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AreYouBornAgain? by J. C. Ryle(1816-1900)
Areyou born again? This is one of life’s most importantquestions. Jesus Christ said, “Except
aman be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”(John 3:3).
Itis not enough to reply, “I belong to the church; Isuppose I’m a Christian.”Thousands of
nominalChristians show none of the signs of being born again which the Scriptures havegiven
us—manylisted in the First Epistle of John.
First of all, Johnwrote: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin” (I John 3:9). “Whosoever is born of God sinnethnot” (5:18).
Aperson who has been born again, or regenerated, does not habitually commit sin.He no longer sins with his heart and will and whole inclination. There was probably a time when hedid not think about whether his actions were sinful or not, and he did not always feelgrieved after doing evil. There was no quarrel between him and sin; they were friends. But the true Christian hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, considers it his greatest plague, resents the burden of its presence, mourns when he falls under its influence, and longs to be completely delivered fromit. Sin nolonger pleases him, nor is it even a matter of indifference to him; it hasbecome a horrible thing which he hates. However, he cannot eliminate its presence within him.
If he said that he had no sin, he would be lying (I John 1:8). But he can say thathe hates sin
and that the great desire of his soul is not to commit sin at all. He cannotprevent bad thoughts
from entering his mind, or shortcomings, omissions, and defects from appealing inboth his words and his actions. He knows that “in many things we offendall” (James 3:2). But he can truly say, inthe sight of God, that these things cause him grief and sorrow and that his whole nature does notconsentto them. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?
Second, John wrote: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (I John 5:1).
A man who is born again, or regenerated, believes that Jesus Christ is the onlySaviour who can
pardonhis soul, that He is the divine person appointed by God the Father for thisvery purpose, and
besideHim there is no Saviour at all. In himself he sees nothing but unworthiness.But he has full
confidencein Christ, and trusting in Him, he believes that his sins are all forgiven. Hebelieves that,
becausehe has accepted Christ’s finished work and death on thecross, he is considered righteous
inGod’s sight, and he may look forward to death andjudgment without alarm.
Hemay have fears and doubts. He may sometimes tell you that he feels as if he hadno faith
atall. But ask him if he is willing to trust in anything instead of Christ, andsee what he will say.
Askhim if he will rest his hope of eternal life on his own goodness, his ownworks, his prayers, hisminister, or his church, and listen to his reply. What would the apostle sayabout you? Are you born again?
Third, John wrote: “Every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him” (I John 2:29).
Theman who is born again, or regenerated, is a holy man. He endeavors to liveaccording to
God’s will, to do the things that please God and to avoid thethings that God hates. He wishes tocontinually look to Christ as his example as well as his Saviour and to prove himself to beChrist’sfriend by doing whatever He commands. He knows he is not perfect. He is painfullyaware of hisindwelling corruption. He finds an evil principle within himself that is constantlywarring againstgraceand trying to draw him away from God. But he does not consent to it, though hecannot preventitspresence.
Thoughhe may sometimes feel so low that he questions whether or not he is a Christianat all,
hewill be able to say with John Newton, “I am not what Iought 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 usedto be, and by the graceof God I am what I am.” What would the apostle sayabout you? Are you born again?
Fourth, John wrote: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because welove the brethren” (I John 3:14).
Aman who is born again has a special love for all true disciples of Christ. Likehis Father in
heaven,he loves all men with a great general love, but he has a special love for thosewho share his faith in Christ. Like his Lord and Saviour, he loves the worst of sinners andcould weep over them; but he has a peculiar love for those who are believers. He is never so much athome as when he is in their company.
He feels they are all members of the same family. They are his fellow soldiers,fighting against
thesame enemy. They are his fellow travelers, journeying along the same road. Heunderstands them,and they understand him. They may be very different from himself in many ways—inrank, instation and in wealth. But that does not matter. They are his Father’s sons and daughters and he cannothelp loving them. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?
Fifth, John wrote: “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world” (I John 5:4).
Aman who is born again does not use the world’s opinionas his standard of right and wrong.
Hedoes not mind going against the world’s ways, ideas andcustoms. What men think or say no longer concerns him. He overcomes the love of the world. He finds no pleasure inthings which seem to bring happiness to most people. To him they seem foolish and unworthy of animmortal being.
He loves God’s praise more than man’spraise. He fears offending God more than offending
man.It is unimportant to him whether he is blamed or praised; his first aim is toplease God. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?
Sixth, John wrote: “He that is begotten of God keepeth himself’(I John 5:18).
Aman who is born again is careful of his own soul. He tries not only to avoidsin but also to
avoideverything which may lead to it. He is careful about the company he keeps. He knows that evil communications corrupt the heart and that evil is more catching than good, justas disease ismoreinfectious than health. He is careful about the use of his time; his chiefdesire is to spend itprofitable.
He desires to live like a soldier in an enemy country—to wear his armorcontinually and to be
preparedfor temptation. He is diligent to be a watchful, humble, prayerful man. What would theapostlesay about you? Are you born again?
Theseare the six great marks of a born again Christian.
Thereis a vast difference in the depth and distinctness of these marks in differentpeople. In
somethey are faint and hardly noticeable. In others they are bold, plain andunmistakable, so anyonemayread them. Some of these marks are more visible than others in each individual.Seldom are all equally evident in any one person.
But still, after every allowance, here we find boldly painted six marks of beingborn of God.
How should we react to these things? We can logically come to only oneconclusion—only
thosewho are born again have these six characteristics, and those who do not havethese marks are notborn again. This seems to be the conclusion to which the apostle intended us tocome. Do youhave these characteristics? Are you born again?