Born again or a Born-again?
Written by Joy A. Adewumi
Okay, now read that title again and spot the difference.
Wait! Before we barge on, where did this particular phrase, ‘born again’, even come from, in the first place? Let me jog your memory. Remember Hon. Nicodemus, the night crawler who came to Jesus to ask about the way of salvation. Do you remember Christ’s reply to him in John 3:3?
Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’ – John 3:3 (NIV)
Now, what does it mean to be born again?
Let’s simply say you’re born again when you experience that spiritual rebirth that takes place at the point of accepting the life of Christ and turning a new leaf at repentance. Now, that said, where then did the ‘born-again’ appellative come from. I mean, you must have heard people brandish that phrase ‘born again’ like it’s some title or honour badge. Well, that’s probably because it is so for them.
Today, though heartbreaking, the truth stands that many people who think they are born again are actually ‘born-agains’ and do not even realise it. Unfortunately, the grave consequences that await those who aren’t born again also await them and they are probably not aware of this. This is why it is expedient to read this article through to the end and evaluate yourself, as Paul said, “if ye be in the faith”; and in this context, check if you are born again or a born-again.
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? – 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)
I’ll draw a contrast to make this easy.
Below, I’ll give certain parameters by which you can identify which of the categories you belong to.
The Evidence of a New Life
You see, when you talk about being born again, even in the literal sense, it should evoke thoughts of a new beginning. A fresh start. A new life. Now, that’s exactly what happens when anyone comes to the heavenly Father in repentance. Such person gives up the old life of sinfulness and disobedience to God’s precepts to pick up a new life of fellowship with the Father and compliance with His perfect and sovereign will. Thus, it is absolutely impossible that life would go on as it used to. Yea, physically, he is still the same man, but the inward nature that influences the outward character has changed and so, in the real sense of speaking, what makes up His core has changed. He is a new man, from every angle.
This brings to mind, the scripture verse, 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
However, as you must have guessed, when a person is just a ‘born-again’ rather than being actually born again, the evidence of a new life as earlier explained and proven by the Holy Scriptures is conspicuously missing. It is thus incredulous when a man claims to be born again but doesn’t have a new life because it is not repentance, if there’s no change. Examine yourself, reader dearest, if you be in the faith.
Reality versus Title
For a true believer who is actually born again, he walks in that reality constantly. Being born again was not just a one-time thing that happened when he answered an altar call some time ago. He practices it, breathes it, lives it and manifests it. He didn’t just go through the motions of giving his life to Christ some years ago and now wears it like a title all around. Being born again is not a qualification you get and can hold unto throughout your life even if you never work a day of your life with it.
A person who passes the Nigerian Bar Exam and is called to bar will be a lawyer till the end of his life (except he does something to have his title revoked), even if he never steps a foot in a courtroom for the rest of his life after getting called. Another person who completes her MBBS exams and gets a medical license will always have the doctor title and be accorded the same honour as a practising one ( except she is found guilty of a misconduct that could have her license revoked) even if she never steps foot in a healthcare centre for the rest of her life. However, it doesn’t work that way for a person who becomes born again.
When one becomes born again, he starts a new life and keeps living that new life till he comes face-to-face with the Father to whom he was reconciled. However, the moment he reverts back to the old life or stops living the life that was purchased for him at a great price, he becomes a born-again (title) rather than being actually born again (reality).
See what the scriptures say in John 8:31.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye CONTINUE in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed. – John 8:31 (KJV)
Old Glory versus Daily Renewal
You know that statement about a person or institution dwelling or thriving on old glory? Yes, that is the case for some born-agains. Actually, not many born-agains started out so. Some, in fact, began as genuine born again believers, however because they didn’t realise or failed to employ the pattern of daily renewal, somewhere along the line, they became born-agains rather than being born again. They dwell on the old glory of years ago when they first got saved, they forgot Paul the apostle’s testimony and admonition to ‘die daily’.
I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. – 1 Corinthians 15:31 (NKJV)
If there ever was a bible Christian to form hard guy with the Christian race, it could have been Paul the Apostle, but this same man, with his depth of conviction and intimacy with Divinity, said, ‘I die daily.’ If he died daily, then he had to be reborn daily too. This is going by another testimony of his Galatians 2:20, where he confessed to being crucified with Christ, but still has Christ living inside him.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. – Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)
If you will maintain the reality of being born again and won’t be relegated to the born-again section, you have to renew that experience, daily and keep it fresh. This doesn’t mean you have to answer an altar call everyday, rather it means you have to examine your life in the light of who a true believer is, daily, to make sure you are indeed still living the reality of a reborn believer. The moment you leave such beautiful experience in the past and decide to go on with your life only to make referral to some donkey years ago when you raised your hand to answer an altar call, whenever your salvation is being questioned, I’m sorry, you just might be a born-again, rather being born again. So, do well, to look inwards and see where you stand.
