What Does “Born Again” Mean?

born againWhat Does “Born Again” Mean?

by James R. Aist

Introduction

Many in the Christian church today have, at best, a rudimentary understanding of what Jesus was talking about when he said “You must be born again (from above).” False teachers are often quick to invent their own concept of “born again” apart from sound biblical information, so be careful to compare what they teach to the Word of God. A good grasp of the biblical teaching on this subject is important to the understanding of how God saves people and transforms their lives – the very essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ — so let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about “born again.”

Our Original Condition

When God first created Adam, his human spirit was in harmony with God and they were in close, intimate fellowship. Sin had not yet entered the world, and Adam was living in obedience to God’s commands. But when Adam sinned, there was a profound effect on the nature of the spirit of man: the human spirit was changed from one of harmony and obedience to a spirit of rebellion and enmity toward God, and this “sin nature” of the human spirit was inherited by all generations following Adam (that’s us). As a result, everyone is born into this world with a heart of stone (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26) and deaf ears (Deuteronomy 29:3-4). The only ones who can listen to the word of God and believe it are those to whom God has given a “heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26) and “ears to hear” (Isaiah 32:1-4). Only God can remedy this problem. (For a more complete treatment of “Ears to Hear”, Click HERE.)

God’s Remedy: A New Human Spirit

Those to whom God gives a “heart of flesh” and “ears to hear” will, at some point in their conversion process, become “born again.” To be “born again” is not an option for salvation; it is an absolute requirement (John 3:1-8). When one is “born again”, God the Father draws them to Jesus (John 6:44), reveals to them that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16-17), replaces their sinful heart of stone with an obedient heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26); that is, He removes the old, rebellious human spirit they were born with, which is at enmity with God, and replaces it with a new, obedient human spirit (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26), which is from God (John 3:1-8) and in harmony with God. Here is how the Apostle Paul described this harmony with God, in 1 Corinthians 6:17, “But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”  Jesus, the Second Adam, has undone the spiritual damage caused by the “original sin” of the First Adam; our “sin nature” has been undone! Moreover, God puts the Holy Spirit into the born-again person (Exekiel 36:27) to sanctify him, help him to understand spiritual truths and to be an internal witness to the veracity of biblical truth. A “born again” person loves the word of God and eagerly receives and believes it (1 John 4:6). But to those who are not “born again”, it is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18 and 2:13). And we should not expect them to believe it, because in their fallen, dead, spiritual condition, they cannot (1 Corinthians 2:13 and 1 John 4:6).

Are There Other Bible References to “Born Again”?

Where else in the Bible can we find teachings about being “born again?” As it turns out, Peter used the same phrase that Jesus had coined in referring to Christian believers: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23). What does Peter mean by “perishable” and “imperishable” seed, and what is the significance, if any, for us? Well, we can understand this reference to the two kinds of seed if we consider what happens to unbelievers vs. believers in the judgment: “To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.But the…unbelieving—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14-15). The believers will not experience the second death because they are born again of imperishable seed (a new human spirit), whereas the unbelievers are still of their original, perishable seed (old human spirit) and will die a second death (i.e., “perish”).

One can also recognize a reference to being “born again” in Paul’s description of what happens when an unbeliever is converted into a believer: “Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, the Amplified Bible). Now, we know, of course, that the salvation experience does not immediately change everything about the “old” person (e.g., his body is still the same age and his ability to resist temptation is not yet perfect), so how, then, can Paul say that this experience makes one “a new creature altogether?” It’s because Paul is referring here to just the “spirit man” (the man’s human spirit) which is changed from the original, fallen spiritual condition in which he was born into this world, to a new, regenerated and undefiled spiritual condition when he is born again. In other words, his original human spirit (“previous moral and spiritual condition”) has been replaced with a new human spirit (thus, “a new creature altogether”).

And, finally, the Apostle John also refers to this experience as being “born of God”: “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the Devil’s work.  No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.  This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the Devil are:  Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:10). Note that here, John is giving us a litmus test that separates the true believers (those who are “born of God” or “born again”) from the unbelievers (the “children of the Devil”): the “born-again Christians” will not continue to sin.

Am I born again?

