What does it mean to be “born again?”
How do we become a “born again” Christian? Consider your natural birth. You are formed in the womb, you grow into a matured fetus, then you are birthed into the world. So is the same with being “born again,” or born into a child of God.
First, ask yourself, what did you do to be born of the flesh? Nothing. The same is true when being born as a new creature in Christ.
God gifts you faith. It isn’t something you muster up in yourself, but it is given. No one simply “chooses” Jesus. God calls you to seek Jesus, to accept that He is the son of God, that He died for your sins and was resurrected, so that you too will be raised – that you will be freed from the bonds of sin and death.
Jesus calls you to repentance, to seek Him in Spirit and in Truth. Simply stating that you accept that Jesus is your savior does not make you a new creature. It is the beginning. You have merely been conceived in the womb, but if you don’t go on from there, you will never be born. You will think that you live, but you are as good as dead.
To be born again, you must be born again spiritually. Not just at the moment of our transfiguration into our spiritual bodies, but now as we presently live on this earth. But what does that entail? You must be baptized in water and born of the Holy Spirit.
The water baptism is well known. Though many discourage those seeking Jesus from participating in the water baptism, to refuse that is the mark of an evil conscience. As Christ Jesus was baptized in the river of Jordan, we too should be baptized. Is it necessary for salvation? Not in a strict, legalistic sense, but to think you should not would not be wise or righteous in the eyes of the Lord.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is something that is often misunderstood and highly underrated. Many are taught that they receive the Holy Spirit at the moment they accept Jesus as their savior, but that is not necessarily true. It can happen, sure. But, you cannot demand the Spirit do anything. It is an entity of it’s own, it is alive, and it is Jesus. It is God. The Lord will give you His spirit at a time that He sees fit. Not at your demand. Though, we are taught the Lord rewards those who diligently seek him. And when He does reward you with His spirit, the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Truth and the Comforter, will come on you with power, similar to accounts written of by the apostles.
That is The Gospel in a nutshell — the sacrifice of Jesus and coming of the kingdom of God — first within the hearts of believers by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, then when the kingdom of God comes to earth.
After receiving the Holy Spirit, many feel that they should be perfect. After all, doesn’t the scriptures say that those who are born of the spirit cannot sin? The Holy Spirit will lead you to truth, especially the truth of your sinfulness, so that you can repent and turn away from those things. It also can take away sin, by the power of Jesus who died to send us this spirit. Remember, the Holy Spirit, though distinct from God and Jesus, is also one with them. It is God in us! It will make the dark things known, and give us a change in heart, so that we can walk in righteousness. But, we may still continue to struggle with sin. There is more for us. We are being formed, but not yet born.
Are we then perfected after being baptized by the Holy Spirit? I think not. I think there is still more for us. We must be willing to sacrifice all, to take up the cross and follow Jesus. To lay aside this world, even willing to die for the name of Jesus, knowing that it is our minimal duty to obey Jesus, and a privilege to suffer for His holy name.
The walk of a Christian is a race we run to win. We run so that we can be freed from the bonds of sin, so we may walk righteously in this world — so we may come to know Jesus as adopted children of God, called out of this world to serve Jesus in His kingdom for all eternity. Don’t stop short of the finish line. Don’t die before you are ever born.