What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?

How Can I Be Reborn?

“No one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.”

What the heck does that mean? People who ask you, “Have you been born again?” think that they’ve got it all figured out . . . and that you probably don’t. But there’s no need to argue with them.

When Jesus spoke these words about being born again, he followed them up by talking about being “born of the spirit.” He was talking about spiritual rebirth.

What does that mean?

It means becoming a new person.

We all have our faults and flaws. Some of them are obvious, some are hidden. When we engage in them knowingly and intentionally, they are called “sins.” The only way we can become reborn as a new person is to stop engaging in wrong and hurtful desires, thoughts, and actions, and start living from new and better motives and views of life.

This requires a lifelong process of learning, self-examination, prayer, and a conscious effort to put our old self off and our new self on. Rebirth may start with the conversion experience that some people call being “born again,” but it then continues for the rest of our life.

Born Again?

One fine night about two thousand years ago a Pharisee named Nicodemus snuck out to see Jesus. Unlike most of the Jewish leaders, he liked Jesus. In fact he proceeded to butter him up with fine words about how Jesus truly was a teacher from God, and yada yada.

Jesus ignored the flattery. He had no time to waste, and got right into the advanced teaching:

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.”

Nicodemus asked, “How can anyone be born after becoming old? Can someone enter a second time into the mother’s womb to be born?”

“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, but what is born of the spirit is spirit.” (John 3:3–6)

Clearly, Nicodemus didn’t know what Jesus was talking about. And Christians have been debating it ever since.

It should at least be clear that Jesus is talking about spiritual rebirth.

But what exactly is that?

Spiritual rebirth: a step-by-step guide

We could debate the opinions of various Christian churches. But you and I have no time to waste either. So let’s dig right into what Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) says about how to be born again and become a new, spiritual person.

Swedenborg wrote extensively about what it means to be reborn. He also gave a quick, step-by-step rundown of what we have to do to be reborn:

If we want to be saved, we have to recognize our faults and regret them.

We recognize our faults when we learn what sorts of things are wrong, see them in ourselves, admit them, take responsibility for them, and criticize ourselves for them. When we do this in front of God, we are recognizing our faults.

We regret our faults when, once we have admitted them and asked with a humble heart for help in giving them up, we stop acting on them and start living a new life in harmony with the rules of kindness and faith. (New Jerusalem 159–161)

Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.

1. Learn what is right and wrong

Before we can change our lives for the better, we have to know the difference between right and wrong. Otherwise, how would we know what’s broken and needs fixing?

This isn’t something we can just do once and be done. Learning the basics, such as the Ten Commandments, is a good start. But we need to keep taking more “advanced classes” throughout our lives. Why? Because we’re always facing new, different, deeper, and more complex issues in life, and each one requires new and deeper understanding of right and wrong.

We always need to engage our minds in seeking out new ideas, new understanding, new spiritual truth. We can do this in whatever way works best for us. The important thing is: never stop learning!

2. See what is wrong in ourselves

Once we’ve learned something about what’s right and wrong, it’s tempting to turn our critical gaze outward and see what’s wrong with everyone else. That’s easy! Unfortunately, we can’t fix anyone else. So it’s time to heed a variation on the beloved Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change
courage to change the person I can
and wisdom to know that it’s me.

Only when we start turning our critical eye on our own thoughts, feelings, words, and actions can our knowledge of right and wrong become effective. Before we can change for the better, we must identify what needs changing in ourselves.

Unfortunately, many of us think we’re just fine the way we are. I do my job. I’m polite to people. I’m a nice person. I don’t need that old repentance stuff!

If that’s what we think, we’re fooling ourselves. There are probably ten or twenty people out there who could easily identify several critical faults in us but are too polite (or too scared) to tell us.

So how can we identify what’s wrong in ourselves?

Swedenborg offers a helpful mind game: Think of what we would do if there would be no bad consequences. Would we slug that annoying person who works in the next cubicle? Slip some twenties out of the cash register at work? Put out a contract on our most hated politician?

Be honest!

Now we can begin to identify the evil impulses that our destructive words and actions come from.

One more thing: It does no good to pronounce a blanket condemnation on ourselves. “I’m an awful person!” “I’m a terrible sinner!” “What a jerk I am!” It may sound repentant, but it gives us nothing to work on.

We have to look for specific faults to tackle. A hot temper. A critical tongue. Sloppy work habits. Procrastination. Dishonesty. Pick one—not one that’s too hard at first—and make that your self-fixer-upper project. Success in this first project, even if it’s a small one, will give strength and confidence for more difficult battles to come.

3. Admit it

This one’s easy to describe, but hard to do. All it involves is saying: “Yes, that’s what I do!” “Yes, that’s how I feel!” “Yes, that’s how I think!”

But it’s not easy to admit that we’re at fault. The human mind is capable of amazing contortions to avoid seeing faults and bad habits in ourselves that are blindingly obvious to everyone else.

So this step is simple . . . and hard. Once we’ve identified something specific that’s wrong with ourselves, don’t turn our eyes away, but look it straight in the face. Admit that we’re feeling, thinking, and doing something that’s wrong.

4. Take responsibility for it and criticize ourselves for it

Now comes something even harder: taking personal responsibility for our wrongs.

This is where we are most likely to get derailed from our process of spiritual rebirth. We may be very honest about everything wrong with ourselves. “Yes, I’m a complaining, self-centered whiner.” But the next step is critical. We can either take responsibility for it, or we can blame it on someone else.

It would be a lot easier to say, “What do you expect? Look at how my parents raised me! Look at the way I have to live! Look at all those jerks I have to deal with every day! It’s not my fault!”

