“You must be born again” (John chapter 3:7). But why, how, and what does it actually entail? I think many Christians see that phrase “born again” merely as another way of saying “become a Christian” and of course the world’s media has thoroughly corrupted the phrase as well, [likewise the word “charismatic”] so that the original meaning has been swamped by modern ideas.
The emphasis in the discussion with Nicodemus, during his secretive visit to Jesus at night, was an imperative, you MUST be born again and “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” [verse 5].
What Does It Mean?
WHY do we have to be “born again”? Why did Jesus say we could never see the kingdom if we were not born anew, born afresh, from a new father in a new family?
Nicodemus, naturally, could not understand how an adult human being could go back into his mother’s womb and be born again. But this birth is a spiritual one, on a spiritual level, with a spiritual father. John 3:6 – “Jesus answered…that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
The Reason To Be Born Again
At the beginning, we had a pure and perfect relationship to God, but Adam betrayed us and sold us out to Satan. He was persuaded to defect from God’s guidance to the satanic alternative. The self-centred, false “wisdom” of “I know what I’m doing” and the self-reliant “I don’t need God to push me around” and the doubt of “did God really say…” replaced faith and trust in God. (This is the foundation stone of all sin).
Thus Adam cut himself off from God, and the eternal LIFE that was in God, not only for himself but for all his offspring. Thereafter only death and judgement were his destiny.
Romans 5:14-16 – “Death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who did not sin in the way that Adam transgressed.”
Because of Adam, we are ALL born in a fallen state. We do not have a godly nature, we have a sin-nature.
Adam wasn’t just disobedient, or sinful, or doing things contrary to the Law – although that was true, that isn’t what kept him from a pure heavenly relationship with God. Adam – and every human being born from him – was and is irredeemable because of the sin-nature inherent in all who are born on this earth.
It’s the Way WE ARE
It’s not the sinfulness of humans that stops us attaining to Heaven, because no amount of repentance and obeying laws will resolve the sin-nature. It’s just the way we are!
It’s like this: if you were born as a cow, your nature would be that of a cow. You would, by your very nature, moo and eat grass. You would act like a cow. You might long to be a human, to wear clothes and live in a house like humans, but no amount of pretending or trying or self-effort would make you a human being. No, you’d have to DIE as a cow, and be born again as a human being!!
Religious people try so hard to clean up their behaviour, to better qualify for Heaven. Doing good rather than evil is of course a commendable thing in general, BUT, no amount of goodness or even sinlessness could make any difference to your destiny, without being born again – because you cannot get rid of Adam’s nature which is irretrievably alienated from God.
It wasn’t even the sinlessness of Jesus by itself that achieved salvation and deliverance from the devil. It was the fact he was born without a sin nature. He had a human mother, but not a human father – his father was God, and so he had the God-nature from day one.
That is why Jesus is the Second Adam!
Another Adam Needed to be Born
To achieve redemption, and open the door to Heaven, to a relationship with the Father (which Adam and Eve once enjoyed) another creation, another pure godly “Adam” had to come to kick off the creation process all over again.
Our condition as fallen human beings has not one, but TWO big problems, sinfulness, and the sin nature. Jesus dealt with BOTH on the cross. By shedding his blood as an atonement sacrifice, he covered our sins and thus we can be legally forgiven. But it doesn’t end there.
Jesus also had to DIE to carry (as our representative) the sin-nature of all mankind to the grave and leave it there, rising again to NEW LIFE, the resurrection life of God. This is the new life he promises to us when we voluntarily die to ourselves, and receive his life as a replacement.
Romans 6:6 – “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.”
- Problem: SINS – Remedy: the blood atonement, forgiveness
- Problem: SIN – Remedy: death and resurrection, new life
Now do you see why we need to be born again?
Having our sins covered is a wonderful first step, but under the Law Israel too could be cleansed by the blood sacrifices. However that shed blood of the sacrifice had to be repeated over and over, and it did not put a stop to sin.
Even the atoning blood of Jesus, washing away our sinfulness and redeeming us from a life of wrong, could not permanently resolve the problem we had of alienation from God. No, only death and new life could do that.
If we continue in the old regime, as Adam’s children, with Adam’s nature, then NO amount of repentance and forgiveness will ultimately make a difference. Added to which, the sin nature we inherited does prompt and drive and lead us into lawlessness as well. A double-whammy!
The Remedy is Death
Only DYING [by appropriating the death of Jesus] and being raised again with the new perfect life of God will enable us truly to know him, and live with him, and to do what pleases him. We die by faith, and water baptism is the sign that we are going down into death and rising up to receive the new life of God, a new creature.
Even so, we cannot now exist as reborn new creations in our own right, independently, because we still carry around this human flesh, this “body of death” until we pass on to glory.
Also, as yet, Jesus Christ is the ONLY man who has been born sinless from the beginning, and been raised again to produce a new human race from his own life.
Therefore, there is life ONLY in Him!
- 2 Cor 5:14 “ if One died for all, then all died”
- Galatians 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
- Col 3:3 – “for you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
We cannot alter or modify our fallen human nature, that which we inherited through Adam. It is pointless to try (that fact should give you hope if you are spending your life trying to improve yourself.) But we CAN lay that nature in the grave by faith in Jesus, and receive instead the resurrection life that Jesus provides.
Yes, we can have a new godly nature, one that submits to God and rejects sin. It cannot be done by self-effort. It can only be done by accepting the new life provided to us in Christ.
The ONLY new life we can experience on this earth is by our connection to, and union with, Jesus Christ, who IS life. Outside of Him there is no life, no relationship, no afterlife in Heaven. That is why Jesus said, I am the WAY, the LIFE – no one comes to the Father but by (through and in) ME.
A Prayer for New Life
Dear Lord, I come before you knowing that I am incapable in my own nature of pleasing you and being guided by you. This base nature of mine will always be prone to sin. I thank you and worship you for coming as a Second Adam to remedy the foolishness of our Ancestor.
As your word says:
“The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. …. As was the earthly man, [Adam] so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man [Jesus} from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:45-49).
Now I come before you asking that, indeed, by your grace I might become “the likeness of the man from heaven” and because of that, be able to join with you in heaven in due course.
I now come asking you to fill me with your new LIFE, drowning all the old Adam, and creating in me a new spirit destined for the Kingdom.
I receive your death as my own this day, and lay my Adamic life down before you, seeking to be filled here and now with the resurrection life that unites with and is obedient to the Father.
Amen, so be it.