We Have Been Born Again (John 3:1-17)

Text: John 3:1-17

What does it mean to be born again?  The phrase “born again” only appears four times in the Bible.  Fortunately the most familiar place of this phrase is in our text today.  

This phrase “born again” is a familiar phrase within American Christianity.  Maybe your memory will let you remember the words, “You need to be born again,” rolling off of the tongue of Billy Graham.  However, what does it specifically mean and how is one to be born again?  How does this happen and what are its implications? 

To answer these questions let us ponder this dialogue of Jesus and Nicodemus.  Obviously from looking at our text we could say that this new birth, being born again, did not happen within the context of Nicodemus’ Pharisee-ism.  My friends, the essence of Pharisee-ism pointed individuals towards themselves.  So, take notice that Jesus did not point Nicodemus to himself or his spiritual abilities to be born again. Jesus also did not point Nicodemus back to his Pharisee-ism to find a new birth.  Nicodemus could not find rest for his soul in his religious pharisaical work.  Jesus did not say, “Nicodemus, you need to be born again.  Simply look within yourself and you will find the strength within to enact this change.”  In other words, you cannot be born again by looking within, that applied to Nicodemus and it applies to you and I today.

Jesus says to Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth that no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is ‘born again.’  In response to this, Nicodemus says, “How can a man be born when he is Old, surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb.”  In other words, Nicodemus asks a ‘works centered’ question.  Notice how he thinks that this idea of being “born again” is something that he must do rather than something that must be done to him. Nicodemus is trying to figure out how “he” can bring about this new birth, as if it was something that within his grasp.  

Now for those of you women who have had children, I would like to ask you a question for your assessment.  Imagine that after giving birth to your child that the doctor said, “Excellent.  What a healthy baby.  Now we need to put the child back into the womb so that it can be born again.”  What would be the probability of this happening?  Obviously you would have serious problems with the doctor.  Maybe you would say, “That is crazy, do you know how tough it was to get that child out!”  In all seriousness, though, to be born again is not something that we neither do nor can do.  Nicodemus didn’t understand how it was possible for a person to accomplish this work of being born again.  In verse 6 Jesus says, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit.”  In other words, to be born again is impossible for us to do in our own strength.  To be born again is not something that we bring about.  Just as it is impossible for us to take credit for our own birth, and just as it is impossible for us to enter our mother’s womb to born again, so it is impossible for you and I to be spiritually born again.  As human beings, we can’t accomplish what is eternal by our own human strength or doings.  

My friends, to be born again doesn’t entail you looking within.  To be born again doesn’t mean that you need to jump back into your mother’s womb.  To be born again is not something that you initiate or you do.  Rather, to be born again is to die and have a new birth.  To be born again is for you to die and to be raised to life in a new birth and this new birth comes from above.  It is like this, we don’t need a redo in this life.  Rather we need a new life.  It isn’t as if God needs to reform and adjust our old life. No! The old needs to be put to death and we need a completely new and out of this world birth.  We need to be born from Above.  This not only happens where we were “saved,” it happens daily!

So how does this happen then?  We are born again simply through faith in Jesus Christ.  John 3:15 says, “Everyone who believes in Jesus may have eternal life.”  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved YOU…  The world that He gave..  He gifted…  He bestowed…  of His one, unique, precious Son that whoever believes, trusts, and knows Him shall not have to perish, die, and experience eternal death but have eternal life.”  John 3:17, “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him.”  Our new birth comes through simple belief in Jesus Christ.  

But what are the implications of being born again?  To be born again means that we are taken from death to life because of Jesus.  This new birth doesn’t come by manmade religion.  This new birth doesn’t come by our flesh. This new birth doesn’t come by our works. This new birth doesn’t come by us fulfilling lists. This new birth doesn’t come by anything else but Jesus.  

Being born again by simply faithing in Jesus is real, and you are actually changed.  You no longer belong to yourself, and your life is not your own.  My friends, we waste energy and time when we live simply for ourselves.  We have been born again to a new life in Christ.  You have been given the Spirit of God.  Jesus Christ and His amazing grace is the real meaning of your life, and its true purpose.  Everything you do is in response to and in the context of Christ, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  And we serve Christ by serving one another.”

That means that your actions, your decision and your attitudes are to be shaped not by your first birth into the world around you or your personal preferences, but by your second birth in Christ and His grace.  

This new life, to which we have been born again in Christ, is not normal or natural, and will not feel normal or natural to us.  Normal and natural to us is our sinful flesh, which remains the enemy of God and will be a pain in the neck until the end of our lives.   Nevertheless, we are called by God and by the new birth in Christ, into the life of being God’s children and servants.  We are completely free of all, slave to none yet servants to all. 

Now, get this, being born again means that our personal well-being is God's business, not our own.  Your welfare and your well-being is God's work and God's business and God's concern.  Because we have been born again to be a child of God we don’t have to be focused on ourselves.  We are freed from looking inward!  

Being born again means that we have everything that we need in Christ, that we are born into God’s hands and may rest with confidence that we are secure for eternity.  Therefore we don’t have to be concerned about ourselves.  We don’t have to worry about our spiritual temperature.  We are freed to be concerned for the well-being of our neighbors.  

So, what we do - in worship, in our work, and in all aspects of our daily lives - is done with Jesus Christ and His forgiveness and love in view.  Being born again means that we are taken care of and that we don’t need to shape ourselves to the world but are shaped by the Word  

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."  This new life is lived in hope, the Christian hope, which is the confidence that what we cannot see, but God has promised, is true - and so we are confident in ourselves that we have forgiveness and life and salvation, and so we rejoice, and give thanks, and we live out this new life - not according to how things feel, or how things may appear to us, but according to the reality of God's blessings, forgiveness and protection of which He speaks to us in His Word.

We pray that God grants us His grace that we may faithfully live that life into which each of us has been born again.

Sources:  Robin Fish, Born Again (pericope.com) ~ Sermon Studies on the Gospels Series B (NWP)