As long as we blame everyone else for our problems, we’ll keep right on living the same way. If it’s someone else’s fault, that person has to change, not me. And even if they did change, we’d just find someone else to blame. But the worst part is that when we blame other people or blame our rotten circumstances, we give away the power to change our own lives for the better.

It is only when we take responsibility for our own faults that we acquire the power to change them. Maybe our parents did do a number on us. Maybe life is unfair. But the way we are is now our problem, not theirs. And it’s our job to fix it.

Once we make the difficult but critical step of taking personal responsibility for our faults, we can get on with the task of changing ourselves for the better.

Isn’t this all kind of negative?

Why all the focus on evil? Why not just look for the positive? Isn’t looking at what’s wrong with ourselves just going to drag us down?

Not if our goal is to make things better.

Let’s say you’re driving in your car and you start hearing a noise. How will each approach work?

Look for the positive: Hmm, I hear a funny noise. But there are so many good things about this car. It gets so warm when I turn on the heat! And the windshield wipers do such a good job! No sense getting all negative and focusing on that noise that’s getting louder and louder. The car isn’t shaking—it’s got massaging seats! . . . Hey! Why did the car stop? Oh well. I’ll just get out and meet all those nice people who are honking their horns at me. They must really love me!

Identify the faults: Hmm, I hear a funny noise, and it’s getting worse. I’d better take the car to a mechanic and get it fixed. It might be expensive, but I can’t have the car breaking down on me.

We focus on our faults because “that’s where the money is.” In other words, we focus on our faults because that’s how we get the greatest benefits.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s good to see the good in ourselves too. After all, in the beginning God made everything in creation “very good” (Genesis 1:31). That includes us!

But by now we’ve lost our “new car smell.” The parts are beginning to wear out and break. No matter how much we “think positive,” we’re not perfect. And if we’re willing to see, identify, and deal with the parts of ourselves that aren’t working properly, we can get to work fixing ourselves so that our life won’t break down.

Why focus on the negative? Because identifying and dealing with the negative will make things a lot more positive for us.

We now return to our regularly scheduled step-by-step program.

5. Do all of this in front of God

This step may be the most important one of all. There are many reasons we could stop lying, cheating, stealing, and so on. We could do it to stay out of trouble, save our own skin, or make a profit based on a reputation for honesty and hard work.

But when we admit our wrongs in front of God, we’re saying, “I need to change not just because it’s good for me, but because it’s what God wants me to do. I need to stop doing what’s wrong simply because it’s wrong.”

If we change our behavior for self-centered and materialistic reasons, we’ll slip right back into those bad ways of living as soon as we decide that being honest, fair, and thoughtful is not a benefit to ourselves anymore.

But if we change our behavior out of a conviction that the way we were living is wrong, and that we must start living rightly according to God’s standards, then we can make a permanent change in our life.

6. Ask with a humble heart for help in giving it up

Maybe we can correct some of our simple bad habits by our own efforts. But when it comes to the deeper ones, we’re no match for them on our own. Praying to God involves recognizing that we’re not strong enough to overcome our deeper evils without God’s help.

We may also need to ask for help from trusted people around us. Close friends and family members, ministers, counselors, fellow recovering alcoholics or addicts, organized programs that address our particular issue . . . all of these can help give us the strength and guidance we need to stay the course until we have overcome.

Then, when we do overcome, we can remind ourselves that on our own we would have failed, but with the help of God and other people, we were able to change our lives for the better.

7. Stop acting on it

Are you with me so far?

Then it’s time to stop talking and get to work! It’s time to end our wrong behavior. Using all the tricks we can learn and all the help we can get, it’s time to face our bad habits . . . and stop doing them.

There are as many ways of doing this as there are people and personal faults. One way is to say to ourselves, “I know I want to do this right now, but it’s wrong, it’s against God’s commandments, and I’m not going to do it!” Yes, it will be a struggle. We will go through many trials and temptations. But it is possible to change.

8. Start living a new life in harmony with the rules of kindness and faith

If we are determined not to live the wrong way, we’ll have to replace it with living the right way. We must “cease to do evil; learn to do well” (Isaiah 1:16–17).

If we don’t replace our old destructive habits with new and better ways of living, we’ll fall into the trap that Jesus pointed out:

When an unclean spirit comes out of anyone, it goes through dry places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.” When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean, and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. (Matthew 12:43–45)

When we finally succeed in evicting our old bad habits from our mental and spiritual house, we must bring in new good habits to take up residency there.

For example, if our old habit was to complain about everything, then in order to permanently break that habit we must replace it with a good habit of finding something positive to say about the person or situation we’re currently encountering. No matter what our particular wrong attitude or behavior is, there will be something positive to replace it. That’s how God made us.

A new self

The best replacement is the replacement self. As we go through this process with our various faults and flaws, we gradually find ourselves becoming a new person: more loving, more thoughtful, wiser, more helpful to others. In the process, we gain an inner joy and peace that we never knew before.

That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “You must be born again.”

This article is © 2013 by Lee Woofenden

For further reading:

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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Posted in Spiritual Growth, The Bible Re-Viewed
50 comments on “What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?
  1. jahnosecret says:

    Thanks for another in-depth and enlightening article with much food for thought and further contemplation.

  2. gary says:

    Isn’t it odd that if Baptists and evangelicals are correct that their “born again experience” is the true and ONLY means of salvation, the term “born again” is only mentioned three times in the King James Bible? If “making a decision for Christ” is the only means of salvation, why doesn’t God mention it more often in his Word? Why only THREE times? Isn’t that REALLY, REALLY odd?

