Month 4:23, Week 4:1 (Rishon/Pesach), Year 5935:108 AM|
Omer Count Day 45/50
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 24 July 2011
Being Born Again
What Does It Actually Mean?
A whole movement within Protestantism centres on the concept expressed in this passage of scripture from the Gospel of John that a soul must be "born again". They call themselves 'born-again Christians' and this birth they call the 'New Birth'. But what exactly does this metaphor mean?
"There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Judeans (Jews). This man came to Yah'shua (Jesus) by night and said to Him, 'Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from Elohim (God); for no one can do these signs that You do unless Elohim (God) is with him." Yah'shua (Jesus) answered and said to him, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of Elohim (God).' Nicodemus said to Him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?' Yah'shua (Jesus) answered, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of mayim (water) and the Ruach (Spirit), he cannot enter the kingdom of Elohim (God). That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Ruach (Spirit) is ruach (spirit). Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Ruach (Spirit).' Nicodemus answered and said to Him, 'How can these things be?' Yah'shua (Jesus) answered and said to him, 'Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For Elohim (God) so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For Elohim (God) did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of Elohim (God). And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in Elohim (God)'" (John 3:1-21, NKJV).
To begin with, Yah'shua (Jesus) is telling us you must enter - be born into - Yahweh's reality here on earth in order to inherit it in the resurrection after you die. In the same way that you are physically born of your mother from the reality and world of the womb into the reality and world outside the womb and into physical light, so to enter heaven you must depart one invisible realm (the psychic realm [which belongs to the flesh] of unsaved human beings which is hell-bound) and enter into another invisible one (of the saved, the Kingdom of Heaven) and into spiritual light. 'Going to heaven' or entering Yahweh's Kingdom therefore takes place in two stages - the first while you are alive in your mortal body and the second after you are dead, the latter being a natural transition. To enter the Kingdom of Light you must first enter into spiritual light.
So is one born again by suddenly 'deciding' to be a 'Christian' and 'attending church', or 'deciding' to be a 'Messianic', obeying Torah and 'attending an assembly'? No. Yah'shua (Jesus) uses the birthing metaphor to indicate that being 'born again' is none of these things even though these things follow or ought to follow - the New Birth. Being 'born again' signifies an existential quantum leap from one reality to another one, like jumping into hyperspace and to a new part of the galaxy. Like the dramatic transition from a dark womb to a bright outside world with a totally new set of sensations, including using lungs for the first time, and eyes and other sensory organs in a new way, so is the transition from a psyche-centred to a ruach-centred life. When this happens there can be no mistaking it. There can never be any wondering afterwards, 'Was I born again?', because when it happens it is branded in your being forever.
It's like leaving one type of life behind and starting a completely different one. When it happens you know it - you can't not know it. It's as dramatic as the children of Israel crossing Yam Suf or the Red Sea and is commemorated in the annual festival of Yom haBikkurim. Thousands of years later we still recount this event because nothing like it has ever happened before or since on such a grand scale. That's why the annual moed is paralled by mikveh or the ordinance of complete immersion in water (baptism) which signifies being buried as a 'dead' person and then arising from that watery grave as one who is fully alive in a new way. That's pretty dramatic, and purposefully so. Like the parting of the waters of the Red Sea and symbolically dying to self in the baptismal ritual, so is being born again. (It is not speaking in tongues).
Being born again is not, as I said, choosing to be born again. You can't do that, no more than a baby can 'choose' to be born or the children of Israel 'chose' to part the Red Sea. Where so many Christians and Messianics get confused over the New Birth is their failure to understand that it must be preceeded by a spiritual conception. Just as baby has to be conceived by Mum and Dad, so one who is born again must first be conceived. This event is a decision and is represented by the annual feast called Pesach or Passover. When you make an authentic decision for Messiah - when you say 'Yes!' to His life in exchange for your own - you are applying His blood to the doorposts of your lev (heart) and you start a spiritual gestation in process in motion that leads to spiritual rebirth dramatised by the journey the Israelites made from Egypt to the Promised Land.
No it doesn't and I'll explain why. If you are both clinging to Messiah, dying to self, and bringing forth the fruit of the Ruach (Spirit) then you are both born again. So why the different experiences? The answer lies in the spiritual gestation period of time. We are all different. We exercise emunah (faith, trusting) differently. That is why Yah'shua (Jesus) said (and please note the Aramaic translation I am quoting from and not the later Greek version which nearly all our English Bibles use):
"But brother X had this fantastic rebirth experience - he was transformed in seconds. I never had that kind of experience but I trust in Yah'shua (Jesus) as much as he does. Does that mean I am not born again?"
There are those for whom a long 'gestation' period is required between conception (Pesach) and birth (Yom haBikkurim) and there are those for whom the time between the two is so small that they occur, to all intents and purposes, almost instantaneously. Thus some have dramatic conversion experiences (instant changes in life) and others have gradual ones (that may take years). More than that we do not need to know - what is important is that souls are reborn. And the proof is that you can look back and see how changed you are or have become!
