Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
-- John 3:3
Recently I sought to discover which state in the United States has the most Christians. It is the state of confusion. The majority of people who profess faith in Jesus Christ in our country really have no idea what it means to be a Christian. In Jesus' own words, "You must be born again."
The born again identity
Christians must be born again, or given a second birth. All human beings have a birthday, thanks to the contribution of the father and the mother. It should be a day of joy for a family, and the joy should be remembered and celebrated every year. Christians have a second birthday, much more mysterious than the first, but a day nonetheless when there is great rejoicing in Heaven and on earth. It is a day when new life is formed, new loves are attached, and a new day dawns that will never cease to be celebrated.
Christians must be born from above, or given a spiritual birth. Being born from above is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. When He comes into a life, He brings the gifts of repentance and faith, so that a human being can be changed by belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Spirit works with the word of God to create a new child of God, born again and born from above.
One does not become a Christian by actively doing. We become Christians by passively being, by being born again by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
The born again supremacy
Christianity is under fire today from without and within over the doctrine of supremacy, or exclusivity. Is the new birth, is faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, is biblical Christianity the only way to Heaven?
Jesus offered only one cure for man's sin. God looks inside all people, and sees that while we are physically moving, intellectually and emotionally engaged, we are spiritually dead, apart from God's grace. That's why the Lord said, "You must be born from above ... of the Spirit."
Jesus offered only one way to enter the kingdom of God now and live in Heaven forever. I had a good friend who owned a business with this sign inside: "Being good will keep you out of jail, but it won't keep you out of Hell." Think also the words John records later in the Gospel, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Me" (ref. John 14:6). The supremacy of being born again marks it as the only way to be saved, according to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The born again ultimatum
If Christianity requires being born again, and it does, and if Christianity is the only way to be saved and enjoy eternal life, and it is, then is this and ultimatum to everyone else and every other religion?
Jesus does not accept religion. Jesus does not accept good works. Jesus accepts only those who accept Him. Remember what was written about Him in the prologue of the Gospel, "He came to phis own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:11-13).
The born again ultimatum means unless you are chosen by the will of God the Father, redeemed by the blood of God the Son, reborn by the power of God the Holy Spirit, you cannot be saved, enter the kingdom of God, or go to Heaven when you die. Of course, the opposite is true, too. Those chosen by the will of God willingly choose to follow Jesus Christ and bear the fruit of the Spirit.
I think a person knows whether or not they were ever born. And, I think a person can know whether or not they've been born again. If you have not, read John 3:1-16, then I pray the wind will start to blow as you repent, believe, and become born again.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. He is a graduate of Valdosta State University, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has served churches in Arkansas and Georgia, and preached the gospel across the United States and other countries. Email him at [email protected]