    Why is it that the Apostle Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, NEVER uses this term? Why is this term never used in the Book of Acts to describe the many mentioned Christian conversions? Why is this term only used by Jesus in a late night conversation with Nicodemus, and by Peter once in just one letter to Christians in Asia Minor?

    If you attend a Baptist/evangelical worship service what will you hear? You will hear this: “You must be born again: you must make a decision for Christ. You must ask Jesus into your heart. You must pray to God and ask him to forgive you of your sins, come into your heart, and be your Lord and Savior (the Sinner’s Prayer). You must be an older child or adult who has the mental capacity to make a decision to believe, to make a decision to repent, and to make a decision to ask Jesus into your heart.”

    It is very strange, however, that other than “you must be born again” none of this terminology is anywhere to be found in the Bible! Why do Baptists and evangelicals use this non-biblical terminology when discussing salvation?

    Maybe “accepting Christ into your heart” is NOT what being born again really means. Maybe…making a “decision” for Christ is NOT how God saves sinners!

    Gary
    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

    • Lee says:

      Hi Gary,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your thoughtful comment.

      As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, I do believe that we need to be born again, spiritually. This is not a simple matter of accepting Jesus–although that might be the beginning of a process of being born again. Being born again in the way Jesus teaches it involves a lifetime of putting away our old self and putting on a new self that is in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26), so that we become “a new creation” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

      • gary says:

        But is there a specific time of being born again, or is it a life long process? Can a Christian ever know for sure that he is born again…right now?

        Five questions that Baptists and Evangelicals should ask themselves

        1. Does the Bible state that a sinner is capable of choosing righteousness/choosing God?

        The Bible states that the sinner must believe and repent, but are these actions initiated and performed by man of his own intellectual abilities, or are faith, belief, and repentance a part of the entire “package” of salvation? Are faith, belief, and repentance part of the “free gift”? Does God give you faith, belief and repentance at the moment he “quickens” you, or does he require you to make a decision that you want them first, and only then does he give them to you?

        2. Is there any passage of Scripture that describes salvation in the Baptist/evangelical terms of: “Accept Christ into your heart”, “Make a decision for Christ”, “Pray to God and ask him to forgive you of your sins, come into your heart, and be your Lord and Savior (the Sinner’s Prayer)”. Is it possible that being “born again” is something that God does at a time of his choosing, and not something that man decides to do at a time of his choosing? Is man an active participant in his salvation in that he cooperates with God in a decision to believe, or is man a passive participant in his salvation; God does ALL the work?

        3. Is the Bible a static collection of words or do the Words of God have real power, real supernatural power? How does the Bible describe the Word? Is it the meaning of the Word that has power or do the words themselves have supernatural power to “quicken” the souls of sinners, creating faith, belief and repentance?

        4. Does preaching the Word save everyone who hears it, or only the “predestined”, the “elect”, the “called”, the “appointed” will believe when they hear the Word at God’s appointed time?

        5. WHEN does the Bible, if read in its simple, plain, literal rendering, say that sins are forgiven and washed away?

        Gary
        Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

      • Lee says:

        Hi Gary,

        Thanks for your further comments. You raise some good questions. Perhaps I will take some of them up in future articles.

        For now, I will say that I believe both that “God does all the work” and we must also cooperate with God by “working out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) as if it depended upon us alone. This is a fascinating and often confusing topic. A clear understanding of it helps to banish many common misconceptions about the teachings of the Bible. I look forward to posting an article about it in the future.

        Meanwhile, consider this: A garden hose does not do any of the work of sending the water through its coils. But if the nozzle on the hose is closed, no water will flow through it. Our “work” in salvation is opening up the “nozzle” of our hearts, minds, and lives so that God’s love and wisdom can flow through us, and cleanse us in the process.

        I will also say that I do not believe there is any such thing as predestination, unless it means “predestination” to heaven. God is not malicious, and will not create anyone predestined to eternal torment. If we go to hell, it must be because of our own choices and actions, not because God has created us to go there–something too horrible and cruel to attribute to God, who is love (1 John 4:8, 16).

      • Shirley says:

        I was not very good when I was a child, my parents told me not to steal but I did. Even though, I know this act was wrong but I still do it. Now it seems that everybody on earth knows. I regret all the actions, I believed my parents will always be there for me, but ……….

        • Lee says:

          Hi Shirley,

          Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

          Sooner or later our secret actions do come out into the open. Now that “everybody on earth knows,” perhaps it’s time for you to turn over a new leaf. It may not be easy. You may have to fight hard to overcome your ingrained habits. You may need to seek professional help in doing so. But it’s the right thing to do.

          And when you’ve started a new life and left the old one behind, you’ll feel much better about yourself and your life. I hope this article will help you to accomplish that.

  3. gary says:

    Thank you for your response, Lee.

    Your comment “we must cooperate with God” is troubling to me. Isn’t that what Catholics teach: man must assist/cooperate with God to complete his salvation?

    In the second chapters of Ephesians and Colossians, God says that the sinner is spiritually dead. A sinner may be able to choose what breakfast cereal to eat in the morning; what shirt to put on that day; who to marry; and what career to pursue, but the Bible clearly states in the above passages and in Romans that sinners hate God and do not seek righteousness. Sinners cannot choose God. Dead men cannot “turn on the faucet”.

    I would encourage you to read all the passages of Scripture that discuss these terms: “predestined”, “the elect”, “the called”, “the appointed”, and without any denominational bias, accept the plain, simple interpretation of God’s Word. God decides who will believe! Here is one passage:

    Acts 13:48 (ESV)

    And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

    You can’t get much clearer than that: God decides who will believe.

