Introduction

This is another article dealing with a facet of a saving faith – an essential part of a saving faith – that Scripture says must be satisfied in order to have salvation.

Sadly, the issue of being born again seems neglected by much of the church today. Perhaps it sounds too conservative to those eager to swell their numbers. Perhaps it hearkens back to the radical Jesus movement when the question was, “Are you born again?”

Is it possible this isn’t an important issue anymore. Perhaps being born again is something that belonged to an earlier era, or perhaps it was intended only for the Jews. That’s always a good argument for those who don’t want to obey the teachings and commands of Jesus – just claim it is intended only for the Jews.

The Scripture cannot be broken! The issue of being born again is a salvation issue as we will see. It is FUNDAMENTAL to the Christian faith and to a saving faith.

Salvation Issue

Jesus revealed the necessity of being born again during a conversation with Nicodemus, a Pharissee who had secretly come to see him at night. From him we learn what some Jewish leaders thought about Jesus. Nicodemus said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” [1] (John 3:2).   

Jesus did not respond to that, but instead said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).

Is there wriggle room in that statement? Does it refer only to the Jews? Does it belong to some bygone era? Definitely NOT. Jesus said no one. That doesn’t permit the thought that some can see the kingdom of God without being born again. There is nothing that would imply this is a teaching for the Jews only. This is a requirement that applies to all.

Perhaps one could argue, as some doubtless will, that the language “see the kingdom of God” does not mean saved. Considering the plain language in which Jesus spoke, without having the agenda of a contrary doctrine, it would seem impossible to conclude a person could be saved without seeing the kingdom of God.

Being born again is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. Jesus explained, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again” (John 3:6-7). As we will see, when we are born again the Holy Spirit will create in us a new person.

This is a requirement that applies to each and every one of us. This will be proved over and over as we examine scriptures written by Paul and others.

How Is One Born Again?

Let’s first examine just how this supernatural event of being born again occurs. It was obvious Nicodemus didn’t understand because he asked “How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4).

Jesus’ response tells us how this must happen: “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:5-6).

Born of water is explained when Jesus said, “Flesh gives birth to flesh.” Born of the Spirit is explained when Jesus said, “The Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

How then, and when, does the Spirit give birth to spirit?

When we look at John 14:15-16, we learn how (and when) this is accomplished. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” Jesus will ask the Father to give us the Spirit.

Those who claim that all professing Christians are born again and indwelled with the Holy Spirit fail to notice the condition that preceded the promise: “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” There is really one condition stated – that we must love Jesus if we are to receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus says there is a necessary manifestation of our love for him – those who love him will obey what he commands. Proof of that truth is shown in John’s definition of love for God: This is love for God: to obey his commands (1 John 5:3).

Jesus himself gave further proof of the link between love for him and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when he said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:21). Jesus stressed two things. The person who loves him (1) has his commands and (2) obeys them. Naturally those two go together. How could we obey his commands if we do not have them. Once again Jesus linked love for him and obedience to his commands, this time adding having his commands as well as obeying them. Jesus then says something special: those who keep his commands are loved by him and the Father and Jesus will show himself to them.

The prior verses spoke of obeying the commands of Jesus, but Jesus also taught about obeying his teachings: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). Again we see that the result of loving and obeying Jesus is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit because Jesus said “we will come to him and make our home with him.” It is widely believed and accepted (and I agree) that Jesus and the Father make their home with us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Twice Jesus affirmed that those who love him will obey his teachings and his commands.

But what of those who don’t obey Jesus? Jesus spoke to that as well: “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching” (John 14:24).  Think of the innumerable professing Christians who do not obey Jesus. Likely they claim they love Jesus. But Jesus says they do not; those who do not obey his teaching do not love him.

How important is it to love God (the Father, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit)? Jesus said it is the first and most important command. When asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:36-37). If it is important to obey Jesus, it must be extremely important to obey the first and greatest commandment.

Jesus concluded these teachings by revealing the source of his teaching: “These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me” (John 14:24). Jesus’ teachings are the will of God his Father. If we choose to disregard Jesus’ teachings and warnings about loving him and obedience to his teachings and commands, we are in rebellion against the will of God, and we have not been and will not be born again. Further, we cannot be saved because it is only those who do the will of God who will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21). It is the will of God that we be born again.

