P. Samuel Manoharam
Jesus Christ said: “You must be born again” (Jn.3:7), “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (Jn.3:3), “Unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (Jn.3:5), and “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of heaven” (Matt.18:3).
These verses indicate that Jesus was very emphatic about the human need for a second (spiritual) birth in order to enter God’s eternal Kingdom, in effect implying that the ultimate destination of all those who are not born again is the place of unending, indescribable torment the Bible calls hell, which is the second death – permanent separation from God (Rev.20:14-15; 21:8). However, innocent babies and children enter God’s Kingdom after they die, because the Lord Jesus says the Kingdom of God belongs to them (Matt.19:14-15).
None of us chose to be born, but we certainly have the choice to be born again! When we are born in this world, it is mandatory for our names to be entered in the government’s register. When we are born again by exercising the freedom of choice God has given us, God Himself writes our names in His Book of Life, in heaven!! (Lk.10:20; Phil.4:3; Heb.12:22-23; Rev.3:5; 20:15). Let me explain:
Every nominal Christian and non-Christian ought to know why the Lord and the apostles emphasise new birth. In his narration of John the Baptist’s ministry in the desert announcing the arrival of Jesus Christ, Luke gives a few examples of the radical changes that godly repentance brings about in people’s lives (Lk.3:3-14). Conversion basically means change – change from one state to another. In the context of Jesus’ words quoted above, for anyone to enter God’s Kingdom, there has to be a change of heart which the Bible calls ‘repentance’ (Matt.4:17).Before recording the first call of the ‘great light’ to Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near, Matthew quotes Isaiah’s prophecy about the first coming of Christ in these words, “…..the people living in darkness have seen a great light…..”(Matt.4:14-16; Jn.8:12). Anyone who repents and turns to Christ for forgiveness, gets a ‘second birth’ – becomes a new creation (2 Cor.5:17).
When we are born, our spirit (the innermost being) is lifeless (dead) because we inherit the sin nature of our first parents, Adam and Eve (Psa.51:9; Rom.5:12; 1Cor.15:21-22). When we are born again, through God’s Holy Spirit, we become God’s children, having God’s very life within us! This is our second (spiritual) birth, made possible by the incarnation of Christ, about which the well-known hymn, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, by Charles Wesley, says: “Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.”
I recall the inspiring words of God’s servant, Jonathan Edwards, in his fine article, Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God. He wrote: “Are there not many here who have lived long in the world, and are not to this day born again? Let everyone who is out of Christ now awake and flee from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over.” By this warning, Jonathan Edwards alerted us to heed what Jesus said about the necessity of experiencing the new birth.
To be born again means to be born into God’s family (Jn.1:12; Rom.8:15-17). Spiritual conversion is different from religious conversion. Religious conversion is centred on the self – performing religious rituals and good deeds with self-effort. Spiritual conversion is centred on God’s initiative in Christ to reconcile man to Himself. In religious and intellectual conversion, there is no radical change in the inner being of a person undergoing such a conversion.
Spiritual conversion, which happens by understanding and believing with the heart, is evidenced by a noticeable change in the character and conduct of the converted person. This is a supernatural phenomenon caused by the work of the Holy Spirit within the person who repents and turns from sin to the Saviour of mankind, Jesus Christ (Matt.1:21; 2Cor.5:17).
Be Born Again
The Scripture is categorical that we were born with the sin nature. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psa.51:5). “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” (Jer.17:9). “(We) were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph.2:1).
So, all of us are born dead spiritually! By nature we are selfish and corrupt. All our ‘good’ and ‘righteous’ acts are like filthy rags in the sight of God (Isa.64:6). We do not have God’s absolute standards of holiness and righteousness required to enter into Heaven. Therefore we must be born again; we must be born of God; we must have the Spirit of God within us for our dead spirits to be made alive! (Eph.2:1-3).This new birth is the beginning of eternal life! God Himself, in His mercy, has made a way for us to receive the new birth. That Way is JESUS CHRIST (Jn.14:6). When we invite Christ into our hearts as our Saviour and Lord, He comes in and makes us a new creation; He makes us righteous in the sight of God; we are born into God’s family and have God’s Kingdom within us! That’s what ‘born again’ means. (Jn.1:12; Rom.8:9b; 2Cor.5:17,21; 1Pet.1:3-4.)
Marks Of A Born-Again Person
New birth is a fresh start in one’s life, with a new set of values: love for God and His word, priority to God’s Kingdom and His righteousness, change in the attitude toward fellow-humans – in short, complete newness in all respects.
Sadly, many ‘born again’ Christians, sooner or later, forget that they are citizens of God’s Kingdom and start living like those who belong to this world. They stop growing and remain stagnant spiritually. Their love for God turns lukewarm and then cold because they do not allow God’s nourishing word to take root in their hearts (Col.3:1-17).
A growing born again Christian is a fruit-bearer who fulfils God’s will and glorifies God (Jn.15:3-8; Gal.5:22-24). Only those who are born again are true Christians for whom physical death is the gateway to heaven – into the very presence of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Those who are not born again can never hope to have eternal life in heaven, for their names are not written in the Book of Life! On the Day of Judgement, they will face the wrath of God for rejecting His offer of the second birth and spend an eternity of torment in hell without God!! This is precisely why the Lord Jesus and His apostles are so emphatic in proclaiming the good news of God’s Kingdom – that there is hope for you and me, and for all humanity, to be born into God’s family, to be reconciled to God (2Cor.5:20-21; 2Pet.3:1-9).
Are you born again?
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine;
Until this earthly part of mine
Glows with Thy fire divine.