    The Calvinists will tell you that since God decides or appoints those who will believe, that means that God also chooses who will go to hell. This seems very logical and reasonable…however it is COMPLETELY unscriptural. God desires all to be saved. Christ died for all. God desires that no one perish. So, yes, God predestines the Elect, but man damns himself to hell. Doesn’t seem logical? Since when is God Almighty confined to work within human logic and reason? What sense/logic doesn’t it make to say that Christ is the Son of God, but yet eternal just as his Father. How can someone be a son without a beginning?? It doesn’t make sense. It defies logic and reason! So what! God said it so believe it.

    The same with the Doctrine of Predestination. God chooses who will go to heaven. Sinners send themselves to hell by rejecting Christ!

    Yes we cooperate with God to “work out our salvation” but that is AFTER we are already saved! That is the process of Sanctification. However, the work of Justification is 100% an act of God! The sinner does not assist or cooperate in becoming righteous. Christ, and Christ alone, makes the sinner righteous.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Gary,

      I’m aware that Calvin believed in and taught predestination. But I believe this is a misunderstanding of the teachings of the Bible. I do not think the Greek words for “predestination” mean what Calvin taught.

      In August I will write and post a piece on how God is everything and does everything, but we must still open ourselves up to God. It is for a talk I am giving. [Edit: The talk has a different focus than originally planned, but I’m linking to it anyway.]

      For now, I will simply say that if there is nothing we can do to cooperate with God, why does the Bible so often command us to believe in God and obey his commandments? If all is predestined, 90% of the Bible is meaningless. If all is predestined, it is useless for us to believe in God and live a good life, because God has already chosen who will go to heaven anyway, regardless of what we believe or do.

      This is not what the Bible teaches. I leave you with two Bible passages:

      From the Old Testament:

      See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

      If all is predestined, why does God tell us that we have a choice between life and death?

      And from the New Testament:

      “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

      If we are not meant to do anything for our salvation, why does the Lord command us to do these good things for our neighbor, and tell us that those who do will go into eternal life, but those who do not will go away into eternal punishment?

      • gary says:

        The key to these passages is this: to WHOM is God speaking? Sinners or Believers?

        Believers very definitely have a free will to serve God. We can obey God or not. We can follow his commands or reject them and sin. That is why Lutherans do not believe in “eternal security”.

        Christians do good deeds after we are saved out of love for our Savior, not to help earn salvation. However, the believer who turns his back on God and lives a life of willful sin, may wake up one day in hell!

        No good works, indicates no faith, which may mean no salvation. Works don’t save us, but they are an indicator of true faith. “Faith without works is dead”.

      • Lee says:

        Hi Gary,

        I’m aware that this is official church doctrine in some of the Christian sects. But the Bible does not make these distinctions about who God is talking to. The Bible is addressed to everyone, saint and sinner alike. Read Isaiah 1:1-20. Then read Ezekiel 18. Then read Luke 15:1-7.

      • Daniel says:

        Think he was also talking about a inwards journey towards the soul ( a night of the dark soul) a journey of darkness in to the light of “God” aka being re-birthed. i’m sure it can happen many ways.

  4. isaiah41v10 says:

    You do not refer to the work of the Holy Spirit in writing God’s law on our hearts and giving us the power to change. We need to acknowledge our dependence on Christ – to abide in Him. When I came to Jesus and asked Him to be Lord of my life and admitted my complete failure to be a good person on my own, He started an astonishing process of transformation that is still continuing. I don’t really feel that I am the one instigating it, however, it is His leading me in ‘paths of righteousness. ‘ Our work is to believe in Him and cooperate with Him, the shepherd.

    • Lee says:

      Hi isaiah41v10,

      Very good points! Thank you. Although we may feel that we are doing it ourselves, it is really God–meaning Jesus Christ–doing the work from within. Once we realize this, and ask the Lord to change our heart, mind, and life, the transformation can go on the “fast track.” Those who are not Christian may not feel the presence of God in such a personal way. But I believe it is still the Lord God Jesus Christ who transforms all willing souls.

  5. carlosbaker says:

    god is good and those that do not belevin have mercy on them

  6. wesley hill says:

    I think being born again is the process of transformation brought on by the renewing of your mind or atleast this is where it starts. It is the enemies desire to create doubt in the believers mind to try and turn their heart. Jesus used clear unrefutable scripture to discredit the lies of doubt and temptation to sin. we should do the same. Unlike Christ who was born without sin we were born into sin. We all started out as sinners. For this reason I believe that being born again is the transformation in our minds and hearts to choose to feed our spirit man and turn against the desires of the flesh that we were born with. It is our spirit that is reborn as we choose to feed it instead of the worldly flesh.

  7. Santha Kumar says:

    Very good site.Thanks.

  8. Mary says:

    I enjoyed it. It makes lot of sense. I have a friend who is born again and I am a strong catholic. I believe in Jesus and Mary. My friend says I shouldnt worshipl all the idles. We don’t worship them, we asked to pray for us.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Mary,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

      Since I am not from a Catholic background, I don’t have the same beliefs about Mary as you do. However, I do understand that for many Catholics, invoking Mary and the other saints gives a sense of spiritual connection with God.

      Still, my own belief is that the only one to pray to or to invoke is the Lord God Jesus Christ. He is able to hear and respond to all of our prayers without the need for any human, saint, or angel intermediaries.

      Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

  9. Lee says:

    To a reader named Jesse:

    About why I didn’t approve your comments to appear publicly, please see our Comments policy.

    You seem to be posting the same material in various places on the web, but I don’t see how your comments respond to anything I said in this article.