There is another proof that the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God. Peter and other apostles had been arrested and were before the Sanhedrin defending themselves. Of the Holy Spirit Peter said, “the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32).

What Causes Us To Be Born Again?

We have seen that it is essential that a person love and obey Jesus in order for Jesus to ask the Father to give that person the Holy Spirit (John 14:15). Then we learned that it is those who have and obey Jesus’ commands are the ones who love him (John 14:21). Therein lies the key to what causes us to be born again. What must we have in order that we can have and obey Jesus’ commands?

Peter told us: For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever. And this is the word that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:23-25).

James said the same: He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created (James 1:18).

It is the word of God – the word of truth – that reveals to us the teachings and commands of Jesus so that we may have them. Once we have them, then we can pledge to obey the Lord Jesus, receive the Holy Spirit, and be empowered through the Spirit to obey.

A Personal Testimony

This subject is very personal to me because of what happened to me during my journey in coming to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus. I’ll be brief, but you can find a more complete version at www.bereanpublishers.com | Book: Saving Faith | Prologue.

Though I grew up in a Christian home, I totally left the faith, becoming an agnostic who actually opposed the faith. But after I married Dar things began to change. I began to read the Bible again. This time it seemed different; I had no problem understanding it. Then, months later, I walked downstairs one morning and believed what I hadn’t believed the night before; I believed that the Bible was true and that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Dar’s friends – now my friends – regarded me as a new believer. So did Dar.  So did I.

Months sped by. Before I’d been reading the Bible to discern whether Christianity was true. I no longer read the Bible. I just carried it to church like many of my friends. I enjoyed my new church friends; I abandoned my Newport Beach party crowd. I gave up profanity. But this new lifestyle began to bore me.  I began to wonder if this was all there was to Christianity.

Fortunately for me, the Lord drew me back into Scripture again. This time, seemingly everywhere I read, the word “obey” seemed to jump out at me. I asked my friends at brunch after church about the need to obey. One assured me it was impossible to obey; he said we all sinned hundreds of times every day and that we had only to confess our sins to God and he’d forgive us. I asked about being holy. He assured me that was impossible.

Something didn’t ring true. By that time I knew the Apostle John said that if we continue in sin we don’t know God and have never known him (1 John 3:6). I also remembered that Scripture said that without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). I continued studying Scripture.

One day I had a talk with the Lord. I said, “Lord, it seems to me your Word says you’re to be my Lord and I’m to obey you. I’ve never heard a sermon on that and some of my friends disagree. But you’ve educated me well and I believe your Word says I’m to obey your commands. If obedience is what you want, obedience is what you’ve got. Please be my Lord and I’ll obey you the best I can the rest of my life.”

My life changed! I began to experience love as I’d never imagined it existed. Though my law practice was overloaded with work, I had a sense of peace that I’d never experienced before. As a baby believer, I didn’t know that I was experiencing the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And our marriage changed, all for the better.

My life has not been the same since. That occurred in the late 1970s. I left my law practice in 1982 to serve the Lord full-time wherever he might choose. In the subsequent years we’ve lived three and a half in a motorhome, moved several times, spent six and a half years in New Zealand, and are now living in Surprise, Arizona.

There is no doubt in my mind that I did not have a saving faith before I asked Jesus to be my Lord and committed to obey him. There is also no doubt I did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit; I had not been born again.

Example of Prisoners in China

Excerpted from Chapter Twelve, The Heavenly Man, the remarkable true story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun, with Paul Hattaway, published by Piquant (www.piquant.com).

After I was carried back to my cell, the guard kicked me and shouted, “How dare you speak and eat today after you have been quiet for so long? I will skin you alive! You wait and see!” He slammed the iron door shut as he left the cell.

The cell leader insulted me, “You are a fake! You pretended to be dying every day. I’m alive and well in prison even though I’ve killed and raped women. You came to the prison because you believe in Jesus and you’re dying like a sick dog.”

One of the other prisoners was a Muslim. He snarled at me, “How dare you preach Jesus against our nation’s laws? You deserve to die. The heavenly law will judge pigs like you!”

All the prisoners knew I was very weak and needed to be carried everywhere I went. They hadn’t heard me say one word for many weeks, but when I heard these insults the Holy Spirit came upon me. I stood to my feet, much to their amazement, and proclaimed in a loud voice: “Fellow prisoners, I have a message from my Lord. Please listen carefully!”

