"Jeff, what does it mean to be born again?" twelve-year-old Sally asked her brother who just turned fourteen. "We talked about the new birth in Bible class today, and I just don't understand it. I know I was born once, but how am I supposed to be born again?"
"Well, Sally, it means that God does something deep inside your heart, where you become a new person inside. You start thinking and living the way God wants you to. You're still yourself, but what is new is your character, your way of feeling and thinking and acting, because Jesus is now in your life. You love what He loves, and you no longer want to do the things that are bad for you and others. This change is also sometimes called conversion."
"That's a big change for anyone," said Sally, thoughtfully. "If that's what happens, then I would like to be born again or -- be converted."
"If you want to really get the right picture of what it all means," Jeff replied, "then you need to study it out from the Bible, because that's where the real information is."
"Will you help me?" Sally asked, hopefully.
"Sounds like a good idea," said Jeff, "I'd like to understand this subject better myself."
Let's see what Jeff and Sally found out.
Jesus made it clear, we cannot be saved unless we are converted. "Assuredly I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven"(Matthew 18:3).
We must be born of water and of the Spirit. "Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."(John 3:5,6).
We are born again by the word of God. "Having been born again not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and abides forever"(1 Peter 1:23) compare with Romans 10:17.
How are we born again? Listen to the Holy Spirit when He points out to us what we need to change, want to be like Jesus -- this is called "repentance." It's in the Bible, Acts 2:37, "Now when they heard this [the preaching of Christ crucified], they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?'
True repentance is being sorry for our sins, because they hurt Jesus. So sorry, that we want to change. But can we change ourselves? No. It's in the Bible, Job 14:4, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one"
How are we changed? We admit we were wrong and accept Christ's death for our sins, accept His forgiveness. It's in the Bible, 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
After we accept God's forgiveness of our sins, we accept Christ's life. It's in the Bible, Galatians 2:20, " I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
Christ gives us a new character as we believe and live in Him. It's in the Bible, 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
God gives us a new heart, that has the power to to live this new life. It's in the Bible, Ezekiel 36:26-27, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them."
He even gives us the desire to fix, as best as we can, the things we did wrong to people in the past. See Ezekiel 33:14-16; Luke 19:8.
God's commands become promises, because He transforms our hearts and minds. It's in the Bible, Hebrew 10:16-17, "'This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,' then He adds, 'Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.'"
The fruits of Holy Spirit will also grow in our lives. It's in the Bible, Galatians 5:22,23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."
We will keep growing in grace and godliness in our new nature. "You have put on the new nature, which by constant renewal in the likeness of its Creator, leads to a fuller knowledge of God."(Colossians 3:9,10, Phillips).
(All references from the NKJV translation, unless otherwise indicated.)