    It is also not clear to me from your comments exactly what point you are making. If it’s about unbelievers (non-Christians) going to heaven, you might want to read these articles here first:

    In that last article, see especially the sections starting with the heading, “What is Redemption?”

  10. Lee says:

    Hi Jesse,

    If you want to unsubscribe from the blog, just click on the “Unsubscribe” or “Manage Subscriptions” link on any email from the blog. You must do this yourself. I do not have the ability to unsubscribe readers.

  11. Robert says:

    Lee. I am in agreement with your teaching on this blog. I would like to endorse what you say regarding predestination. In Deuteronomy. The Lord sets before us the choice between Blessings and curses. In chapter 30.15. It states God speaking. See l have set before you, this day life and good and death and evil. Therefore we have a choice. It is repeated in v.19 with the Lord urging us to choose life.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Robert,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Yes, if we don’t have any choice, but everything is predetermined, then this life is meaningless. However, the Bible makes it very clear in many places that we do have a choice.

  12. uafalck says:

    Lee,

    I am a junkie and ultimately realized that much of my recurring cycle of addiction/sin is due to my spirit not coming to terms with the status of my soul. Once the soul starts to die as a result of sin/addiction, the spirit starts to cry out in fear. As an addict, we persist in our ways because our sense of dread becomes overbearing and the lure of sin overtakes us over and over, because why not after you believe you are condemned. But this is the work of the evil one. If you stop evil, God will open the way for you.

    Thanks for your faith in God and biblical wisdom. It is a big comfort. Blessings.

    Adam

    • Lee says:

      Hi Adam,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Yes, I have long thought that people resort to various addictions due largely to their being a serious emptiness of soul, or inability or unwillingness to face issues that are essentially spiritual, and covering that over with various substances and activities that then start a vicious cycle, otherwise known as an addiction. I’m glad the articles here are helping you. Annette and I wish you all the best in moving forward, however much struggle it may be, toward a healthier spiritual and physical life.

  13. Susan says:

    Hi Gary
    I just read your piece online about ” spiritual insights for every day life ”
    Do you have a book out that goes more into depth about this?
    Thank you for your time

    • Lee says:

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

      Did you mean to address your comment to me? If so, what subjects are you particularly interested in?

  14. Van says:

    I can’t thank you enough for this study. It has really made me face some hurdles that I need to overcome in my Walk with the Lord. I will be attending and speaking at my church women’s retreat in a few weeks. It’s a small Body, but can I share some of your concepts with them also? Thanks again for Blessing me!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Van,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Yes, it would be fine to share these ideas around as you see fit and are moved to do so.

      Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

  15. NGARURU TEETAO says:

    Thanks so much for the explanation of the word REBORN and especially given us some ideas to expand our understanding about the reborn in spirit. Thanks so much and God will bless you always.

    • Lee says:

      Hi NGARURU TEETAO,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words. I’m glad this article was enlightening for you. Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

  16. Jonathan C,,,, says:

    I had a real spiritual rebirth back in 1988 it was like nothing Iv ever experienced in my life.I confessed all my sins as well as these sins i sail others comment..I did this with out control..after confessing all my sin .. your not going to be leave this I told the future everything I said would happen happened in the years to come, on Sunday after all that I filled a cup with all the things I wanted in my life then I laid down to sleep I felt myself being reborn and awoke screaming like a new born baby everything was new to me I even smelt like a new born baby.. Iv been nothing but persecuted and exploited by the people around,,be leave it or not Iv told the future several times scene then Iv been held against my will twice and force to tell the future because the people around me want to exsplote me and profit from the gifts God gave me,,, Why did God do this to me why ,,, fore over 20 some year Iv gotten no answers. whats going on.. theirs a lot more to my story be leave it are not.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Jonathan,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for telling your story.

      This is why Jesus said:

      See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16)

      and:

      Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you. (Matthew 7:6)

      Any spiritual gifts you may have, if they become known to greedy and unscrupulous people, will be used by them, not for good, but to accomplish their selfish and greedy purposes. And the world is full of greedy and unscrupulous people. So as hard as it may be not to shout your knowledge and insight from the rooftops, when it comes to gifts such as the ones you describe, it is necessary to keep them close to you, and be very careful about whom you reveal them to. This is also why at various times Jesus instructed people he had healed not to tell anyone about it.

      If God gave you these gifts, then you need to develop the strength of character to use and express them only in special circumstances when you see that some good can come from it. If you are well-known where you live for having these gifts, then it might be necessary to move to a new place far away, and start a new life. This time keep your gifts close to the vest. And even if you know that what you are seeing can be of help to someone, rather than talking about it, take the action necessary to render that help. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words—and often accomplish more.

      I hope these thoughts are helpful to you.

      • Jonathan C,,,, says:

        yes very helpful and my gifts are known by very greedy people Iv had to have law enforcement called in once and have judgement put against people after I was held against my will and forced to use them … I have another gift were I can tell no lies. my eyes shift back and forth if what I say is not true even if I know what im saying is true are not…like future events if the news were to say it will rain tomorrow and I was to spread the word that it would rain tomorrow if my eyes went back and forth it would not rain my eyes are never wrong. I have uncontrollably body jesters as well if someone was to ask me were thay were going and my finger were to shift up it would be good but if it shifted down not so good..if you were to ask me were some one are something is my eyes and body would point that direction with out thought..

        • Lee says:

          Hi Jonathan,

          I’m glad my thoughts are helpful to you.

          All of the things you describe are very possible based on our connection with the spiritual world, which most of us are unaware of most of the time. And your experience is an example of just why God doesn’t normally allow us any awareness of our connection with the spiritual world while we are still living here on earth. As you have experienced for yourself, in this materialistic and greedy age, having that spiritual connection can be a curse just as much as a blessing.

