Born Again

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

In the conversation Jesus Christ had with Nicodemus, a devout Pharisee, He pointed out the fact that it is impossible to see the kingdom of God without first being born again. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God…Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."(John 3:3,5) Being born of water and of the Spirit is a prerequisite to both seeing and entering the kingdom of God!  Therefore knowledge about God and the scriptures cannot bring us into the kingdom of God; neither can good works and  self-effort take us into God's kingdom. The new birth is foundational to entering God's kingdom.

How are we born of water?  This is as difficult for us to understand as it was for Nicodemus.  We need to understand that water symbolizes judgment.  Jesus is saying that before we can be born of the Spirit a judgment has to take place.  This is a judgment on the old Adamic man - symbolized by baptism.   This concept is illustrated in the waters of judgment in Noah’s time, as well as in the time of Moses when Pharaoh and his army were judged by water. 

This judgment brings us into a new dimension.  In Noah’s time water brought a judgment on the unbelievers, and brought the believers into a new dimension.  In Moses’ time the water of the Red Sea brought judgment on Pharaoh and his army, and brought the Israelites into a new dimension - a permanent release from the bondage of slavery to the Egyptians.  it brought them into freedom from the tyranny of taskmasters and into the freedom to worship God.   In our time the water of baptism brings judgment on the Adamic man, and buries him.  Our agreement with this judgment signifies repentance, and we are released from the tyranny of the law with all its rituals and condemnation, and raised up with Christ into life. This brings us into a new dimension of life in the Spirit.  God’s kingdom is in the unseen realm; it is a  spiritual kingdom, and it cannot be entered by the natural or physical man.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Nicodemus was a very religious man and well acquainted with the scriptures. He knew a lot ABOUT God, but he did not KNOW God. He knew a lot about doing works FOR God, but he did not know how to do the works OF God. He could talk about the scriptures and participate in discussions about the scriptures, but he did not have a relationship with God.  Many good people find themselves in the same predicament.  They love their discussions about God and are busy with their good works, yet they don't know what it means to be born again.  Many equate the new birth with joining a church. They think that their mental agreement with the doctrines of a church means that they have become Christians. They think that their agreement with church doctrine plus their good works are sufficient for their entry into the kingdom of God. Others claim to be born again because they have learned the right terminology.  But Christ is not concerned with our terminology; He wants us to have the actual experience of being born from above - to be born of the Spirit!    It is Jesus Christ who sets the standard for entrance into His kingdom, and He says that we have to be born again!

Why is the new birth so crucial to entering the kingdom of God? Why do knowledge and self-effort not suffice? It's because mental gymnastics can only change our behavior to some extent, but they cannot change us!  The knowledge that comes from our natural mind cannot free us from our bondage to self and from the lies that we have accepted as truth.  Everything that originates in the natural mind is against the Spirit.   We need more than the knowledge of good and evil!  We need Christ Jesus! We need a life-changing encounter with Him, even as Saul of Tarsus had when he was on the road to Damascus to persecute the Christians. 

Our physical birth brings us into a life that is corrupted by self. We are all born into death; we all come into this world, dead in our sins and transgressions. In Adam all die! It is impossible to get out of our death in Adam without being born from a source that is rooted in LIFE. The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit! Life is in the Spirit!  Our new birth has nothing to do with the will of man.  In John 1:13 we read, "Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."   Just as we have nothing to do with our physical birth, so we have nothing to do with our spiritual birth.  Our new birth takes place through  the will of God, for it is He who takes us out of our death in Adam and puts us into the life that Christ is! 

It is so sad that we have been taught so many unscriptural things.  We were told that it was up to us to make the decision to follow Christ.  But Jesus said,  "You did not choose Me but I  chose you." (Jn. 15:16a)  He also said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him." (Jn. 6:44)  While we say that we are saved by grace, we are also taught that His grace is subject to our free will, and if we don't make the right choice we are doomed forever.  Therefore our faith, our prayer, our confession, etc., had something to do with it, and heaven is our reward for making the right choice.   This thinking breeds the harshness that says it serves the poor, ignorant sinner right to go to hell forever because he did not make the right choice. Actually death, not hell, is the penalty for disobedience, for God told Adam that the penalty for eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would result in death.  We fail to realize that our salvation is not the result of our works, but of God's grace.  It is God who persuades us of our need of Him!  Let's remember that "no one can come to Me (Jesus) unless the Father who sent Me draws him."  (John 6:44)

 In Matthew 19:24 Jesus said," It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."  Upon hearing this the disciples asked, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus replied, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."  (vv.25-26)  It is out of reach for man; it is only possible with God.  Paul's conversion took place because Jesus came to him!  Paul did not come to Jesus -Jesus came to him.   He also has to come to us!