Everyone was astonished that I could stand and speak with such power and authority. I was just a bag of bones. They had been placing bets on when I would die, but now I was standing before them speaking with a loud voice!

I told them, “Friends, God sent me here especially for your sake. The day I entered this cell I told you I’m a pastor who believes in Jesus. The first night I sang to you and shared Jesus’ salvation with you all. You have all closely watched me and you know I haven’t taken a single grain of rice or one drop of water for 74 days. I ask you, over several thousand years of history, who has ever seen anyone do this for 74 days and live? Don’t you realize this miracle is a demonstration of God’s mighty power and his protection over me?

“Now my Lord has allowed me to stand before you to let you know that Jesus is the true and living God. How dare you continue in your sin, doing evil things! Friends, when the judgment day comes how do you plan to escape hell? Only Jesus can forgive you!

“This day the Lord has mercy on your and offers you an opportunity to repent and receive forgiveness of your sins. All of you should kneel down before Jesus Christ, confess your sins, and ask God to forgive you. How else will you escape the punishment of hell?”

After I spoke it was as though a bomb dropped on the men! They couldn’t help themselves. The cell leader was the first to come and fall on his knees. He cried out, “Yun, what must I do to be saved?”

The other prisoners also knelt down, including the Muslim. They cried out in a loud voice, “What must we do to be saved? How can we be forgiven by God?” Every one of those sin-hardened men received the Lord Jesus Christ, repenting of their sins with many tears.

They also felt guilty for the way they had treated me. I forgive them in the same way that Joseph forgave his brothers. I encouraged them by saying, “You intended to harm me, But God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20.

Because we didn’t have much water available, I used a few drops to baptize each one of them.

A prison guard in the hallway outside our cell heard the commotion and rushed to the door. He stood rooted to the floor for several minutes without saying a word, totally amazed at what he witnessed.

The entire atmosphere in the cell was drastically transformed. These sin-hardened men now had new tender hearts. Their language and behavior totally changed. Previously hatred and selfishness reigned in cell number two. Now joy and peace reigned.

For days the men walked around with tears in their eyes, amazed at how the Lord had poured out his mercy on them. When they were allowed into the yard they took every opportunity to share the gospel with prisoners from the other cells. In this way the gospel was preached throughout the prison and many repented and believed in the Lord!

Necessity

Is it necessary to have the Holy Spirit in order to be saved? If it is not, all the preceding discussion is irrelevant. To determine this issue, we look to Paul who discussed this in detail as he talked about how to be set free from the sinful nature:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2).

Paul says we must be in Christ Jesus if we are to be saved – not condemned. Then he tells us why: “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Paul speaks about the law of the Spirit of life. Is the Spirit of life the same as the Holy Spirit? Paul continues:

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God (Romans 8:5-8).

Paul sets up the contrast of those who live according to the sinful nature (our natural selves) vs. those who live in accordance with the Spirit. Then he contrasts the result of those two different lifestyles: The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. Paul is talking about spiritual death (condemnation by God) vs. life in God through Christ Jesus as Lord.

Then Paul gives the unmistakable bottom line: You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9). By implication, if the Holy Spirit does not live in you, you are controlled by the sinful nature resulting in death. Those who have the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit) belong to Christ.

We see that having the Holy Spirit live in us is absolutely necessary for salvation. We see how that is perfectly consistent with what Jesus said about being born again – that we will not see the kingdom of God unless we are born again (John 3:3).

Born Again – A Supernatural Birth

Before Jesus was born, the virgin Mary was supernaturally made pregnant when she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18). In that case, the Holy Spirit supplied the equivalent of the male sperm that united with the egg in Mary’s womb to create the incarnate Christ Jesus.

Likewise, we are supernaturally born again, spiritually not physically, when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us. I think of the Holy Spirit regenerating our spirit to create a new person, a new creature as Scripture says. God is the father of our new spirit (Hebrews 12:9). To be born again and a new creature, the Holy Spirit must regenerate our spirit.

We have seen that we cannot be in Christ unless we have the Holy Spirit living in us. Paul related being in Christ to being born again: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Paul contrasted the believer’s former self, his former way of life with the new self:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Paul adds a new fact about being born again. The born again person with a new self has been created to be like God. He then explains the characteristics of the person who has a new self. Such a person is to live in true righteousness and holiness, the characteristics of God, our spiritual Father. Note the personal responsibility Paul assigns the born again person. We are to put off our old self; we are to put on the new self.

