Numerous celebrities, entertainers and politicians claim 'they have been "born again." Jesus indeed said we must be "born again" before we can be in God's Kingdom. But when are we " born again"?
WHAT DO certain actresses, rock stars and television producers have in common with some plumbers, lawyers and electricians? Many of these people, perhaps even you, have gone through a religious experience. They reject undesirable elements of their lives, embracing instead higher standards of morality and conduct. Finding tremendous promises of forgiveness, grace and a new life, these people have sincerely adopted a new philosophy. They focus on values they find in the Bible, or are taught by a religious figure they admire. Many of these people, possibly like yourself, consider themselves to be "born again."
But Are They?
For some time now, large numbers of people have been rejecting the image of traditional Christianity. They see a world filled with chaos, where love is a flickering and sometimes virtually nonexistent commodity. "We don't want stale, doctrinal religion," they say. "We want to know the God that lives we want answers to our problems!" Yes, Jesus Christ himself did say, "As the living Father hath sent me..." (John 6:57). Paging through the Bible, you do find references to a living God a God full of compassion and power, able to extend a helping hand to those in need. Many people say, "This is the God I want to know!" Sick of human tragedy and suffering, they want to know about God. Many want to forge strong ties to this God. Bu t this presents a problem. "God is spirit" (John 4:24) cites the Revised Standard Version. So how do you develop a relationship with a Spirit Being you can't see? You know there is a God (and by the way, if you're not sure, read our eye-opening booklet, Does God Exist?), but you are casting about for the road to salvation. Sincerely studying the Bible, you read Christ's words in John 3:7, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." Turning over to I Peter 1:22-23, sincere groups read: "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit... being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God...." Therefore, it is reasoned, "If we obey God forging a commitment to Jesus Christ we are 'born again' in the spirit: worshiping God as new men and women. After all, doesn't Ephesians 4:13 talk about becoming a 'perfect man' in Christ?" And people who claim now to be "born again" do have a powerful mental and emotional experience. These people do not affect dramatic personal change without deep conviction. How else can you account for individuals, even celebrities, who drastically alter their lifestyles toward God's principles? But is that being "born again"?
Yes, the Bible does emphatically teach that men and women must be "born again." But what it reveals about being "born again" is far deeper than mere emotions. Jesus Christ said you and I must live "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). The Bible is the Word of God in print. So let's claim the promise of II Timothy 3:16, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God... for instruction in righteousness" and examine what the Bible teaches about being "born again." We turn first to the central account of Christ's teachings on the subject in the third chapter of John. Let's capture the flavor of the setting. Christ is now a well-known, controversial figure in the city of Jerusalem. In front of many thousands of people, Christ shocked throngs gathered for the annual Passover by demolishing the private petty businesses of those selling animals for sacrifice near the Temple (John 2:13-17). Understanding this, we can see there was no small reason why the influential and powerful Nicodemus might want to come to Christ at night, in order not to be seen by his fellow Pharisees (John 3:2). So here you have it. A powerful "ruler of the Jews" (John 3:1) wants to find out more from this man who caused such an uproar in the Temple. He begins the conversation by telling Christ he knows he is not the typical Jew: "Rabbi," he says, "we [the Pharisees] know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him" (John 3:2, New International Version). In reply, Christ unloads a blockbuster: "I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God" (John 3:3, NIV). Born again? A confused Nicodemus responds: "How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" (John 3:4, NIV). Before we go on, let's pause to examine some important points. Why was this so puzzling to Nicodemus? He was intimately familiar with allegories and parables in the Old Testament as a teacher on the Pharisee ruling council (John 3:1, 10). Nicodemus should have been able to grasp a spiritual side to today's religious life if that only was what Jesus said. And why would one have to be born again to SEE the Kingdom of God? Nicodemus was surprised because what Christ told him is that a new life by birth must occur if one is to be reborn. Jesus deliberately chose to use a word that meant delivered from one's mother's womb. The Greek word Jesus used, which is translated "born," is gennao. It refers to the entire birth cycle from conception to physical birth. Wouldn't you be shocked if a minister told you that you couldn't have salvation eternal life unless somehow you were to go through a new birth cycle? "Why," people would sputter, "how can I do that?" This is the same reaction Nicodemus had. Confronting the stunned Pharisee, Jesus spelled it out again, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." For, he continued, "That which is born [Greek: gennao] of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born [Greek: gennao] of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:5-6)! In other words, believe it or not, Jesus Christ said you must be spirit before you can be a part of or see the Kingdom of the great Spirit Being that is God. What is spirit life like? Few seem to know. It is much more than leading a "good" life maintaining high moral standards in this world! Jesus gave a plain definition of spirit life to Nicodemus: "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 [Greek: gennao] of the Spirit" (John 3:8, NIV). Can anything be plainer? If you are born again, you must have these qualities of the wind. Are you invisible like the wind? Able to move about at will? If you're not, then you are not born again! This is confirmed in ' I Corinthians 15:50, where the apostle Paul states: "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood" that is what you are as a result of your first birth from your mother's womb "cannot inherit the kingdom of God." Being born again is not just a religious experience, falsely based on an erroneous translation in the King James Version, where we read of being "born again" in the present tense (I Peter 1:22-23, etc.). "Born again" there should be translated "begotten again" as it correctly is in I Peter 1:3 ("hath begotten us again"). Both are the same Greek word. Begotten signifies that we are beginning, at conversion, a process that will eventually result in a new birth as spirit at the resurrection when we inherit eternal life and see God. There is in this life natural emotion when one repents, changes one's life and is begotten of the Holy Spirit of God. But that is not being born again as a spirit being. When the Corinthian church repented of certain sins, the apostle Paul was inspired to write of the emotions accompanying this repentance: "See what this... [repenting] has done for you, how serious it has made you, how keen to clear yourselves, how indignant [against sin], how alarmed, how eager for me [and the teachings of God], how determined, how relentless!..." (II Corinthians 7:11, Moffatt translation). So we can see that repentance does involve emotion, that you do definitely experience it when you change from your previous way of life to the beginning of a new way of life aligned with God! But that is only being begotten of God now, while you are still flesh in this natural life. Being born again has to do with something far greater-being finally composed of spirit and the fullness of the character of God. Being born again is not a religious emotional experience. So then, with Nicodemus, you ask, "How can these things be?" When are we born again? The answer is found in I Corinthians 15:52. "In a moment," writes the apostle Paul, "in the twinkling of an eye [i.e., instantaneously] at the last trump [when Jesus Christ returns Matthew 24:31; Revelation 11:15]: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible [Moffatt: "imperishable"], and WE SHALL BE CHANGED." Those who are members of the body of Jesus Christ, who have God's Holy Spirit within them now, who are begotten now (Rom. 8:9-11) they will be changed into immortal spirit beings the new birth, born again at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ when he returns to this earth to set up the government of God! People who died in Christ as members of God's Church will be resurrected from the dead as immortal spirit beings! What a fantastic, incredible message that is contained within the phrase "born again"! This is Christ's teaching! Apparently Nicodemus puzzled at this, for after explaining what a spirit is, Christ finally said: "Truly, truly I tell you, we are speaking of what we do understand, we testify to what we have actually seen and yet you refuse our testimony" (John 3:11, Moffatt). What about you? An understanding of your incredible potential is available free in our booklet Why Were You Born? It's yours for free.