Since one must be born again in order to spend their eternity in heaven, it is natural to wonder, “Am I born again?!” Of course, I cannot answer that question for you, but I can show you some very important things that the Bible has to say about it, and that may help you answer it for yourself. First, the Bible says that we can know, here and now, that we possess eternal life (1 John 5:13). Therefore, it is possible for you to find the answer to this question as it pertains to your own spiritual condition. Second, a born-again person will testify that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9-10; 1 Timothy 6:12). Third, the genuineness of their verbal testimony will be confirmed by a changed life: they will repent and turn away from their sins (Galatians 5:24; 2 Timothy 2:19) and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22) —  in ways and with a consistency that was not evident before. And fourth, a born-again person will begin to live their life more for Jesus and less for themselves (1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 2:19-20). This new outlook on life will create a whole new purpose and meaning for the life of the believer and will have a profound effect on their approach to life in general. Finally, here are some key Scripture verses that may help you answer this very important question for yourself (John 1:12; John 3:18-21; Romans 8:16-17; Ephesians 1:13; 1 John 4:12-15; and 1 John 5:6-12). If, after pondering the points and verses presented here, you are still unsure that you are born again, you may want to take a moment to pray and ask God to give you saving faith in Jesus Christ and an unshakable assurance that He has saved you. Then go back through this section of the study again and meditate intently on each point and verse, because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). Finally, one can understand and follow these steps to become born again, if you are being genuine and sincere:

  • Repent (turn away from your sins): “The Lord … is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
  • Believe and Trust in Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • Accept His Forgiveness: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
  • Receive the Peace of Christ: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)

Ears to Hear, Born Again and Gay Theology

Picture of an infant wearing a hearing aidEars to Hear, Born Again and Gay Theology

by James R. Aist

This article brings a word of wisdom and encouragement for those of us who do not find the arguments of “gay theology” to be either legitimate or persuasive. There are three points to be made here:

First, everyone is born into this world with a heart of stone (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26) and deaf ears (Deuteronomy 29:3-4). The only ones who can listen to the word of God and believe it are those to whom God has given a “heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26) and “ears to hear” (Isaiah 32:1-4). These are the ones we are able to reach with the truth of God’s word; they are our target audience, if you will. We love the others, but we cannot expect them to agree with us unless and until God gives them a “heart of flesh” and “ears to hear”. That is God’s decision and His work, not ours;

Second, those to whom God gives a “heart of flesh” and “ears to hear” will, at some point in the conversion process, become “born again”. To be “born again” is not an option for salvation; it is an absolute requirement (John 3:1-8). When one is “born again”, God, by the Holy Spirit, replaces their heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26); that is, He removes the old human spirit they were born with, which is at enmity with God, and replaces it with a new human spirit (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26), which is from God (John 3:1-8) and in harmony with God. The “born again” person loves the word of God and eagerly believes (receives) it (1 John 4:6). But to those who are not “born again”, it is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18 and 2:13); we should not expect them to believe it, because in their present condition, they cannot (1 Corinthians 2:13 and 1 John 4:6). To persist in trying to persuade them becomes, at some point, “casting our pearls before swine”, and Jesus instructed us not to do that: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6); and

Third, here is my “take home” message. Let us continue to proclaim the truth of God’s word for the sake of those who are “born again” and are in the process of being sanctified by the Holy Spirit (that’s all of us who are “born again”!). And let us not grow weary in doing this good work (Galatians 6:9) because unbelievers rant and rail against us; they are still at work in the earth doing the work of the devil (1 John 3:8 and Ephesians 2:2), so do not listen to them. The outcome of this “labor of love” of ours is up to God, not us. God only asks us to do our part by continuing to proclaim the truth of His word. He alone will bring forth the fruit of our labor according to His perfect will, His perfect plan and His perfect timing (Galatians 6:9).

(For more articles on HOMOSEXUALITY, click HERE)

Ears to Hear

Ears to Hear

James R. Aist

“See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice.  Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land. Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed, and the ears of those who hear will listen. The fearful heart will know and understand, and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.” — Isaiah 32:1-4.

Introduction

We are probably all familiar the phrase “ears to hear” in the New Testament. Jesus used it on at least three occasions in the gospels and seven times in Revelation. Where did this phrase come from, why did Jesus use it, and what relevance does it have for us today?

“Ears to hear” in the Old Testament

You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ears have not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth.” (Isaiah 48:8);

“Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear.” (Jeremiah 5:21);

“To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.” (Jeremiah 6:10);

“Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people.” (Ezekiel 12:2).

In these passages, we see God lamenting the hardness of a rebellious people, His chosen people, to His wisdom and advice, given to them through His prophets. They have ears, but their ears (of hearing) are not open, and so they do not hear (comprehend, take to heart, heed) what God has to say to them.

He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”(Isaiah 6:9-10).