  17. Jonathan C,,,, says:

    so true. sometimes it fills like a curse…

  18. preacher2016 says:

    Hi Lee, just thought i would offer a little help on being born again.

    BORN AGAIN (101)

    There’s only one baptism.

    ONE LORD, …Jesus
    ONE FAITH…..Believe in Him
    ONE BAPTISM…..Water and Spirit (Born again)!! John 3:5
    Acts 2:38

    The Holy Ghost indwells a new believer…………

    When he is water baptized, ( identifies with the death, burial and resurrection of JESUS,) and (puts on Christ), and COMES UP OUT OF THE WATER, ( HE RECEIVES THE HOLY GHOST, AND REMISSION OF SINS)…..”BORN AGAIN”, just like Jesus example, and Philip ,and the enuch did, and many others and……. WHY, …….JESUS COMMANDED IT. Matt.28:19.

    CHRISTIAN LIVING AND SERVICE.
    Man must take up his cross daily and follow Jesus.
    He must follow the commands of Jesus. Jn. 14:25, Mark 12:30,31.
    He must present his body a living sacrifice.
    He must produce fruits of holiness without which, no man shall see God.

    Enjoy all the articles. Thanks again.

    • Lee says:

      Hi preacher2016,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for the basics on baptism. I’m glad you’re enjoying the articles here!

      If you decide to stick around and share more of your thoughts, please take a look at our comments policy. I usually delete comments with too much in ALL CAPS because it looks like a lot of SHOUTING. But I’ll let this one slide because the thoughts are good.

      Meanwhile, Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

  19. Robert says:

    Dear Lee,

    Since I was raised in the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition your analysis of what it means to be born again is in complete agreement with what our ancient church teaches. Faith and works are like time and space, they only have meaning as a union. As space is filled with time, faith is filled with works. Have you studied the teachings of the Eastern Orthodox ?

    Perhaps what I find most disturbing is the negative impact on society, for more than 1000 years since Luther and Calvin, of generation after generation of children falsely taught that Jesus did not make clear that faith without good works is not only wrong thinking, but that it is a violation of the commandments of God and his commandment that we love each other, an action of good work. Perhaps such false thinking is the root of the evil of politics, e.g., trusting in leaders who claim by words to be Christian, but not born again into the spirit of faith filled by good works ?

    Robert

    • Lee says:

      Hi Robert,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your thoughts and questionings.

      Of the three largest branches of Christianity, the Orthodox is the closest to my own (Swedenborgian) beliefs when it comes to salvation and the life that leads to heaven. Ironically, it is also the one I know least about, primarily because I live in the West, where Catholicism and Protestantism are dominant. Of course, I do also have some major differences with Orthodox belief, the prime one being that I do not accept the Trinity of Persons doctrine shared by the Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant branches of Christianity. But I’ve often said that if someone were to hold a gun to my head and demand that I pick one of those three to associate with, it would be the Orthodox, no question.

      My general view of traditional Christianity is that with each major schism, the dominant or schismatic branch receded farther and farther from the truth taught in the Bible.

      Before the Great Schism of 1054, in which Eastern and Western Christianity separated from one another, there was no such thing as a satisfaction theory of atonement. The general belief was that Christ had defeated the power of the Devil, and thus saved us from the Devil’s power, and gave us the power (which still remained his) to defeat the Devil in our own lives as well. As I understand it, this is still the general teaching about redemption and salvation in Orthodox Christianity.

      Soon after the Great Schism, Anselm developed satisfaction theory within Catholicism, and Aquinas’s further development of it became the official doctrine of salvation in Catholicism. The general idea of Catholic satisfaction theory is that Christ’s death satisfied the requirements of God’s justice, and that this is how Christ saved us. It’s a terribly false, non-biblical doctrine that was never adopted in Orthodox Christianity. In essence, it asserts that Christ saved us from God rather than saving us from the Devil.

      And five hundred years later, when Protestantism broke off from Catholicism, the Anselm-Aquinas satisfaction theory became the basis for Protestant penal substitution theory and justification by faith alone, in which Christ satisfied God’s wrath by taking the punishment for our sin, and this is how Christ saved us. This is an even more terribly false, non-biblical doctrine that has completely twisted and destroyed what Jesus Christ, his Apostles, and all of the lawgivers and prophets of the Bible taught. It makes God out to be an insane, bloodthirsty tyrant rather than a God of love, mercy, and compassion.

      So although I don’t see Orthodox Christianity as having a fully biblical and Christian doctrine (that ceased when the Trinity of Persons was developed by human theologians and officially adopted in the institutional Christian Church starting with the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD), I do see Orthodox Christianity as being closer to true, original Christian teachings than any of the other major branches of Christianity.

      That’s especially so in the critical area of what we must believe and do in order to be saved and go to heaven. That’s where the rubber hits the road in Christian belief and practice. And that’s why, if I didn’t have a belief that I think is even closer to the true biblical Christianity that Jesus Christ himself taught, I would choose Orthodox Christianity over the other major branches of Christianity.

      And yes, I do think that the Protestant faith-alone teaching has done tremendous damage.

      Among other things, yes, I think it has made people susceptible to paying more attention to what people say than to what they do in politics and in every other area of life. Personally, I don’t pay much attention to what politicians say. They will say anything they need to say to get elected. I pay attention to what they do once they get elected. And quite often it has little to do with what they said on the campaign trail. In fact, quite often once they get into office they do the exact opposite of what they promised on the campaign trail. And yet, because the main publicity is focused on what they said during the campaign, and since they continue to give those promises lip service even while they are busily doing the opposite once in office, people continue to believe that they are actually doing what they said they would do.

