This article is based on Pastor Adrian Rogers' message, Understanding the New Birth.
Soon after Jesus began his public ministry, a well-known leader in the Jewish community came to visit Him under cover of night. Nicodemus was his name, and if anyone should have a relationship with God, Nicodemus would be your guy. He was a ruler of the Jews, a member of the Sanhedrin, one of only seventy-one in the whole nation. It would be like being a member of the Supreme Court. He was among the most religious, the most moral. Besides that, his very name means “superior.” Yet Jesus gave Nicodemus a divine imperative: “You must be born again.” Read their conversation in John 3:1-21. Not only did Nicodemus need to be born again, he didn’t even know what it was. If you haven’t experienced the new birth, if you’re not born again, no matter what denomination you might belong to, you’re not a Christian.
Why did a moral man like Nicodemus need to be born again? Why do you need to be born again?
You may not think you’re a sinner, but no matter how upright or religious you are, if you think you can go to Heaven without being born again, you’re grossly ignorant of two things: (1) just how sinful you are, and (2) how holy God is.
Nicodemus felt an emptiness, a hunger in his heart. He sought out Jesus privately, saying, “No one can do the miracles You’re doing except God be with Him.” Jesus got right to the point: “Nicodemus, if you want to understand miracles, you’re going to have to become a miracle. You must be born again.”
We have a longing in our hearts that will never be satisfied without the new birth. No matter how much money, fame, or pleasure you enjoy, if you’re not born again, there’s a part of you that’s missing, leaving a void inside.
You’re going to live forever. Long after the sun, moon, and stars have grown cold, your soul will be alive somewhere, either in the Heaven God prepared for those who are born again, or in Hell with those who aren’t. If you’ve not been born twice, you’ll die twice. The second death is the lake of fire. Without the new birth, you will exist forever in Hell.
Jesus, the Master Teacher, used the phrase “born again” because birth is something we all understand. Your spiritual new birth parallels your physical birth.
Just as physical birth requires two parents, spiritual birth requires two: the Word of and the Spirit of God. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Water is a symbol in the Bible for the Word of God. Believers are cleansed by “the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:25), “born again…through the Word of God, which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23). The other parent is the Spirit of God. When the Word and the Spirit come together, conception happens. But it is up to you to supply the womb of faith, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus moments later (John 3:16). When we believe, we’ll have everlasting life.
At birth, you receive the life of your father and mother. When you’re born again, God comes into you and you’re part of the life of God. Your first birth brings physical life;
your second birth brings spiritual life. “Life” is the theme of John’s gospel. Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). In the new birth, you are a partaker of the divine nature. The life of God is in you.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). We received a sin nature from our parents, going all the way back to Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22). We’re all sinners, “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). But in our second birth, we receive the character and nature of Almighty God (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Christians aren’t just nicer people; they’re new creatures. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). A Christian is not like a tadpole who finally develops into a frog, just a continuation of the first birth. A Christian is like a frog transformed into a prince by the kiss of grace. It’s supernatural.
Has there been a change in your character? If not, you’d better change your religion. “Born again,” literally means “born from above.” God’s nature comes into you. If you want to know whether you’re saved or not, open the Bible, see God there, then look in your heart for the nature of God. You should find:
Some people think you can get saved and then lost, then saved again—and this can happen multiple times. No baby is ever born twice. In the spiritual realm, too, it’s a once-for-all experience. That’s one of several reasons I believe in the eternal security of the believer. I can never be unborn. I may have disappointed my parents at times, and that broke fellowship with them, but that didn’t mean they didn’t give birth to me. I will always be related to them. There’s a difference between relationship and fellowship. I can break fellowship with my father by my actions. But I can never change the fact that he fathered me. For all eternity, I am a Rogers; and for all eternity, I’m God’s child. When you’re born again, you become a partaker of the divine nature. He will never, ever forsake you.
No matter what your past has been, the new birth gives you a brand-new start. When you come to Christ and are saved, all your past, all your yesterdays, are buried in the grave of God’s forgetfulness (Psalm 103:12). In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul says those who practice sin will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But then he adds (v. 11), “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
Washed—the stain is gone.
Sanctified—set apart, clean and holy for God.
Justified—just as if you were never impure to begin with.
You’re a new person, a brand-new baby who must grow. When you give your heart to Jesus, yes, you’ll stumble, you’ll have some trouble with your old vocabulary, but you’ll be in the family. Growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord is a continual process once you’re born.
Just as physical birth began your new life, spiritual birth did the same. Just as you can say, “I was born, I know I’m alive,” you should be able to say with confidence, “I know I’ve been born again,” whether you remember the moment you trusted Jesus Christ or not. Ask yourself, “Am I trusting Jesus Christ? Is He my Lord and Savior? Do I see the traits of the twice-born in my heart and life?” If you’re born twice, you will live on, endless, dateless, timeless, measureless—with the Lord.
Remember, there are two parents: the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Have you supplied the womb of faith? If not, will you? Jesus summed this up in one verse, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him [that’s the womb of faith] should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Pray this prayer to give your life to Jesus:
“O God, I am a sinner and I have a sinful nature by my first birth. I need a second birth. I need a new nature. I need to be born from above. Lord Jesus, You died to save me and You promised to save me if I would trust You. Thank You for paying for my sin with Your blood on the cross. Thank You for making it possible for me to be saved today. I now open my heart. I receive You by faith as my personal Lord and Savior. Forgive my sin. Cleanse me. Save me today and help me not to be ashamed of You. In Your name I pray. Amen.”
If you prayed this prayer, we’d like to celebrate with you and provide you with some resources to help you get started in your new life. Let us know by clicking here.