Paul corroborates that same teaching to the Colossians, perhaps warning them that they can slip into habits of the old self: “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9-10).

God and the Lord Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, come to indwell those who have committed to obey the commands of the Lord Jesus because of their love for him. Those same people have continuing responsibilities after the new birth. Paul instructs them: “put off your old self,” and to “put on the new self.” He exhorts them to live a holy life because “you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self.” Paul makes it clear that believer’s personal responsibilities continue after having been born again.

The person is composed of body, soul, and spirit. When we are born again, the Holy Spirit creates in us a new spirit (John 3:6) of which God is the Father (Hebrews 12:9). But our body and soul were not made new. We have the same body and the same soul. But now we have the obligation to put off the old self (soul) and put on the new self (soul) that will reflect the change that has taken place in our spirit.

Death to Self

Perhaps the reason being born again is repulsive to many is the corollary that the old self must die. Few seem willing to cause their old selves to die.  Yet that is what true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ are called to do.

Paul referred to this in many ways in different letters to different churches. To the Romans Paul urged, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2). The picture is of a body being laid on an altar and sacrificed. Somehow, while remaining physically alive, we are to sacrifice our old self and put on the new self through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Paul told Timothy, his son in the faith, “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him” (2 Timothy 2:11). By implication, if we do not die with him we will not live with him. That implies that dying to self is a salvation requirement.

Paul presumed the believers knew they must die to self and sin: “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:2-4). Even our baptism is symbolic of our death to self and to sin so that we too may live a new life. Note that Paul said, “in order that” implying that our baptism into death is necessary in order for us to live a new life.

Jesus taught, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24).  That statement could have a dual meaning. One may refer to loss of physical life. Sadly, there are those who will compromise their faith in order to not die physically for the Lord Jesus. They may deny him to save themselves, but if they deny him to save themselves, Jesus said they will lose their (eternal) life. The application for all of us is that we must be willing to lose our self-life – die to self – so we can find the new life in our Lord Jesus. Those who die to self will also be willing to die physically rather than deny their Lord.

Paul shows that if we live according to our sinful nature the result will be spiritual death:

“For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:13-14). Again it is implied that in order to live we must put to death the misdeeds of the body. Notice it is “by the Spirit” that we are to do that. Paul reminds us that those who are “led by the Spirit” are sons of God, implying that those who are not led by the Spirit are not the sons of God.

God As Our Father

God fathered each true Christian with new spiritual life through the Holy Spirit, creating a new person. You’ll remember that Jesus asked the Father to give the Holy Spirit to those who love him and obey his commands.

Jesus told us that God is jealous of his relationship as our Father. Jesus said, “Do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9).

Considering that command, doesn’t it perplex you what happens in some churches? For example, in the Roman Catholic Church people are encouraged to call the priest “father.” How can this be? The command could hardly be more clear: “Do not call anyone on earth ‘father.'” This is a direct violation of Jesus’ command as told him by his Father (See John 8:28, 12:49-50, 14:10, 14:24, 14:31).

Jesus emphasized our Father/child relationship with God when he taught us to pray, saying “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). Our relationship with God as our Father is to be acknowledged each time we pray. How wonderful to acknowledge that we have a Father – the Almighty God – who is in heaven.

In the time of Jesus, more so than now, one’s father was very important. The Jews considered Abraham their father. Yet the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus. Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. . . . You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:42-44).

Jesus qualified his condemnation by saying that if God were their Father, they would love him. Let’s think about the present time. We’ve learned that to love the Lord Jesus means to obey him. Are most of those attending Christian churches much better than the Pharisees of Jesus’ time? No, they don’t claim to want to kill Jesus; they claim to love him. But do they obey him? Rarely is obedience to the teachings and commands of Jesus taught in our churches even though Jesus specifically commanded us to teach new disciples to obey all that he commanded his disciples (Matthew 28:20). Who is your Father? Is it God or is it the devil? If God is your Father, you love and obey him. If you don’t love and obey God, your father is the devil.

