John 3:3,5 – Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”…Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
Born again is a lifestyle, not an event
From John 3:3-5, we learn that we have to be born again to be a part of the Kingdom of God. So another way of saying “being born again” is to say “being in the Kingdom of God.” This helps me recognize that to be born again is a lifestyle, not an event. Just like there is no joy in celebrating the birthday of a child who died, there is no joy in celebrating a day when we were born again, if we are now spiritually dead.
So the question we really should ask ourselves is whether we are living a “born again” life.
My spirit (heart) needs to be born again, not my body or my soul
To be born again is a spiritual act that affects my heart (spirit). Being born again is not a change in my physical state or my soul (emotions and intellect). Being born again is NOT agreeing to a doctrinal statement in my mind. Now being born again will result in a flow OUT from my heart to my soul and even body. But the place where change needs to happen first of all is my heart.
This is what makes Christianity fundamentally different from all other religions. All religions can prescribe ways to help the body and the soul (emotions and intellect) be better. But only the Spirit of God has the ability to change the heart of a human being. This is where the new birth happens (John 1:12-13). So when we Christians talk about being born again, it is something that affects our heart most of all.
From John 3:5, we see that to be born again is to be born of water and the Spirit. So what does that mean? What does it mean to be born of water and Spirit all the way in our hearts?
1. Born of water = Completely Cleansed Of All My Past Sins
Ezekiel 36:25 – Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
For those who are born again, I receive the tremendous benefit of being utterly and completely cleansed from all the filthiness of my sins and idolatry. This might sound obvious to those of us Christians who have grown up in the church, but it would be good to pause and make sure we understand the weight of this. All of my sins, even as of a minute ago, can be utterly cleansed. I want to underline that this cleansing is thorough: God views me as being totally clean of all sin.
And to be clear, the cleansing agent is the blood of Jesus, not physical water. The act of water baptism is simply a physical symbolic act of the true spiritual reality – our spiritual acceptance of the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from all our sins (1 John 1:7,9).
So to live the born again lifestyle (those who seek to live in the Kingdom of God) is to constantly embrace the complete cleansing of their sins that is possible only because of the blood of Jesus.
2. Born of the Spirit = A Soft Heart Towards God
Ezekiel 36:26 – Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
When I am born again, God also promises to give me a different attitude towards Him. I will have a soft heart (a heart of flesh) towards God.
There are two parts to this soft heart:
1. A soft heart towards the one thing that offends God: Our sins
The reason for our hearts of stone is because of our sins alone, and not our culture, our personality, our past, etc. Now as we saw, God takes care of all my past sins by cleansing me completely. But this soft heart helps me now in the present – by making me sensitive about my sins. Another phrase used in the Bible for this sensitive heart is a good conscience.
Growing up in India there was a plant called a touch-me-not (Mimosa pudica) plant. This plant had small green leaves in the shape of a very small palm branch. When touched, its leaves folded inwards toward each and close up, and would only re-open a few minutes later.
This is a beautiful picture of a good conscience. Imagine if our conscience had a touch-me-not attitude towards all sin. At the slightest touch of sin upon our conscience, our heart closes up, and seeks to guard its inner purity.
The more we sin, the more our conscience becomes bad – that is, desensitized towards sin. So someone who is living the born again lifestyle, will constantly seek to maintain a “touch me not” attitude towards sin. We must strive to preserve this soft heart against all sin
2. A soft heart towards God Himself – as our Loving Heavenly Father
But God wants us to have much more than just a different attitude towards sin. A soft heart towards God means a completely different attitude towards sin AND a completely different attitude towards God.
Romans 8:15-16 – For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God…
The born again lifestyle is one where I cry out to Almighty God as “Abba! Father!” So I must stop ALL personal interactions with God as a Holy Judge, the Almighty Creator, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Rapha, etc. They are indeed all Biblical virtues about God. But for me, because I am born again, I ALWAYS AND ONLY interact with Him as my loving Heavenly Father. Every virtue of God is reassuring and meaningful to me only because He is my Father.
If my father was the president of a country, he would have immense powers. But when I go to him with any of my problems , it is my relationship with him as father and son that will help me.
It is the same with God. God as my Father is the secret that helps bring all the other infinite virtues of God together.
From the start, I knew that being born again was being cleansed from my past sins. And I also knew that being born again meant that I would have a different attitude towards sin going forward. But for many, many years, I did not recognize the importance of knowing God as an Abba (Dad). I didn’t realize the massive and immense gift I was given THE MOMENT I WAS BORN AGAIN – that God was now my Father. And not just a formal father-son relationship, but a loving Daddy with helpless child relationship.
I don’t think it is fair to categorize the benefits of God, but I would say that this is my favorite part of the born again lifestyle.
It is amazing enough that God cleanses us of our past sins, and that God seeks to make us sensitive towards the most horrible thing in the universe (sin). That would be good news (gospel) by itself! But it becomes amazingly good news when we see that God embraces us as His children. This our birthright the moment we are born again, and a lifestyle we should maintain (John 1:12-13 – But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God).
May God help us to live in the reality of this born again lifestyle, and as true residents of the Kingdom of God. And in my next article, I would like to talk about the evidence of the born again life