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Why be born again

Why Be Born Again?

A great division exits in the world today.  One side is dominated by the carnal mind and its limited abilities.  The other side is governed by the spiritual mind and the infinite God who gives us life.  All people are born with a carnal mind.  Those who are born again of God’s Spirit in Jesus Christ are given a spiritual mind.

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  (Romans 8:5,6)

The carnal mind causes us to live by our own understandings, intuition, feelings, hunches, learning, etc.  It requires proof and decides what it will accept or reject.  It is strongly opinionated, and demands conformity to its own views and precepts.  A common trait of those who live by the carnal mind is a perceived need to control their own destinies and to dominate others so they can get what they want and achieve goals they have formulated and desire for themselves and those close to them or in league with them.

The spiritual mind, on the other hand, does not rely on individual abilities, understandings, training, etc.  Rather it relies upon the integrity, wisdom, and power of God.  Its confidence originates with God and is not limited by our capacity to comprehend God and His plan for our lives.  It is through the gift of the spiritual mind that we are able to live by faith.  For it is the anticipation and experience of the spiritual mind that God grants intelligence to the faithful by granting them knowledge according to their faith in God’s revealed Word, Jesus Christ.

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to naught; But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory; Which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  (I Corinthians 2:4-10)

Jesus testified to Nicodemus that there is another birth besides our physical birth, and that without this new birth we cannot see the kingdom of God.

There was a man of the Pharisees a man named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles which thou doest, except God be with him.  Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus said unto him, How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?  Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water, and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (John 3:1-7)

This spiritual birth comes of God dwelling within us by His Spirit.  Just as we are born of the flesh and thus dwell in this world, we must also be born of God’s Spirit in order that we might dwell with God in His kingdom.

What is it like to be born of the Spirit?  Jesus explained it this way to Nicodemus:

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and wither it goeth; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

In other words, those who are born of the Spirit of God are led (directed) by God’s Spirit rather than by the dictates of their own carnal minds and earthly wills.  Individuals who are born again are no long dominated by the things of their flesh and the things of this world.  Rather, they are moved by the things of God by being led of His Spirit.11

Here is how Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, explained being born of the Spirit.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death … For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  So then they that are after the flesh cannot please God.  But ye are not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.  Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.  (Romans 8:1,2,5-9)

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law… [i.e. you are under grace]  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  (Galatians 5:16-18,25)

As Paul explains, to be born again involves receiving a new mind, which is the mind of Christ.  It involves receiving new thoughts which come from the Spirit of God dwelling in us.  In this way we come to know God and the things of God.2

For what man knoweth the things of man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, except he has the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given us of God.  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?  But we have the mind of Christ. (I Corinthians 2:11-16)

And so Paul appeals to us to allow this mind to be in us that was in Jesus Christ, even the mind which comes of the Spirit of God dwelling in us.

If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus  (Philippians 2:1-5)

Why is it important to receive the mind of Christ?  As Isaiah testified, God’s thoughts are much higher than our thoughts.  His ways are much higher than our ways.  Therefore, we must forsake our ways and receive His ways through His Spirit in order to dwell with Him in His kingdom.

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near;  Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.  (Isaiah 55:6-9)

Briefly comprehended, it is only through God’s Spirit dwelling in us that we are able to comprehend the things of God and thereby abide in His kingdom.  In practical terms, those who receive the thoughts of God by way of the Spirit of God dwelling in them will come to see eye to eye when they dwell together in the kingdom of our God, which is Zion, the city of God.3

Therefore, my people shall know my name; yea, in that day they shall know that I am he that doth speak; behold, it is I.  And then shall they say, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings unto them, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings unto them of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.  Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.  Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.  The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.  Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.  (Isaiah 52:6-10)

Have you been born again?

And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, Have ye spiritually been born of God?  Have ye received his image in your countenances?  Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?  Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you?  Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God, to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?  I say unto you, Can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day, Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?  (Alma 3:27-32)

You may by letting the Spirit of Jesus Christ dwell in you, by no longer resisting His Spirit, but rather, by receiving His Spirit gladly and thankfully according to His gospel.  Jesus Christ gives power to everyone who receives Him so they may become God’s children.

