There is a mystery to new birth. Jesus himself tells us so when he compares this experience to the blowing of the wind, to its origin and destiny. But there is also evidence that gives the wind away, and so there is evidence that gives new birth away too. So what are the tell-tale signs?
The apostle Paul writes: “We were buried with him by baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4.A.V. cf. Col. 1:1ff.). What is this newness?
FIRST: CLEANSING OF THE HEART
Paul writes: “He saved us through the washing of new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5b). Baptism with water introduces us to the professing Church. It is the badge of a professing Christian. But the washing of new birth with a cleansing of the heart goes deeper, and it introduces us to the living church as we find our desires, character, behaviour begin to change.
SECOND: APPETITE FOR THE WORD OF GOD
The apostle Peter writes to his Jewish and Gentile converts: “Like new born babes desire the milk of the word” (1 Pet. 2:2). We start with milk, meat is to follow. The Bible is that milk and meat. Of course, the Lord can speak to us in other ways, but all these “others” have to be checked against the authority of our Scriptures.
THIRD: GRAVITATION TOWARDS THE PEOPLE OF GOD
We are called to a personal faith but not a private one. A main thrust of the book of Acts is not simply the change in the likes of Peter or Saul of Tarsus; nor even the 3,000 converted on the day of Pentecost, and the progress of Paul’s missionary journeys. But the formation of that fledgling Christian Church – a fellowship that was a model of devotion, transformed values and unselfish care for each other (Acts 2:42ff). The world had never seen anything like this before.
FOURTH: THE PASSION FOR MISSION
John Bunyan described how his conversion experience was so vivid that he wanted to share the news and tell the crows on the ploughed land! The regenerate soul will be concerned for the world-wide Church of Christ and its missionary outreach to those of different cultures than our own, especially those undergoing persecution. Such concern is not the pre-occupation of a few enthusiasts. It is a vital evidence of the new birth.
For reflection: We are called to love God, to love our neighbour as ourselves; to love our immediate family; to love our enemies even. But it may surprise you that the greatest emphasis in John’s Gospel is love for our brothers and sisters in Christ (Jn. 13:35; 15:12f.).