful gift and a miraculous process. When Jesus was having this conversation with Nicodemus, he was using the analogy of a physical birth as a metaphor to describe the miraculous process and wonderful gift of a spiritual birth! Let’s take a look at some of the similarities that Jesus might have been referring to in this conversation…
You’re Created with a New Nature
Have you ever heard someone point out similar features between you and your parents? Statements like “Hey, you have your dad’s nose!”, or “You look just like your mom!” That’s because it’s pretty normal to hear and see similar features between members in a family, they all have a similar DNA make up!
One comparison between the physical birthing process and the spiritual birthing process has to do with receiving a new beginning to life with a new nature in Christ! Just as there’s a passing down of the DNA between the parents and child there’s a passing down of a spiritual DNA from God to his children.
Our Sinful Nature
Before Christ’s gift of salvation you were born with a sinful nature. What does that mean? It means that you were born with a natural inclination to sin or be disobedient to God. This happened way back when God created the Earth and both and Even in the Garden of Eden. It says in the Bible that God created these two humans in His image and likeness. In other words, He created them in a similar nature to himself, almost like they had the same “DNA” as God.
Because they were made in the image of a perfect God, they themselves were also perfect— and I mean perfect! However, by an act disobedience they chose to sin against God which compromised their perfection. Because a perfect God couldn’t be in the presence of imperfection (or sin), they were separated from God. The nature of humanity became marked by sin ever since which is why God sent his perfect son Jesus to die for our sins on the cross so that we could be reconciled back to God!
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. ~ Romans 5:8-11
Reborn with a New Nature
When Jesus died on the cross for our sins one of the miraculous wonders that happened was that he changed our “DNA.” He didn’t just die for us, he died as us! Jesus actually became our sin.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21
When Jesus became our sin and died on the cross not only did he pay the punishment we deserved but he actually crucified our sin nature so that we could become righteous!
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and [a]the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. ~ Galatians 2:20
So Jesus didn’t just die for us, he died as us! He didn’t just cover our sins but he eradicated our sin nature so that we would have a righteous nature. It’s as if we use to have a DNA inside of us that would inherently desire sinful things but when Jesus died on the cross, our DNA changed! He came to Earth not just to pay a debt but to raise you up with a new nature, a new creation. No longer are we sinners that are saved but we’re now saints with Him, born again in His likeness! Everything about you, your character, your thoughts and your feelings all align with God and how he views you!
You’re Given A New Beginning
There’s another similarity between a physical birth and a spiritual birth and it has to do with new beginnings. One of the greatest gifts to having a new nature is that your past no longer defines you. This is really amazing because we live in a world that defines us by our past. When you get a job, they look at your past jobs and they call you previous bosses to see if you’re qualified for the position. The same happens with getting into schools or receiving awards. The world we live in will often limit your future by how you’ve performed in the past. However, in Christ we are no longer defined by our history! Once you’re born again, you get a new start!
… God was in Christ recoiling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliations. 2 Corinthians 5:19
God doesn’t look at your past and condemn you for your short comings, your mistakes or your sins. Once you become born again, you have a clean slate, a fresh start and a new beginning! No longer can your past haunt you, no longer can you be condemned for the previous mistakes you’ve made. Jesus died and took the punishment for our sins so that we might be reconciled back to Him.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, the new things have come. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
It’s Not Your Effort
If you’ve ever witnessed a child being birthed then you know mothers are super heroes incognito. It’s truly breathtaking watching a mother in the birth process because she is putting every effort she has to ensure a safe birth for her child which brings me to another comparison between the natural and spiritual birthing process. Both births don’t require any of the baby’s effort. In a physical birth, the mother is the essentially doing the work to deliver and birth the baby. Spiritually speaking, when one is “born again,” it doesn’t come about through our own human effort but it comes about through the work of Jesus on the cross. When Jesus died on the cross for us, he paid a debt that we could never pay with our own efforts.
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, so that no one may boast. ~ Ephesians 2:8-9
You Get A Family
When a baby enters the world, the parents will choose a first name and perhaps a middle name for them, but not a last name. Why? Because they have the same last name as their parents do. Not only does a baby enters the world they also enter a family.
It’s the same way, when one is born again spiritually they also gain a new family. This is another one of the beautiful gifts of being a Christian, you are no longer on your own because you have a family in God. We weren’t created to go through life alone, it was part of God’s design to do life together! Once you become saved you gain access to God as your Father and other Christians as your fellow brothers and sisters!
