12. Am I ‘born again’? (Part 1 of the born again series.)

Wait! Don’t shy away from asking yourself this important question in this last hour, to know whether you will be Raptured to heaven, before the Tribulation. “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” ( John 3:3) It is a term that has often been misunderstood and misinterpreted by many. The Episcopals have misunderstood it to be doctrine of the Pentecostals, not realising that these are the words of Jesus himself, while the Pentecostals have misinterpreted it as baptism in water. Not even Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council and Israel’s teacher, understood what Jesus meant. Hence Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3: 5-7) The most common reply to the above question is that they were baptized in water as a child or as an adult but that is not the response that was asked for, rather their experience before taking the water baptism! The question, in Paul’s own words would be : “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” ( Acts 19:2) Receiving once again the presence of the Holy Spirit which left Adam and Eve, when they sinned and spiritually died, is the sum and substance of being born again. And with that he breathed on them and said, “Re (means once again) -ceive ( means get) the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22) That became the standard by which the Apostles assessed a believer and not by the claims of healing and prosperity one might have received after turning to Christ.

The three moments in time when the disciples of Jesus were baptized, as documented in Scriptures are:-

1. Some, after they literally met with the Messiah. ‘The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” And he brought him to Jesus. ( John 1:41-42) ‘Jesus and his disciples went into the countryside where he spent some time with them and baptized ( John 3:22) ‘Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although infact it was not Jesus who baptized but his disciples.’ (John 4:1-2)

2. Some, after they heard the gospel on the day of Pentecost and were cut to heart by the Holy Spirit and asked, “What shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Those that accepted the message was baptized and about three thousand were added to their number that day.( Acts 2:37-41)

3. Some, after they heard the gospel and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. ‘While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message … Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized in the water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.’ (Acts 10:44-48)

Which of these three was the premise for your baptism? A physical encounter with Christ ? Or were cut to heart by the Holy Spirit after hearing the gospel? Or received the baptism in the Holy Spirit after hearing the gospel? Of course, no one has had a physical encounter with Christ, since his days on earth but there might be those who have had a vision of Christ, like Paul on the road to Damascus, but even then, he was baptized only after having received the Holy Spirit, when Ananias placed his hands on him. ‘Placing his hands on Saul, he said,” Brother Saul, the Lord … has sent me so that you may … be filled with the Holy Spirit … He got up and was baptized..’ (Acts 9:17-18) If you haven’t experienced any of these, then you probably are not born again and had no premise for taking the water baptism, as a child or as an adult and it won’t save you because we are saved by faith alone and not by works.

What must I do to be born again? First of all we need to realise that rebirth is a mystery and nothing short of a miracle, which happens in His time. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” ( John 3:8) On the day of Pentecost, the wind blew and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and the wind has been blowing ever since throughout the Church age. ‘Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting ... All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit …’ ( Acts 2:2-4) ‘Then Peter stood up with the eleven and raised his voice and addressed the crowd … “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to heart and said to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, “Brothers what shall we do?” Peter replied, “REPENT and be BAPTIZED …” (Acts 2:14-38) There is yet another term that comes before these two which Peter didn’t say because it was understood without being said. “Repent and BELIEVE the good news.” (Mark 1:15) Therefore the three key words, in their right order should be :-

1. Believe

2. Repent

3. Be Baptized.

How can you repent unless you believe and why should you be baptized unless you repent? Nevertheless, it happens all the time when people miss out on the first two and hurry up to get baptized because they were told that it would solve all their problems. Simon the Sorcerer believed and was baptized (Acts 8:12) but did not repent. Therefore Peter had to tell him, “Repent … For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” ( Acts 8:22-23) Baptism alone will not save anyone whereas those who believe and repent will be saved, though not baptized! The salvation of the thief on the cross, is an eloquent testimony of this timeless truth that salvation is by faith alone and not by works. ( He would have received the baptism, had he been alive. However, his death on the cross with Christ was more meaningful than the ritual that baptism symbolises.) Moreover, it is in agreement with what Paul and Silas told the jailer in Philippi, in reply to his question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved – you and your household.” … then immediately he and all his family were baptized.’ (Acts 16:31-33)

What hinders us from being born again? The Holy Spirit comes to impart the righteousness of Jesus but our self- righteousness is what hinders him. Speaking of the Israelites, Paul said: ‘Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.’ ( Romans 10:3) But speaking of himself, Paul said : “Whatever was to my profit, I count it a loss for the sake of Christ … I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law but that which is through faith in Christ- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.’ ( Philippians 3:7-9) Speaking of this righteousness, Jesus said: ‘For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5:20) Just as the filthy rags of prodigal son was stripped and he was clothed with the best robe ( Luke 15:22), so let’s be stripped of our self-righteousness and be clothed with the robe of Jesus ‘for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.’ ( Galatians 3:27) Amen.

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