The purest goal of a church planter is to help people see their need for transformation, for new life from another realm, for the intervention of the Spirit of God, which is regeneration, which is being born again; then gathering these newly born spiritual children together as ‘church.’ That being the case, and it is, then it behooves the church planter, and the newly developing church, to understand how this spiritual birth happens. What does Jesus mean when He says, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God?”
To understand this often-repeated and equally misunderstood term, let’s read what Jesus said:
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of 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?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?'” (John 3:1-10 ESV)
Jesus said the kingdom of God is entered only through being born again. The kingdom of God is the sphere of salvation; it is the people ruled by God, who have eternal life, and are on their way to Heaven. The only way to enter the kingdom of God is to be born again. That’s the only way. Apart from that, no one enters the kingdom of God.
The point of Jesus analogy is this: being born is not something that you have anything to do with. You didn’t have anything to do with your physical birth, nor do you have anything to do with your spiritual birth. Being born physically is something that happened to you, completely out of your control; and, spiritual birth is something that happens to you completely out of your control. In both cases, God created you by the means of your parents, but nonetheless God created you. Your parents could give you physicality, but only God could create your spirit. In the spiritual sense, being born again is an act of God by which He recreates you. It’s a new birth. And that’s the point. It is the doctrine of regeneration. What is regeneration? It is a term that describes the necessity that a person receive a new birth, a new life, a new nature, a new disposition, a new character, a new mind from God. The person makes no contribution to this.
Regeneration (being born again) is a work of God. Jesus was instructive, simple and basic. There is no reason to misunderstand Jesus’ words. To enter the kingdom of God, whatever it is you may have accomplished morally, religiously, ritually, or ceremonially in terms of human goodness is immaterial, because you can’t contribute anything to your spiritual birth any more than you contributed to your physical birth.
This is the beginning point of being a Christian, of following Jesus: it is spiritual birth. Once a person is born again they now have the capacity to follow Jesus, to be his disciple, to obey obey all He commanded them, to do the works they were created to do. Unfortunately, so many people try to do the work of God without the spiritual capacity to actually do it; working hard to be like Jesus, but unwittingly in their own strength, never having experienced new life from Heaven. And, they don’t realize it. Satan has confused them, blinded them, convincing them that religious activity, biblically moral behavior, kindness, gentleness, etc. is the means to salvation; when, in reality, regeneration is the means to salvation, through faith, resulting in good works.
So, what does it mean to be born again? It means that a person’s focus is not on the their humility, brokenness or faith, but on the need for transformation, for new life from another realm, for the intervention of the Spirit of God.
So, the obvious question is, “Are you born again?” Only you can know if there was a time in your life when you surrendered to the call of God, and in child-like trust you turned to Jesus for your salvation, when you experienced His regenerating work and were born with new life from God.