First, here is our text:
"Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, 'Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nicodemus said to Him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?' Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, "You must be born again." The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.'" (Joh 3:1-8)
In order to illustrate my point, I will use an analogy from the natural birth of a baby. When we’re born of the Spirit, it’s very much the same as natural birth, except in the spirit. I am not an expert in childbirth, but I was blessed to be present at the birth of each of our five children. Looking back on what I observed, there are truly a number of similarities between that and the spiritual rebirth.
For those who like simple charts, I will first present it in that format, so you can see it all laid out at once and observe the relationships. Afterward I will explain these further for those who would like more detail.
|Naked||Nothing hidden (Job 1:21; Heb 4:13)|
|Bloody or needing a bath||Unclean, defiled, kicking in blood (Ez 16:6, NIV; Ro 3:23)|
|Cleansed, washed with water||Cleansed (1 Cor 6:11; 1 Jn 1:7,9; Ps 51:2,10; Ezekiel 36:25,33; Jeremiah 33:8; Zechariah 13:1; Hebrews 9:14; 10:22; Titus 3:5)|
|Crying||Crying (2 Cor 7:10; Mt 26:75; Lk 6:21; Heb 5:7; Jam 4:9)|
|Cut off from the umbilical cord||Cut off from all other sources of life, including the flesh, the world, and the devil (Rom 8:2; Jn 14:6)|
|Received into the father’s arms with a warm embrace. Comforted.||Received into the Father’s arms with a warm embrace (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)|
|Safe and secure||Safe and secure (Rom 8:31; 10:9-13; Heb 13:6)|
|Moment in time on a certain day||Moment in time on a certain day; spiritual birthday (2 Cor 6:2; Lk 15:11-32; Jn 3:6)|
|Suddenly||Suddenly (Jn 3:8)|
|Out of darkness of the womb into the light||Out of darkness into the light (1 Peter 2:9; 2 Cor 4:6)|
|Vulnerable to infection, illness, injury||Vulnerable to being hurt (2 Cor 6:11-13; 12:9-10; Mt 5:43-46; Jam 5:16)|
|Totally dependent on parents||Totally dependent on the Father (Jn 5:19,30)|
|New creation, new life||New creation, new life (2 Cor 5:17)|
|Craves milk!||Craves pure, spiritual milk! (1 Pe 2:2)|
|Childlike||Childlike, humility (Mt 18:3-4)|
|Innocent, harmless, free from guilt||Innocent, harmless, free from guilt (Mt 10:16; Phil 2:14-15; 1 Jn 5:18)|
Hopefully this chart has made the point plain and simple for you. Now let's look at each sign individually for those who are interested.
When you first come out at birth, you are completely stark naked—nothing hidden. As Job said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there." (Job 1:21a)
Here’s how it is in the spirit. When the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, you know God sees all your sin. It’s laid bare, and you are fully exposed. Especially if you bare your heart and tell Him how you have offended Him.
As the Scripture says, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Heb 4:13, NIV)
Bloody or needing a bath
When babies come out, they are sometimes covered in blood or with a white cheesy or waxy substance called vernix coating their skin. In any event, they need to get a bath on their birthday.
Likewise, we are all dirty, defiled, and unclean when we come to God. We all start off in that state. "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." (Isa 64:6).
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom 3:23).
“‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” (Eze 16:6, NIV)
Let's be careful not to take this simple analogy too far, lest you misunderstand me. We are unclean and dirty only up to the point when we are born again.
Cleansed, washed with water
Just as babies are washed on the day of their birth, likewise, when we are born again, God cleanses us. He sprinkles clean water on us. When we come to Christ and repent, God washes and sanctifies us! We are washed of iniquity, and cleansed of sin. He gives us a clean heart -- no longer sin-stained, but white as snow.
"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols." (Eze 36:25)
"I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned against Me and by which they have transgressed against Me." (Jer 33:8)
"In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity." (Zec 13:1)
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." (1Co 6:9-11)
"But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1Jn 1:7)
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1Jn 1:9)
"Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin." (Psa 51:2)
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me." (Psa 51:10)
"How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb 9:14)
"Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." (Heb 10:22)
"He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit," (Tit 3:5)
"'Come now, and let us reason together,' Says the LORD, 'Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.'" (Isa 1:18)
After I was born again, I felt like God had taken the slate with all my sins on it and wiped it completely clean. I had an assurance that I was cleansed, and like a newborn baby, I was starting all over with a clean slate.
When babies come out, they are known to cry. In the old days, as soon as a baby came out of the womb, doctors used to hold babies upside down by their feet to let the fluids drain out, and slap them to startle them into breathing. The purpose was to get them to start crying forcefully and breathing, and to blow all the mucous secretions out of their air passages, so they could breath clearly. Likewise, when someone is born again, they can have an experience of crying because they are sorry for their sin. Godly sorrow leads to repentance. Then there are no regrets.
"For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death." (2Co 7:10)
"Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh." (Luk 6:21). It is a blessing if you weep now—you’ll laugh later.
"Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom." (Jas 4:9)
Umbilical cord cut off at natural birth
When a baby is born, it is attached to its mother by the umbilical cord. During it's time in the womb, that is how it receives nutrients and oxygen through the blood to sustain its life. But when it is born, that cord is cut and it must eat and breathe on its own. Likewise, when you are born again, all sources of life prior to new birth must be cut off (severed).
Up until being born again, a person is feeding on death and sin. But at the new birth, that is all cut off. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death." (Rom 8:2). From that point on, Jesus is the only source of life for that person. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (Joh 14:6)
Received into the father’s arms
Once the umbilical cord is cut, the father holds the baby in his arms. The baby is received into the father’s or mother's arms and comforted. Likewise, when you are born again, you are received into the heavenly Father’s arms with a warm embrace. You are accepted in the beloved, chosen and precious in His sight (1 Pe 2:4; Eph 1:6, KJV). You are a child of God and you have peace with God.
