What did Jesus mean when he said
“YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN”
In John 3:2 we read of a man who “came to Jesus” and accepted him as “Rabbi” (or Master), but Jesus did not say well done; his reply was to tell this man that he must be born again. Is this important? The answer is yes, very important, because Jesus said “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of heaven” and again “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he CANNOT ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD.” (John 3:3,5).
What does this mean? Being born of water is most easily explained by turning to Romans, Chapter 6, where we read that after being baptized into the death of Christ, we will “also walk in newness of life” (verse 4). This newness is entering a new life where the promises that God made now belong to the person who has been baptised into Jesus Christ. We read that all the “promises of God are yea in Him and amen in Him for the glory of God by us” (2 Cor. 1:20). In other words we are beneficiaries under the will of God; Christ having died in our place (hence paying the penalty for our sins as a substitute or sacrifice), we are now clean or freed from sin (verse 7) and receive the “good things that the Father will give to them that ask him”. (Matthew 7:11).
“Buried with him in baptism” (verse 4) and “planted together in the likeness of his death” (verse 5) showing clearly that Bible baptism is by going right under the water. Jesus also said to teach people before baptizing them (Matthew 28:19), and so our being dedicated to the Lord as babies is not the baptism that Jesus wanted us to obey him in. Jesus also was dedicated as an infant but was baptized at about 30 years of age. When about to be baptized he said “it becometh us” (Matthew 3:15) and his message continually was “follow me”.
Being born of the Spirit is the next vital step. Having been “buried with Christ by baptism into death” we need the “newness of life” which only comes from the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:4). Titus 3:5 states: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Jesus said: “You will receive power after the Holy Ghost is come on you.” (Acts 1:8) and all those receiving this experience today are finding the same power in their lives as the members of the early Church enjoyed.
God says the Holy Ghost “will put his laws into our hearts” (Hebrews 10:15-16) and after you receive the Spirit of God you also will find how easy it is to do the right thing; without training yourself or tying yourself down to rigid discipline and education; you will find a freedom both to understand the will of God and to carry it out. The Bible says “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17) Jesus came to set men free, not to bind them up. “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32).
God is so helpful to man that His Spirit even gives people a new language to pray with, so that the Spirit can express to God the prayers which we want to say but are too deep for us to express in our own language (Romans 8:26). This is called “speaking with other (or unknown) tongues” (Acts 2:4, Acts 19:6) and the Bible recommends this “praying with the Spirit” and also to “pray with the understanding as well”. (1 Cor. 14:14-15). Jesus also said this would be one of the signs following believers (Mark 16:17).
Again Jesus said “God is a Spirit and they that worship must worship in Spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Being born of the Spirit gives us the clear understanding of the will of God and we experience the close relationship whereby we call him “Our Father”, not in a remote distant way, but a close personal way, and we find our worship is positive, direct and effective. The Spirit-filled person is part of everything that is happening in the Church and knows exactly where he or she is being led by the Lord.
The Bible says “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38), and in verse 40 we read “Save yourselves from this untoward generation”. The formula is given in verse 38 and the challenge in verse 40 is that it is up to us to accept God’s plan and be in it. The choice is ours, we cannot blame God if we decide against HIS plan of salvation. When Jesus told us in John 3:3-5 that we must be born again he went on to say that if we believe on him we will not perish (verse 16) and that God in His love toward man had sent him. Let us not refuse the love of God and the eternal life which can be ours as we obey the plan which Jesus showed us. He said “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things I say?” (Luke 6:46).