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. ~ Ephesians 2:19-22
You Get the Family Inheritance
Yep, you heard me right… there’s also a family inheritance that you get to be a part of! Often times when you’re born into a family, one of the family privileges is getting to partake in a family inheritance. This means that something is passed down from your parents to you and you get to take ownership of something that you never had to work for. Similarly, once you’ve become born again spiritually, you’re in the family of God which means you get family privileges! Plus, this is a heavenly inheritance which means it will last forever and it can never be taken away from you!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you… ~ 1 Peter 1:3-4
What do these privileges include? Well, actually a lot! One of them being eternal life, John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” So those that are born again spiritually get to spend eternity in Heaven with God!
Many people think that our inheritance is limited to going to Heaven (which that’s included, as I stated above) but there’s actually so much more available to us! Being born again and inheriting the promises of God also includes certain promises and inheritances that are actually available to us now! It’s this bizarre picture when you’re born again where God inherits you to dwell in his kingdom and you inherit God to dwell inside of you. Kind of crazy right?
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.~ Romans 8:11
So not only are we given eternal life but we are also given the very Spirit of God to dwell inside of us while we walk through every day life, convicting us of sin, renewing our minds with holiness, teaching us to be like Christ in every way and filling us with His divine power!
Being Born Again Will Change How You Live
When you experience being born again there will be a significant and undoubtable change to your life. Below are 6 signs that point to the evidence of being born again.
1. You believe Jesus is the Christ
When you experience your new found life in Christ, you really understand that Jesus is the one true Savior. We live in a world that tells you that your identity can be found in your career, your family, your education or your success but once you experience the unconditional love of God and the free gift of salvation your eyes are unveiled to the truth. The truth is that your behavior won’t save you, your family doesn’t save you and all your earthy successes don’t matter when it comes to gaining access to eternal life. It’s the person of Jesus that can save you, He is the way the truth and the life!
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. ~ 1 John 5:1
2. You obey Jesus’ commandments
When you’re a born again Christian, you’re eager to obey Jesus’ commandments because you’re fueled by love, not performance. Once you’ve realized that there’s no way you can behave yourself into righteousness, then you can let the Holy Spirit sanctify you and teach you the ways of the Kingdom of Heaven!
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. ~ 1 John 2:3
3. You practice righteousness
Before Jesus came to the Earth, you were born with a sinful nature, bound to your fleshly desires and inclined to disobey God. But in the same way that children resemble their parents, the children of God resemble God! Being born again spiritually is what gives you a new nature, the DNA of righteousness gets passed down to you! No longer are you inclined to sin, but you’re inclined to be holy and righteous resembling your Father in Heaven!
If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. ~ 1 John 2:29
4. You love well
Jesus was known for the way he loved his father and those around him. He was drawn to everyone, those who were outcasted from society, those who were looked down upon by religious leaders and he even loved the high priests who wrongly accused him. He was marked by so much selfless love that he died on the cross while you and I were still sinners so that we could be saved. Those who are born again not only carry righteousness of Jesus but we are also carriers of the love of Jesus.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. ~ 1 John 4:7
5. You overcome the world
The world around us has a self-sufficient mentality, it will tell you that you need to make it on your own and you need to take care of yourself. But the kingdom of Heaven operates differently than the world, in fact it operates opposite of the world. Jesus tells his children that his victory is our victory. No longer do we try to overcome the world and the problems around us through our own strength but now we can rely and depend on God for his strength.
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. ~ 1 John 5:4
6. You resist sin
Before we became children of God we were sinners by nature but after Jesus died for us on the cross he made a way for our nature to be changed. He broke our bondage to sin and bound us instead to righteousness. His “seed” or his DNA is inside of us! Our nature is one that practices righteousness and holiness!
No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. ~ 1 John 3:9
Life Just Keeps Getting Better
Being born again changes every aspect of your life from the relationships you have with yourself, those around you and God. Before the cross we were all sinners who needed to be saved, but once you become born again the cross provides us a way to be connected to God. The children of God are now saints, heirs and co-heirs with Jesus. We have a new nature, a righteous DNA which compiles us to be holy and set apart from the word around us. We’re no longer people limited by our history but now we’re defined by our destiny. From the minute I was born again, my entire life started to change for the better and let me tell you, it just keeps getting better! Being born again changed my life… and it can change yours too!
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