What you must BE, to have eternal life.
Notice that I said, what you must be, not do.
When you ask someone if they are a Christian or if they think they are going to heaven, you often hear them reply, “Well, I hope so. I’ve done this or that and I do this or that. I’m a good person. I’m not like this person or that person, and I haven’t done this or that. I go to church, volunteer, and put money in the offering plate. I’ve been baptized. I was confirmed.” They focus on what they have done to earn God’s favor and earn eternal life, but, according to the Bible, none of that makes you a Christian. You cannot DO anything to earn eternal life.
Most of us have heard John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
This is the truth that saves us, but to believe in Jesus means more than mere intellectual assent; it means to be so persuaded and convicted by the truth of his life, death, and resurrection that it compels you, continuously, to trust in and live for him. To believe in Jesus means to be transformed from one way to another.
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus replied, “What do you mean? How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” (John 3:3-8)
The Bible says you must BE born again to have spiritual life (i.e., true, abundant, and eternal life) in God’s kingdom.
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:27)
Have you been born again?
Not, “Are you religious?”
Not, “Do you go to church?”
Not, “Have you been baptized?”
Not, “Have you said a prayer?”
Not, “Do you follow all the rules, rituals, and creeds?”
Not even, “Do you ‘believe’ in God and in Jesus?”
The Bible says even the demons believe and tremble (James 2:9), and they obey Jesus when He commands them to leave, but they are not born again, they do not love God, and they do not live for Jesus. They are absolutely opposed to God, bent on going their own evil way, trying to turn as many people as possible away from God, and they will spend eternity in hell because of it.
So, our belief needs to be different than the demons. Our belief needs to be transformative.
There were times in my life when I professed to be a Christian, but I did not live like one. The first time was when I was growing up. My parents said we were Christians, so I thought I was. We were American, a Marine family, and we occasionally attended the Episcopal church. My parents had me baptized when I was a baby and, when I was twelve, I went through confirmation classes. I thought that made me Christian, but I was very wrong. We really only attended church on Christmas and Easter. I knew nothing about a personal relationship with Jesus, or being born again, or following Jesus, or anything about the Bible. We were Christians in name only. We certainly did not live like Christians either, in fact quite the opposite.
Going to church does not make you a Christian.
Being baptized does not save you.
Following rules, practicing rituals, and reciting creeds does not make you acceptable to God.
You don't become a Christian and go to heaven by believing a bunch of facts about Jesus or by doing a bunch of things required by a church.
You can never earn eternal life. You can never be or do enough good to earn a place in God’s kingdom. Salvation is a gift.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Ephesians 3:4-8 says, “Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Only Jesus saves us and makes us acceptable to God, and He says we must be born again.
So, the question remains, have you been born again?
Evidence of one who is born again is a surrendered life to Jesus Christ. It means you repent of your sins and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. It means identifying with and being transformed by the death and resurrection of Jesus (Rom. 6:1-14; Phil. 1:21; Col. 3:4).
Being a Christian means that Christ is your life. You realize that you are a sinner deserving of death and hell and that you need a savior to rescue you, not that you needed to go to church, but that you needed Jesus to save you. Going to church comes from being a believer. A born again believer in Jesus Christ will live passionately for Him and not be ashamed of Him (Rom. 1:16). A true believer and follower of Jesus will deny themselves rather than indulge themselves, cherish and obey God’s Word, and also share His Word with others. True believers don’t keep their relationship with God private either; they are more than happy to let everyone know that they love Jesus because they are persuaded, convinced, compelled, and unashamed to proclaim that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
Again, I ask, have you been born again? Is Jesus your Lord and Savior? At the end of your life, will you hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matt. 25:23). Or will you hear, “I never knew you, depart from Me, you evil doer” (Matt. 7:23).
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt. 7:21-23).
When I was 24 years old, my boyfriend shared the gospel with me. It was the truth I had been longing to hear my whole life. I gave my heart and life wholeheartedly to Jesus, without hesitation. I was radically saved from a hopeless life of despair. I was born again. I became a new creation in Christ. I was on fire for Jesus. My boyfriend became my husband and we served in ministry together and we raised a wonderful son. Then life got hard and messy, and it all fell apart.
I remember reading in Luke 22:31-32 about Jesus telling Peter that he was going to fall away from following Him. Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” This happened to me too. There was a period of time after years of struggling in my marriage, that I slid back into my old ways. I did not stop believing in God, but I stopped living for Him. Even though I “believed” in God, my identity wasn't fully in Christ. Back then my identity was in my husband and son and when they started slipping away, I let the cares of life and the snares of the devil turn my heart away from the Lord. I committed a terrible sin and walked away from the church. I wallowed in self-pity and shameful behavior for several years. Then God saved me again, from myself. I repented of my sins, rededicated my life to Christ, started reading my Bible again, and went back to church.
Now I can say that Christ IS my life, and death will be gain for me when my time comes because I will go to be with Christ and live forever in His kingdom. Not because I deserve it, but because God is faithful and true to His Word and loves me so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. Now, because I have surrendered my life to Christ completely, I have eternal life and am compelled by His to live for Him and proclaim His truth to set the captives free.
I was one way, but now I am completely different, and what happened in between was Jesus. I am born again.
My calling now is to help others know Jesus and find their complete identity in Him. I want you to know what you believe and where you will spend eternity. God wants you to be sure that you truly know Jesus, and be sure you know where you will spend eternity. When someone asks you if you are going to heaven, you can say with confidence that you are a child of God and will live with Him forever in His kingdom.
Ask yourself, who is Jesus to you, really? Is He your life? Have you been born again?
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment. Indeed, he has crossed over from death to life.
And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Abundant Life Ministry
Healing from your past, help for you now, hope for your future.
Contributing editor, Zach Owens