The Bible uses several metaphors involving birth to help explain what it means to have a saving relationship with Jesus. We find terms such as born again (John 3:3), born of God (John 1:13), and born of the Spirit (John 3:6). They all mean the same thing. Birth metaphors are used because we all understand physical birth. When a baby is born, a new person emerges into the world. The new life will grow, and the young person will come to resemble his or her parents. When we are born of the Spirit, a “new person” arrives with a new spiritual life. And as we grow, we come to resemble our Father in heaven (Romans 8:29).
People try to know God through a variety of means: some try religion or following an ethical code; some turn to intellect or logic; others try to find God in nature; and others through emotional experiences, believing that God inhabits whatever feelings they can muster when they think about Him. None of those bring us one step closer to actually communing with the God of the Bible because He cannot be known through our moral codes, our minds, our environment, or our emotions. He is Spirit, and those who would worship must worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
Imagine trying to paint a portrait using a hammer and nails or trying to bake a meal using pen and paper. It would not help to try harder or cry over it because both tasks are impossible given the tools mentioned. So it is with the flesh and the Spirit. We cannot commune with a holy, incorporeal Being using sinful, fleshly means. Unless our spirits are reborn with life from God’s Spirit, we simply do not have the capability to fellowship with Him. We must be born of the Spirit.
God has instituted a way for fallen human beings to enter His holy presence, and it is the only way we can come to Him. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). When Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin (John 10:18) and rose again, He opened a door that had been locked. When He died on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn in two, symbolizing the fact that He has made a way to enter God’s presence. God has opened the door to heaven so that whoever trusts in His Son’s sacrifice can be born again in his or her spirit (Mark 15:38).
When we place our faith in the risen Christ, a divine transaction takes place (2 Corinthians 5:21). God removes from us the sin, guilt, and condemnation we deserved because of our rebellion against Him. He throws our sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). At the moment of repentance and faith, the Holy Spirit breathes new life into us, and our bodies become His temple (1 Corinthians 3:16). Our spirits can now commune with God’s Spirit as He assures us that we belong to Him (Romans 8:16).
We might think of the human spirit like a deflated balloon that hangs lifeless inside our hearts. We are scarcely aware of its existence until God calls our names and an awakening begins. When we respond to God’s call with repentance and faith in what Jesus Christ has done for salvation, we are born of the Spirit. At that point the balloon inflates. The Holy Spirit moves into our spirits and fills us. He begins His transforming work so that we begin to resemble Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:29).
There are only two types of people in the world: those who are born of the Spirit and those who are not. In the end, only those two categories matter (John 3:3). Our earthly lives are extended opportunities for us to respond to God’s call and become born of the Spirit (Hebrews 3:15).