Being “Born Again” Becomes Popular
“REBIRTH IS RAMPANT.” Thus was headed a press dispatch from Los Angeles that appeared in the New York Post of May 19, 1980. The dispatch went on to state: “More than half of all adult Americans have had a lasting ‘born-again’ Christian religious experience, an upcoming Gallup Poll reports. The data . . . shows that 84 million adult Americans have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that they still consider relevant.” Some time before this a survey reported that nearly half of American Protestant teenagers “had a ‘born again’ experience.” The weekly Parade of July 6, 1980, said that all three United States presidential candidates at that time, Carter, Reagan and Anderson, professed to be “born again” Christians.
“Born again” Christians at times attribute their success in the business world to their having been born again. One extremely successful New York executive is reported to have said: “You open yourself to the Lord and the Lord helps. At one time, when I had to buy Bonwit Teller, I was $2.5 million short and I didn’t know how to get it. It was completely a miracle. And the same thing happened when I purchased Tiffany and I was $1 million short.” In an article entitled “‘Born Again’ Ballplayers on Increase,” a dispatch from San Francisco told of more and more baseball players claiming to have been born again and quoted several of the ballplayers who attributed their success to having been born again. One of these stated: “I don’t get interviewed much, so I’d like to take this opportunity to give credit to Jesus Christ. He is No. 1 in my life.” Another stated that it is “so much easier to play the game of baseball, as well as the game of life, when you have God as your partner.”
Then again, a report on the financial success of “The Electric Church” said: “Religious Broadcasting Becomes Big Business, Spreading Across U.S. Born-Again Christians Foot Most of Bills for Shows: Success of Jerry Falwell. Aim: ‘Hearts and Pocketbooks.’”—The Wall Street Journal.
However, not all religionists in Christendom are happy over this trend. Thus the New York Times stated that ‘Presbyterians were split on the evangelical role and that the influence of “Born Again” groups was being debated by their denomination.’ Some stigmatized this trend as being mere emotionalism, and one seminary professor complained that “too many students were simply unteachable” because of their “born again” attitude. In one seminary about half of the students professed to have been born again.
In general the opinion is that being “born again” is synonymous with a person’s making a “commitment” to serve God and Christ, which is the way prominent evangelists present the matter. This raises some questions: Jesus said that the road leading off to life was narrow and difficult and that few would be the ones finding it. (Matthew 7:13, 14) He also repeatedly stated that his followers were no part of the world. (John 15:19; 17:16) How can these words of his be harmonized with the claim that over half of the adult population in the U.S. have had a “born again” experience? Nor is that all. If half of the adult population of a country are “born again” Christians, why is it that there is so much lawlessness, so much crime, so much tax evasion, so much political corruption, so much sexual immorality, so much materialism, so much of the “me-first” attitude? Does the Bible promise success in business ventures to those “born again”? Do God and Christ become partners to baseball players, helping them to win games?
Jesus said to a Jewish ruler, the Pharisee Nicodemus: “Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Do not marvel because I told you, You people must be born again.” (John 3:5, 7) What did Jesus mean by these words? What is Jehovah God’s purpose in having some born again? By what steps is a person born again, and what are the obligations of those born again? Before these questions can be satisfactorily answered, it is necessary to establish certain basic facts as to Jehovah God’s principles and his purposes regarding the earth and man.
God’s Purpose in Having Some “Born Again”
1, 2. (a) What do we have to understand and appreciate before God’s purpose in having some “born again” can be satisfactorily explained? (b) What testimony does God’s Word give as to his justice, and yet what does his justice not require him to do?
BEFORE we can satisfactorily explain God’s purpose in having some “born again,” it is necessary to understand and appreciate something about the basic attributes of Jehovah God and his purposes regarding the earth and man.
