What Does It Mean to Be Born Again

In an earlier article, I had touched on the importance of being born again as a condition for inheriting eternal life (Proof text — John 3:3 [NLT; with emphasis mine]: “Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.””). Now, let me show you what it means to be born again.

1. It starts with hearing the Word of God that is preached to you

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God…. And this is the word that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:22-25, NIV; emphasis mine)

2. Merely listening to the Word of God would do you little good unless you obey it

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:22-23, NIV; emphasis mine)

3. And obedience leads to your purification/sanctification:

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:22-23, NIV; emphasis mine)

To put it in another way, being born again involves a change in your nature:

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24; NIV)

Now, you may wonder to yourself: “Doesn’t that take a lot of human effort?” And indeed, you may know of people who tried to change their ways, but who ultimately fell short.

Being born again does require one’s effort, however, you are not relying on your human strength alone. Rather, it is like you are co-operating with God to bring about that needed change in your life, something which is not impossible for those of us who truly believe in Jesus Christ, because “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (Galatians 4:6, NIV).

There are four major hallmarks among those who are born again:

1. They believe that Jesus is Christ

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. (1 John 5:1, NIV)

2. They do not continue to sin

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. (1 John 5:18, NIV)

3. They overcome the world

for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4, NIV)

4. They have love for fellow believers

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7, NIV)

Do you wish to be born again? You can do so right now by asking the Lord Jesus Christ to come into your life.

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An Indian Construction Worker’s “Road to Damascus” Experience in Singapore — As Told to Me by the Man Himself

One evening, a few years ago, as I was walking along a quiet stretch of road nearby a construction site in Sembawang, I saw a young Indian man sitting along the pedestrian path, reading a book under the street light.

Intrigued, I stood by him to see what he was reading. It was a very worn and well-thumbed bible, albeit the pages seemed intact.

Seeing the young man’s diligence in reading the bible under poor lighting conditions (and he was reading it aloud, albeit quietly), I perceived that there was something special about this young man, and sat next to him.

“Are you a Christian?” I asked, and he shook his head in the affirmative.

We then told me that prior to his conversion, he was a “bad” person, who drank, gambled and got into fights easily.

He said that in India, he had borrowed a lot of money in order to travel to Singapore to work as a constructor worker.

He told me that he had a wife and a child in India, but prior to his conversion, he did not really care about them. Instead, he spent most of his income on gambling and drinks, and seldom sent money back home to his family.

His life took a turn when he was cheated of all his savings by a local Chinese man. The savings were meant to pay off his large debts in India when he eventually returned home, and when he realised he had lost it all, he decided to end his life.

So, with the money that he had on him, he purchased a large amount of illegal ‘toddy’ (palm wine), and went to a dark, forested area in Woodlands, intending to kill himself through an excessive drinking spree alone. (He did not tell me the specific place he had been, but there had previously been a report of a dark, secluded and forested area in Woodlands, which had been raided due to illegal vice activities between foreign construction workers and foreign women).

In the dark, as he was drinking himself to death, he suddenly saw a bright light in the sky.

He thought that he was hallucinating, but as the light grew brighter and illuminated everything that was around him, he realised that it wasn’t the moon that was causing this, and that he was not hallucinating either.

He quivered as he asked, “Who are you?”

A voice from above replied, “I am the Lord Jesus Christ.”

He said the light then disappeared, and as he was trying to make sense of this mysterious event, he suddenly realised that his body felt completely well, not the slightest bit affected by the excessive alcohol he had consumed.

Although he did not understand it, he felt at peace, and slept alone at that place, before returning the next day to his workplace.

He told me that prior to this event, his fellow Indian colleagues who had converted to Christianity while working in Singapore had tried sharing the gospel to him. However, he was resistant to them.

The weekend after this incident, on his own initiative, he went to a church in Little India to get baptised.

After his conversion, he stopped drinking, and slowly, not only did he save enough money to pay off all his debts, he was also able to buy a new house for his family.

Seeing the change in him, his wife also became a Christian, and although he and his wife face much opposition, he said he was determined to share the gospel and his testimony to his relatives and friends.

While in the past, he spent his spare time doing ‘bad’ things, following his conversion, he spent his spare time in church, or encouraging other believers, or praying and reading the bible.

When I probed about his discipline of prayer and reading the bible, he said that if he didn’t have to work, he would spend a few hours in the evening doing this, and would rise early in the morning, and pray for about an hour before starting work.

When I asked him how he prayed, he gamely demonstrated by kneeling on the ground and opening his palms to heaven.

That was the first and last time that I met that young man (largely my fault, I very seldom walk that stretch of road). Seeing how disciplined he was in prayer and reading the bible, I have confidence that he is still walking with Jesus. The young man is a good example of what it means to be born again — of how someone so ‘bad’ (in his own words), can be so transformed, as if into a totally different person.

Is Believing in Jesus Christ the Same as Being Born Again?

In the 70-80s, probably due to the influence of Billy Graham’s international ministry, it used to be fashionable to ask someone: “Are you born again?”, as a way to enquire whether they were a believer.

Hence, among most Christians circles, it might be taken for granted that one is born again if one attends church or becomes a believer.

However, it seems to me that being born again is a very distinct event from believing in Jesus Christ.

Indeed, I am concerned that many who sincerely claim to believe in Jesus Christ have actually not been born again.

The reason for my concern is this — in John 3, the Lord Jesus Christ told Nicodemus that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again“.

In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ did not explicitly promise eternal life to those who merely professed a belief in Him, but rather, to those who are born again.

If you think along these lines, the following verses in Matthew 7 would make perfect sense (verses 21-23; NIV):  21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

The word ‘evildoers’ suggests that the people whom the Lord Jesus Christ would reject are those who have been unchanged by His grace, stuck in their old, evil ways right up to the very last day of their lives.

The born again experience isn’t just an intellectual experience; it is a tangible one. This explains John 3:8 (NIV) — “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” — although one cannot see the wind, one is affected by it. Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the true, born-again believer in Jesus Christ does not remain unaffected and unchanged in his sinful condition. Rather, he/she is moved to repentance and becomes like (and transforms to) a new person, a new creation. This is why the scripture declares:  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV).