“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
“You must be born again”
When visited by the religious leader, Nicodemus, Jesus did not immediately assure him of heaven. Instead, Christ said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).
The first time a person is born, he inherits the sin nature that stems from Adam’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. No one has to teach a child how to sin. He naturally follows his own wrong desires, leading to such sins as lying, stealing, and hating. Rather than being a child of God, he is a child of disobedience and wrath.
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1–3).
As children of wrath, we deserve to be separated from God in hell. Thankfully, the passage continues, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4–5). How are we made alive with Christ / born again / made a child of God? We must receive Jesus!
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’ ” (John 1:12). This passage clearly explains how to become God’s child. We must receive Jesus by believing in Him. What must we believe about Jesus?
First, we must recognize that Jesus is the eternal Son of God who became man. Born through the power of the Holy Spirit by the virgin Mary, Jesus did not inherit Adam’s sin nature. Therefore, He is called the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22). While Adam’s one disobedience brought the curse of sin on the world, Christ’s perfect life can cover our sinful ones. Our response must be to repent (turn from sin), trusting His perfect life to purify us.
Second, we must have faith in Jesus as Savior. God’s plan was to sacrifice His perfect Son on the cross to pay the punishment we deserve for our sin: death. Christ’s death frees those who receive Him from the penalty and power of sin.
Finally, we must follow Jesus as Lord. After raising up Christ as the Victor over sin and death, God gave Him all authority (Ephesians 1:20–23). Jesus leads all who receive Him; He will judge all who reject Him (Acts 10:42). By God’s grace giving us repentance and faith in the Savior and Lord, we’re born again to new life as God’s child. Only those who receive Jesus—not merely knowing about Him but relying on Him for salvation, submitting to Him as Master, and loving Him as the supreme treasure—become God’s children.
Become a child of God
Just as we had no part in our natural birth, we cannot cause ourselves to be born into God’s family by doing good deeds or conjuring up faith of our own. God is the one who “gave the right” according to His gracious will. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1, emphasis added). Thus, God’s child has nothing to be proud about but boasts only in the Lord (Ephesians 2:8–9).
A child grows up to look like his parents. Similarly, God wants His children to become more and more like Jesus Christ. Although only in heaven will we be perfect, a child of God will not habitually, unrepentantly sin. “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:7–10).
Make no mistake—a child of God cannot be “disowned” by sinning. But someone who “practices” sin (i.e. consistently enjoys sin without heed for following Christ and His Word) reveals that he was never born again. Jesus told such people, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire” (John 8:44). God’s children, on the other hand, no longer crave the gratification of sin but desire to know, love, and glorify their Father.
The rewards of being God’s child are immeasurable. As God’s child, we are a part of His family (the church), promised a home in heaven, and given the right to approach God in prayer as Father (Ephesians 2:19; 1 Peter 1:3–6; Romans 8:15). Respond to God’s call to repent of sin and believe in Christ. Become God’s child today!
 Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.