2 The testimony of God’s Word leaves us with no doubt that one of God’s outstanding qualities is justice. Also, righteousness is the very foundation of his throne. (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 89:14) His being just and righteous, however, does not obligate him to bestow identical favors upon all of his intelligent creatures. For example, he created some beings as spirit creatures, angels, who are far superior to humans. Nor does he reward all of his faithful earthly creatures in the same way. Thus Jesus said regarding John the Baptizer that “the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11, The New English Bible) These are points we do well to bear in mind when we consider this subject of being “born again.”
God’s Purpose for the Earth and Man
3. What delightful prospect lay before Adam and Eve upon their being created?
3 To appreciate God’s purpose in having some humans “born again,” it is essential to understand the circumstances that caused God to resort to having some “born again.” Going back to our very first parents, we find that God gave them the mandate: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection . . . every living creature that is moving upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) In their perfection Adam and Eve were children of God. Since God had placed them in a lovely garden park, filled with all manner of beautiful animals and flowers and luscious fruits, their lot was indeed a happy one. As they proceeded to subdue the earth and to fill it with their own kind, the whole earth would eventually become a paradise populated with perfect humans, even as Adam and Eve were perfect. What a delightful prospect lay before them!
4, 5. (a) Why did our first parents fail to serve God’s purpose in creating them? (b) So Jehovah arranged to have his purpose regarding earth and man carried out by whom?
4 However, our first parents lacked appreciation for all of God’s provisions for them and transgressed his law. So God ousted them from his family of sons and sentenced them to death. As a result, all of their offspring have been born sinners subject to death. (Genesis 3:19; Romans 5:12) Neither our first parents nor any of their offspring have been able to carry out God’s original mandate to the human family. Does this mean that God’s purposes regarding the earth and man will never be realized? By no means, for God’s Word assures us that his purposes never fail.—Isaiah 46:10, 11; 55:10, 11.
5 How, then, will God’s original purpose regarding the earth and man be carried out? By means of a Seed, even as God foretold in the garden of Eden and as he promised also to Abraham. That Seed the apostle Paul shows to be primarily Jesus Christ.—Genesis 3:15; 22:17, 18; Galatians 3:16, 29.
How God’s Original Purpose Will Be Realized
6. By what means did God open the way for Adam’s offspring to be restored to God’s family?
6 How could Jesus Christ cause God’s original purpose to be realized? First of all, by removing the condemnation resting upon the human family due to Adam’s rebellion. Jesus was able to do this because he was born as a perfect human, Jehovah God—not Mary’s husband Joseph—being his Father. Jesus actually accomplished this removal of condemnation by dying on the execution stake as a sacrifice. In fact, one of his main reasons for coming to earth was to give his life as a ransom. Thereby he opened the way for Adam’s offspring to be restored to Jehovah’s approved family.—Matthew 28:20.
7. On the basis of what was Jesus raised from the dead a spirit being?
7 However, a dead Ransomer could not benefit the human race. Therefore, Jehovah God raised Jesus Christ on the third day, making him “alive in the spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18) Jehovah did this on the basis of what had happened at the Jordan when Jesus was baptized. There, by means of his holy spirit, God had brought forth Jesus as a spirit-begotten Son. John the Baptizer not only had seen God’s spirit descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove but also had heard God’s voice saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.”—Matthew 3:16, 17; Hebrews 10:5-10.
8. In addition to being “born again” at the Jordan, to what else was Jesus anointed and ordained?
8 Jesus thus became not only a spiritual Son of God but also the Messiah, the Christ or One anointed to be the king of God’s kingdom. Also, at the same time he was ordained to be high priest in behalf of dying mankind, in order to remove the disability of sin. (Hebrews 7:26) Further, the words of Isaiah 61:1, 2 now applied to him: “The spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah is upon me, for the reason that Jehovah has anointed me to tell good news to the meek ones. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to those taken captive and the wide opening of the eyes even to the prisoners.” Jesus had been spirit begotten, “born again.” As God’s spirit-anointed Son he continued faithful until death, in spite of all that Satan the Devil tried to do to cause Jesus to break his integrity. So God resurrected him from the dead.