Can you imagine the awesomeness of having Almighty God want, no insist, that we call him Father, and him alone? That really makes clear to me the personal relationship that we’re able to have with our God and that God wants to have with us.

Fruit Of the Spirit

How do we know we have the indwelling Holy Spirit? It concerns me that we can try to appear different, and succeed to some extent, because we now profess Christianity. If we have never experienced the fruit of the Spirit, we might not know that it was our efforts that were making us appear different than we’d been before, though in our private moments our thoughts would likely be little different than before.

The fruit of the Spirit is different; it is involuntary. We don’t self-generate it. It just appears – the evidence of the presence of the indwelling Spirit.

Paul identified the fruit of the Spirit in his letter to the Galatians:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

Nothing seemed to happen immediately when I submitted my life to Jesus as my Lord and committed to obey him the best I could the rest of my life. But in the next hours and days I began to notice that things were different. I had a peace that I’d never known before. I began to experience love for others that was new to me. But I noticed the joy most because it felt as if I had a little joy machine in my belly producing joy that radiated throughout my whole being. Dar and I were walking one morning when I asked her if she could see anything coming out of the pores of the skin on my arms. She looked at me very strangely, said, “No, why do you ask?” I responded, “I’ve got so much joy in me it’s got to be coming out somewhere.”

Since then I’ve noted that when I’m walking very close to the Lord, my joy levels are very high, as are also my experiences with peace and love. But if I’ve become careless, not regularly in the Word for substantial times, I sense lessened joy and peace and love.

Experience shows us that many people who may have had a good start in Christianity grow lukewarm in their faith, and then cold, sometimes leaving the faith entirely. Paul also observed that and warned, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (Galatians 5:24-56). Paul wrote that immediately after telling us about the fruit of the Spirit. He was obviously warning us about the danger of going back to living in the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

Paul confirmed what we saw before, that we are to die to the old self – here he describes it as “crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” He further confirmed what we saw about personal responsibility after becoming a believer, saying that we must keep in step with the Spirit. Finally he recited sins of the sinful nature that would pull us away from our life by the Spirit – the new self.

Changed Kingdoms

When Dar and I moved to New Zealand we did so as resident aliens. A resident alien is someone who is not a citizen but who has permission to remain indefinitely if certain requirements are met.

Most of us know about aliens, sometimes illegal aliens, who come into the United States without permission. Illegal aliens are subject to deportation. Oftentimes lawful aliens are not treated with the same respect as a citizen. Even resident aliens (those in the country lawfully) may be deported if they commit crimes against the country.

When we are born again, we have a new Father, Almighty God himself, and we become citizens in a different Kingdom. As citizens of God’s Kingdom, we likely retain the citizenship in the country in which we live, but we have actually changed loyalties. We are now citizens of a different political system – a theocracy – headed by the Lord Jesus Christ who is our King and God.

The world, as we have known it before, is now alien to us and we to it. We no longer have the same interests or passions or desires that made the world attractive to us before. God views the world – which is under the control of Satan (1 John 5:19) – as evil and antagonistic to himself. Those who love the world are enemies of God. James phrased it this way:

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God (James 4:4).

The Apostle John contrasted the two kingdoms this way:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:15-17).

If a person loves the world, or has friendship with the world, he loves a kingdom headed by the evil one – Satan, God’s enemy. If one views the issue as two competing kingdoms, it is easy to see why one becomes an enemy of God when he chooses to have friendship with God’s enemy or loves the enemies’ kingdom. I just read that the United States has a law that makes it treason to give aid and comfort to our enemies. Isn’t that what we may be doing if we love the world? God also considers it treason!

Changed Life

As you may imagine, and as we can see as we observe the nations on the earth, each nation’s laws, customs, foods, sports, national goals, etc., are different from other countries. That is what makes countries unique and gives them their own culture.

So it is with the Kingdom of God. The “culture” of God’s Kingdom, headed by his son, King Jesus, is quite different. The culture of God’s Kingdom is focused on obedience to the King and the citizens of the kingdom are known for the love they have for one another. The laws of the Kingdom are the teachings and commands of King Jesus. In order to be, and remain, a citizen in good standing of God’s Kingdom, a person must be, and continue to be, loyal to the King and to love the King. Love for the King, according to the dictates of the Kingdom, is to obey the teachings and commands of the King.

