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THE MEANING OF BEING BORN AGAIN

" Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." JOH 3:3

Nicodemus said, "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?" (JOH 3:4) Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus was telling him. Throughout the book of John, Jesus spoke in parables for this purpose, "that seeing they might see and hearing they might hear and not understand." He’s speaking in symbolical language. What He said did not come through to Nicodemus because he was thinking literally. Do you mean literally born again? No. He said, "Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?" So then Jesus goes on to qualify it. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit…" in other words, except you be born from above.

It is obvious that Nicodemus, though he was a ruler in Israel, had not become acquainted with the need for the kingdom of Christ to be established upon the throne of his heart. This is what the Lord Jesus was telling him. He said that you cannot enter the kingdom, you cannot see the kingdom, you cannot become acquainted with it, you will never understand the kingdom of God unless you’re born again, unless you have a new attitude, a new spirit: unless you know that repentance is a change of attitude. You’ll never understand what it is to have the kingdom of Christ established upon the throne of your heart and to serve under His kingship until the power of His Word touches you.

Our Saviour’s blessed ministry began by preaching the gospel. Do you know what the word gospel means? It means good news. He began by preaching the gospel, or the good news, of the kingdom of God. The good news is that the kingdom of Christ should be established upon the throne of your heart. That’s how the blessed ministry of our Saviour began. He came by preaching the kingdom of heaven saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." (MAR 1:15b) "Repent ye": in other words, a change of attitude, a change of heart, a change of mind: "believe the gospel." The word believe means to come in subjection, to come under the authority of the kingdom of Christ. "The kingdom of God is at hand." This is the good news.

Now that Nicodemus had heard the good news of the kingdom of Christ and had seen the authority in His Word, he came by night to inquire of its meaning. In JOH 3:5 we read, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." "Except…[you]…be born of water and of the Spirit…." The one is co-essential with the other. The central truth about the Spirit’s work of grace is found in our Saviour’s teaching about the principle of the new birth. We must understand what that really is. There are so many people that have so many different formulas for what constitutes a new birth. What does Jesus call the new birth?

First, Jesus emphasizes the supreme importance of the new birth saying, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (JOH 3:3) Without the formula that Christ gives, there is no way that you and I can enter into the kingdom of God. What constitutes the new birth? Unless we understand what the Lord Jesus Christ is telling us about the new birth, we might be deceiving ourselves as to whether or not we have received the new birth. It is so important. It says, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see…." He cannot be made alive. He cannot see the kingdom of God.

So how ought we to live? You talk to many people, and they say that they’ve been born again because they’ve changed their attitudes, they’ve changed their lives. Yet how we live was not our Saviour’s first teaching of the new birth, but rather how men are made alive. It is how we are made alive that the Lord Jesus is teaching in the new birth. A man cannot live until he is made alive. I want to qualify that: how we live was the Pharisees’ total religion. They had so many do’s and don’ts and so many amplifications of the law that they were just literally law-sick and totally destitute. It was to a Pharisee that the Lord Jesus said that except you be born again, you cannot enter the kingdom.

So we think we know how to live, yet the Pharisees didn’t realize that their hearts were cages of unclean birds. They didn’t realize that their hearts were filled with hypocrisy and with all types of malice, bitterness and hatred; they thought they had the kingdom of God. They were the chief rulers of the church, and they were devoid of the new birth. It was to a Pharisee that the Lord Jesus said that except you be born again you cannot enter. So the first thing that Jesus was pointing out was not how we live, but how men are made alive. A man cannot live under the kingship of Christ until he has been born again. A man cannot have a right attitude, a right spirit, and cannot live under the spirit of the law until he’s been quickened by grace. In EPH 2:1 we read, "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins."

Our Saviour began by saying, "Verily, verily," which means of a truth, of a truth. He emphasizes the importance of this truth. Our Saviour emphasizes the importance of the new birth saying, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (JOH 3:3) So many people think the new birth pertains to only one thing, and that is to get out of hell and go to heaven. How many people realize that what the new birth is entering into the kingdom, into the service of their Lord? That’s what the new birth is about: that we come under the service of Christ.

So what is meant by "the kingdom of God?" It is entering into the service of Christ. Turn to ROM 14:17-18. "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness [What is righteousness? It is a right attitude and right actions toward our neighbor.], and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost [In the Spirit of Christ: that is the kingdom.]. For he that in these things [What things? Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.] serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men." We’re talking of service here, "For the kingdom of God…"

We need to examine our own hearts and whether or not the kingdom of Christ has entered our souls? We’re letting in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost so we can serve Christ acceptably: "acceptable to God and approved of men." Jesus said outside of the new birth, the kingdom of God cannot be seen in you. Until you have entered into His service, until Christ is formed in you, the new birth cannot be seen in you. Until that dove has descended upon you, that Spirit of holiness (when we’re serving Christ not only in righteousness and peace, but in the Holy Ghost), unless that spirit of holiness can be seen upon you, the kingdom of God cannot be seen in you. 1CO 2:14 says, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." It is so important that we understand what it is to be born again: it is to enter into that service of Christ; yet this is foolishness unto the carnal man, unto the natural man, who does not receive the Spirit of God. Amen

No strength of nature can suffice
To serve the Lord aright;
And what she has she misapplies,
For want of clearer light.
How long beneath the law I lay,
In bondage and distress!
I toiled the precept to obey,
But toiled without success.
[Then to abstain from outward sin
Was more than I could do;
Now, if I feel its power within,
I feel I hate it too.]
[Then, all my servile works were done
A righteousness to raise;
Now, freely chosen in the Son,
I freely choose his ways.]
What shall I do, was then the word,
That I may worthier grow?
What shall I render to the Lord?
Is my inquiry now.
To see the law by Christ fulfilled,
And hear his pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child,
And duty into choice.
                        Author: Cowper


Our sermons and devotions are a ministry of Gospel Chapel located in Conrad, Montana. We also have a  daily devotion and sermon notes on-line. We pray this devotion has been a blessing to those who read it. Thank you.

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