      I could give many examples of famous politicians, both on the right and on the left, who did not do what they promised, and yet people still believe that they did, and practically worship them based on these false ideas of who they were and what they did. However this is a spiritual blog, not a political blog, so I won’t get into that. You can probably come up with plenty of your own examples.

      Meanwhile, in similar fashion in the religious realm, doctrines such as faith alone and satisfaction theory, not to mention the Trinity of Persons, continue to pose as “Christianity,” and several billion people continue to believe that that’s what’s taught in the Bible, when the Bible teaches no such thing.

      And I do think that the cognitive dissonance and the confusion even in basic reading comprehension that is induced upon millions of people when their churches and preachers repeatedly tell them that the Bible teaches doctrines that are in fact the opposite of what the Bible teaches makes it easier for people not to pay any attention to what’s actually happening in the political and social realms, but just to believe whatever they’re told by their political and social leaders.

      Back to religion, it boggles my mind that although the only passage in the Bible that even mentions faith alone (James 2:24) explicitly rejects it, and the whole Bible teaches that in order to be saved we must love God and our neighbor through good works and active service to our fellow human beings, millions of Protestants—even ones that regularly read the Bible—continue to think that faith alone is the key doctrine of salvation in the Bible. It’s as though someone has fitted them with goggles that make them unable to read and understand anything the Bible says.

      I have found that when Protestants are presented with the plain teachings of the Bible about salvation, in the Bible’s own words, they consistently reject them and explain them away, sticking doggedly to the teachings of Luther and Calvin even when the Bible flatly rejects them. And I find that truly astounding.

      The Bible is crystal clear from beginning to end that what we do is the critical element, and that what we believe, or say we believe, has meaning only if it is expressed in what we do. Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone is entirely outside the pale of biblical and Christian truth. On that, see my recent post:
      The Extreme Weakness of Faith Alone and Penal Substitution

      And about the real damage done by false beliefs (even if they don’t by themselves keep people out of heaven), see:
      Does Doctrine Matter? Why is it Important to Believe the Right Thing?

      I could say much more in response to your good thoughts, but this has already become a whole essay of its own, so I’ll cease and desist for now. In general, yes, I think very much along the lines you have suggested, even if I do have some real differences with Orthodox beliefs as well.

  20. roy firus says:

    My definition to be ” Born Again.”1.Believe in God. 2.Admit your sins to yourself and to God and honestly regret them..3.Ask God to forgive you for your sins.4.Ask God for the strength to stop sinning.5.As far as possible apologize to and make amends to those people whom you have sinned against.6.Realize in order for your sins to be forgiven -you must forgive those who have sinned against you .Forgive me if I am wrong but did you mention numbers 3 and 5 or do you not believe that they are necessary ? Take care and God Bless !

    • Lee says:

      Hi Roy,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comments.

      I’m guessing that your “Born Again” list draws on the Bible and the Twelve Steps. It looks like a workable system to me. There is more than one road to Jerusalem.

      About your number 3, yes, it’s good to ask God for forgiveness, not because otherwise God won’t forgive us, but because asking for it makes us more receptive to the forgiveness that God has already given us. And yes, your number 5 is good to do as well.

      If I could add a number 7 to your list, it would be to do what is good and right as best we can in every situation. Repenting from our sins and being forgiven has meaning and purpose only if we then go on to live a good life of love and service to our fellow human beings, as the Lord has commanded us to do.

  21. Roy Firus says:

    Thank-you again for your comments.In the Lord’s prayer given to us by Jesus -we are told to ask God to forgive us of our sins -so I do not understand it when you state : ” not because otherwise God won’t forgive us, but because asking for it makes us more receptive to the forgiveness that God has already given us.” How is this possibile when Jesus himself tells us to ask God to forgive us of our sins and where does it say in the Bible that he has already forgiven us ? Respectfully yours –

    • Lee says:

      Hi Roy,

      Not every truth is stated explicitly in the Bible. The Bible is focused on our eternal salvation. What we need to know, believe, and do to be saved is stated plainly, and multiple times, in the Bible. Other things that are not so critical for our salvation are not necessarily stated explicitly, though many of them can be reasonably inferred.

      It is very common for God to know and be ready to act, but to wait for us to come to knowledge and acceptance before acting, so as not to force us, but to lead us in freedom. For example, in the story of the Fall of Humankind in Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve have eaten from the forbidden tree, God asks them where they are (verse 9). Did God not know where they were? Then God asks:

      Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat? (Genesis 3:11)

      Did God not know what was going on, so that God had to ask a human being in order to find out?

      No. God was well aware of everything that had happened. God was asking in order to elicit from Adam and Eve an account and confession of what they had done, so that they could confront it and learn the consequences of their actions. (See: “Curses or Consequences: Did God Really Curse Adam and Eve?”)

      When it comes to prayer, is the purpose of prayer to change God’s mind? When we pray for forgiveness, is it because we’re trying to change God’s mind so that instead of condemning us, God will forgive us instead? While this kind of thinking may work for ordinary folks who don’t have a very deep understanding of the nature of God, upon closer examination it makes no sense. God’s mind is infinite and eternal; God does not change his mind:

      God is not a human being, that he should lie,
      or a mortal, that he should change his mind.
      Has he promised, and will he not do it?
      Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19)

      The idea that in praying for forgiveness we are trying to change God’s mind so that God will forgive us instead of condemning us is for simple-minded people who don’t think very deeply about God and spirit. The reality is that God already forgives us, and is only waiting for us to ask for forgiveness so that we will be receptive to God’s forgiveness. There are many scriptures that suggest this, even if they don’t state it explicitly. For example:

      And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.” (Exodus 34:6–7, italics added)

      Here God is presented as a broadly loving and forgiving God, who, however, does not leave the guilty unpunished. It doesn’t say God doesn’t forgive the guilty. Only that God will punish the guilty. Similarly, we may forgive someone who has robbed us, but still press charges because we want to make sure that the guilty person doesn’t victimize others.

