In the last week’s article, we have learned that being born again or regenerated is entirely a divine work. You can do nothing to be born again. Jesus did not ask Nicodemus to do certain things to be born again. He simply declared, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). Jesus did not command Nicodemus, “Born yourself again.” It is only when the Holy Spirit awakens (quickens or makes alive) our spiritually dead souls through the Word of God that we can perceive the spiritual blessings of the salvation in Christ. Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to the kingdom of God. It is not the fruit of human efforts to reform or improve themselves.
Now, let me ask you whether you know that you are truly born again? For many people, to be born again is to utter a sinner’s prayer, or to make a decision in a Gospel meeting, or to make a profession of faith in Christ. However, these actions do not necessarily indicate that one is truly born again. Many who have taken such steps woefully live with no evidence of being born again! Many churchgoers of our time are merely nominal Christians who show no biblical signs of being born again.
The Bible teaches us what happens if one is born again. Below are some of the spiritual proofs given in the Bible. J.C. Ryle’s article, “Are you born-again?” provides six biblical evidence of being born again – printed below for your benefit.
1. No Habitual Sinning
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin (i.e. continue to sin)” (1 John 3:9). “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not” (1 John 5:18). A person who has been born again, or regenerated, does not habitually commit sin. He no longer sins with his heart and will and whole inclination. There was probably a time when he did not think about whether his actions were sinful or not, and he did not always feel grieved after doing evil. There was no quarrel between him and sin; they were friends. But the true Christian – hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, considers it his greatest plague, resents the burden of its presence, mourns when he falls under its influence, and longs to be completely delivered from it. Sin no longer pleases him, nor is it even a matter of indifference to him; it has become a horrible thing which he hates. However, he cannot eliminate its presence within him.
If he said that he had no sin, he would be lying (1 John 1:8). But he can say that he hates sin – and that the great desire of his soul is not to commit sin at all. He cannot prevent bad thoughts from entering his mind, or shortcomings, omissions, and defects from appealing in both his words and his actions. He knows that “in many things we offend all” (James 3:2). But he can truly say, in the sight of God, that these things cause him grief and sorrow, and that his whole nature does not consent to them. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?
2. Believing in Christ
“Whoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1). A man who is born again, or regenerated, believes that Jesus Christ is the only Savior who can pardon his soul – that He is the divine Person appointed by God the Father for this very purpose – and besides Him, there is no Savior at all. In himself, he sees nothing but unworthiness. But he has full confidence in Christ, and trusting in Him, he believes that his sins are all forgiven. He believes that, because he has accepted Christ’s finished work and death on the cross, he is considered righteous in God’s sight, and he may look forward to death and judgment without alarm.
He may have fears and doubts. He may sometimes tell you that he feels as if he had no faith at all. But ask him if he is willing to trust in anything instead of Christ – and see what he will say. Ask him if he will rest his hope of eternal life on his own goodness – his own works, his prayers, his minister, or his church – and listen to his reply. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?
3. Practicing Righteousness
“Everyone that doeth righteousness is born of him” (1 John 2:29b). The man who is born again, or regenerated, is a holy man. He endeavors to live according to God’s will – to do the things that please God – and to avoid the things that God hates. He wishes to continually look to Christ as his example, as well as his Savior – and to prove himself to be Christ’s friend, by doing whatever He commands. He knows he is not perfect. He is painfully aware of his indwelling corruption. He finds an evil principle within himself, which is constantly warring against grace and trying to draw him away from God. But he does not consent to it, though he cannot prevent its presence.
Though he may sometimes feel so low that he questions whether or not he is a Christian at all, he will be able to say with John Newton, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in the eternal world. But still – I am not what I once used to be! By the grace of God I am what I am.” What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?
4. Loving Other Christians
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14). A man who is born again has a special love for all true disciples of Christ. Like his Father in heaven, he loves all men with a great general love; but he has a special love for those who share his faith in Christ. Like his Lord and Savior, he loves the worst of sinners and could weep over them; but he has a peculiar love for those who are believers. He is never so much at home, as when he is in their company.
He feels they are all members of the same family. They are his fellow soldiers, fighting against the same enemy. They are his fellow travellers, journeying along the same road. He understands them, and they understand him. They may be very different from himself in many ways – in rank, station and wealth. But that does not matter. They are his Father’s sons and daughters – and he cannot help loving them. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?
5. Overcoming the World
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world” (1 John 5:4). A man who is born again, does not use the world’s opinion as his standard of right and wrong. He does not mind going against the world’s ways, ideas and customs. What men think or say no longer concerns him. He overcomes the love of the world. He finds no pleasure in things which seem to bring happiness to most people. To him, they seem foolish and unworthy of an immortal being!
He loves God’s praise more than man’s praise. He fears offending God more than offending man. It is unimportant to him whether he is blamed or praised; his first aim is to please God. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?
6. Keeping Oneself Pure
“He who is begotten of God keeps himself’ (1 John 5:18b). A man who is born again is careful of his own soul. He tries not only to avoid sin – but also to avoid everything which may lead to it. He is careful about the company he keeps. He knows that “bad company corrupts good morals” and that evil is more contagious than good, just as disease is more infectious than health. He is careful about the use of his time; his chief desire is to spend it profitably.
He desires to live like a soldier in an enemy country – to wear his armour continually and to be prepared against temptation. He is diligent to be a watchful, humble, prayerful man. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?
These are the six great marks of a born again Christian. There is a vast difference in the depth and distinctiveness of these marks in different people. In some, they are faint and hardly noticeable. In others, they are bold, plain and unmistakable, so anyone may read them. Some of these marks are more visible than others in each individual. Seldom are all equally evident in any one person. But still, after every allowance, here we find boldly painted – six marks of being born of God.
How should we react to these things? We can logically come to only one conclusion – only those who are born again have these six characteristics, and those who do not have these marks are not born again. This seems to be the conclusion to which the apostle intended us to come. Do you have these characteristics? Are you born again?