In John 3:2 the Bible records the story of a man named Nicodemus. “The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” A man cannot regenerate himself, nor can his parents or family affect this for him (John 1:13; 3:6). John 1:13 speaks of souls “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
John 3:6 declares, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Only the Holy Spirit can communicate spiritual life.
The effects of the new birth are observable. The entrance of the life of God into the soul through the Holy Spirit transforms and satisfies, and expresses itself in worship that is sincere and spiritual. John 4:23 says, that the hour cometh, and now is, “when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”
One reason why some individuals do not truly love the church or Christ, is because they have not been born of the Spirit. They may have been born of men in the midst of a religious service, but they have not been born of the Spirit of the Living God for then they would love what Christ loves. They would love the church and their brothers. They would seek out worship, and become part of the local assembly. 1 John 3:14 explains. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”
D. L. Moody tells the story of a drunkard who accosted him one day and said, “Mr. Moody, don’t you know me? I am one of your converts.” To which Mr. Moody replied, “Sir, you must be one of my converts or if you were converted by Christ you would not be in that condition.”
Billy Graham had a similar experience on an airplane one day. As he tells the incident himself, a man who had too much to drink saw him on board during an airline flight and stumbled up to him saying in a loud voice, “Mr. Graham! I made a decision at one of your crusades recently.” Mr. Graham said he wanted to hide.
It is possible for an individual to have a religious experience, and yet, not be born of the Spirit of God. There are signs if a person is truly born of God, for the life of the heavenly Father is communicated to all His children. Consider the signs of salvation.
First, when a person is born again there is a desire to follow Jesus wherever He goes. In Luke 9:57 the following is recorded. “And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.” The desire is to follow Christ because there is the recognition that He is the Lord and Master, and the heart has been surrender to Him. It is characteristic of the natural heart to want to be in control. It is characteristic of the converted heart to want to follow Christ.
S. I. McMillen, in his book None of These Diseases, tells a story of a young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application blank that asked, “Are you a leader?” Being both honest and conscientious, she wrote, “No,” and returned the application, expecting the worst. To her surprise, she received this letter from the college: “Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower.” One of the problems the church faces is that so many want to be a leader. But who wants to follow Christ in a spirit of humility?
Second, when a person is born again there is a desire to know the Bible. The Psalmist prayed, “Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. 34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart” (Ps 119:33-34). The Bible becomes precious to the converted heart. There is a natural hunger and desire to read, study, and understand the Word of God.
A man in Kansas City was severely injured in an explosion. Evangelist Robert L. Sumner tells about him in his book The Wonders of the Word of God. The victim’s face was badly disfigured, and he lost his eyesight as well as both hands. He was just a new Christian, and one of his greatest disappointments was that he could no longer read the Bible. Then he heard about a lady in England who read braille with her lips. Hoping to do the same, he sent for some books of the Bible in braille. Much to his dismay, however, he discovered that the nerve endings in his lips had been destroyed by the explosion. One day, as he brought one of the braille pages to his lips, his tongue happened to touch a few of the raised characters and he could feel them. Like a flash he thought, “I can read the Bible using my tongue.” At the time Robert Sumner wrote his book, the man had “read” through the entire Bible four times. Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
Third, when a person is born again there is a new sensitivity to pleasing the Holy Spirit. The heart no longer rejoices in iniquity. There are no more casual conversations about openly living in sin. Rather the heart grieves because the Spirit is grieved. One day a woman was found committing adultery. She was taken in the very act. Oh the shame of the moment. Religious hypocrites brought the woman to Christ. But what did Jesus do? He immediately forgave her. “I do not condemn thee,” said Jesus. “Now go, and sin no more” (John 5:14). The woman left but she did not return to her sin.
Fourth, when a person is born again there is a willingness to right anything in the life that is wrong. When Zacchaeus met the Master, before his feet touched the ground from being in the sycamore tree, he was ready to make restitution. “And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. 9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:8-10).
There are many other signs of salvation. Look for them in the heart. Look for the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in the life.