      And:

      For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
      abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you. (Psalm 86:5)

      Here once again God is presented as good and forgiving and abounding in love. It does seem to say that God’s forgiveness depends upon our calling upon God, but that, once again, is according to the human appearance. Does it really make sense that God won’t forgive us unless we ask for it, and that otherwise God will condemn us?

      And:

      Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

      Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times [or: seventy times seven times].” (Matthew 19:21–22)

      Here Jesus essentially tells Peter to forgive an unlimited number of times. (It would be silly to think that he means we’re supposed to count up to seventy-seven, or seventy times seven, times forgiving someone, and then stop forgiving him or her.) So Jesus presents a picture of unlimited and unconditional forgiveness as the ideal. And would God be anything less than the ideal?

      I could go on. Besides passages about how forgiving God is, there are also passages that speak of God loving us even when we are sinners, of loving God’s enemies and sending the sun and rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous, and so on. It all adds up to a picture of God loving us and forgiving us whether we are good or evil, righteous or sinful.

      If God’s love and forgiveness is constant, as it must be, since God is unchanging, then the only reason the Lord’s Prayer would have us ask God for forgiveness is to make us more receptive to the forgiveness that God already feels toward us, and also to put a similar spirit of forgiveness of others in our own heart.

  22. Roy Firus says:

    Although I understand your point and to some extent can even agree with it -I still believe it is vitally important to ask God to forgive you of your sins not only in the Lords Prayer but in individual sins as they occur because Jesus tells us to. (It is also I believe a vital part of true repentence.) The real reason(s ) why this is so extremely important will have to wait until we meet Him and ask ! But I must tell you that your statement : “…though many of them can be reasonably inferred ” is a statement I have both heard and read countless times from Pastors trying to justify their completely opposite viewpoints ! 🙂 I also must tell you Pastor that although I am personally not offended ( if I was I would definitely mention it ! ) I really believe that you should really think twice before using terms such as :…” is for simple-minded people who don’t think very deeply about God and spirit.” I absolutely know people who would be definitely offended by being referred to in this manner. .This term also conveys an air of superiority .But then again that is just my opinion.Thank-you for your comments.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Roy,

      Yes, it’s important to ask for forgiveness. Otherwise we wouldn’t have been commanded to do so.

      And yes, I’m aware that Christians of all stripes claim that their doctrines can be inferred from the Bible even if they’re not explicitly stated there. However:

      1. I make a distinction between essential doctrines, which are what we need to know, believe, and do in order to be saved, and non-essential doctrines, which, in general, are everything else. When it comes to essential doctrines, I believe that if they’re not stated clearly and explicitly in the plain, literal sense of the Bible, then they have no claim to being essential Christian doctrine.

      For example, the Bible simply never says that we are saved or justified by faith alone, but explicitly rejects this. Justification by faith alone therefore cannot be considered an essential Christian doctrine. Ditto for the Trinity of Persons, original sin, the satisfaction theory of atonement, penal substitution, and so on. These doctrines fail the test for being essential Christian doctrine because they are not stated in the plain, literal sense of the Bible.

      As for other doctrines that are not essential to our salvation, the Bible often is not so explicit about these, and we must draw inferences. It is not essential to our salvation to believe that God forgives us even before we ask. That’s why I am content to let that one be drawn on inference, and not require that it be stated explicitly in the Bible.

      2. When a person’s or church’s key doctrines are false, any interpretations and inferences drawn from the Bible will also be false—or if they are true, they will be used to support false doctrine, and therefore will be themselves falsified. The main branches and denominations of Christianity have set up as essential doctrine beliefs that are not taught in the Bible explicitly, if at all, and some of them are explicitly rejected in the Bible. Therefore their interpretations of the Bible are also fallacious and false.

      Though I believe that people of all religions can be saved even if they adhere to false doctrines, I am not a doctrinal relativist. I believe that some doctrines are true, and other doctrines are false. And once again, the test of true essential Christian doctrine is whether it is stated clearly in the plain, literal sense of the Bible. For a related article see:
      Does Doctrine Matter? Why is it Important to Believe the Right Thing?

      And yes, I’m aware that speaking of “simple-minded people” is not politically correct, and may be offensive to some. If I had thought you were in that category, I would not have used that term. However, though I do have some concern for people’s sensibilities, I am also inclined not to beat around the bush, but to call a spade a spade.

      The fact of the matter is that there are many people on this earth who are generally uneducated non-intellectuals. These make up the great masses of blue collar workers, which are essential to the functioning of society, and which do not require advanced education or fancy thinking capabilities to do their work and live their lives. I have great respect for people who get up in the morning and keep the machinery of our world running. A world full of intellectuals would fall apart very quickly.

      However, such people also often fall prey to all sorts of irrational and fallacious religious beliefs that they innocently accept because “smart people” teach it to them, and they don’t have the ability to analyze what they are being taught and sleuth out its fallacies and falsities. That’s why, though I vehemently disagree with the doctrines of the vast bulk of Christianity, I don’t blame ordinary Christians for that. I blame their leaders, who could know better, but who are too intellectually lazy or too indoctrinated or too concerned about their own reputation, power, and material comfort to do the work of learning the truth and teaching it to their people.

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

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