9. Because of Jesus’ faithfulness until death, God fully equipped him how and for what purpose?
9 Thereupon “God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name.” (Philippians 2:9-11) The fact that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead was attested to by hundreds of witnesses. Shortly before he returned to his Father in the heavens, he told his disciples: “All authority [or, power] has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Now he was fully equipped with the right to restore humankind, by virtue of his sacrificial death, and also with the power to do so, by virtue of his resurrection and ascension to God’s right hand in heaven. (Luke 22:69) Thus Jesus Christ is now in position to cause God’s original purpose regarding the earth and man to be realized. To him, therefore, apply all the Messianic prophecies.—See Psalm 72; Isaiah 9:6, 7; 11:1-10.
Why Others Are “Born Again”
10, 11. (a) What Scriptural testimony shows that Jesus will have associates in his kingdom? (b) How many will share in this privilege, and how do we know that the number given is to be taken literally?
10 Will Jesus Christ accomplish all these things by himself alone? No. Will he have angels ruling with him in his government? No. Sharing with him in the fulfillment of those Messianic prophecies will be some who had been humans upon earth, just as he had been. But before they can share in Christ’s Kingdom government they, like him, must first be “born again” while on earth. Jehovah’s spirit operating upon them brings them forth as spiritual sons with the prospect of everlasting life in the heavens. As such they have a special intimate relationship with God, “a spirit adoption as sons, by which spirit [they] cry out: ‘Abba, Father!’” (Romans 8:15) Jesus repeatedly held out this hope to his apostles. (Luke 22:28-30; John 14:2, 3) Similarly, the apostles made mention of this hope.—Romans 8:17; 1 Corinthians 15:52, 53; 1 John 3:2.
11 How many will gain this heavenly standing? According to all the scriptures bearing on the subject those “born again” will be comparatively few. This is what we would expect, since this is a very special prize, a most privileged official position. Thus Jesus said regarding them: “Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) Just how many will there be of these? The apostle John tells of seeing 144,000 spiritual Israelites sealed in their foreheads, also of 144,000 standing upon Mount Zion with the Lamb Jesus Christ. That we are to understand this number to be a literal one is apparent from the context that tells also of a “great crowd, which no man was able to number.”—Revelation 7:3, 4, 9; 14:1, 3; 20:4, 6.
A People for His Name
12, 13. What is Jehovah’s present purpose for these future Kingdom associates?
12 However, Jehovah God has purposed a work for these prospective kings and priests while they are still in the flesh as humans. And what is that? Even as Jesus was anointed to “tell good news to the meek ones,” so these are anointed to preach the good news of God’s kingdom. (Isaiah 61:1, 2; Luke 4:16-21; Acts 8:4, 12) Thus Jesus gave his early disciples the parting admonition to “make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) And just before Jesus ascended to heaven, he told his 11 faithful apostles that they were to ‘be witnesses of him to the most distant part of the earth.’—Acts 1:8.
13 One of the main purposes of God in having the “good news” preached in all the nations is “to take out of them a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14) Since God’s name is Jehovah, these are known as witnesses for Jehovah. (Isaiah 43:10-12) It is not that these anointed followers of Jesus Christ are the only ones to tell the “good news” to the meek ones, to make disciples and witness for Jehovah God. Rather, just as in ancient Israel Jehovah’s laws applied also to the alien residents in their midst, so the commands given to the spiritual Israelites apply also to their companions, the “great crowd” of “other sheep.”—John 10:16; Revelation 7:9.
14. What is another obligation laid upon these anointed footstep followers of Jesus Christ?
14 Another obligation laid upon the anointed footstep followers of Jesus Christ is that they produce the fruitage of God’s spirit, namely, “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) Jesus said that his true followers would be identified by the love they displayed toward one another. (John 13:34, 35) That is why the apostle Paul counsels them: “Put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his deceptive desires, but . . . you should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” Indicative of how important this obligation is for Christians are the further words of the apostle: “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” (Ephesians 4:22-24; 1 Corinthians 9:27) Only by proving faithful even to death can the anointed ones hope to receive “the crown of life.”—Revelation 2:10.
