Often, as I have talked with people about the Bible, I have been asked the question: “Are you one of those ‘Born Again’ Christians or just a regular Christian?”
This question reveals that many people do not understand what the Bible has to say about being born again. In order to give this question a fair hearing, however, we will have to look at the Bible and see what God has to say about the condition of man. Then we will be able to see what the phrase “Born Again” really means.
What is man really like?
What kind of words would you use to describe the average person? Most people would say, “Man is basically good.” Or that he is a mixture of good and bad: “Even some of the worst people do some good things and some of the best do wrong.” Different words that might be used to describe man’s nature would be: kind, giving, destructive, unfaithful, greedy, loving, selfish.1
However, the Bible states in Romans 3:10-12: “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.”
The average person is not “basically good” according to the Bible. Nor is he basically loving, kind, giving or righteous. In our natural selves, we are the opposite of everything that is good: proud, greedy unfaithful and selfish.
Any attempt to discredit the notion of an innate evil that lurks within man by saying that all behavior is learned can be cast aside by performing the following experiment. Place a two-year-old in a room full of toys with some other children. If you watch their behavior, you will notice that every toy becomes “their toy” instantly. Why is this? It is their nature. Their parents never spent time teaching them to be selfish, did they? No, parents spend their time training their children to respect others, not to be selfish and to be kind, giving and loving.
In our natural selves, we can only fight the nature that is within us. As adults, we know that if we allowed every feeling to come out, we would offend many people. That is why people are concerned with how others see them.
Another experiment you could perform would be to take a pig and clean him up on the outside. Put a gold chain around his neck, dress him in a sport shirt, dab him with cologne and call him Arnold. But what is Arnold going to do when he comes to a mud puddle? Why do you think he will jump in? It is because of his nature! It is the same way with people. No matter how much you change on the outside, your inner nature is still sinful. Unless you are changed from the inside you will eventually come back to sin, just like a pig comes back to wallowing in the mud. This is true of me, you, and everybody!
This paints man in a negative light, but even worse when you compare man to a God who is good, just and holy. Even if you have just a small amount of sin in comparison to others, it is huge in comparison to God. God is who you will be with in heaven. God cannot and will not allow sin to come near Him. Our sin separates us from God, and our sinful nature only makes the gap larger.
But when we turn away form sin and give our lives over to Jesus Christ, He gives us a new spirit and a new nature, one that is not compelled toward sin. Where it was once natural to do evil, now it is natural to do good and follow God. And the things you did before now seem unnatural. This is what is meant by “Born Again.” God gives us a brand new spirit so that we can follow Him and have fellowship with Him.
Do I have to be “Born Again” to be a Christian?
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He also said, “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” (John 3:3,5,6). The Spirit he is speaking of is the Holy Spirit. The conviction power of the Holy Spirit is what causes you to realize your separation from God and draw towards Him. In doing so, you can be born again, not by the flesh, but by the Spirit of God.
To be born again requires that you acknowledge your sins before God, confess them and begin to walk in a new direction. You are doing this when you make Jesus the Lord of your life. By making Jesus Lord, you are allowing the Holy Spirit to remake your spirit, put your sinful nature to death and transform your life. This can only happen when you are willing to give up ALL sin. When even a little of your sin nature is left alive, the new life cannot come.
Many people fail to come to God because they want to make Jesus Savior of their life without making Him Lord. He cannot change them because they want to remain in sin.
Many people go to church and try to be good all their lives, but have never been born again. Unless they repent of their sin loving nature and allow God to change them from the inside out, they will never make it to heaven or have a real relationship with God. Going to church and saying prayers are good and commendable, but they do not change who you are.
God wants to change you into the image of His Son Jesus Christ. In order for this change to take place, you must be born again.
1. “Are You Going to Heaven? Two Question Test Reveals Answer”, Francis Anfuso: Glad Tidings School of Evangelism, (Christian Equippers, International, 1981) p.6.