John 3:3—Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
This scripture comes from a conversation between a Pharisee named Nicodemus, and Jesus. In saying this, Jesus is giving the deciding factor of a soul entering into Heaven. Jesus tells Nicodemus that a man must be born again. He does not speak concerning a rebirthing of the flesh, but that of the Spirit.
The truth is, no one may enter into Heaven unless he is born again. In a nutshell, to be born again, a man must become a new creature. Old things must pass away, and all things must become new (2nd Corinthians 5:17). This work is purely, 100%, without condition, the work of God the Father alone. No one may cause his or her own rebirth. No child is born (as in the natural birth) of his own accord. The parents must choose to act in procreation to bring forth a child. In the same manner, God acts in a man's being born again and him becoming one of His children. No free will or decision from a man can cause him to be born again.
So, how can a man born of the flesh be reborn? After all, if a light is turned on, it cannot be turned on again. Likewise, if a man is alive, he cannot be made alive again. Simply put, man is a corpse. He can do nothing of himself to attain to the things of God. He cannot live, breathe, walk, desire, see, hear, or even understand the things of God. In Paul's words, man is, "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). Therein lies the secret to the rebirth. God, in His mercy shown to those whom He desires to show mercy (Romans 9:18), quickens, or revives the corpse into a new creation. Man is born into death, but God, through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross, makes man come alive and born again through salvation from sin and Hell into eternal life. Again, this is not by the works of the man (Ephesians 2:8-9), but solely the act of God. A corpse cannot will itself to live.
When God causes a man to be born again, He does something rather miraculous. Detailed by the prophet Ezekiel, God said, "A new heart I will also give you, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36:26-27). This is a regeneration, or a recreation (rebirthing) of the man into an improved state. With this new heart and new spirit, the man will have repentance for his sins. He will take on new desires. It is written in the Psalter, "Delight yourself also in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4). A regenerated man, or a born again Christian will delight himself in the Lord, and the Lord will give him the desires of his heart. These desires will be on par with the desires of God, and work for the glory of God and not the wants of the man. The man's desires will be in accordance with God's desires.
The concept of being born again is, like predestination, tough to understand. God chooses that His children be born again, so that He may be the first and only cause of a man's salvation. It may seem harsh or even offensive, but it is necessary to possess a true reverence for God the Father. It says in the Proverbs that, "The fear (or reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10), God gives us His perfect Law (i.e. the Ten Commandments) so that we may know what sin is (Romans 7:7) and that sin may become exceeding sinful (Romans 7:13). It is this preparation, or humbling, of the heart that tills the way for the seed of the gospel to be sown in good, rich soil. A heart of good soil will be fertile for accepting the gospel of Christ paying the price of our sins through the shedding of His blood on the cross, so that His chosen ones, who are born again, may pass from death to eternal life. Good, fertile soil will nourish even a tiny mustard seed into the greatest of the trees (Mark 4:31-32).
The question now is this: Are you born again?
If you were to die today, what would be God's words to you as you stand before Him in judgement? Would it be, "Well done you good and faithful servant... Enter into the joy of your lord" (Matthew 25:21, 23), or would it be, "I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity" (Matthew 7:23)?
To find out, you need to see yourself in the reflection of God's holy law. Let's examine some (how about six?) of the Ten Commandments. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen anything regardless of its value? Have you ever committed adultery? Better yet, have you ever looked at another person through eyes of lust? That is the same as adultery, as Jesus said, "whoever looks at a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). Have you ever murdered another person? Most of you out there have not killed anyone, but did you know that Jesus, in comparison to murder, said, "whoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment" (Matthew 5:22). Have you ever used the Lord's name in vain, or as a curse? That is called blasphemy. Have you ever dishonored your father or your mother?
If you answered, "Yes," to any of the above questions, then you have broken God's law, for James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole law, and yet offends in one point, he is guilty of all." Breaking even one commandment means you are guilty of breaking all of God's laws. That is because, "whatever things the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Romans 3:19). "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). So, are you guilty? With God's law as the standard, do you think you will go to Heaven? After all, "the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (1st Corinthians 6:9-10). With a guilty verdict upon you, what do you think that God's judgement should be for you? Do you think that you will have your part in the lake which burns with fire (Revelation 21:8)?
Did you know that, even though such a punishment is just and fitting for the guilty, your debt has been paid, if you are born again? You see, "the law was our school-master to bring us to Christ, so that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24). "For [God] has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2nd Corinthians 5:21). "He himself bore our sins in his own body on the [cross], so that we, being dead to sins, should live to righteousness" (1st Peter 2:24). Jesus Christ came to call sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13). Confess your sins to God, for, "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1st John 1:9). The weight of our sins, coupled with knowing that, because of our unbelief, the wrath of God abides upon us (John 3:36), should drive us to the feet of Christ, "for godly sorrow works [repentance] to salvation" (2nd Corinthians 7:10). "The LORD is near to those who are of a broken heart, and saves those who are of a contrite spirit" (Psalm 34:18). Repent of your sins and turn yourself to Christ, wholly trusting in Him as your Savior.
If you understand and have answered this call to salvation, if you see your need to call upon the Savior ("whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be delivered" (Amos 2:32)), you are born again. "Confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, and you shall be saved" (Romans 10:9, paraphrased). Seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Engage in a relationship with God through prayer and the daily reading and studying of his word in the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 8:3). Fellowship with other believers (Acts 2:42). Tell others about the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15), preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47). Amen.