Born Again! Can’t see nor enter the Kingdom of Heaven without it (John 3:3, 6). Yet, so many are ignorant to it. The world outside of Christianity, sees the church as basically two kinds of people. Those who believe in God and perhaps social actions, and those who are right wing, judgmental, against everything, born again Christians.
It is sad that we have been identified as such (and we truly are), because the exact opposite should be true. When, the world thinks of, "born again," Christians, it should think of Jesus. It should think of people who have had their lives changed by grace. Much like this-Watch – A Christmas Carol - Scrooge- What Day is It?
Dickens closed the book with these two paragraphs,
"Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let
them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own
heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!"
Now, not everyone’s experience is quite so dramatic as Scrooge’s. Or the scene in Les Miserables, where Jon Val-Jon is changed after a pardoning gift from a priest. But when one is, "born again," change will occur. If it does not, there is good chance that one is not truly born again.
Let me try to explain, what it means to be Born again, and how can I know if I am born again? The phrase, ‘born again,’ or born anew, or born from above. Refers to an act of God, sometimes called, regeneration. The teaching of the Bible is that, because of our sin natures, we are dead spiritually. We are separated from God with no ability on our own to
have the life of God. Paul explains it best in Ephesians 2:1-5. While we have preached this many times, turn there again. "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in 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, 3 among 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.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),…"
Three things happened.
- You heard the truth of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. He died for your sins, was buried and then Rose again from the dead for your justification, and ascended into heaven.
- You repented of your sinfulness, and you called out to God for His grace and forgiveness because you believed in who Jesus is and what He did.
- Then God responded to your call and placed His Holy Spirit in you joining Himself to your spirit and giving you a new life. You are in Him and He is in you.
Paul would tell the Corinthian Church, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Cor. 5:17).
Now, here is a problem. There are people and plenty of them who appear no different than those who do not claim to be born again. There are those who because of praying a prayer, going to church, being baptized, and more think they are okay with God but they are not. Both Paul and Peter, challenge us to make sure. In 2 Cor. 13:5, "Examine yourselves as
to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified." And 2 Peter 1:10 says, "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;"
Our Lord told a parable that Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all record for us. It describes 4 types of soil upon which a farmer’s seed fell. Let’s look at Matt. 13.
Soil one is beaten hard. Wagon wheels, horse, donkey sheep, and oxen trails have made the ground hard and seed just lays on top and is eaten by birds. A picture of what Satan does when hearts are hard. Repentance and faith in Jesus are shrugged off and forgotten. He remains lost.
Soil two is shallow and rocky. Seeds penetrate but there is no depth and the plant soon withers. A picture of a person who responds with emotions but not their minds. This is a high. But there is bad news that comes with being a Christ Follower; that is, the Father is going to shape us to be like Christ and the Devil is going to hate us like he hates
Christ, and the world is going to hound you like it does Christ. And this person says, "I am outta here. I don’t need this, This is not what I signed up for." He remains lost.
Soil three has thorns. This soil represents (my opinion), a vast majority of those who make up the church in America. They hear the message of Jesus and embrace it, but like the boys in Neverland, they never grow up. Why? Like thorns and weeds in a garden, or field, they are choked from what they need to grow. Their attention returns or remains on
their habits, and the worries of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches keeps their focus off Christ and His will for their lives. Their focus on themselves and what life could be if they just had a little more. Years after they receive the Gospel, they have grown little to none. There is no fruit. These remain as babes in the faith, and are referred to as carnal or
fleshly minded followers of Jesus.
Now, let’s pause for a second. And let me say something hard. While a lot of people have been saved by responding to an alter call, and praying the sinner’s prayer, nowhere does it say, that what a person has to do to be born again is to respond to an alter call and or pray a sinner’s prayer. What it does say is that you must believe that Jesus is the
Lord and believe what He did when He died and rose again for you, as your substitute, (Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:13). Yet many people rest their salvation upon a prayer, upon their baptism, upon their church attendance, or that they went forward one time. To these, and perhaps to you, the Bible says, "Examine yourselves," or, "be diligent to make your calling and election sure."
Now, I love alter calls, and I believe that the sinner’s prayer is a wonderful way to help someone verbalize what their hearts may want to do. But, sometimes in our zeal, we try to produce ahead of God, and we say, "Just pray this prayer." Jesus never said that. Never! The Apostles never said that. Never! What they did say is, "Believe." Put all your
weight into this truth. Go, all in, that Jesus is the Lord and He died and Rose again for you. It’s the parachute principle!
Where did the idea come from? Perhaps 2 Chronicles 7:14, or Joel 2, that Peter quotes in Acts 2 and Paul quotes in Romans 10:13, "That whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." But nowhere is there a suggested prayer to pray.
Consider, when a rich young man wanted to know how to have eternal life, Jesus did not say, "pray this prayer," He said to him, "sell what you have, give it away, and follow me." In fact, He made it very difficult for people to come to Him. He told people to count the costs. He said that following Him included a cross to bear, an allegiance to swear, a
life to deny, for a life they would share. Back to our story.
Soil four produces fruit. Lots of fruit. This guy is born again. What is the fruit? The fruit is almost entirely a new character; like, a self-centered miser to a selfless giver, in Scrooges case. Being born again, means learning to live life again from a different perspective, for a new purpose. You get a do-over. It doesn’t mean that your
circumstances or consequences for your life change, but it does mean that you get a chance to live differently. So, let’s take our last few moments and consider the fruit our lives produce. 1 Peter 1-2 gives us a little picture of what this new life should look like. Understand that yes, we begin as babes in our faith, but even as babes, signs of life should be evident and
more so, as we grow. If these things are missing, there is a good chance that your faith is either a sham, or a shame.
