3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Over the last few days we have been looking at some of the more challenging teachings of Jesus. Yesterday we looked at Jesus’ declaration that He was the Way, the truth, and the life and that no one would come to the Father unless it was through Him. The natural question that arises is how does that work practically? How do we get connected with Jesus so that we can be reconciled to the Father?
This is a tough question to answer because we have seen it play out in many forms. There are “altar calls” and “sinner’s prayer” and “inviting Jesus into your heart prayers” and many other methods that teachers and preachers use to help those who are newly responding to Jesus begin their journey. What I would like to do is look at three instances from scripture where the “what does it take” question is addressed.
First, let start with Jesus. The scripture above is from a conversation Jesus is having with a name named Nicodemus. Nicodemus professed to Jesus that he believed that God had sent Jesus to he Jews. Nicodemus was concerned with being a part of what God was doing. Jesus tells him that to see the Kingdom of God he must be born again.
What does it mean to be born again?
What Jesus is describing here is man’s condition before and after responding to Him. Prior to faith in Jesus and His saving power, man is living in a dead world as a slave to its fallen condition. The man who lives and dies in this life without Jesus will die separate from God and be subject to judgment for his sin. However, for he who has faith in Jesus, his life will start new. His life will be lifted out of the spiritual despair of this world and he will be reconciled in his spirit to the Father. When this natural life ends for that man, he will pass into an eternity of loving communion and fellowship with the Father free from the judgment and punishment of sin.
Jesus is saying that faith in Him will result in the death of the broken sinful man and the birth of new regenerate man.
Jesus says to be born again.
The second instance to look at is from Acts 2.
Act 2:37 (ESV)
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In this chapter Peter the Apostle is preaching to a crowd in Jerusalem. He is telling them about the redemptive and reconciling power of Jesus. At the end of his preaching the crowd wants to know what it takes to be saved through Jesus. Peter tells them repent and be baptized. Let’s look at these terms.
Repentance is the act of turning away from something. In the context of Peter’s exhortation it is the turning away from sin. It is recorded that several times when Jesus was ministering to the people He would tell those who he was healing to “Go and sin no more”.
Baptism is literally submersion in water. Why would this act be related to our response to faith in Jesus? It goes back to being born again. To accomplish our reconciliation to the Father Jesus was crucified to death for the sins of humanity, our sins. After He was dead He was placed in a tomb and then God raised Him from the dead. Baptism is similar. It is the symbolic death of the new in faith to die to the old life and to born again to the new one with Christ. It is also a public proclamation of faith in the redemptive work of Jesus.
Peter tells us to repent and be baptized.
The final piece of scripture I want to examine is from Romans 10:9.
Romans 9:10 (ESV)
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
The context of this scripture is a letter that Paul the Apostle is writing to the church in Rome. Many of Paul’s letters in the Bible deal with what life should be like and how we should live after we have come to faith in Christ. His answer to the what it takes question is confession and belief.
Paul is really hitting the heart of the matter here. He is dealing with many people who have heard the message of Jesus and many who are professing that it has changed them. Paul is concerned that there are some who are confessing with their mouth but not believing in their hearts. Paul brings up a good point that while some may confess Jesus, even be baptized, that without repentance and belief in the heart they may not be born again.
Paul tells us to confess and believe.
So what is the application? I know this post is long and if you gotten this far I appreciate it. I can’t think of anything more key than how we respond to new followers of Christ. If you are a seeker or a new follower of Jesus I would ask that read a little further. A couple key things:
1) faith is gift from God and He freely offers it to whoever He wills for His glory.
2) individuals become aware of this faith when they hear the Gospel of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of their soul.
So what does it take?
First, it takes faith to be born again. Faith that Jesus died as a punishment for the sins of humanity. A punishment that we should have felt and faith that God raised Jesus from the dead to usher in an eternal life for all who believe.
Secondly, as we recognize that we have faith we need to continually flee from sin and be baptized so that we can symbolically partake in the miracle of Jesus’ redemptive work.
Finally, confess Jesus and share with someone the belief you have Him.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your salvation. Thank you God that you love your creation and that you desire for those who rebel against you to be saved. Father please give faith to those who do not have it and increase the faith of those who do. Help us believe. Help us be born again. In Jesus name. Amen.