“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again (spiritually, from above), he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I say to you, you must be born again” (John 3:3-7).
Being born again is necessary because we are dead in sin. It is a work that God, particularly, the Holy Spirit, accomplishes. Spiritual rebirth occurs when we believe in Jesus, and it results in salvation through Christ and new life through the Spirit, the assurance of eternal life, victory over our old sinful lifestyle, so that we do what is right as a new creation of God, and are assured of safety from the attacks of Satan and his followers.
Another name or description of “born again,” is the word, “New Birth.” One who has experienced the New Birth has been inwardly and spiritually renewed as a result of the power of God in their life. The phrase new birth comes from John 3:3-7, where Jesus told Nicodemus. “Unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Jesus meant that all people are so sinful in God’s eyes that they need to be regenerated-recreated and renewed-by the sovereign activity of God’s Spirit.
The activity of God’s Spirit that regenerates sinful people comes about through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:10-21). Without faith there is no regeneration, and without regeneration a person does not have eternal life. Regeneration occurs at the moment a person exercises faith in Christ. At that point, his sins are forgiven, and he is born again by the power of the Holy Spirit working on behalf of Jesus.
What Actually Happens when a Person is Born Again?
A person’s coming to Christ is made possible by the Holy Spirit, who convicts the person of his sins. According to John 16:8, “When He (the Holy Spirit) has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness.”
Nicodemus was ruler and a membef of the Pharisees, a group of religious leaders whom Jesus and John the Baptist often criticized and rebuked for being hypocites. Most Pharisees were intensely jealous of Jesus because He undermined their authority and challenged their views. But Nicodemus was searching, and he believed Jesus had the answers. A learned teacher himself, he came to Jesus to be taught! No matter how intelligent and well educated you are, you must come to Jesus with an open mind and heart so He can teach you the truth about God.
Nicodemus came to Jesus personally, although he could have sent one of his assistants. He wanted to examine Jesus for himself to separate fact from rumor. Maybe he was afraid of what his colleagues would say about his visit, so he came after dark. Later, when he understood that Jesus was truly the Messiah he spoke up boldly in His defence (John 7:50, 51).
What did Nicodemus know about the kingdom? From the Bible he knew it would be ruled by God, it would be restored on earth, and it would incorporate God’s people. Jesus revealed to this devoted Pharisee that the kingdom would come to the whole world, not just the Jews, and that Nicodemus would not be a part of it unless he was personally born again. This was a revolutionary concept: the kingdom was not national or ethnic, and its entrance requirements are repentance and spiritual rebirth. Jesus later taught that God’s Kingdom has already begun in the hearts of believers. It will be fully realised when Jesus returns to judge the world and abolish evil forever (Revelation 21:22).
Transformation – from the Old Man to the New Man!
God promised to restore Israel, not only physically, but spiritually. To accomplish this, He would give them a new heart for following Him, and put His Spirit within them, to transform and empower them to do His will. No matter how impure your life is rignt now, God offers you a fresh start. A person who is dead in their trespasses can have their sins washed away, receive a new heart for God, and have His Spirit within them-if they accept God’s promise. Ezekiel 36:25-27 reads: “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and keep My judgments and do
them.” This is the essence of what being born again is all about-a new heart, with the power to perform God’s will. The transforming power of the Holy Spirit to effect a total regeneration. Regeneration is the spiritual change brought about in a person’s life by an act of God. In regeneration a person’s sinful nature is changed, and that person is enabled to respond to God in faith. The word, “regeneration” occurs only in the New Testament (Matthew 19:28; Titus 3:5), but the concept or idea is common throughout the Bible. The literal meaning of regeneration is “born again.”
There is a first birth and a second birth. The first, as Jesus said to Nicodemus is “of the flesh”; the second is “of the Spirit.” Being born of the Spirit is essential before a person can enter the kingdom of God. Every biblical command to people to undergo a radical change of character from self-centeredness to God-centeredness is, in effect, an appeal to be born again. Awesome experiences like that of Jacob wrestling with the angel until the break of dawn, and Moses at the burning bush constituted a radical change in the lives of these patriarchs.
Once an individual has been transformed into a brand new person, everything about him is new.The Spirit gives him new life, and he is not the same anymore. As a new creation in Christ, we are not reformed, rehabilitated, or re-educated-we are not merely turning over a new leaf; we are beginning a new life under a new Master. Being born again creates a totally new person with a renewed mind, which lives to honour and obey Christ. Since He wants what is best for us, and since He gave His Son to make our new lives possible, we should joyfully volunteer as living sacrifices for His service.
Transformation involves the process of regeneration, and regeneration involves a confession that Jesus is the Christ, and Lord of all. Romans 10:9, 10 reads: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” These verses tell you clearly how to become a child of God-how the transformation and regeneration begins. Salvation is as close as your own mouth and heart. People mistakenly believe that salvation is a complicated process, but it is not. If you believe in your heart and say with your mouth that Christ is the risen Lord, you will be saved.
Being born again involve a complete change of mind-set! The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:2, “…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” This is the stuff that being born again is made of. Jesus Himself once said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). There is no other way. You must be born again. You must be transformed. The inner man must be completely transformed and fully re-made in Christ.