Sheep or Stray?
Do you have an intimate fellowship with God? Do you enjoy koinonia with Divinity? Do you recognize the voice of your Shepherd and does He recognize yours? Are you a sheep or a stray? Let me break this one down. A sheep knows its shepherd and vice versa. A sheep stays in the fold and does not lose sight of the shepherd’s feet. Where the shepherd goes, he goes and what the shepherd instructs, he obeys. A stray on the other hand is always wandering away from the flock. It is always getting into trouble because he is not acquainted with the shepherd’s voice.
As I explained earlier, while this ‘stray-dom’ has been the reality for some people since the moment they believed they gave their lives to Christ, for some others, it happened along the way. When you say you’re born again but do not have a real relationship with God, your words contradict themselves. At salvation, when we are reborn, we are reconciled from the old life of sin and depravity to the new life Christ gave for us at Calvary. Being reconciled to someone means though you were once estranged, you’ve settled the scores between you and now have a working and cordial relationship. However, if you don’t have a relationship with God, how then can you say you are born again?
While some never had a relationship in the first place, some other lost touch along the line and slid back into estrangement with the Father. Now, what exactly do I mean by relationship? How do you know you have a relationship with God? It’s simple. Are the communication lines between you and Divinity open and functional? Do you enjoy companionship with the Spirit of God? Can you distinguish God’s voice in the multitude of your thoughts? Do you yearn for His presence and hang on to His word? Hear what Leonard Ravenhill has to say on this matter in his book, Why Revival Tarries: “People who do not pray are straying.”
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. – John 10:27 (NKJV)
If yes, then you understand that like every other relationship, intimacy with God is built not in one day and certainly not on the two minutes prayer you murmur at dawn before charging into the day’s tasks without a whisper from you till you are about to hit the sack at night and mumble another three minutes prayer.
I would, of course, know because this was me some time ago. I would look around at other vibrant Christians and wonder what I was doing wrong. There were times I wasn’t even sure I was a Christian and drew consolation from the fact that I was an active member and worker in a fellowship. I didn’t realise that like every other relationship I had, fellowship with God is dynamic and vibrant not static or by rote. I didn’t realise to live and enjoy the Christian life, it meant showing up constantly and consistently in the secret place and developing a rapport that can only be gotten through continued effective communication – speaking and listening.
Men and brethren, the day I realised my ignorance and rose up to the challenge was the day I moved from born-again-always-doubting-her-salvation to being actually born again and knowing what I have is real. It’s real because I experience it daily when I seat at the Master’s feet like His favorite that I am and we commune as friend with friend. More so, I realised that luke-warmness thrives where intimacy is absent, a man who is constantly in the presence of God however will be ablaze for God! Glory!
When last did you think of eternity? Does the thought of eternity have any bearing at all on your thoughts, actions, words, reactions, motives, choices and decisions? Do you act in reverential fear of what eternity might hold for you when you do certain things? It is simple and undebatable. How conscious you are of eternity determines whether you are born again or a born-again!
If the thought of the two eternal destinations has no bearing on your manner of life, then you’re unconscious of eternity and this is a not-very-subtle sign that you are not in the faith and are a born-again if at all you claim to be born again. A genuine believer thinks of heaven. He considers heaven in all his decisions and ponders on the implications any line of action he takes might have on his journey to that Promised Land. He doesn’t throw caution into the wind and take God’s grace for granted by deliberately going into sin over and over, leveraging on the fact that God is ever merciful.
What he sees, hears, thinks and does show he is a man on a mission. He knows the rapture could take place at any time and lives like it, because to him, more than any other thing in the world, making heaven is most important. After all, “what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” He doesn’t play around with weighty matters of his pilgrimage to heaven and he would rather lose opportunities than chance getting them at the expense of a peaceful and rewarding eternity.
To this end, I give you Paul’s charge:
But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. – 1 Peter 4:7 (NKJV)
Dear reader, the question is simple, ‘Are you eternity-conscious?’ I suppose that would answer the question that asks if you are born again or a born-again.
I will enjoin you to read through these points over and over and examine where you stand with God. This is because wherever you stand, whether as a born again Christian or as a born-again, there are consequences here on earth and in eternity.
If at this junction, you’ve realised that your standing in the faith is not quite right or is shaky, I’ll have you know it is not too late, in fact, there is no better time than now to retrace your steps to the Cross and renew your stance in Christ. The enabling grace of God be with us all. Amen.
As I close this article, I’ll leave you with the words of the greatest apostle that ever traipsed Planet Earth in 2 Timothy 2:19.
Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” – 2 Timothy 2:19 (NKJV)