God’s Original Purpose Not Changed
15. (a) What mistake have many professed Christians made regarding God’s purpose? (b) This has been because of the prominence given in the Christian Greek Scriptures to what hope?
15 Many professed Christians make a mistake in that they ignore Jehovah’s original purpose regarding the earth and man. His Word makes clear what this was and is, and he assures us that he does not change. (Genesis 1:28; Isaiah 45:18; Malachi 3:6) However, the Christian Greek Scriptures give prominence to Jehovah’s further purpose, announced after mankind’s fall into sin, of choosing a limited number of humans, on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, to become associate rulers with his Son in the heavenly kingdom. (Genesis 3:15; 2 Timothy 4:7, 8, 18) All of these would indeed need first to be “born again,” even as Jesus Christ was. (John 3:3) However, God’s provision for salvation on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice is not limited to those whose hope is a heavenly one. This is clear even from the Christian Greek Scriptures.
One Salvation—Two Hopes
16, 17. What scriptures show that the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice are not limited to those whose hope is heavenly?
16 Jesus taught his followers to pray: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:9, 10) For God’s will to be done upon earth as in heaven means that there must be righteous persons living upon the earth, of whom it is foretold: “God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” This could not be referring to heaven, for there never was any outcry, sorrow, pain or death there.—Revelation 21:3, 4.
17 Indicating that there are two groups of humans that will benefit from God’s gracious provisions are the words of the apostle Paul found at Romans 8:19-21: “For the eager expectation of the creation [one group] is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God [another group]. For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will but through him that subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” So eventually all those benefiting because of their faith in Christ’s sacrifice will enjoy life as sons of God—144,000 who were “bought from the earth” to be in heaven and many thousands of millions who will enjoy everlasting life in an earthly paradise.—Revelation 7:4, 9; 14:3; Matthew 25:31-34.
18, 19. (a) What indicates that fulfillment of God’s purpose for earth and man is near at hand? (b) What individuals comprise God’s kingdom and the ‘seed of Abraham’? (c) What question remains to be considered?
18 From the foregoing it is clear that God’s original purpose for the earth and humankind will yet be realized. And the fulfillment of Bible prophecies, such as those found at Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13, Luke chapter 21, 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and Revelation 6:1-8, indicate that time to be at hand! Because of Satan’s rebellion and Adam and Eve’s disobedience, Jehovah arranged a heavenly reward for a privileged group, whom he will use in realizing his original purposes. It is only these that are “born again.” Together with their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, they constitute the kingdom for which Jesus taught his followers to pray. They comprise the ‘seed of Abraham’ for the blessing of “all nations of the earth.”—Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:29.
19 We have considered why the Son of God and his Kingdom associates had to be “born again,” and what are their number and present obligations. However, this question remains: Just what is God’s part and man’s part in being “born again”? How can a person tell that Jehovah God has chosen him to be “born again”?
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At his baptism, Jesus became the one anointed to be king of God’s kingdom
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Jesus told his faithful followers that they were to ‘be witnesses of him to the most distant part of the earth’
“Born Again”—Man’s Part and God’s Part
“Everyone who has been born from God does not carry on sin, because His reproductive seed remains in such one, and he cannot practice sin, because he has been born from God.”—1 John 3:9.
1, 2. What have we learned (a) as to the outcomes of saved ones? (b) as to Jehovah’s purpose in having certain ones “born again”?
IN THE foregoing article we have noted that many millions of professed Christians claim to have been “born again.” Too, we have seen from the Scriptures that while there is only one salvation—based on faith in Christ’s ransom sacrifice—there are two different outcomes to be enjoyed by these saved groups, a heavenly outcome and an earthly one.