He came unto his own, and his own received him not.  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; only to them who believe on his name.  He was born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  And the same word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.  John bear witness of him, and cried, saying, This is he of whom I spake; He who cometh after me, is preferred before me; for he was before me.  For in the beginning was the Word, even the Son, who is made flesh, and sent unto us by the will of the Father.  And as many as believe on his name shall receive of his fullness. And of his fullness have all we received, even immortality and eternal life, through his grace.  (John 1:11-16)

In fact, this is the gospel of Jesus Christ:

Hearken and listen to the voice of him who is from all eternity to all eternity, the great I AM, even Jesus Christ, the light and the life of the world; a light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not; the same which came in the meridian of time unto my own, and my own received me not;  but to as many as received me, gave I power to become my sons, and even so will I give unto as many as will receive me, power to become my sons.  And verily, verily I say unto thee, He that receiveth my gospel, receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel, receiveth not me.  And this is my gospel: repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.  (D&C 39:1-2)

Jesus Christ is able to give to everyone who receives Him the power necessary to put off the old man with the deeds of the flesh and to receive the new man which lives after the manner of our Lord.

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry; For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience; In the which ye also walked sometime, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him; Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.  (Colossians 3:5-17)

In the words of the Psalmist, those who so live will be blessed forever, because they no longer live according to counsel and ways of the ungodly, sinners, and the scornful.

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.  The ungodly are not so; but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.  Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.  For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish.  (Psalm 1:1-6)

Come and be born again of God’s Spirit.  You no longer need to live according to the dictates of the flesh and the vices of this world.  Through the Spirit of reconciliation God that has sent into the world by Jesus Christ, each of us may be born anew and dwell with God in His kingdom.  We can live in peace with the God who created us in the beginning in His own image, and who is now able to recreate us through Jesus Christ so that we become new creatures in Him.

Wherefore, henceforth live we no more after the flesh; yea, though we once lived after the flesh, yet since we have known Christ, now henceforth live we no more after the flesh.  Therefore if any man live in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new, and receiveth all the things of God, who hath reconciled us to  himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.  (II Corinthians 5:16-18)

How then may we receive the Spirit of God?  Jesus said,

If ye love me, keep my commandments.  And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.  I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you … But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.  (John 14:15-18,26)

In other words, we receive the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, through the prayer of Jesus Christ.

What must be done on our part?  Remember, Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.  And I will pray…”  Remember also that regarding Jesus it is written, “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:9).  This is why Jesus asks, “And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).

Plainly stated, we must actually obey Jesus as our Lord to realize the promise of His words.  We must actually follow Jesus as the Good Shepherd.4  We cannot simply say we believe in Him, for as James assures us, even devils believe.5  Therefore, in the words of Jesus, we must take up our cross and follow Him.  Otherwise we cannot be His disciples nor have fellowship among those who receive of His Spirit.

And he said unto them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life, must be willing to lose it for my sake; and whosoever will be willing to lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.  For what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and yet he receive him not whom God hath ordained, and he lose his own soul, and he himself be a castaway?  For whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own kingdom, clothed in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels.  (Luke 9:23-26)

And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.  (Luke 14:27)

How shall we follow Jesus?  Nephi has summed up the matter very well by showing us the path wherein we must walk to have eternal life in the kingdom of God.

And now I, Nephi, make an end of my prophesying unto you, my beloved brethren; and I cannot write but a few things which I know must surely come to pass, neither can I write but a few of the words of my brother Jacob.

Wherefore, the things which I have written sufficeth me, save it be a few words which I must speak concerning the doctrine of Christ;

Wherefore, I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying, for my soul delighteth in plainness, for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men.

For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding, for He speaketh unto men according to their language unto their understanding;

Wherefore, I would that ye should remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sin of the world.

And now if the Lamb of God, He being holy, should have need to be baptized by water to fulfill all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!

And now I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfill all righteousness in being baptized by water – know ye not that He was holy?

