ARE YOU BORN AGAIN?
By Bishop J. C. Ryle
This is one of the most important questions anyone can be asked. Jesus Christ says, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3.3).
It is not enough to reply, “You have been baptised, and go to church, and you suppose you are.” Thousands of baptised people have none of the marks and signs of being born again which the Scripture has given us.
Would you like to know the marks and signs of being born again? Give me your attention and I will show them to you out of the First Epistle of John.
First of all, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin”; and again, “Whosoever is born of God sinneth not” (1 John 3.9; 8.18).
A man born again, or regenerate, does not commit sin as a habit. He no longer sins with his heart, and will, and whole inclination, as an unregenerate man does. There was probably a time when he did not think whether his actions were sinful or not, and never felt grieved after doing evil.
In one word, sin no longer pleases him, nor is even a matter of difference: it has become the abominable thing which he hates. He cannot prevent it dwelling within him. If he said he had no sin, there would be no truth in him (1 John 1.8). But he can say that he cordially abhors it, and the great desire of his soul is not to commit sin at all.
Secondly, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God”(l John 5.1).
A man born again, or regenerate, believes that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour by whom his soul can be pardoned; that He is the Divine Person appointed by God the Father for this very purpose, and that beside Him there is no Saviour at all. In himself he sees nothing but unworthiness, but in Christ he sees ground for the fullest confidence, and trusting in Him, he believes that his sins are all forgiven. He believes that for the sake of Christ’s finished work and death upon the
Cross he is reckoned righteous in God’s sight, and may look forward to death and judgment without alarm. Ask him whether he will rest his hopes of eternal life on his own goodness, his own amendments, his prayers, his almsgiving, or his church – and see what he will reply. Ask him whether he will give up Christ, and place his confidence in any other way of salvation. Depend upon it, he would say, that though he does feel weak and bad, he would not give up Christ for all the world. Depend upon it, he would say he found a preciousness in Christ, a suitableness to his own soul in Christ, that he found nowhere else, and that he must cling to Him.
Thirdly, “Every one that doeth righteousness is born of him” (1 John 1.29). The man born again, or regenerate, is a righteous man. He endeavours to live according to God’s will, to do things that please God, to avoid things that God hates. His aim and desire is to love God with heart and soul, and mind and strength, and to love his neighbour as himself. His wish is to be continually looking to Christ as his Example as well as his Saviour, and to show himself Christ’s friend, by doing whatsoever Christ commands. No doubt he is not perfect: none will tell you that sooner than himself. He groans under the burden of indwelling corruption cleaving to him; he finds an evil principle within him constantly warring against grace, and trying to draw him away from God; but he does not consent to it, though he cannot prevent its presence. In spite of all shortcomings, the average bent and bias of his own will is holy, his doings holy, his tastes holy, and his habits holy. In spite of all his swerving and turning aside, like a ship beating up against a contrary wind, the general course of his life is in one direction -towards God and for God. And though he may sometimes feel so low that he questions whether he is a Christian at all, he will generally be able to say, with old John Newton, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”
Now, what shall we say to these things? What they can say who hold that regeneration is only an admission to outward Church privileges, I am sure I do not know. For myself, I say boldly, I can come only to one conclusion. That conclusion is, that those persons only are born again who have these marks about them, and that all men and women who have not these marks, are not born again. And I firmly believe that this is the conclusion to which the Apostle wished us to come.
Have you these marks? ARE YOU BORN AGAIN?