What It Means to Be Born Again!

1 Peter 1:23

You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.

The term “born again” has been bowdlerized into meaning a sort of overwhelming emotional experience. Indeed, many people assume that if you haven’t had an emotional experience, you can’t have been born anew in a biblical sense. But this is false. Being born again is rooted, not in emotion, but on the spiritual fact of entering into the life of the Blessed Trinity in the sacrament of baptism. Babies feel no emotion at this (beyond perhaps irritation at being woken out of a sound sleep by somebody splashing water on them). Nonetheless, the Spirit of God is poured out on them in the sacrament and the Blessed Trinity takes up his dwelling place in them. Likewise, many adult converts to Christianity have become Christians, not at the end of a crying jag, but in a rather laid-back way, emotionally speaking. That does not invalidate their conversion. To be born again is to receive the supernatural life of the Blessed Trinity into our souls. That can happen with a lot of emotion or with little emotion. It can be accompanied by serenity, storms of angst, or a simple prayer. Normatively, it happens in baptism but, if baptism is unavailable for some reason, it can happen through the baptism of desire. In any case, the core of it is not our emotion but the action of the Blessed Trinity, sharing his supernatural life with us. Indeed, if we focus on emotion as the be all and end all of being “born again” we can actually begin to worship emotion rather than God and demand that we have “that special feeling” or we will stop believing in God. Emotions are nice. But building our faith on them is exactly the sort of thing Jesus warned against. Build on the rock of God’s promise of new life in baptism, not on the sands of emotion.

Mark Shea

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Mark P. Shea is a Catholic author, blogger, and speaker.

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  • Claire

    Amen!

  • bkeebler

    Dear Mark Shea (forgive the length of this):

    I agree – AS YOU HAVE SAID…

    (from Web site “Catholic Answers”)
    Baptism (CCC 1213–1284)
    Because of original sin, we are born without grace in our souls, so there is no way for us to have fellowship with God. Jesus became man to bring us into union with his Father. He said no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is first born of “water and the Spirit” (John 3:5)—this refers to baptism.

    Through baptism we are born again, but this time on a spiritual level instead of a physical level. We are washed in the bath of rebirth (Titus 3:5). We are baptized into Christ’s death and therefore share in his Resurrection (Rom. 6:3–7).

    Baptism cleanses us of sins and brings the Holy Spirit and his grace into our souls (Acts 2:38, 22:16). And the apostle Peter is perhaps the most blunt of all: “Baptism now saves you” (1 Pet. 3:21). Baptism is the gateway into the Church.

    BUT WE CAN REJECT GOD:

    (from Web site “Catholic Answers”)
    Are You Guaranteed Heaven?
    Some people promote an especially attractive idea: All true Christians, regardless of how they live, have an absolute assurance of salvation, once they accept Jesus into their hearts as “their personal Lord and Savior.” The problem is that this belief is contrary to the Bible and constant Christian teaching.

    Keep in mind what Paul told the Christians of his day: “If we have died with him [in baptism; see Rom. 6:3–4] we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:11–12).

    If we do not persevere, we shall not reign with him. In other words, Christians can forfeit heaven (CCC 1861).

    The Bible makes it clear that Christians have a moral assurance of salvation (God will be true to his word and will grant salvation to those who have faith in Christ and are obedient to him [1 John 3:19–24]), but the Bible does not teach that Christians have a guarantee of heaven. There can be no absolute assurance of salvation. Writing to Christians, Paul said, “See, then, the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who fell, but God’s kindness to you, provided you remain in his kindness, otherwise you too will be cut off” (Rom. 11:22–23; Matt. 18:21–35, 1 Cor. 15:1–2, 2 Pet. 2:20–21).

    Note that Paul includes an important condition: “provided you remain in his kindness.” He is saying that Christians can lose their salvation by throwing it away. He warns, “Whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall” (1 Cor. 10:11–12).

    If you are Catholic and someone asks you if you have been “saved,” you should say, “I am redeemed by the blood of Christ, I trust in him alone for my salvation, and, as the Bible teaches, I am ‘working out my salvation in fear and trembling’ (Phil. 2:12), knowing that it is God’s gift of grace that is working in me.”

    My comment:

    So what are we to understand? I believe we are to understand that we are born captives in this world (“Because of original sin, we are born without grace in our souls”) for satan rules this world, and we are born into a world of sin and born as sinners ourselves who are ruled by satan, and so we are born as slaves to him (this world). That is why Christ says if we are not sons of God then we are sons of the devil. That is why Christ came to free us, with His own Body and Blood He paid the price (the price of a slave of satan which is death – but Christ not only died for us but rose again that we may too rise from death to have eternal life) to set us free. For those who accept Christ’s sacrifice for their sins (through baptism and perseverance – see catholic teachings), they are no longer slaves to this world and the ruler of this world but reborn, born again to salvation, now called the children of God. So, we can not be of our own, because in this world we belong as children of the devil as we are born into this world captives of sin. But through Christ we are free, if we repent and are obedient rejecting this world and its ruler (for if you are not obedient to God, you are obedient to the devil your father).

    (and I also say with a resounding, energetic, and enthusiastic – Amen!)

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