Q: “What does it mean to be born again?”
A: I appreciate you asking this question. Much of salvation that is being presented today rarely addresses this issue, leaving people swinging from dangerous limbs of assumption and wishful thinking when it comes to their eternal destination, and yet Jesus made it clear that to see the Kingdom of God one must be born again (John 3:3,5).
I was saved during the time when the question, “Are you born again,” was popular; but sadly, I learned it was simply a passing fad and not a Scriptural truth that was being constantly preached, taught, and greatly emphasized to ensure that a soul has been translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13).
Today the presentation of the Gospel encourages an intellectual acknowledgment and some prayer that is simply repeated in order to be “saved” instead of the need to be born anew in the spirit in order for the very life of Christ to come forth. As the saying goes, “Born once die twice, born twice, die once.”
The born-again experience should be the main emphasis of all evangelism and it must not be lost in the endless platitudes that have come from “easy believism” and a feel-good, social gospel that is either held up by a flimsy presentation of God’s love or the idea of doing good.
This brings us to the two major covenants that have taken center stage in Scripture. The first covenant points to the Law which declares all have sinned and that there is no good thing in man. The first covenant was to point man to his need to be saved from himself, while pointing to the great sacrifice of Jesus as being the only solution, because there is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22).
The shed blood of Jesus points to the second covenant that is clearly established by His grace, but we are told that in the second covenant the Lord will give His people a new spirit and a new heart (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Hebrews 10:16-19).
When we receive the seed of the Gospel into our heart by faith (Romans 10:9, 10), the Spirit of God is given to us to revive our spirit (born again and are now a part of a new creation), change our hearts (from stone to fleshly tablets), and renew our minds (in order to write upon them) to begin to bring forth the seed and fruit of the eternal, abundant life, which is Christ’s life in us, our real hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). It is as we give way to this ongoing work by faith being done in our inner man, that we begin to be formed more and more into the very image of Christ in order to reflect the glory of His life, His attitude, and His ways of righteousness to the world.
The problem with the modern presentation of the Gospel is that there may be a mere mental assent and a verbal acknowledgement that Jesus died for our sins, but if there is no born-again experience, then a person remains as lost as before, and in a way even more so because they now have been told, and assume it is so, that they are saved, while remaining on shifting ground. In the end their assumption will collapse and on the day of judgment they will no doubt point an accusing finger at the preacher who presented a watered-down gospel that had no “teeth” (truth) and no means to save them.
Hebrews 6:9 tells us that there will be things that accompany salvation. It is not that we are saved by good works, but we are saved unto good works that have been ordained by God before the foundation of the world was even established (Ephesians 2:8-10). Good works may not save us, but if they are not evident in our life, we must discern if we are saved because if we are born again the life of Christ in us will produce good fruits that will manifest themselves in our attitude, our life, and our practices. The Apostle John makes this important distinction in 1 John 5:17-20, “All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”
Many people seem confused about their eternal status and yet the Bible is clear that we can know we are saved. When people question their salvation, I wonder if the problem rests with whether they have truly been born again, and that their question exists because the life and fruits of Christ are not being manifested in their life.
The church must come back to center and present the great need that salvation is more than acknowledging a truth as being so or even repeating some prayer, but whether a person has truly been born again because the real seed of the Gospel took root in a fleshly, tender heart, producing the crop of everlasting life.