MUST BE BORN AGAIN
Not a fundamental truth, but the fundamental truth that makes a person a Christian is that they have become born again. Simply being born in America does not make a person a Christian. Being born into a family that is Christian does not mean that you are a Christian. Attending a particular denomination does not mean that you are a Christian. You cannot enter into heaven on the faith of someone else. You have to have your own faith. God does not save groups, he saves individuals. He can save a group of people, but each person in that group was saved individually. The term saved means that you have become born again and it also means you are a Christian.
When God created Adam, he was created spiritually alive. This means that when Adam was created in the image of God, he was created with God living inside of him. When God looked down at man he created he saw himself. When Adam sinned, the life of God departed from Adam. This is what Adam passed down to every man born after him.....a life void of the life of God. This is called being spiritually dead. We have inherited spiritual death from Adam (Rom. 5:12-15).
Approximately four thousand years into the future, Jesus comes into the scene of history. Wow! God encompasses a lot of time in dealing with man. Do not forget that. We cannot even get anywhere near relating to that amount of time. Where Adam was created spiritually alive, Jesus was born spiritually alive. He is the only one that has ever been born spiritually alive. This is the significance of the virgin birth. The scripture in Colossians should have a deeper meaning for us now. Col. 1:18 says: 'he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead.' Jesus became one of us who are the dead (spiritually dead). However, he is the first one of us and the only one of us who was born spiritually alive.
Because Jesus is God and was born spiritually alive, making him without sin; this makes him qualified to remedy the catastrophic consequence of us being born spiritually dead. He came to restore in us what we lost in Adam....the life of God. The first time we were born, at our physical birth, we were born spiritually dead. This is why Jesus uses the term born again, alluding to the fact that something went wrong at the first birth. You could say from God's perspective, we all came into this world as stillborns. And keep in mind we have never done anything good or bad to earn that. We are simply born into that condemned state (John 3:18).
We are getting a second chance to start over again and to go back to being like Adam when he was first created. That is the good news. The bad news is that what comes along with that second chance is a lot of baggage we have acquired. But the great thing about God is that he is also going to deal with that by changing the way we think. This is called the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). This is a normal process that will take place in our lives as Christians; but in order for us to even begin that process, the fundamental event first has to take place. It is not an option. It is absolutely indispensable to our salvation. This is why Jesus puts it forth to Nicodemus in an imperative statement: 'You must be born again' (John 3:7).
So now we see that being born again means to take on the life of God himself that was always his intention from the beginning. It was lost at one point, but now it can be restored. It is interesting to note that Jesus is making this statement of being born again to a religious man. Not just any religious man but one who represents the Jewish leadership. The lesson in itself here is that religious leadership which produces religious people has never been on the same page with the truth. Jesus says to Nicodemus in verse ten: "You are Israel's teacher, and do you not understand these things?"
One of the reasons why God gives us a written account is so we can go back and study for ourselves and see how religious man of today is really not any different from religious man of Jesus' time. Man's natural tendency has always been to want to go back to performing instead of wanting to continue to trust. It doesn't matter if you are a Jew back then who really never did learn how to trust (stumbled over the stumbling stone); or if you are a born again Christian of today who did trust at one point; we always want to go back to performing. This has always been the history of the Church. This is such a problem that the Apostle Paul writes six chapters in the book of Galatians addressing this issue. Also he writes about it in Romans.
When we talk about performing, it is such a problem because it is something we've learned to do so well in the world and then we just carry over that same mentality into our Christianity. Our mind has yet to be renewed from this because we started learning this from our parents when we were infants. And then from there we learned it from our teachers. Performance in Christianity always has to do with keeping laws. The ten that we originally got from God aren't enough so what we've done is add our own invented denominational man-made laws. And from those man-made laws comes the subtle development of those non-official laws that are some how inferred. All these laws are ripe for the taking, that the competitive nature of man can't resist. Watch and stand back and see if I don't out perform you. Working to keep laws is the last thing we want to do because it brings out of us the attitude of expecting something back in return. We will take on a sense of entitlement and expect things; and when we don't get those things, we get mad (Rom. 4:4). Keeping laws puts the focus of our Christianity back upon ourselves instead of upon Christ where it belongs.
The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:3: 'Are you so foolsh? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort.' The absolute very beginning of our Christian life is the receiving of the life of God in the person of the Holy Spirit. At that instant, we have become born again. We have become a Christian. We are saved. At the very least, this is a life changing moment. This event is of such profound significance that you would think that there would be someone around who could teach you exactly what has happened to you. But guess what? There isn't. There isn't because they don't know themselves. This is my own personal experience that I still find in need of fixing. There needs to be a nurturing period for the spiritual baby just like there is one for the physical baby. Get saved, and then go to work for God. Instead of being taught what it means to start trusting this new life that is in you, you are taught to get busy for God. And after the new born again experience wears off, you slowly but suredly start to become religious. At the best, this is what happens to everybody. At the worst, you never became born again in the first place, and so you have just always been religious.
The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:21: 'For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.' The law cannot impart life. It works like a mirror. A mirror can only reveal the dirt on our face. It can't clean it. The law (which is its purpose) can only reveal the sin in our heart. It can't clean it up (Rom 7:7). The issue of being a Christian is about life. And it is about a life being imparted to us. And the only life that God the Father is imparting, is the life of his Son. 1 John 5:12 says: 'He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.' In order for us to enter into heaven, God requires righteousness. Is there anybody out there who really thinks that their righteousness is going to get them into heaven? If we didn't have anything to do with accomplishing our spiritual death, what makes us think we have anything to do with accomplishing our entrance into heaven? We don't. All we can do is rest upon the accomplishments of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ and his righteousness.