Our new birth makes us a new creation! The old has passed away and all things have become new. (2 Cor. 5:17) This new creation is a spiritual creation because we have been born from above! It does not contain any earthiness. It is of a higher quality than Adam's was before he sinned. Adam was a mixture of dust and Spirit, and therefore he succumbed to the lust of the flesh, and this resulted in death. Christ takes us out of that mixture of dust and Spirit, and brings us into a life that has no mortality (dust) in it!  There is no death in His life except the death to sin!

God's kingdom consists of people who are ruled by His life. So to enter His kingdom we first have to receive life. Death cannot enter in! This shows us the necessity of being born again. Our new birth changes us from within; knowledge can only change our behavior to some extent. Our new birth takes us out of the sinner category and puts us into the saint category; it takes us out of the earthy realm and puts us into the heavenly or life realm!

Peter wrote, "For you have been born again, not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God." (1 Peter 1:23)  We have been born of seed that contains no corruption, and neither can it be corrupted! Everything is in incorruption, and this includes its fruit! Our new nature of life cannot sin! This verse is in perfect harmony with 1 John 3:9 where we read, "No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”   That which is born of God cannot sin!

The question that immediately comes to us is, "Then why do we still sin after we have been born again?"  Since I still sin, am I truly born of God?  Do I remain in the sinner category even though I have been born again? There seems to be a conflict between God's declaration of who I am, and what I am experiencing. How can I be that perfect righteous person while I am living in this world?  Or is that perfection reserved for the time I die and go to heaven?  Where can I find the answer to this seeming contradiction between God's declaration and my experience?

To receive a better understanding of this, let's visit a gold smelter.  We know that gold symbolizes God's perfect nature.  At the gold smelter site we see the unattractive stones that contain gold; we see the intense fire that is needed to separate the gold from its impurities; we see the dross rise to the top where it can be skimmed off.  Then we see the finished product - the bright shining gold! One day the Lord spoke to me and said, "Do you see that the dross does not belong to the gold?  However, it takes a lot of heat to separate the two."  Our imperfections do not belong to the new creation that we are in Christ, but it takes the intense heat of God's consuming fire to separate them from us.  His fire consists of pressures, difficulties, challenges and enemies!  We need them in order for the gold (our new nature) to be separated from all the impurities that belong to our old nature but still cling to us.  It is the fire of the Holy Spirit that brings about this separation! God is a consuming fire, and His fire consumes the dross, for dross does not belong to us!  His fire does not consume us; it only consumes what does not belong to us

So let's look at the things that do not belong to us.  Adam's disobedience brought him and his descendants into the death realm.  So we know that disobedience does not belong to life.  In 1 Peter 1:22 it says, "Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart."  What a statement!  Obedience to the truth purifies our souls (our sense of being).  Disobedience to God's word brought us into death, and obedience to the truth (Jesus Christ) brings us into life!  Our purification does not take place by trying to rid ourselves our impurities, but by obedience to the truth! 

 Let's look at an example. When we have been deeply hurt by a Christian brother or sister, this hurt brings a separation in our relationship. We try to forgive him/her, but all our efforts don't achieve the desired result.  The truth is that all of us are guilty of something or other; we all need forgiveness, but we forget our need for forgiveness when we are hurting.  Self-effort does not have the power to forgive; this power is only available to us in Christ.  He has given us His love in the Holy Spirit, and His love always forgives!  As we receive and believe this truth, the power of Christ will enable us to  forgive and we will be purified of our unforgiveness.  Obedience requires the laying down of our own will and any desire that is against the nature of God!   Once we quit looking at the barriers - the law, the unfairness and the hurt - and fix our eyes on the ability of the Christ in us, we can walk in obedience to the truth.  As long as we fix our eyes on our problem and our inability to overcome it, we will not be victorious.  In Hebrews 12:2, we are told to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  By fixing our eyes on Jesus, we can forgive, even as Christ forgives. This is truth.  In obedience to truth we have the victory!

 We need to remember that Jesus is the truth, the way and the life!  Therefore Jesus Christ will never lead us astray; He will never deceive us; He will never lead us away from God!  Obedience to His rule in us will purify us of all evil. Obedience is the antidote for disobedience!  Obedience changes us into the very image of Christ! 

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