But notwithstanding He being holy, He showeth unto the children of men that according to the flesh He humbleth Himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that He would be obedient unto Him in keeping His commandments;

Therefore, after that He was baptized with water, the Holy Ghost descended upon Him in the form of a dove. And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path and the narrowness of the gate by which they should enter, He having set the example before them; and He saith unto the children of men: “Follow thou Me.”  

Wherefore my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?

And the Father saith: “Repent ye! Repent ye! And be baptized in the name of My beloved Son!”

And also the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: “He that is baptized in My name, To him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto Me; Wherefore, follow Me and do the things which ye have seen Me do.”

Wherefore my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ by baptism, yea, by following your Lord and Savior down into the water according to His word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.

But behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: “After that ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep My commandments by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels – and after this should deny Me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known Me.”

And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: “Yea, the words of My Beloved are true and faithful; He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.”

And now my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.

Wherefore, do the things which I have told you that I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; For, for this cause have they been shown unto me:  That ye might know the gate by which ye should enter.

For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost, and then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; Yea, ye have entered in by the gate, ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son, and ye have received the Holy Ghost which witnesses of the Father and the Son unto the fulfilling of the promise which He hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

And now my beloved brethren, after that ye have got into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done.  Behold, I say unto you, nay; For ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ, with unshaken faith in Him, relying wholly upon the merits of Him who is mighty to save.

Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men.

Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ and endure to the end, “Behold,” thus saith the Father, “ye shall have eternal life.”

And now behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way, and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God.

And now behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God without end. Amen.  (II Nephi 13)

By following Jesus and the example He has set for us, we too may receive the Spirit of the living God.  For, according to John, Jesus came to baptize us with fire and the Holy Ghost.6  Recall further how Luke records that upon being baptized in the Jordon river by John, Jesus was praying when the Spirit of God came upon Him.

Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also came unto John; and being baptized of him, and praying, the heaven was opened; And the Holy Ghost descended, in bodily shape like a dove, upon him; and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased.  (Luke 3:28,29)

Likewise, we too may receive the Spirit through prayer according to the example our Savior has set for us.7  Therefore, may we follow the instructions of the Apostle Paul to be found always in prayer.

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.  (Romans 12:10-18)

See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing.  In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  Quench not the Spirit.  Despise not prophesyings.  Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.  Abstain from all appearance of evil.  And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it.  (I Thessalonians 5:15-24)

Please remember that without the Spirit of God dwelling in us, we are, as Paul wrote, “none of his.”

So then they that are after the flesh cannot please God.  But ye are not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.  (Romans 8:8,9)

It is by allowing ourselves to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ8 that we allow His Spirit to dwell in us – cleansing us, transforming us, renewing us, teaching us, inspiring us – and thereby allow Him to grant us eternal life through the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.  (Romans 5:6-11)

Those who continue in their reliance upon the carnal mind cannot know the things of God and His kingdom, nor will they inherit the great happiness that is prepared for God’s children.  

O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One.  Remember that his paths are righteousness.  Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel: and he employeth no servant there:  And there is none other way, save it be by the gate, for he can not be deceived; for the Lord God is his name.  And whoso knocketh, to him, will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches; yea, they are they, whom he despiseth;  And save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.  But the things of the wise and the prudent, shall be hid from them for ever; yea, that happiness which is prepared for the saints.  (II Nephi 6:79-85)

On the other hand, those who accept and then live by the spiritual mind that comes of the baptism of Jesus, the new birth that comes of His Spirit of truth dwelling in us, will inherit eternal life.

And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption.  Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth, ye will be saved.  (Omni 1:46,47)

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; And remember after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.  Wherefore, may God raise you from death, by the power of the resurrection, and also from everlasting death, by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise him through grace divine. Amen.  (II Nephi 7:41-44)

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Footnotes


1. Consider Luke 2:49 with John 14:12; see also John 10:27 with Galatians 5:16-18,25,26

2. Consider John 17:3

3. See D&C 94:5

4. Review John 10

5. James 2:19

6. Mark 1:1-6 IV (1-8 KJV)

7. D&C 63:16a

8. II Corinthians 5:14-21

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