2 We have also seen that Jesus Christ was born again following his baptism in the Jordan. Then Jehovah God caused holy spirit to descend upon Jesus in the form of a dove, at which time God acknowledged Jesus as his spirit-begotten Son. We have also seen what Jehovah’s purpose was in having Jesus born again, namely, that upon his death and resurrection he might be the glorious, powerful King of God’s kingdom. We have also learned that it is Jehovah’s will that Jesus Christ have associates ruling with him and that these, too, must be “born again.”—Matthew 3:13-17; John 1:12; 3:3; Hebrews 10:5-10; Revelation 20:6.
3. How do Jesus’ Kingdom associates differ from him when it comes to their being “born again”?
3 What about these anointed footstep followers of Jesus Christ? When are they “born again”? What steps must they take before Jehovah acts on their behalf, bringing them forth as spiritual sons? Because God was his Father, Jesus was born as a perfect human. Thirty years later his Father brought him forth as a spiritual Son, causing him to be “born again.” But all of Adam’s descendants are born sinners, ‘alienated and actually enemies of God because their minds are on works that are wicked.’ As such they are in no state for Jehovah to deal with them and bring them forth as spiritual sons.—Psalm 51:5; Colossians 1:21.
Man’s Part: Six Primary Steps
4, 5. (a) Before God would consider prospective disciples for spiritual sonship, how many steps must these take, and of whom else are these required? (b) What is the first step?
4 What steps are required on the part of prospective disciples before Jehovah would consider them for spiritual sonship? There are six distinct steps that these must take. But let it be noted that God requires these same things of all who would become true Christians and gain salvation, whether their eventual reward will be a heavenly one or an earthly one.
5 To begin with, such persons must take in accurate knowledge about Jehovah God, their Creator and Life-Giver, and about his Son, Jesus Christ, their Savior and Redeemer. (Psalm 36:9; 100:3; Matthew 20:28; Romans 10:13-15) In Jesus’ prayer to God on his last night on earth as a man, he stressed the importance of this step, saying: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
6. What is the second step these must take?
6 However, knowledge of itself is not enough. A person must exercise faith, even as we read: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” Yes, as the apostle Paul so clearly shows, “without faith it is impossible to please [God] well.” This faith regards God’s promises as a reality, as good as fulfilled. It is more than mere belief, for we are reminded by the disciple James that even the demons believe and yet shudder, and, further, that “faith without works is dead.”—John 3:16; Hebrews 11:1, 6; James 2:19, 26.
7. What is the very first work required as proof of a person’s having faith?
7 The very first work that is required as proof of a person’s faith is that of repentance. Yes, a person must repent of his wrongful course and cease willingly engaging in sin. When Jesus began preaching, he said: “Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matthew 4:17) For a person to repent of his wrong course, he would have to stop it. He would have to feel deep regret, sorrow, remorse over it. In fact, it is imperative for all who would gain life in the paradise earth also to do this, for “all the wicked ones [God] will annihilate.”—Psalm 145:20
8. Repenting of one’s sins must be followed by what step?
8 However, merely to stop doing what is sinful is not enough. A person must take the step of conversion. That is, he must turn around and make progress in the opposite direction. He must heed the counsel Peter gave the Jews in his day: “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out.” Yes, ‘do works that befit repentance.’ (Acts 3:19; 26:20) That this step is required, even, of all who hope to enjoy everlasting life on earth is clear from the words found at Proverbs 2:20, 21.
9. (a) What two further steps are required of these, in fact, required of all who would be followers of Jesus Christ? (b) Of what was Jesus’ baptism a symbol?
9 Then, just as Jesus presented himself at the Jordan to do his Father’s will, so the next step required of all who desire to become followers of Jesus Christ, regardless of their hope, is to present themselves to God. Today, this includes making a dedication to Jehovah God, after which they must follow in the footsteps of his Son, Jesus.* (Luke 9:23) Further, as a sixth step they must symbolize this dedication and make an open confession of it by undergoing baptism just as Jesus did.—Matthew 28:19; compare Acts 2:41.
