Weekly Devotional 7-11-22 / What Does the Phrase “Born Again” Mean?
Years ago a friend asked; “How is one born again?” and just recently that question was asked by two friends, but in a slightly different way, they asked, what does the phrase born again mean? The questions of these three friends establishes that they have at least heard this term. It also suggests that in all likelihood neither of them is born again. If they had been born again, the Holy Spirit would testify that their alienation toward God had ended.
Alienation toward God is the predicament into which all persons are born. It is a spiritual predicament. When Adam, in disobedience to God’s one prohibitive command, disobeyed that command and took of that which was forbidden he brought alienation between God and man. Not only alienation, but immediate spiritual death, and the process of physical death. Spiritual death, also known as spiritual separation from God, is that which being born again overcomes. As to how one is born again, it is the work of God. Many passages of Scripture address this work, but none more clearly than John 3:1-8 and Ephesians 2:1-10.
John 3:1-8 “1There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’3Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ 4Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ 5Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’. 8The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’”
Ephesians 2:1-10 “1And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Jesus said that a person’s spiritual rebirth is a work of God the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote that this spiritual rebirth takes place when a person is still in his sins, spiritually dead toward God.
Having learned from John 3:1-8 and Ephesians 2:1-10 that the Holy Spirit brings spiritual enlightenment and conviction to a person while he is still in spiritual darkness and dead toward God, we now come to man’s part in being spiritually reborn. A man (a person) must respond positively to the enlightenment and conviction that the Holy Spirit brings to him. We see this throughout the Book of Acts. In chapters 2 and 4, we read that following Peter’s testimonies, approximately eight thousand Jews surrendered to the authority of to Jesus Christ. In chapter 9, we see Saul (Paul) committing to Jesus as His Lord and Savior. In chapter 10, we see the centurion, Cornelius, committing to Jesus following Peter’s testimony. In chapter 16, we see Lydia committing to Jesus after Paul and Silas explained the word of God to her. Later in this same chapter we see a Jailor and his household committing to Jesus following Paul and Silas’ witness to them.
Each of the named persons in the paragraph above committed themselves to following Jesus after the Holy Spirit brought illumination and conviction to them. It is the same with all persons who come to faith in Jesus Christ, who are born again. They commit themselves to Him, trusting Him for their salvation and for leadership over their lives. A person’s spiritual rebirth originates with the Holy Spirit and then the person responds in commitment.
Now the questions may be asked, “Why aren’t all persons born again? Doesn’t the Holy Spirit bring illumination and conviction to all persons?” The answer is yes, the Holy Spirit brings illumination and conviction to all persons (see John 16:7-11) but that is only one part of the answer. Man must respond positively to this illumination and conviction to be born again. Journeying back to Acts chapters 2 and 4, we see approximately eight thousand persons turning to Christ, but there were many others who resisted this “miracle” who did not commit to Jesus. Why?
Jesus gives the answer to that question in the Gospel of John. In conversation with Nicodemus He said, “16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:16-21).
Man, in his natural state of being is alienated from God and resists the light afforded by the Holy Spirit. In his natural state man does not know God. He follows that which he does know, the dictates of his fallen nature, and the suggestions of Satan, the hater of God. Now, even though there is resistance in all persons, yet the Holy Spirit overcomes that resistance in some. It is these persons who respond positively to His illumination and conviction, and in commitment are born again.
The proof of being born again is found John’s first letter to those he ministered to. “1Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 4Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. 7Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 10In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother” (First John 3:1-10).
John had written earlier that everyone sins (See First John 1:8-10). So, what he writes in the above passage has to do with habitually sinning, without remorse and with no repentance. The person who is born again will desire to repent, and will live righteously, righteously according to God’s word not according to self-determination.
How about you? Do you resist the Spirit’s illumination and the conviction He has brought to you? If you want to have a relationship with Holy God (be born again spiritually), it is because of the Holy Spirit. Take the next step and surrender to His solicitation.
Stevelampman.com / Transforming Power; the Work of God on Behalf of Man