That’s the question Nicodemus asked Jesus when Jesus said this:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. - John 3:3
And again when He reiterates it in verse 7
Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' - John 3:7
Today, I am going to draw together from a number of places in the Bible what it says about how you can be Born Again.
First, let me be clear. The phrase Born Again has been used as though a Born Again Christian was a particular flavor of Christian, but that is not the case.
Born Again is just one of the ways Jesus and the Bible describes becoming a Christian. You can’t be a Christian and not be Born Again.
Some of the other terms for those who are Born Again in the Bible are:
- Followers of the Way
- The Body of Christ
- The Bride of Christ
- Followers of Jesus
- The Flock of God
- Laborers in the Kingdom
- Friends of Jesus
- New Creations
- Children of God
- The Church
- The saints
Becoming a Christian is sometimes referred to as entering the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven.
So I will start with what Jesus says right here in John 3 when describing how to be born again to Nicodemus, but we will expand it a bit to include some of the things Jesus said about following Him, and some of what Paul said about the Christian too.
Paul is a really good source for this information since most of his writings were addressed to the Church (the community of Born Again people) specifically.
Back to John 3 and Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus.
In the midst of this conversation, Jesus uses the word “believe” three times and then John comes back and repeats it at the end of the chapter just in case we missed it above.
The key verse of John 3, and perhaps the most familiar bible reference in the word, John 3:16 has oft been called the gospel in a nutshell.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. – John 3:16
Right on its heals, Jesus lays out this staggering contrast.
He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. – John 3:18
And John finishes up the subject at the end of the page with his own contrast.
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. – John 3: 36
Please notice in these last two verses we go back to the fact we have mentioned before, a man without Christ is both under condemnation and the living in the wrath of God.
Also notice in verse 36 the contrasting word to believe is ‘not obey.’ In the Greek it is apeitheō – where we get the word apathy. John contrasts believing and just doing nothing. Hear this, the wrath of God abides on those who hear the Word of God and just do nothing. This is why over and over in His preaching Jesus talks about those who hear and do, and James exhorts us to be doers of the word.
[Sorry – I am starting to preach – that was not the plan here]
So – the first thing we learn about HOW to be Born Again is to believe – trust in – obey Jesus.
Is there anything else to it?
Check this out:
Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." - Mark 1:14-15
When talking to Nicodemus it was just believe, but here we have another element.
I have written and taught extensively on repentance and its wonderful power to bring us victory over sin, but let me here give a simple explanation of repentance.
The word simply means to change your mind, but Paul lays down some instruction on how to allow this change of mind actually transform your life.
Remember in Romans 12:2 that Paul exhorts us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, so repentance, or changing our mind, is the key to moving from the wishy-washy worldling you once were into the image of Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 Paul tells us exactly how to repent:
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. - 2 Corinthians 7:10-11
Repentance is not tears at the altar it is a passion for purity wrought over time until your body, mind and soul are free of that which once enslaved you. [Tweet this] Glory to God!!!
So we have repent and believe, is there more to being Born Again?
Let’s look at Romans 10. When I was a kid, a young man at the time taught me a simple way to remember this verse. He said it was dynamite! Spiritual TNT – Romans Ten:Nine & Ten (TNT)
…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. - Romans 10:9-10 (now that’s dynamite!)
This confess is not the same as telling someone you sinned. What is meant by confess here is simply tell someone you believe in Jesus.
This is why when we baptize folks we ask them to give their testimony before they go under the water. They need to confess with their mouth that Jesus is their Lord and believe in their heart - in what? – in the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Now we have Repent – Confess – Believe.
So Ben, are you telling me that if I DO these things I am automatically a Christian.
I could try really hard, even get passionate about beating my sin.
I could tell people about the fact that I am a Christian.
I believe all the things they tell me about Jesus, and for sure I believe He rose from the dead. Am I a Christian now?
Strangely enough – even though we talk about what you must do to be saved, Paul tells us in no uncertain terms, that it is not about things you can do.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9
You can’t by your own effort be born again, just as you had nothing to do with your first birth. You could not make it happen and you could not stop it.
You do get to choose to believe – to trust – but that is the extent of what you can do.
There are bunches more places we could go to look at this topic, but that is all I have time for today.
Tomorrow I am going to take one good long look at what this salvation is. And let me tell you, it’s a BIG DEAL.
Thanks for coming by today.
If you have never known Christ in this way, and want to, it’s not difficult, and you don’t have to wait till you get your act together (because that day will never come – I promise)
Today, if while reading this you felt a tug somewhere inside – that was the Spirit of the Living God inviting you to come – inviting you to be Born Again.
God is not willing that any should perish (die without Him) but that all would come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Repent today – start by telling Him you’re sorry for anything He brings to mind that has offended Him, then follow Him through that repentance. Put your trust in Him today, and tell somebody about it. (I would love to hear about it – either below or via email - ben@AnotherRedLetterDay.com)
Walk in the light today.