As a Catholic growing up, I was never introduced to the concept of being “born again,” because the official stance of the Church is that I received this impartation from God when I was sprinkled in baptism, shortly after birth. So, why ask for something already obtained—right? But there’s more to be considered. According to Catholic doctrine, when an infant (or any other participant in baptism) is sprinkled, the following eight things happen.

The one baptized:

  1. Is born again.
  2. Is indwelt by the Spirit of God.
  3. Receives the gift of salvation.
  4. Receives the gift of eternal life.
  5. Is spiritually positioned “in Christ.”
  6. Becomes a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
  7. Becomes a member of the Church.
  8. Is cleansed of original sin.

Unfortunately, none of these things happen, for the following three reasons:

  • First, there is absolutely no account of infant baptisms being conducted in the New Testament. (Four households were baptized, but infants were never mentioned.)
  • Second, there is absolutely no account of baptism being administered by sprinkling. It is always done by immersion.
  • Third, biblically there must always be a conscious and mature understanding of the plan of salvation before baptism is administered and the gift of eternal life is received. Peter, in his Pentecost sermon, insisted repentance was a prerequisite, and Philip told the Ethiopian eunuch that he must first believe with all his heart. (See Acts 2:38; 8:26-40.) Evidently, a baby cannot repent or believe.
My Journey to Spiritual Rebirth

Although I was very committed in my youth, I quit attending the Catholic Church in my early teens. Then, after a near-death experience at the age of 18, I knew I needed to find the bedrock of absolute truth and ultimate reality. So, I dropped out of college to find both. Because I never had a personal encounter with the Lord in Catholicism, for a season, I detoured away from the Christian worldview altogether (assuming at the time that Catholicism and biblical Christianity were the same thing).

A passionate seeker, I explored other paths like Yoga, Hinduism, Sikhism, and New Age spirituality—fervently pursuing God—until I became a teacher of yoga at four universities and the head of a yoga ashram. Then someone shared the reality of Jesus with me, introducing me to the concept of being “born again.” I was very receptive, because earlier that same day, I had prayed if Jesus was the only way, He would give me a sign. I prayed and thankfully, it happened. I had a powerful, transformational encounter with the Savior of the world!

The first six expressions of grace listed above finally happened to me—almost two decades after my initial “sprinkling.” (I have different, non-Catholic interpretations for #7 and #8. When I became a member of “the Church” at salvation, I did not become a member of the Catholic Church. Instead, I joined the ranks of something I call ‘the possessing Church’: a trans-denominational body of believers bound together by the common experience of being born again. Also, I do not believe that ‘original sin’ is removed at salvation. However, one major result of the original sin—separation from God—was removed the moment I surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus. However, there is still a fallen nature that all believers must keep under subjection until the resurrection. (See 1 Corinthians 9:27.)

(If you would like to read the detailed account of my conversion story, you can download a free booklet on The title is The Highest Adventure: Encountering God.)

Scriptures Revealing this Wondrous Opportunity

Some of the following Bible passages are the very ones that were shared with me that pivotal day in the fall of 1970 when I found the Good Shepherd (or more correctly, when He found me, one of His lost sheep). Once I encountered the Lord, I left all other religious expressions and modes of spirituality behind and gave my all to the One who was crucified for the sins of humanity and rose again three days later. Now, it’s my turn to joyously share these scriptures with you.

The primary biblical source of the “born-again” revelation is the third chapter of the Gospel of John. It flows out of the story of Nicodemus, the Jewish leader who came under the cover of night to question Jesus concerning His identity as the Messiah. Here’s an excerpt from that important conversation:

     There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
     This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
     Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
     Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
     Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
     That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
     Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:1-7)

Notice, Jesus did not make spiritual rebirth optional; He makes it mandatory. Therefore, out of the entire New Testament, this passage is one of the most important. It needs to be correctly interpreted. If we get this part right, we will be far more prone to getting the rest right. Why? Because once you are truly a part of God’s kingdom, you are far more capable of comprehending it. As Jesus expressed it, you will be able to “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). What a glorious opportunity!

What Does It Mean to Be “Born of the Water”?

The official stance of the Catholic Church is that the persons who are baptized into the Catholic Church are “born of water and of the Spirit” simultaneously during that sacramental ceremony. The word “water” is interpreted to mean water baptism. However, in the very next verse, Jesus gives the qualifying explanation:

     “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6)

Evidently, the Messiah is talking about two different births, not two things happening simultaneously. To enter the kingdom of God, we must first be born naturally (born of the flesh). Then we must be born supernaturally (“born again” / “born of the Spirit”). The phrase “born of water” was Jesus’ metaphorical way of describing the natural birth process. That phrase is almost identical to our modern idiom, “the breaking of the water.” Both expressions refer to that amazing moment when the amniotic sac breaks, and the amniotic fluid pours out during childbirth. Therefore, those who qualify for entrance into the kingdom of God must first be born of the water (natural birth), then later, they must be born again (spiritual rebirth). This earthly sojourn is a necessary step in our journey, because in this world, there are lessons to be learned and impartations to be received that cannot be learned or received any other way. Yes, this life, with all its difficulties and challenges, is a God-ordained steppingstone to something far more glorious: eternal life.

Going Even Deeper

Examining the original language of the Bible often provides wonderful insights. This passage is no exception. The phrase, “born again” is from the Greek words, gennao anothen (verses 3 and 7). The word anothen is translated “again” only twice in the New Testament: these two verses. Five other times it is more correctly translated “from above” (John 3:31; 19:11, James 1:17; 3:15, 17). Therefore, to be “born again” is to be “born from above.” What does that mean? To be born in the flesh is to be born from below, from an earthly source (the womb of a mother). To be born of the Spirit is to be born from a heavenly Source (the Holy Spirit). How does that happen?