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom 5:1).
I remember what it was like to hold my newborn babies close in my arms, look into their eyes, and speak softly and tenderly to them. They were so precious to me, and I just wanted to bond with them and build relationship with them. This is what's it's like when you are born again.
Safe and Secure
When a baby is received into its father’s arms, it is safe and secure. Likewise, when you are born again, you will feel secure in God’s love because of Jesus’ sacrifice for you. You can know with an assurance that you are safe. That’s important—that experience of security, because you’ve confessed Jesus is Lord and have believed. You can confidently say as you rest in the Father’s arms, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” (Heb 13:6)
There's no safer place than being in the Father's arms. "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?" (Rom 8:31)
"That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." (Rom 10:9-13)
Moment in time on a certain day
The born again experience is not something that happens over the course of one's lifetime. Rather, there is a point and moment in time when you’re laboring in prayer and grieving. And that’s when you’re being born again. There is a day of salvation.
"For He says, 'At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.' Behold, now is 'The acceptable time,' behold, now is 'The day of salvation.'" (2Co 6:2)
We see a clear illustration of the born again experience when we read about the return of the prodigal son in Lk 15:11-12. When he initially returned to his father and repented, that happened on a certain day at a certain moment, and the new birth is similar to that. ""That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (Joh 3:6)
When a baby is born, there are of course labor pains and signs that it is going to happen. But when it finally comes out, it happens all of a sudden. Likewise, the new birth is also sudden. You probably can’t predict exactly when it’s going to happen.
Out of darkness into light
Before you are born in the natural, you are in darkness. There is no light inside the womb. But when you come out, you are in the light. Likewise, when you are born again, you come out of darkness into the light.
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;" (1Pe 2:9).
"For God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,' is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2Co 4:6)
All newborn babies are vulnerable. For example, their body temperature could drop or they could get infections. There are a lot of things that could go wrong right after the baby is born. Likewise, when you are born again, you make yourself vulnerable to being hurt.
When we open our hearts up to one another as believers, we make ourselves vulnerable to one another. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide. You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections. Now in a like exchange--I speak as to children--open wide to us also." (2Co 6:11-13). We have to open up our hearts to each other.
The new life is marked by weakness. Paul wrote, "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2Co 12:9-10).
You’ve got to accept and admit your own weaknesses. When you’re weak, then the Lord is strong. You can’t just keep emphasizing your strengths like the world does.
Another aspect of this is that when you love your enemies, that puts you in a vulnerable position (Mt 5:44). For example, when you bless those who curse you or turn the other cheek. Likewise, when you confess your sins to one another, you are putting yourself in a vulnerable position.Yet we are commanded to do so (James 5:16).
When a baby comes out of the womb, it is totally dependent on the father. Likewise, a person is totally dependent on the Father when they are born again. We can do nothing without Him.
"Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.'" (Joh 5:19)
New creation, new life
A newborn baby is a completely new life. Likewise, a newborn believer receives a new life. He or she is a totally new creation. Paul said, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2Co 5:17).
When a baby comes out of the womb, they are seeing everything for the first time. It all seems new and different. Likewise, after I was born again, I began to notice that the grass was greener than I ever realized before. The sky was bluer than it ever seemed before. I could hear the birds singing, and I knew they were praising my Lord. This is what it's like when you receive new life in Christ.
All newborns crave milk. They are constantly longing for milk and feeding on it. Likewise, when a person has been born again, they will crave pure, spiritual milk (the Word of God). I remember when I was first born again, I would stay up until very late reading and discussing the Word of God with the brother who had led me to Christ. I would read the Scriptures until my eyes were hurting. I craved the milk of the Word.
Peter wrote, "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation..." (1Pe 2:2, NIV)
Childlike and Humble
Newborns are never born proud, dignified, sophisticated, or complicated. Likewise, one evidence of being born again is child-likeness. You must become like a little child.
Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Mat 18:3-4)
Newborn babies are innocent. They are harmless and have never done anything wrong. Likewise, once you have been born of God, you will not continue in sin.
Paul wrote, "Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world," (Php 2:14-15)
Jesus said, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves." (Mat 10:16).
John wrote, "We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him." (1Jn 5:18)
One last thing I would like to mention is that babies are known to soil themselves. They are not yet mature enough to go to the toilet when they have to relieve themselves, so they just go right where they are, wherever that may be. This can make quite a mess. Likewise, newborn believers may stumble or fall into sin and make a mess of themselves.
"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." (1Jn 2:1-2)
Putting it All Together
By comparing the natural birth to the second, spiritual birth, we can see some basic things that are typically evidence in those who are born again. I hope you can relate to some or most of these things in your own life, if you have been born again. I also hope they will help others who have not been born again to realize they still have yet to experience this. If that's you, and you want to know the Lord Jesus, then please see the final section below on knowing Him.
Attribution notice: Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, except where noted. Other Scriptures from the Holy Bible NIV. "Born Again" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.
Author's note: You are invited to read You Must Be Born Again, Born of God, Where will you go when you die?, Few will be saved, Costly Grace, The Cost of Discipleship, Doulos Training School, By Grace Alone, All Things Are New!, Holy Washings - Part I, Entering the Kingdom of God, The Obedience of Faith, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?, The Law of Christ, Law of Love in the New Testament, The Judgment Seat of Christ, and Is Obedience Optional?. The Home page of this blog also has more articles. You may access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org