What does it mean to be born again? When Jimmy Carter ran for president in 1976 he called himself a “Born Again” Christian. But Jesus first used the term in his conversation with Nicodemus recorded in John 3:1-21. Here are some thoughts on what it means for us today.

What does it mean to be born again? It means you recognize there’s an entrance requirement to heaven a lot of people are missing

V. 3 …unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.

The term “born again” was a new idea when Jimmy Carter used it and it was new for Nicodemus too. His confused reaction proves it. Probably because he assumed he already met those qualifications. After all, he was a faithful Jew. Even better, a faithful Pharisee. But Jesus throws him a curve ball by saying that something else is involved.

The whole “born again” idea confuses people today as well. They assume if you believe in God and Jesus, maybe attend church and do good things it makes you a Christian. But here, Jesus says that is not enough. It actually involves a second birth.

What does it mean to be born again? It means you understand there are two different kinds of birth

V. 5 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 

Jesus presents a spiritual idea that Nicodemus doesn’t even recognize as a spiritual idea. A bit ironic don’t you think? Here he is, an expert teacher in the Jewish religion, completely baffled by what Jesus says. He asks Jesus if he is talking about a physical birth.

He had to know that was not what Jesus meant. But Nicodemus was so blind to his own spiritual need, and so unaware of that blindness, he could not even consider the possibility that his spiritual life was missing something. What was Jesus talking about?

Jesus clarifies it in John 3:6-8 by talking about two births: a physical one and a spiritual one. And what Nicodemus lacks is spiritual.

There’s a similar spiritual blindness affecting people today. Rather than concede their good and virtuous acts are not what Jesus is looking for, they simply ignore this passage.

Jesus must be talking about the jerk who lives down the road. But look closer. He’s talking about all of us.

It means you believe in and follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord

V. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Jesus chastises Nicodemus as a teacher for his lack of understanding, but then patiently reminds him that he came to sacrifice himself on a cross. And it makes you wonder. Why did Nicodemus not know this? Because Isaiah prophesized extensively about what the Messiah would suffer.

And the answer for Nicodemus is probably similar to many people today. It’s because we form our religious beliefs around our own opinions and lifestyles rather than the truth of scripture. The Bible consistently teaches about the existence of sin. And the result of sin is spiritual death. And that is an unpleasant thought we’d rather not face.

But Jesus suddenly switches to the positive. And rather talk about death he promises life with probably the best known and quoted scripture in the entire Bible.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 

And that is what it means to be BORN AGAIN.

Chip Tudor is an author, blogger and professional writer. He publishes books, humorous Christian drama, and thought provoking blogs from a Christian worldview.