In reply Jesus declared," I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (NIV)
Born Again Believer
We hear this term frequently today, "I am a born again believer," but what does it mean? What part of a person, exactly, is born again? Is this a literal truth, or some spiritual truth? As the story continues in John we see Nicodemus is wondering this exact thing.
"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8 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." (NIV)
Born of Water and of the Spirit
Is being born again important? Jesus said here that a person cannot enter into the kingdom of God unless they are born again. Jesus said that we must be born again.
Jesus describes the rebirth as being born of the Spirit, and gives birth to spirit. He says here that our flesh was brought to life through a union of flesh, and the rebirth of our spirit comes about through the union of God's Spirit and our spirit.
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (NIV)
Worship in the Spirit and in Truth
Here it says that God is spirit, and the Bible also says that we were created in God's image and likeness.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (NIV)
We, therefore, are spirit beings also, but we are hidden inside of our animal bodies. Our bodies should be thought of as clothes that cover us.
2 Corinthians 5:1-5
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (NIV)
Paul is calling the human body here a tent that covers us. The "us" being the real person inside, who is spirit. Paul is talking about how we long for our spirit body that God has promised us, so that we will not be found naked. What he is saying is that our inner selves, our true selves, understand our mortality. We know the mortality of the flesh, and at the same time, we have a sense of our eternal spirit nature. The spirit person, that is, the real you, does not want to have the flesh and blood body die, for fear that it will then have no body, and thus be found naked.
We who understand the spirit nature of our existence, and the mortal nature of our bodies, long for the permanent body that God has promised us. We do not want to lose this body, and yet we long for the permanent body. In short we long for the Lord's return, at which we, that is, our bodies, will be transformed from mortal animal bodies to immortal spirit bodies.
1 Corinthians 15:50-53
I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (NIV)
Now the important point I am making is that you are not your body, or your mind, which is part of your body, nor are you the sum total of your memories and experiences. There is a person inside your body that ultimately directs your body and mind. This spirit person contains your soul and is called the heart. This person is spirit, and is therefore not of this creation, that is, is not made up from atoms or any other atomic particles. Instruments cannot measure this person. This person, is like God.
Is there any evidence that the spirit person truly exists? Yes. Psychiatrists have known that the true driving force in any person exists in what they call the subconscious. Your subconscious mind is really the real you.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (NIV)
...the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (NIV)
It is important that we understand, exactly, what this last passage is saying. God did not breathe into the nostrils of any of the other animals, only into the nostrils of the man. No other animal is said to be a living being.
So we see that man is unique in the animal kingdom, in that he is a spirit being living inside an animal body. And we know that this spirit being is the real, God-like, person.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying: "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die." (NASB)
This passage clearly says that in the day that man ate from the forbidden tree he would surely die. We know that the Scripture is true, so we know that the man did die, but Scripture also tells us that he lived for along time after that.
So which is true? Did he live? Or did he die? Both are true. Their spirit beings died while their animal bodies lived on.
Look at this next passage and see this same truth.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. (NIV)
Alive with Christ
Before a person comes to Christ they are spiritually dead.
What does it mean to be spiritually dead? What happens to the body when it dies? Does not corruption overpower it and consume it. Further, is not the dead body excluded from the land of the living? Both of these truths are valid for the spirit also.
A spirit that has sinned has broken the life sustaining connection with God, and has started the process of decomposition. This person is excluded from the land of the living, that is, Heaven. This person is dead--spiritually. The spirit that has been cutoff from God is capable of any amount of evil. The spirit that is alive hates any form of evil, and
will complain most admittedly in its presence.
The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. (NIV)
This passage describes the state of man after the fall. During this time man was ruled almost entirely by their fallen, (dead), hearts. Man's wickedness became so great that God grieved that he had made man, and so he wiped them from the face of the earth. All people except Noah, his wife, and their three sons, and their wives.
At this point in God's plan we can think of man as being spoiled rotten. Like a child today that has been raised with no discipline and indulged in every way. Man's hearts were wicked and there had yet to be any identifiable discipline. I say identifiable because man, no doubt was reaping what he was sowing, but man was ignorant and did not understand these things yet.
After the flood of judgment man now had a mental knowledge of the consequences of rebellion against God. Men's hearts were still evil, but now a man's actions were tempered by the knowledge that evil behavior had dire consequences.
God had started the long process of revealing Truth to man. God found a man that would take him at his word, Abram--later named Abraham. Through this man and his descendents God brought into existence the Bible. The Bible is for us a revelation of God, (God made visible), and a revelation of the consequences of rebellion, and the promise of restoration.
