What Does It Mean to be Born Again?
Thanks for your recent letter in which you asked, "What is a description of a Christian? Also, what is a Born Again Christian? I consider myself a Christian but don't know if I am a Born Again Christian or how important it is to be one."
Whenever we use words we need to be sure of their definitions, so your letter asks important questions. The word "Christian" has many different meanings attached to it.
Much of the world uses the word Christian in a very broad sense. They will say, for example, "America is a Christian nation," or at least they will say it used to be a Christian nation. Someone who was raised in a home where everyone went to, say, the Methodist Church will often think they are Christians. Sometimes you will hear someone say, "I was born a Christian and I'll die a Christian."
However, from a biblical view, the word "Christian" has a much narrower definition. A Christian, according to the Bible is someone who has had a very definite experience with the Lord Jesus Christ. That experience is to have been "born again." So, in reality the only Christians are born again Christians.
So what is a born again Christian? I refer you to the place in the Bible where this whole discussion started-John, chapter three. In this passage, the Lord is talking to a very religious man, Nicodemus. Nicodemus has come to him by night and said, "We know you are come from God..." Jesus, however, cut him short and said, "Nicodemus, you must be born again."
Jesus response troubled Nicodemus. He said, "What does this mean? Must a man reenter his mother's womb to be born again?"
Jesus told him that there were two kinds of birth, a natural birth and a spiritual birth. He said, "Marvel not, ye must be born again." He further said that if a person is not born again, he "cannot see the Kingdom of God."
To be born again is to be reborn through the spirit. It is coming to Jesus Christ and sincerely accepting Him as Lord and Savior without reservation. It means giving up your life in exchange for a life that is no longer your own. It is a life that Jesus now owns. As the owner of that life, He has the right to direct it, change it, and even end it if He so pleases.
Born again Christians are said to have "died to self." That does not mean that they do not have the same sinful nature and desire to control their own destinies, but that they have renounced the right to that destiny. they may struggle with that decision and sometimes even act like they have reneged on the decision, but the bottom line is that they have made a very serious decision to give up their lives and destiny to the control of Jesus Christ.
One who has been born again knows it. Maybe not initially, and maybe not deeply, but one who has been born again begins to experience a new life. He, as Paul says, has been "transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of the Son of God." His life is no longer his own. "The life he now lives he lives through hope in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me."
The experience of being born again is, as you might expect, the very beginning doorway to a new life. Birth is always the first activity of a new life, is it not?
Though, as I have said, a newly born again person may struggle with whether or not he has actually passed through into a new life, eventually he will find himself in new territory. "Old things pass away; behold, all things are become new." There is a new perspective to every aspect of life, a new color, a new fragrance, a new directions-a new Director! Being born again is the true mark of a true disciple.
It may be possible that a person who was born again at a very early age may not be able to remember the event clearly. However if that person has lived as a born again Christian throughout his or her life, then I doubt they would question having had the experience. The fact that you ask the question gives me reason to doubt that you have experienced the new birth. I hasten to add, however, that only God can look on a person's heart-I certainly can't. So your salvation remains an issue between you and God. However, I must also add that the born again Christian experiences a life of assurance. There is an assurance of salvation, of having finally and for all pleased God. If you feel as though you must strive to please God, then again I would wonder if you have come to ultimate peace with Him.
These matters are often difficult to approach because we have nothing with which to compare them. There is no other experience like the born again experience. It is rather like the blind man who, when questioned about his healing experience with Jesus, said, "All I know is that I was blind and now I see." So it is with the born again experience. That is why Jesus could say to Nicodemus, "Stop wondering! You must be born again."
I'm not sure this helps, but I pray it does.
God bless you in your continued desire to experience the full Grace of God.