Jehovah God’s All-Important Part
10. The fact that more than man’s part is needed to be “born again” can be seen from what illustration?
10 Acquiring knowledge of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, exercising faith, repenting, converting, dedicating and being baptized—do these steps automatically result in a person’s being “born again”? By no means! You could no more be “born again” spiritually due to your own efforts than you could have been born in the first place due to your own efforts. Even as physical birth requires an active role on the part of human parents, so this spiritual birth, this being “born again,” requires an active role on the part of the divine Parent, Jehovah God, and his heavenly organization, or “woman.” (Isaiah 54:1, 5) All that the person taking the above steps can do is put himself in line to be “born again,” if that be God’s will.
11. If it is God’s will, what action does he take toward those who have done their part?
11 Because of mankind’s inherited imperfection, God himself now acts in behalf of those individuals whom he pleases to call to the heavenly kingdom. That is why we read: “We have been declared righteous as a result of faith.” Faith in what? Faith in Christ’s sacrifice, for it is stated: “We have been declared righteous now by his blood.” (Romans 5:1, 9) Notice that it is God and not the person himself that thus officially declares that one righteous. This gives him a standing different from that of “the creation,” mankind in general who must await “the revealing of the [spiritual] sons of God” before they can be “set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the [earthly] sons of God.” (Romans 8:19-22) Those whom God declares righteous thus have the right to perfect human life imputed to them. Because of this, Jehovah God can now act directly upon them by his spirit.—Romans 8:33.
12. Being “born again” was accompanied with what phenomena in the case of Jesus and the early disciples, and why did such cease?
12 Those whom God declares righteous he now brings forth as his spiritual children. How? By means of his holy spirit, or active force, which he causes to become active on their behalf, resulting in their being “born again.” In the case of Jesus as well as in that of his disciples gathered on the day of Pentecost, God indicated his bringing them forth as spiritual sons by supernatural phenomena. However, once the credentials of true Christianity were firmly established, there was no further need for such manifestations, and these were “done away with.”—Matthew 3:16; Acts 2:3; 10:44-48; 1 Corinthians 13:8-10.
13. To what do the “water” and the “spirit” refer? (John 3:5)
13 This arrangement for spiritual rebirth is what Jesus had reference to when he said to the Jewish ruler Nicodemus: “Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. What has been born from the flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit. Do not marvel because I told you, You people must be born again.” (John 3:1, 5-7) The water here mentioned no doubt refers to the literal water of baptism. And the spirit? To Jehovah’s holy spirit acting upon the individual.
14. Of what do the “calling” and the “choosing” consist, and for what purpose are these Christians anointed and commissioned?
14 The Scriptures speak of those who are “born again” as having first been “called.” This call to them is an invitation by God himself to be associates with Jesus Christ. Those who act upon the invitation are “chosen.” (Revelation 17:14) They become part of the “chosen” congregation, whose commission is to “declare abroad the excellencies” of Jehovah God. (1 Peter 2:9) These “born again” Christians are anointed with God’s holy spirit to preach, even as Jesus was. So we read: “He who guarantees that you and we belong to Christ and he who has anointed us is God.”—Isaiah 61:1, 2; Luke 4:16-21; 2 Corinthians 1:21.
15. How does the spirit bear witness to a person’s being “born again,” and by what is that conviction strengthened?
15 Concerning these “chosen” ones, the apostle Paul testified: “The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:16) How does God’s holy spirit do this? By instilling in these Christians the heavenly hope. “According to [God’s] great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you.” (1 Peter 1:3, 4) As these keep a good relationship with their heavenly Father, he strengthens them in the conviction that they are indeed “born again” Christians.
How Can a Person Be Certain?
16. Since when has the “faithful and discreet slave” placed the emphasis on the earthly hope, and to what conclusion does this lead?