The Bible makes it possible to know God. Those people who are seeking the truth can, through the Bible, come to the knowledge of the truth, that is, they can come to know God personally.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (NIV)
Knowledge of the truth gives us hope, and faith gives our hearts the power to believe the hope. Faith gives the soul the power to restrain the evil desires of the heart.
But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (NIV)
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved
Paul is showing this truth here. A person must believe the message in their heart, that is, their spirit, and in order to believe they must have heard, and to have heard means someone must have been sent to speak the words of hope. How loved is the person who had the courage to speak to those who believed.
Now I have been talking about the non-born again person, let us look at the rebirth.
Man's spiritual union with God was broken because of sin. Sin corrupted man's heart and God cannot live in corruption. There is a legal issue in this as well. God cannot overlook guilt and declare it pure. Sin has been committed and the price must be paid.
We must consider that there is more involved here than man's acceptance to God. The angels are watching--justice must be maintained.
God had a plan all worked out that he had kept secret.
1 Corinthians 2:7-8
No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (NIV)
God sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to the earth, so that he could bear the punishment due us, on his body, but because he, himself, was sinless, he could destroy him who held the power of death, that is, Satan.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (NIV)
Light of Life
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil-- 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (NIV)
To put this in plain language we can say that God tricked Satan by putting our sin on Jesus, while he was on the cross, and Satan thought that he had sinned and so covered Jesus in death, but when no sin was found to Jesus' account, God stripped Satan of the power of death, and gave all power and all authority to Jesus Christ. Death held no power over Jesus and so he was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven.
Now that is great for Jesus, but how does that help us? Let me see if I can put this into plain language as well. We were all slaves, held in bondage by sin. We had no hope of going to Heaven, because we totally lacked the means of securing our freedom. We could never stand before the Holy One, steeped in sin as we were.
Then God, himself, paid the price for our freedom. The debt has been paid. Now God, in Christ, is offering himself to you, offering the spiritual marriage of his Spirit to your spirit, offering you holiness and righteousness instead of sin and rebellion.
Life in Him
Now the ball is in your court. What will you do with his offer? Will you remain in rebellion? Will you remain in death? Or will you accept God's gracious offer of life in him.
Rebirth of your Inner True Self
God is offering you the rebirth of your inner, true self, that is, your spirit. God has made it possible for you to be one spirit with him.
One Spirit with Him
Please take a moment to read this prayer of Jesus' to the Father.
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." (NIV)
The same relationship that Jesus had with the Father is now being offered to you. The same Spirit that guided him is here now waiting to enter into you and be your Teacher and Counselor.
Die to the World
The person who truly believes the gospel message and dies to this world, and in hope and faith, with a sincere commitment to God, enters into Christ in baptism, is resurrected to new life in Christ.
Commitment to God
New Live in Christ
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (NIV)
Washing of Rebirth and Renewal by the Holy Spirit
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (NIV)
God's Spirit living inside of You
This rebirth is not just some meaningless slogan; it is real. With God's Spirit living inside of you, you are not the same person. Your mind's the same, and your body's the same, but YOU are different.
We have been changed
We saw that after the fall, that is after man's heart fell from life to death, that every inclination of his heart was evil, but after the rebirth this is no longer true. The born again heart is in harmony with God.
Justified by Grace
All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) (NIV)
Do you see what Paul is saying? We who are born again do by nature the things required in the law. We have been changed.
Now it is important to understand that while your born again heart is in harmony with God, your body and its desires are not. I would like to also point out that for the new Christian, and the immature Christian, the bodies' voice is much louder than the spirit's voice. We must purposefully seek to conform our minds into the mind of Christ. We must read the scriptures and pray that God give us the understanding.
Life and Peace
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (NIV)
Rebirth of your Spirit
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (NIV)
Rebirth of your Heart
Those who have been born again have a lifelong battle to fight. The spirit that now loves God, versus the body that loves only itself, and the mind that stands in the middle. You must win that mind over to your side and not let the body have it. Never give up the fight; for it is written: "He who endures to the end will be saved."
Teacher living inside of you
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. (NIV)
Do you see the two forces at work in this passage? In this next passage I have replaced the words "sinful nature" with "body" because that is what is actually being said.
Those who live according to the body have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the body cannot please God.
9 You, however, are controlled not by the body but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (NIV)
So, my friends, you are not your body, but you are your subconscious mind or spirit. The spirit, or heart of man has been cutoff from God because of sin. God has paid the price of that sin and has made the rebirth of your spirit a possibility. You have been warned of the consequences of continued rebellion against God and have been offered a full pardon. The offer of a pardon can be a source of hope, if you receive it. If you take God's offer of a pardon, because you hope it is true, God will supply the faith necessary to bring about the rebirth of your heart. Once born again you follow the heart's promptings of love and live a life that pleases God. Once born again you have the teacher living inside of you to teach your mind the Truth concerning God.