What It Means to be "Born Again"
In John 3:3, Jesus tells a man named Nicodemus “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” meaning that he can’t be a part of God’s kingdom in heaven. You may have heard that phrase “born again” before and wondered what it means. People sometimes talk about being “born again Christians.”
Being “born again” means that there’s a change that’s happened within you that’s so radical, it’s as if you’ve been born a second time. You’re a new person, spiritually. You have a new identity, new desires, new priorities, and a new outlook on life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
It may also be helpful to think of this phenomenon in terms of a spiritual heart transplant. Listen to what God says to the nation of Israel in Ezekiel 36:26-27: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
God’s making a promise that when Jesus comes, he’s going to perform a spiritual heart transplant. The old heart was a “heart of stone.” It was hard and cold and lifeless. But the new heart is described as a “heart of flesh.” It’s a living heart—a heart that’s alive towards God and the desires of God and the ways of God.
From this, we can see that trying to become a “better person” by our own strength won’t do us much good. In our sinful state before coming to Jesus, we don’t just need to clean ourselves up a little bit on the outside. We need nothing less than a complete heart transplant.
Have you ever experienced this kind of inward newness and transformation? There’s no question that we’re all imperfect people, but are you comfortable in your sin or do you regularly repent of your sin and turn to God? Are your desires and priorities and inclinations different from what they used to be in the sense that they’re more in line with God? Can you honestly say that you delight in Jesus from the core of your being—that you desire him not just for his gifts but for who he is?
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