Two prophetic passages about the New Covenant pull the veil back on this mystery: Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:26-27. Jeremiah’s prophecy is wonderful:

     “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—
not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.
     But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
     No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ’Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34) 

So, the first thing God sends into our hearts “from above” is His law (His Word). The same God who engraved the Ten Commandments in tablets of stone on Mount Sinai (during the Old Covenant era), promises to engrave His Word in the minds and hearts of His people (during this New Covenant era). Instead of just religious and moral demands being placed on us externally, God promises we will receive a supernatural character change internally. The new nature imparted during spiritual rebirth awakens within newborn believers a genuine love for God and love for a lifestyle in harmony with His Word. In the last line of Jesus’ great intercessory prayer for the Church to come, He prayed for that awakening of love to happen along with His indwelling:

     “Father . . . that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).

God also pledges in Jeremiah’s prophecy that His New Covenant people will know Him personally and that He will never remember their sins again. The blood of the Old Covenant animal sacrifices could never change the nature of participants during those rituals or fully take away their sin. It only “atoned” for their sin (meaning a temporary covering). However, the blood of Jesus removes all sin, and then, that same precious blood continues to flow through our spirits, for time and eternity.

The mystery unfolds even more powerfully in Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning God’s people in the New Covenant era. The Most High declares:

     “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

So, the next three things God pledges to send “from above” during spiritual rebirth are the infilling of His Spirit and the creation of a “new heart” and a “new spirit.” The fulfillment of all these promises, combined together, supernaturally empower sons and daughters of God to walk in the Father’s ways. Wonderful!

The Washing of Regeneration

Spiritual rebirth is also described in Titus 3:5 as “the washing of regeneration.” Because the word “washing” is usually associated with water, some assume this passage concerns water baptism. The assumption is also that spiritual rebirth and water baptism happen simultaneously. However, our sins are not washed away by water (a natural substance with no spiritual power of itself). This is a metaphorical use of the baptism symbol. Our spirits, dead in trespasses and sins, are washed clean of sin and renewed by four primary spiritual influences:

  1. The Word of God:

     Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27)

2-3. The Spirit of God and the name of Jesus:

     Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

  1. The blood of Jesus:

     . . . To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6)

This fourfold “washing” results is the birthing of “a new spirit” that is “created in true righteousness and holiness” (Ezekiel 36:26, Ephesians 4:24, See 2 Corinthians 5:21). Praise God!

Eight Complementary Concepts

Now, let’s go through the eight complementary steps that lead a person to this life-changing, spiritual rebirth the prophets foretold and Jesus revealed:

  1. Truly repent before God (which involves three stages: genuine sorrow for sin, hatred for sin, and the intention to depart from sin):

     Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:19)

  1. Sincerely and prayerfully call on the name of Jesus:

     For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

  1. Confess your faith in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection:

    That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)

  1. Respond to Jesus’ request to enter your heart and life:

     “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)

  1. Believe that the Savior now dwells within:

       That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith . . . (Ephesians 3:17)

  1. As you receive Jesus, believe that you become a part of the family of God:

     But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

  1. Declare that you are now a child of God, and God is your Father:

     And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6)

  1. Expect Jesus’ intercessory prayer over the church of this New Covenant era to be answered in you individually:

     “O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:25-26)

These last two verses from John 17 are the climax of an amazing 26-verse intercessory prayer Jesus prayed toward the close of His time on earth. He petitioned the Father concerning the disciples who were with Him then, as well as all those yet to follow Him in this Age of Grace. You should read that prayer in its entirety. It includes so many wonderful promises and provisions that you can claim in prayer. However, as already mentioned, the closing line (the final two verses) of the Messiah’s petition reveals a primary key to true Christianity: being filled with the love of the Father and the personal indwelling of the Son of God. You should declare right now, “I receive that promise into my heart and my life.”

The Prayer that Connects

If this wonderful spiritual impartation of being “born again” has never happened to you, or if you are unsure, you should pray the following prayer right now:

     “Lord Jesus, I surrender to You as Lord of my life. I believe You died on the cross for the sins of humanity and I believe three days later, You rose from the dead victoriously. I repent of my sins and ask You to come and dwell in my heart. I claim the promise that Your precious blood will wash away all my transgressions. By faith, I receive the gift of grace, the gift of salvation, and the gift of eternal life, and I humbly ask to be ‘born again.’ From this day forward, I intend to serve You with all my heart as a true disciple. I also believe that when You return, I will rise to meet You, resurrected and glorified, to dwell with You forevermore. Amen.”

Of course, this prayer of salvation does not have to be spoken exactly, word-for-word, repeated numerous times, to be effective. However, the various concepts mentioned are all important to include. If you approach God with sincerity, be creative in expressing the same basic ideas in your own wording that it might be even more heartfelt and genuine.

You may have a real spiritual encounter when you seek God using this approach (which is wonderful when it happens), then again, you may not feel anything. True salvation is not always accompanied by a spiritual sensation. However, it always results in changed hearts and changed lives, and it always happens because you believe:

     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 2:8-9)

Though you have been “dead in trespasses and sins,” you will be made “alive together with Christ”—just because you pray in faith and express love toward God sincerely (Ephesians 2:1, 5; 6:24).

Yes, it really is as simple as that.

God wanted it to be simple. The Bible even describes the true Gospel as “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).