What does it mean to be born again?

Jesus tells us that we must be born again. How do we do that?

What does it mean to be a born again Christian? John 3:3-6.

Check out the “Living the Gospel” podcast episode based on this article!

Jesus is pretty clear when He says that a Christian must be born again if they want to see the kingdom of God.

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God … Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:3-6.

It is obvious that Jesus is not talking about being born a second time physically. He is talking about a new desire – a spiritual transformation.

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Why do I need to be born again?

Before being born again I am led by my own human inclinations, namely the desires of the flesh. Generally, this is what guides my thought processes and decisions. But the desires of the flesh do not lead to the life of Christ, which is what I am called to. To give in to desires such as pride, laziness, greed, envy, selfishness, and many other forms of evil, leads to sin. Jesus describes the pre-born-again mind like this: “Because you say ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:17.

It is when I acknowledge that I am as described in that verse that I am at the point where I am ready to be born again “of water and the Spirit.” Nothing that I have as a result of being born of the flesh, as a natural person, is capable of serving God. When I acknowledge that I am not able to do the good, then God can take over. I need to surrender absolutely everything to be born of the Spirit – it is a rebirth of the mind and heart. I become dead to the desires of the flesh and alive to the promptings of the Spirit.

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.

Of course I still have a flesh which craves fulfilment of its desires, but now these desires are overcome and no longer influence me. Instead, I am alive to what the Spirit is guiding me to, which is the truth. My “old man,” as Paul calls my pre-born-again mindset, must remain crucified with Christ and the new life I have been born to is the life of Christ. The life of Jesus is to be manifested in my mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11) It is precisely because I have been born of the Spirit, and the Spirit lives in me, that I have the power to resist temptation, to remain crucified to the desires of the flesh, and to live for Christ. (Romans 15:13)

Read more: How do I give my life to Jesus?

A new desire

All of Colossians 3 is a very good description of a born-again Christian, starting with: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4.

I know that I am born again if I know in my heart that my desire is not for anything of this earth, but rather a desire to serve God alone and let Him have control in my life. A desire to live for eternity rather than for anything in this world. A desire like Jesus that “Not my will but Yours be done.” Luke 22:42.

It is when I am willing to let go of my own strength, pride, stubbornness, and human ability and follow the Spirit’s leading so that God’s will can be done. Then I find that by the power of the Spirit, everything is possible. I can move mountains in my life. That which I thought was impossible, victory over sin, is accomplished. I am becoming a transformed person; a new creation. I let God bend and mold me into the person that He wants me to be.

Seeing the kingdom of God

Then I can see the kingdom of God. My eyes are opened to see beyond the things of this earth; to see what has true value. With God’s kingdom comes everything that is truly good, both in this world and in eternity. Seeking God’s kingdom is therefore the most rewarding thing a person can do.

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.” Ephesians 1:17-19.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.