What does it mean to be born again? The late bible teacher RA Torrey addresses this important subject in his book, Heaven or Hell.
What does it mean to be born again? A good definition is given in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” The new birth is a new creation. It involves a radical transformation by the power of the Spirit of God in the depths of our beings. We receive a new will, new desires, and new thoughts. We were born with a perverted will, corrupted affections, and a blinded mind. By the power of the Holy Spirit, in regeneration, God transforms our wills, our affections, and our tastes. He transforms our way of looking at things.
Every man and woman by nature has a perverted will that is set on pleasing self. What pleases us may not be evil in itself. Perhaps we do not get drunk or swear or lie or do anything vicious or vulgar. But our minds are bent on pleasing ourselves.
When God, by His Spirit, imparts to us His nature and life, our wills are changed along with the whole purpose of our lives. Instead of pleasing self, our wills are surrendered to God, and we live to please Him. We may do a great many of the things we did before, but now we do them because they please God.
Our desires are corrupt by nature. We love the things we should not love and hate the things we should love. For example, many women love to read romantic novels more than they love to read the Bible. If a great many Christian women told the truth they would say, “I would rather read a good love story any day of the week than read the Bible.”
You love to go to nightclubs, which God hates. I don’t say God hates the people in the nightclubs-He loves them, but He hates the nightclubs. Perhaps you would rather go to the theater than to the gathering of God’s children. If you had your choice between going to a first-class opera or to a place where God’s Spirit was present in power, would you choose the opera? Would you go to a card party rather than to a quiet meeting of God’s people where they knelt down and prayed for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit?
When God, through the power of the Spirit, gives you a new nature, you will love the Bible more than any other book in the world. You will love the places where God manifests Himself better than any places of worldly entertainment. You will love the company of God’s people better than you love the pleasures of this world. The beautiful thing is that in a moment of time, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, the change comes. New tastes and new desires take the place of old tastes and old desires.
All Things Become New
Nobody loves worldly entertainment more than I once did. I used to attend four to six dances a week. I played cards every day of my life except on Sundays. You could not pay me to do those things today. I would never go to a nightclub unless I went there to get some poor soul out. I love the things I once hated, and I hate the things I once loved. In those days, I would rather have read any novel than read the Bible. Today I have more joy in reading this Book than in any other book on earth. I love it. My greatest intellectual joy is to study the wonderful pages of this Book of God.
Many people are blind to the divine authority of the Bible. They believe all the nonsense that people try to tell them about the contradictions in it. When you are born again, your mind will be so in tune with the mind of God that you will believe everything His Word says, in spite of what others might say.
Some people cannot believe that Jesus took our sins in His own body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24). The preaching of this doctrine is “foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor. 1:18). But when you are born again, the doctrine that the Son of God died on the cross of Calvary will be one of the sweetest doctrines to you in all the universe.
Being born again means having a new will set on pleasing God instead of pleasing self. You will have a new desire to love the things that God loves and to hate the things that God hates. Your mind and heart will believe the truth of God.
Have you been born again? If not, you are not saved. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
How can we tell whether we have been born again or not? “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:29). If you have been born of God, you will do as God does. God does righteousness. If you are born of God, righteousness will be the practice of your life.
To do righteousness means to do the things that are right in God’s sight. A man who is born of God will study the Word of God to find out what God’s will is as revealed in His Word. When he finds out, he will do it. Are you studying the Word of God daily to find out what God wants you to do? When you find out what God wants you to .do, are you doing it?
“Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). That is, he does not make a practice of sin. To commit sin is to do something you know to be contrary to God’s will. The man of God will not, when he knows God’s will, disobey it. He may make mistakes. He may do something that he did not think was against God’s will. But when he learns that it was wrong, he will confess it as sin. Or he may be overtaken by a sudden temptation and fall. But as soon as he sees it, he will confess it. He will not go on day after day doing what he knows to be contrary to the will of God. Anybody who is making a practice of something that he knows is contrary to the will of God has reason to doubt whether he is born again.
A young man stopped me on the street and asked, “If a man is born again and lives and dies in sin, will he be saved?”
“Why,” I said, “a man who is born again will not live in sin. He may fall into it, but he will not stay there.”
Do you know the difference between a hog and a sheep? A hog will fall into the mud, and he will stay there. A sheep may fall into the mud, but he gets up as quickly as he can. Many people who we think are Christ’s sheep are only washed hogs. A hog that is washed will return to the mire, but a sheep will not stay in the mud. (See 2 Peter 2:22.)
If you are only outwardly reformed and externally converted, in a few weeks you will go back to your sin and your worldliness. You are only a washed hog. The person who is outwardly converted, but not inwardly transformed, will give up after a little while. But if you have been born again, you are transformed from a hog into a sheep, and you will never wallow in sin again.