We have seen that we are born (again) into the Kingdom of God through the supernatural indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle John told us of another way the citizens of God’s Kingdom are different than those who are not: “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him” (1 John 5:18). Paul told the Ephesians that citizens of the Kingdom of God were created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24).

The Sinful Nature and the New Life Are Incompatible

Jesus taught by illustration how incompatible the new life is from our prior sinful nature:

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:16-17).

Before we come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus our lives are like the old garment and the old wineskin. They have both been worn and used. The garment has been shrunk; the wineskin has been stretched.

When the Holy Spirit creates a new spirit in us when we are born again, we have been newly created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Our old life was governed by our sinful nature leading to death. We cannot successfully put the new spirit, empowered by the Holy Spirit, into our old sinful nature and think we will be alright. Our old sinful nature cannot please God; our new nature is to be like God. Jesus said, “pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” So we must sacrifice our old selves on the altar – die to self – and combine our new spirits with new selves to create new creatures in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Many Are Denied Permanent Citizenship

Dar and I had to fulfill the rules and requirements of New Zealand as resident aliens, and to fulfill other rules in order to become citizens.

The Kingdom of God has its own rules that we must follow if we would continue to be citizens of God’s Kingdom. Jesus told about the requirement that we bear fruit. He said,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” (John 15:5-6).

Note that all the people Jesus is talking about in this illustration are initially in him. They begin attached to him as branches to a vine. Jesus is not talking about unbelievers who have no relationship with him. Jesus taught we are to bear fruit and remain in our King. If we do not, we will be cut off, thrown away and wither, then picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

King Jesus stressed the necessity that we be productive citizens in another parable he told about a fig tree that didn’t produce fruit. God looked for fruit on this tree, but didn’t find any even after three years. God ordered the tree to be cut down, but King Jesus interceded and asked for the right to work with the tree to see if it could be saved and get it to produce fruit. But King Jesus agreed that the tree must be cut down if it didn’t produce fruit the next year (Luke 13:6-9). That tree could be you or me if we do not produce the fruit God demands of those in his kingdom.  That parable teaches that we have only a finite amount of time to satisfy God’s demand that we bear fruit.

Many countries deport people lawfully in the country if they do illegal acts or act in some way contrary to the best interests of the country. In the United States we infrequently hear of a person being deported because of something they’ve done.

Jesus alluded to the same thing when he said, “Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 7:17-19).  Those who produce bad fruit – live according to their sinful nature – are bad trees. Jesus said a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. It should be cut down and thrown into the fire (or deported from the Kingdom).

Conclusion

Perhaps all the facets of a saving faith are in someway included within the facet of being born again. If one is not born again, none of them can apply. It is only when a person is indwelled with the Holy Spirit that there is the desire and ability to satisfy the various facets of a saving faith.

When we have and obey the teachings and commands of Jesus, we satisfy the facet that requires that we do the will of God (Matthew 7:21). When we have and obey the teachings and commands of Jesus, we satisfy the requirement that our righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law (Matthew 5:20). And so it seems with the other facets of a saving faith. They are all wonderfully intertwined so that fulfillment of one facet causes or makes possible fulfillment of others.

The born again person is the citizen of another country, not of this world, but of heaven. If he wishes to retain citizenship in that country, he is obliged to be obedient to the rules and laws of that country. In God’s kingdom those laws are known as the teachings and commands of its king – the Lord Jesus Christ – the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

Citizenship in God’s kingdom is not passive. Scripture teaches we must produce good fruit. If we do not produce good fruit, we are liable to be cut off from the King, to be left to wither, then be gathered up and thrown into the fire.

The majority of the people in the United States claim to be Christian, but according to surveys taken by Barna, only a small percentage of those professing to be Christians actually live according to the standards of the Kingdom. Jesus warned: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Jonathan Edwards, in his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” said, “Thus all you that were never born again, and made new creatures, raised from being dead in sin to a state of new light and life, are in the hands of an angry God.”

No matter what you have been taught or heard, there is no salvation, no saving faith, for those who have not been born again. If you have not been born again, bow your knee in submission to the Lord Jesus Christ as his bond servant, with sincerity and resolve pledge to obey him the best you can the rest of your life, and he will ask the Father to give you the Holy Spirit! Then study the Gospels to know and obey the teachings and commands of your Lord.


Footnotes:


[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Jn 3:3). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.