“O Lord, why have You made us to err from Your ways and hardened our heart from fearing You?” (Isaiah 63:7)

“With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those signs and great wonders.  But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.”(Deuteronomy 29:3-4).

God is fed up with their hardness of heart, and so He says, in effect, “Have it your way, then. I will close your ears myself, so that you will not be able to hear, repent and be healed until I restore your hearing to you when the time is right.

“See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice.  Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land. Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed, and the ears of those who hear will listen. The fearful heart will know and understand, and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.”(Isaiah 32:1-4).

When King Jesus comes, that’s when I will restore hearing to your ears, so that then you will be able to know and understand what He is telling you.

The points that I am taking from these Old Testament passages are that 1) it is God who closes their ears, 2) it is God who opens their ears, and 3) God will open their ears so that His chosen people, the Elect, will be able to hear the Good News that Jesus will bring, repent of their sins and be saved (healed). Jesus, himself, made this connection clearly when He said to His disciples, “This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.  In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.  For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” (Matthew 13:13-16). The Apostle Paul also made this connection when he was explaining why the Jews were not more receptive to the gospel: “What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.” (Romans 11:7-8). Later, Jesus extended this insight to include gentiles when He used it in reference to the seven churches in present-day Turkey, in the book of Revelation (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.). And since the messages of Jesus to the seven churches also apply to the present day, “ears to hear” is also for us.

Why Did Jesus Paraphrase this Saying in Mark and Revelation?

Let’s first take a look at what He said there:

Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Mark 4:9);

If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Mark 4:23);

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? (Mark 8:17-18);

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.).

Jesus was, of course, familiar with the bible passages listed and discussed above, so He knew that, in any given audience, there would be some to whom God had not given “ears to hear” and that they would not be able to accept (receive) His teaching. One of the best examples of this is found in John 6:51-66, where many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him, because of His teaching on the requirement of His followers to eat His flesh and drink His blood. And in Mark 8:17-18, Jesus seemed surprised, because it appeared that God may not have given His very disciples “ears to hear” the meaning of one of His parables. So, despite knowing that some in His audiences had not been given “ears to hear”, Jesus proclaimed His teaching anyway, for the sake of those to whom the Father had given ears to hear. And that’s why He said, “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear”: His target audience was specifically those to whom the Father had given “ears to hear.” In modern parlance, we might refer to them as having a “teachable spirit.”

Relevance for Present Day Christians

Firstly, I believe that this “Ears to Hear” teaching reveals something important about the “conversion” experience. Let’s see how that connects up. Jesus said “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.” (John 6:44-45). Now, let’s consider this passage in view of Isaiah 32:1-4 (“See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice.  Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land. Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed, and the ears of those who hear will listen. The fearful heart will know and understand, and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.”); we see that the reason the ones whom the Father draws to Jesus are now able to be taught by God, hear the Father, learn from Him, and know and understand is that their ears have been opened so that they can listen to Him. In other words, somewhere in the conversion process, God gives them “ears to hear” so that they can receive the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. Furthermore, I believe that the Apostle Paul had Isaiah 32:1-4 in mind when he declared “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

Secondly, I believe that this teaching can help us understand why, for example, two people can listen to the same presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and yet only one gets saved. We are all born with deaf ears, and God gave only one of them ears to hear. That was Paul’s explanation regarding the intransigence of the Jews to the Gospel. Knowing this, we can better understand it when our sharing of the Gospel seems to fall on deaf ears, and we can also be encouraged to share the Gospel anyway, for the sake of those who have been given ears to hear.

And thirdly, I believe this teaching can motivate us to boldly proclaim biblical teachings — especially those concerning some of the more controversial moral issues of our time — where some amount of risk may be involved. I believe that we are to follow Jesus’ example and be willing to be teachers to mixed audiences comprised of those who have ears to hear and those who do not. We are not to let those who do not have ears to hear prevent those who do have ears to hear from hearing what God wants us to say. This means that, like Jesus, we should be willing to face opposition for the sake of our target audience. To do this will require us to have the courage of our convictions and to trust in God to protect us from the enemies we will make in the process. This is the example Jesus gave us, and I believe that if we are to be His followers, then we must follow this example when He calls on us to do so. So don’t be afraid to speak up when unbelievers are mocking the Bible or questioning the very existence of God; someone who has ears to hear may be ready to receive what you have to say. Where would you and I be today if Jesus had been intimidated by those in His audiences who had deaf ears?

Challenges

Prepare yourself to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the next opportunity, and brace yourself to contend for the truth of God’s word when He calls on you to do so.

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)