Being a "born again" Christian is something we must all become. While many have associated the phrase with certain denominations, being born again doesn't necessarily mean joining a religion. It means just what it sounds like it means – being born again one more time, this time to a life lived in surrender to Christ.
But how does one understand being born again and what does it mean?
Being born again
The born again "experience," as some call it, is something that no man can replicate or duplicate. It can only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit, and produces results that only the goodness of God can bring. Let's take a look at how Christ described it in John 3:5-6:
"Jesus answered, "Truly, truly I say to you, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."" (MEV)
From what the Lord said we derive a few things regarding the new birth:
Born of water
First, we read Him say "unless a man is born of water," which is to signify baptism by immersion in water. Of course, it's not the water that brings the new birth, but the reason behind it.
We know that the man who ministered baptism – John the Baptist – preached a message of repentance. In Matthew 3 we read him preaching to the people, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (see verse 2). He preached repentance and all who repented of their sins were baptized by him.
Repentance is a principal requirement to being born again. We are to repent from and renounce our sins, the very things we do that separate us from God (see Isaiah 59:2). And after we repent, we desire to be baptized as a sign of our commitment to follow Christ.
In baptism, we do two things: first we go down into the water (symbolizing the death of our old, sinful self with Christ), then we rise up from it (which symbolizes Christ raising us to new life in Him). Romans 6:4 explains it well:
"Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
Born of the Spirit
Next, we read Jesus say being "born... of the Spirit." We understand that when we repent of our sins and trust in and believe in Christ for our salvation, God deposits in us His Holy Spirit as a sign that we belong to Him, that we are His children:
"Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and established the guarantee with the Spirit in our hearts." (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of slavery again to fear. But you have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs: heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified with Him." (Romans 8:14-17)
How do I know if I am born again?
Now you might ask how do you know if you're born again. Don't expect to see clouds parting and the angels of heaven visibly dancing with joy in the heavens (but they actually do! see Luke 15:7). Instead, look at the result of your repentance.
- First, look for a changed life (see Ephesians 5:8). Did you really turn away from your sins? If you did, that's good!
- Second, see if your heart has turned to the Lord (see Acts 3:19). Did you turn away from your sins and to God (and not another sin)? If you did, that's great!
- Third, look for the fruits of your repentance (see Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8). Are you continuing in the Lord Jesus Christ and have continuously rejected sin? Are you living in relationship with God and in obedience to His Word? Do you have fruits of the Spirit? (See Galatians 5:22-23) If you are and have, then thank the Lord for the new life.
Being born again
Friends, being born again need not appear spectacular in human terms. It may not mean becoming financially rich in this lifetime, nor may it mean being materially prosperous or comfortable (think of the Persecuted Church, for example), but it does mean being secure in the love of God (see Romans 8:31-39), being freed from the grip of sin (see Romans 6:18; Colossians 3:13), and living a life for the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 5:15; 2 Peter 2:16).
As a born again Christian, you've been given a new life in Christ. Live in freedom for His glory and pleasure!