"For there are faithful ones/believers (ANMYHM), which were so born from their mother's womb (like John the Baptist who was full of the Ruach/Spirit in his mother Elizabeth's womb), and there are faithful ones/believers (ANMYHM) which were made of man (through unpbringing and preaching), and there are faithful ones/believers (ANMYHM) which are self-made faithful ones/believers (ANMYHM) (who searched for the Emet/Truth on their own initiative)" (Matt.19:12, HRV - author's comments in parentheses)
These 'changes' affect so many different things - a supernatural regeneration takes place as Barnes notes:
This understanding was prefigured in the Tanakh (Old Testament) by circumcision which was fulfilled in Messiah as it was pointing to the New Birth:
"It is the beginning of spiritual life. It introduces us to the light of the gospel. It is the moment when we really begin to live to any purpose. It is the moment when Elohim (God) reveals Himself to us as our reconciled Father, and we are adopted into His family as his sons. And as every man is a sinner, it is necessary that each one should experience this change, or he cannot be happy or saved".
One who has been born again has become a "new creation":
"Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your lev (heart), and be stiff-necked no longer" (Deut.10:16, NKJV; cp. Jer.4:4).
"But this is the b'rit (covenant) that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says Yahweh: I will put My Torah (Law) in their minds, and write it on their levim (hearts); and I will be their Elohim (God), and they shall be My people" (Jer.31:33, NKJV).
"Then I will give them one lev (heart), and I will put a new ruach (spirit) within them, and take the stony lev (heart) out of their flesh, and give them a lev (heart) of flesh, that they may walk in My chuqqim (statutes) and keep My mishpatim (judgments) and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their Elohim (God)" (Ezek.11:19-20, NKJV).
"Then I will sprinkle clean mayim (water) on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols" (Ezek.36:25, NKJV).
"Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Ruach (Spirit)" (Ps.51:12, NKJV).
The New Birth is a spiritual resurrection that preceeds the physical resurrection - we must be spiritually resurrected before we can receive our physical resurrection!
"Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah (Christ), he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Cor.5:17, NKJV).
"For in Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus) neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation" (Gal.6:15, NKJV).
One who is not born again cannot "see" the "Kingdom of Elohim (God)". This realm is entirely invisible to the one not regenerated. He may hear of it spoken by those who have been born again and because the latter are familar with it, as one would be of anything one 'sees' regularly, he will be baffled and either yearn for it or conclude that the one who 'sees' is insane or delusional. I have to underline that the psychic (which New Agers and other religious people regard as synonymous with 'spiritual') is not the spiritual - only those born again can apprehend the spiritual dimension. Before then it is just theory or (if they are uneblieving), fable...or confused with the psychic.
"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph.2:1, NKJV).
"For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life" (John 5:21-24, NKJV).
The word "see" means more than 'view', as one might look at a distant scene through a pair of binoculars. This "seeing" carries with it the sense of being fitted to partake too. Thus it is more than being given a spoon with which to eat a pudding: it is being given the spoon and eating the pudding as well! To be born again is thus to both apprehend as well as to partake of. You're 'in it' and you're 'doing it'. It's something alive within you. It is not just a photograph of a foreign place - it's actually being there in your essence.
There is no possibility of entering the place called heaven and not first experiencing the change that Yah'shua (Jesus) speaks that takes place in those who are born again. We need to therefore soberly ask ourselves whether or not we have had that experience, and if not, to never rest until we have. We may still be in a very, very long gestation period - and yes, some can gestate their whole lives and never be born again! Worse, some can spontaneously abort because they were not being nourished and were not repenting of sin in their lives, which is what the annual feast of Chag haMatzah is all about.
Like Nicodemus, those who are the most learned and most important in society may be the most ignorant of these things, for they are not easily attained by the proud. And this pride comes in so many different ways. Recall that Yah'shua (Jesus) told Nicodemus that the New Birth required that one be "born of mayim (water) and the Ruach (Spirit)". This "mayim (water)" signifies baptism which is why the New Birth is associated with the feast of Yom haBikkurim and the passing through the mayim (waters) of the Red Sea. This is why it is written that the children of Israel were "baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the [Red] sea" (1 Cor.10:2, NKJV), for Moses here is a type of Messiah, the cloud of the Ruach (Spirit) and the sea of baptism. Do you see how everything neatly connects and ties together?
Being born again of the Ruach (Spirit) and making a visible covenant in front of other believering witnesses to follow Messiah all your life by being immersed in mayim (water) - being baptised (which is the token of entrance into the earthly messianic community or church too - you can't be a 'member' without it) - is the twofold seal of the one who has entered into the Kingdom of Heaven and has begun his spiritual journey to the final Sukkot. It begins with a decision to trust in the blood of Messiah and repent of ones sins (continually) and results in the New Birth, a dramatic change in life, a supernatural transformation involving resurrection power. Without it the journey to completion cannot take place!
Therefore seek the New Birth with all your lev (heart) and when you have got it, get baptised by full immersion!