I am preparing to teach at children’s church today on the subject of “being born again”. All throughout the month of April, we studied the life of Christ, specifically the importance of His death, burial, and resurrection. We ended the month with a challenge to love, obey, and serve Christ since His resurrection has transformed us. During the month of May, we are going to focus on “now what?”. The idea behind it is, I have understood and believed in the resurrection of Christ, now what? The first thing that we are going to talk about is that once you believe in the resurrection and accept Christ as Lord and Savior, you are born again. I would like to explain this using the example that we see in John 3, Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus.
I. Being born again is not the same thing as being religious
Many people think that being born again means going to church more, reading your Bible more, memorizing more Scripture etc. This text teaches us that Nicodemus was already a religious man. He was a faithful church attender. In fact, he was a leader in the church (temple/Jewish religion). As a Pharisee, by the age of 12 years old, tradition teaches us that he was supposed to have memorized the first 5 books of the Bible. That equates to 5,852 verses memorized, a vast array of knowledge about God, yet he did not know God. He was still on the outside looking in when it came to knowing God. He was still separated from God. He was also a leader in the community. None of these things made Nicodemus right with God. None of these things truly satisfied Nicodemus. His problem was that he was not born again. Being born again is not an inherited thing. It is a choice that you have to make. Being born into a Christian family does not make you born again. Going to church does not make you born again. Memorizing Scripture does not make you born again. Only Christ can cause this to happen to you. Have you been born again? Do you know what being born again means? What does it look like when you are born again?
II. Being born again is spiritual, not physical
As Jesus spoke with Nicodemus and began to teach about being born again, Nicodemus was confused. He thought that Jesus meant that you had to be born physically a second time and wondered how that would be possible for a man to be born a second time physically. Jesus is teaching on a spiritual subject but uses something physical that we all understand to explain the significance. He did the same thing with the woman at the well, using well water to explain living water. He did the same with the disciples using the wheat fields to explain how ripe mankind was for the Gospel. All throughout the Gospels we see Jesus using the physical to explain the spiritual. Being born again is similar to being born physically but it is different because it is spiritual. Jesus deals with our character, attitude, and actions, as well as our motivations. These are the things that are changed when we are born again. There is no physical change in our appearance but there is a spiritual change and that change will be seen via our character, attitude, and actions. Being born again is something that happens to us. Jesus uses the wind as an example to help us understand. The wind blows and we do not see it (the wind). Instead, we see the effects of the wind. This is what happens to us when we are born again. You cannot physically see a person be born again but you can see the effects of that new birth. The person’s character, attitude, and actions change.
III. The process of being born again
The new birth happens instantaneous when we hear the Gospel, understand It, believe It, and dedicate our lives to following It. However, there is a process that leads us up to the point of being born again. There are two things working hand in hand in the process of being born again; the Word of God and the Holy Spirit of God. As we come face to face with the Word of God, reading It, studying It, and meditating on It, God begins to use His Holy Spirit to show us how much we need God and the fact that we need to be born again. Once we understand, this is where faith comes in to play. Faith opens the door to the new birth. Just learning and understanding the information is not enough. We have to put that knowledge into practice through faith. In verses 15 and 16, we see what faith looks like. The example of Moses is given. While the children of Israel wandered in the desert, they sinned openly and God punished them by sending poisonous snakes among them. If a person received a snake bite, he would dies quickly and in great pain. Moses went to the Lord for help and He told Moses to place a serpent on a pole and hold it up. The people who received a bite, had to run to the pole and look at the snake and they would be healed. This is a foreshadowing of what was going to happen to Jesus when He was crucified. We look to Him for our salvation and He provides. The neat part was that those who could not make it to where the pole was, if they wanted to be saved, they just had to believe without actually seeing. Today, we do not see Christ crucified but we do believe and when we do, we are born again. Do you believe? Have you been born again?
IV. Being born again transforms us
In verses 18-21, we discover what the effects of being born again are and how they play out in our daily lives. Before being born again, we do evil. It is our way of life because it is who we are. We say yes to sin and are its slaves. In fact, we like it and we want everyone else to be like us too. When things happen to us and all around us, we do not see God’s hand at work. We do not recognize His ways and we do not want to recognize them. Finally, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, once we are born again, we are changed and now we do good instead of evil because God is living in us. We are able to say NO to temptation and sin. When things happen to us and around us, we recognize the mighty and awesome hand of God directing everything for our good. Finally, either when we die or the Lord Jesus returns, we will enter the kingdom of heaven.
My dear friend, have you been born again? Are you living as a person who has been born again? Are you in God’s Word so that His Holy Spirit can bring about the process of being born again? Do you believe? Have you applied that belief and seen your life transformed? What is your character like? What about your attitude and actions, what are they like? Do you trust in Christ or your ______ (religion, knowledge of the Bible, family, position in society etc.)? Do you feel like something is missing? Maybe it is the fact that you have not been born again and need to be, are you ready to experience it? May the Lord help us all be born again so that we can know Him and serve Him.