A. My Hope (v. 13 cp, vv. 3-6) for eternity is based entirely on His Grace. The Revelation is when Jesus is revealed in His full glory, either when He returns or when we see Him when we die. I am certain of heaven, not because of what I have done but because of His grace promise.
B. A Repentant Heart (vv.14, 2:1). I am sorry for my sins and I don’t want to continue in them. My sinfulness is why Jesus died. I do not want to continue doing what that which grieves the heart of God. Consciously, Willfully Lay aside –The word means, "to Put Off," like old clothes. Already in 1:14 and again in verse 18 Peter has reminded us that we
have been redeemed from our old lives and therefore like old ragged, dirty cloths we should take off that old life and having been given the bath of God’s cleansing flood we should put on the new life which is fashioned after Jesus Christ (cp. Eph. 4 and Col. 3). Peter says that to have the love and unity that our Lord holds as highest priority and among His top 3 greatest
desires from His church we must lay aside:
- All Malice – the word means wickedness- the desire to hurt or to injure another. Have you ever, because of some pain that you felt, or injury that you have received, just wanted to hurt the person who did that to you or your family or friend? You think about it. It consumes your thoughts. But our Lord wants us to take that old ragged shirt and
throw it away. All desire for revenge needs to be put off. (Cp. Romans 12:17-21; 1 Peter 3:9-13)
- All Deceit- or guile – is literally two-facedness- or to catch with bait. It’s what we would call passive aggressiveness. It means I will deceive you, befriend you, in order to achieve my hidden agenda and that agenda is not to encourage, or help you and thereby honor God, instead it is to get what I want. It is deception and part of the old life
that needs to go in the rag bag.
- Hypocrisy – to wear a mask- to hide behind a mask. Pretending to be someone that you are not, or pretending that you are not who you really are. It’s trying to deceive, not necessarily to achieve anything, other than being a phony. Or, it could be that the things we do are to receive the praise or glory of men, rather than to sincerely encourage
or help others and thereby to honor God.
- Envy –refers to our resentment because of the prosperity of others. It is often, not liking someone because of what they have achieved and/or being angry because they did achieve it instead of you. Paul says that love doesn’t envy, not sincere love anyway. You have to love John the Baptist’s response when he was told that Jesus and His disciples
were making more disciples than John was, and John said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the
bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease." (Jn. 3:27-30) I love that.
- All Evil Speaking- slander of every kind, any kind of character defamation. The word refers to whispering, backbiting, tale-bearing conversations about others. This can be gossip and often is disguised as prayer concerns. It is an effort to cut somebody down in order to make yourself look bigger.
C. A Sanctified Life (vv.15-21). A life set apart for God because of what Jesus has done for me.
D. Evidences of the Holy Spirit is in your life – (v. 22; Gal. 5) The fruit of the Spirit.
E. An Obedient Life (vv. 14- 2:2). This book is what I want to build my life on. I. Desire the Mother’s Milk of God- 1 Peter and Ephesians, are excellent books that give basic training for Christians. As is the Sermon on the Mount. His Word shows us how we can grow up and be like Jesus. How to be a man or a woman, how to trust God, how to be a parent,
and employee, or an employer, how to honor your leaders, how to handle adversity, how to handle conflict, how to pray, how to love, and so much more. But, for that to happen, and for us to live reverently, and love each other as Jesus loves us, sincerely, we have to have:
F. A Love for Others (v.22-25) A New Purpose – To Love One Another Fervently. Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase, The Message says it this way, "Love one another as if your lives depended on it." Peter says to us, that we have two choices. One is to live like the way we did before Jesus; that is, to think of yourself and what you want. You are the
center of the universe and it should evolve around what you desire. The problem with that thinking is that it has never resulted in any permanent satisfaction or peace or joy. Momentarily it may have felt good, but nothing of permanent consequence has ever come from that way of living. To illustrate this Peter uses a quote from Isa 40:6-8. Even our finest hours are compared
to the dandelions that dot our lawns. When I was thinking of these things I thought of Charles Shultz – the creator of Charlie Brown, who is credited with giving this quiz.
You don’t actually have to take the quiz. Just read this straight through and you’ll get the point. It is trying to make an awesome point!
Here’s the first quiz:
- Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
- Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
- Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
- Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
- Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
- Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.
How did you do?
The facts are, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:
- List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
- Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
- Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
- Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
- Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
- Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.
The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care. "Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today …… It’s already tomorrow in Australia." —– Charles Schulz—–
You see, the living, eternal, Word of God has generated new life, clean hearts, hope, love, faith, and a new purpose in us. And we need to display this to the world. But this love for one another isn’t a feeling. I wish it were. I wish that God would just infuse us with automatic friendly feelings of love and grace that He turns on and never turns off.
But He doesn’t. This love is a choice. It is a determined act of our will, just as it was His when He sent Jesus. It is the choice that we must make to honor, to submit to, to respect, to care for, to serve, to forgive, to pray, to encourage, at times to confront and to warn, and admonish, as we seek the very best for one another. It is a choice to see the needs of the lost,
the lonely, the hurting, the hungry, the homeless, etc. To be the Samaritan.
Our Lord said this would be the primary way people would recognize us as His followers. When love and a desire for unity are not there-??????
How do you know if you are born again? Do a little examining, a little introspection. Is there evidence that Christ in your life? Maybe we should check the gate? Let’s pray about.
If this article has spoken to your heart, would you write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know or if you have any questions about following Jesus, I would be glad to try to answer them for you. May God bless you as you seek to do His will.
Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman