Most people have probably heard the term “born again” used in different ways. While this term can mean different things to different people, you can find out the real story behind it’s meaning by looking at the definition given by Jesus, the very first person to use it.
Jesus originated this term during His meeting with a man named Nicodemus (pronounced Nic-o-dee-mus) that you can read about in John 3:1-7. If you take the time to read Jesus’ explanation of this term in this passage, you’ll find that it really isn’t very complicated at all. You see, just as everyone must be physically conceived to become a child of their parents, so we must also be spiritually conceived (or “born again”) in order to qualify to be one of God’s children. The Bible’s book of 1 Peter, chapter 1, verse 23 explains it like this…
“…you have a new life. It was not passed on to you from your parents, for the life they gave you will fade away. This new one will last forever, for it comes from Christ…” (1 Peter 1:23).
Now you may be wondering what all this has to do with the book of 1 John. Well, the answer is that 1 John goes a little further in explaining what being born into God’s family will mean in the future…
“See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children-think of it-and we really are! But since most people don’t know God, naturally they don’t understand that we are his children. Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, right now, and we can’t even imagine what it is going to be like later on. But we do know this, that when he comes we will be like him, as a result of seeing him as he really is” (1 John 3:1-2)
So being “born again” is more than just a religious term- it’s the only way to know the God who created you and enjoy all the benefits of becoming a member of His family.
“So if we stay close to (Christ), obedient to him, we won’t be sinning either; but as for those who keep on sinning, they should realize this: They sin because they have never really known him or become his” (1 John 3:6).
So what exactly is John saying here? Well, he’s obviously not talking about living a sinless, perfect life because he’s already said that anyone who claims to be sinless makes God out to be a liar (see 1 John 1:10). What this verse is actually saying is that no one who is really serious about following Jesus makes a habit of doing stuff that Jesus says is wrong.
You see, anyone who claims to be a Christian but makes a habit of living a lifestyle that doesn’t back it up, proves by their actions that they don’t really know Christ. On the other hand, someone who knows what Jesus taught and puts those teachings into practice won’t make a habit of doing those things that will hurt them- spiritually or otherwise.
“Oh, dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: if you are constantly doing what is good, it is because you are good, even as he is” (1 John 3:7).
You can usually tell if someone is living a God-oriented life simply by listening to their words and watching their actions. As we said earlier, a person who is living a God-focused lifestyle will demonstrate it by the things they do and say. Of course, doing good things doesn’t necessarily make you a Godly person, but a Godly person will demonstrate their Godliness by doing good things.
“So now we can tell who is a child of God and who belongs to Satan. Whoever is living a life of sin and doesn’t love his brother shows that he is not in God’s family“ (1 John 3:10).
Again, this verse tells us that there should be a clear difference in the lifestyles of those people who claim to be Christians and those who don’t. One quick way to see if this is true in your own life is to simply ask yourself some questions like this:
- Am I are going to all the same movies and listening to all the same music as my non-Christian friends?
- Am I watching all the same television shows and reading all the same magazines and hanging out in all the same places and playing all the same games as my non-Christian friends?
- Am I using all the same language and wearing all the same clothes and involved in all the same kind of relationships as my non-Christian friends?
If the answer to those questions are “yes” then the next question might be, “Is there any real difference between me and other people who aren’t really interested in Jesus?”
This whole idea ties into what comes next…
“So don’t be surprised, dear friends, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13).
A little later on, John will also tell us that “the world around us is under Satan’s power and control” (1 John 5:1) and when taken together, these verses have some definite implications for Christians. You see, anyone who is really serious about following Jesus will never totally fit in with a world that is under the control of God’s arch-enemy and doesn’t want anything to do with its Creator. Of course, a Christian should always try to be a good representative of Christ by being courteous and sincere with those who disagree. But that being said, it should never come as a surprise if you have trouble getting along as a Christian in a world that has no use for Christ.
To illustrate this, let’s take the example of a Christian whose number one priority is to be popular and well-liked by others. Now being popular and well-liked are good things, but here’s the problem: you can’t always be Mr. or Ms. Godly Person and be Mr. or Ms. Popularity in a world where most people would really prefer not to think about God at all. You see, if someone really wants to follow God wholeheartedly then they must also be willing to break from the crowd in certain situations (and possibly sacrifice some popularity) to do what’s right. If and when that happens, John says, “…don’t be surprised… if the world hates you.”
“We know what real love is from Christ’s example in dying for us. And so we also ought to lay down our lives for our Christian brothers. But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won’t help him-how can God’s love be within him? Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions” (1 John 3:16-18).
We’ve already said that there should be a difference in the actions of people who claim to be Christians and those who don’t, right? Well to illustrate this, John sets up an example that demonstrates what he means…
- “…if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money…” In other words, there is someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus who is in a position to help someone who really needs help
- “…and sees a brother in need…” This person becomes aware that there is a fellow Christian who needs help
- “…and won’t help him…” by refusing to help even though he could if he wanted to.
Given this example, what conclusion can we make about a person like that? Well, that’s easy: “…how can God’s love be within him?” You see, a Christian should have the reasonable expectation that his or her friends in the church will help them out if they need help. John’s point is that actions speak louder than words and the things that people do are usually good indicators of what they are really like on the inside.
“(W)henever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20 NIV).
There are two verses in 1 John that can definitely help save people from a lot of unnecessary pain if they can learn and apply them. We saw the first verse earlier in 1 John 1:9 where it says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
This Scripture tells us whenever you recognize and admit to God that you have done something wrong, God will forgive you and clean you up from anything that is wrong or dirty if you come to Him through Jesus. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t have to deal with the consequences of your actions but it does mean that you won’t have to deal with the guilt. If you’ve confessed it, the Bible says that it’s finished in God’s sight.
But what if you’ve confessed your sin according to 1 John 1:9 but still don’t “feel” forgiven? Well, 1 John 3:20 handles that part: “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” (I John 3:20 NKJ). If you don’t “feel” forgiven or are suffering from a “guilty conscience” then remember that God is greater than even your feelings or your conscience. If God says you are forgiven, then you are forgiven no matter what your feelings may tell you.
“But, dearly loved friends, if our consciences are clear, we can come to the Lord with perfect assurance and trust, and get whatever we ask for because we are obeying him and doing the things that please him. And this is what God says we must do: Believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another” (1 John 3:21-23).
The Bible tells us that some basic things are necessary if we really want to see God answer our prayers. These basic things include…
- Faith (see Hebrews 11:6)
- “Remaining,” “staying” or “abiding” in Jesus (John 15:7)
- Asking for things that are in line with God’s Holy character and not out of our own selfish desires (James 4:3)
- Asking for things that are in God’s will (1John 5:14)
If you have these basic things, then you can go God with certainty and know that He will act on your requests.