16 Those sharing in preaching this good news of the Kingdom in modern times are confident that Jehovah God is leading his dedicated servants by means of his visible spirit-begotten organization, the “faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Under its direction the heavenly hope was held out, highlighted and stressed until about the year 1935. Then as ‘light flashed up’ to reveal clearly the identity of the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9, the emphasis began to be placed on the earthly hope. (Psalm 97:11) It is reasonable to conclude, therefore, that by that time the full number of 144,000 would have been nearly completed. Of course, any individuals proving unfaithful would need to be replaced. But, understandably, these would be comparatively few. And by whom would these be replaced? It seems reasonable also to conclude that most likely this heavenly hope would be extended to some who had endured in integrity, who had stuck to their dedication over the years, rather than its being held out to unproved newly dedicated ones. (Compare Luke 22:28-30.) However, from reports at hand it appears that even some newly dedicated Christians have considered themselves to be “born again.”
17. What kind of feelings cause some to think mistakenly that God has implanted in them the heavenly hope?
17 Any who in comparatively recent times dedicated themselves and were baptized and who consider themselves to be “born again” would do well to reflect seriously on the following questions: What reasons have you for feeling that Jehovah God has planted this hope in you? Could it be that your emotional feeling is a holdover from the mistaken belief you previously held while in Babylon the Great that heaven is the destiny of all good people? Or could it be that you feel this way because you had great inward disturbances, that you at first fought against the idea but it gradually won out? But did it win out because you wanted it that way, perhaps even unconsciously? Such struggles do not of themselves prove that you were “born again.”
18. Why would not appreciation of deep spiritual matters of itself prove that a person had been “born again”?
18 Or do you feel that you have been chosen by God to be one of the 144,000 anointed ones because of your keen appreciation of spiritual things, because of your fondness for deep spiritual truths? Then note that ever so many who do not profess to be “born again” are ‘spiritual men’ in the fullest sense of the word. (1 Corinthians 2:14, 15) And there is no question about the spiritual strength of those men and women of faith listed in Hebrews chapter 11. None of those were “born again.” All of them looked forward to “a better resurrection [to life under God’s kingdom]” right here on this earth.—Hebrews 11:35.
19. (a) Why would great zeal not necessarily prove that God had bestowed upon a person the heavenly hope? (b) What incident seems to indicate that with some the profession of having the heavenly hope might be due to a lack of modesty?
19 Or might it be that you feel the way you do because of your displaying more zeal than some of your fellow Christians? But that of itself could not be the determining factor, for the apostle Paul time and again found it necessary to counsel anointed Christians in regard to taking their spiritual obligations seriously. (1 Corinthians 11:20-22; Galatians 4:9-11) Or could it be that your profession to be of the anointed is due to a lack of modesty? There are some who quite recently have professed to be of the anointed but who, instead of building unity in the congregation, have felt they must have their own Bible study group. To the contrary, mature “born again” Christians remain close to the local congregation even though it is largely comprised of the “other sheep.” (John 10:16) However, a person’s being “born again” is a personal matter between God and each Christian. No one should judge another on this question.—Romans 14:10.
20. In view of the foregoing, to what conclusions do we come on being “born again”?
20 From all the foregoing what do we conclude? That Jehovah God is just and righteous, wise and loving. He has the right to assign his intelligent creatures to their respective roles—some to serve his purpose in the heavens, others to do so here upon earth. It is not as though the heavenly prize is something to be gained by personal choice and effort, or to be coveted selfishly. It is unique and no human creature may presume upon it. It is indeed a marvelous undeserved kindness that Jehovah God bestows on a few of his creatures, in the furtherance of his wise, just and loving purposes, but not due to any special merit on their own part. Being “born again” is limited to these. (Romans 3:23, 24; 11:33-36) Also, everlasting life on the paradise earth is an unspeakably privileged goal toward which rightly inclined persons may press forward. (Revelation 21:1, 3, 4) All is undeserved kindness. No one should be so presumptuous as to say to Jehovah, “What have you been doing?”—Daniel 4:35.