What does it take to be "born again"? When and how does this happen?

Email Received:

Could you please let me know what it takes to be "born again"? When and how does this happen?

Ted's Response:

In John 3:3,7, the phrase literally means "born from above." It involves a spiritual transformation that only God can bring about inside of us, but we have to be sincere about wanting this. For some, the sincere wanting happens before being born again. Most of these will hear about God and His atonement for their sins by Jesus on the cross. That will cause them to feel sorry for their sins and want to be born again into a new life with God.

For others, the sincere wanting happens after being born again. I've heard of people, even atheists, describe how suddenly, even when they were not looking for it or expecting it, the Holy Spirit of God filled them or miraculously healed them. They immediately knew that God had touched them, and they became very aware of their sinful nature. They felt shame for their sins and repented of them, wanting to continue in their new life with God.

So, really, it is not possible to put God in a "box." He works with people however He wishes to, in His own time and in His own way. He often is completely unpredictable. That is why Jesus pointed out how people born of the Spirit cannot tell where the Spirit comes from or where it's going because it "blows" from any direction, like the wind (John 3:8).

We all have been dead in our transgressions and sins, being disobedient to God and gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature or flesh (Ephesians 2:1-3). God makes us, who are dead in our transgressions, alive in Jesus Christ (2:5). He forgives our sins and blesses us in our new lives with Him (Romans 4:7,8). We no longer are considered to be born of earthly flesh; rather, we are children reborn of a heavenly God (John 1:12,13).

Being reborn into a new life with God involves first acknowledging and feeling truly repentant for our sinful nature and deeds, which are a source of personal failure and death, and confessing these things to God. Next, we must understand that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, which is the means by which God is able to forgive the transgressions carried out against Him and others.

Then, it is important to be baptized in water as a public profession of faith and a demonstration that our old nature is dead and buried. Doing this shows that we have been raised as new, living beings in God. Finally, we need to strive to die daily to our destructive nature and flesh and to continue living a new, productive life by pleasing and serving God.

Being "born again" or "born from above" entails having the change of heart and mind necessary to turn away from our old nature of death and to walk the path of true Life that Jesus did (1 John 2:6). This will strengthen our personal relationship and bonding with God the Father and prepare us for our eternal Life with Him. You can read more in the "Basics" section of My Beliefs and Faith page.

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