How do you know if you have been born-again?
For someone who is trying to figure out if they have been born-again in Christ and saved from sin, the best determining factor is the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. He is the helper who Jesus promised for the disciples; the one who leads us in truth and reforms our character.
John 14:15-18 & 25-26 (NKJV) “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you…
“These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
There are certain things which are evidence of having the Holy Spirit in your life, which we will be looking at in detail. Some of them are good indications, while others can be faked.
For someone to be saved and have the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit, they must be born again.
John 3:5-8 (NKJV) 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.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit moves us into a radical change from what we were before salvation, so that we are no longer the same person who was dead in sin but have come into a new life as an adopted child of God. We’ll go through all the signs in order of the strength of their evidence so that you can see what best indicates whether you have the Spirit in your life or not.
Most people are familiar with the gifts and the fruits, but there is another sign I particularly want to talk about because it matters the most and is the best evidence of salvation.
1 Corinthians 12:4-12 (NKJV) There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
The body of Christ is made of different people with different personalities and gifts. The Spirit will always play to our strengths when it comes to gift-giving, so sometimes you don’t notice that you have a gift because it has simply enhanced your natural ability in order to serve God more effectively. Wisdom and teaching are good examples of this.
Some bible teachers believe in cessation of the gifts, or they don’t believe that we have the same level of gifts that the apostles did at the foundation of the churches. There is some truth to that, although I wouldn’t want to impose such limitations on God since it is entirely up to Him who gets gifts, what they are, and when they get them.
We do not have control over the gifts, and they can be granted as well as taken away by God through His wisdom.
In Greek the word for “gift” is “khárisma” which is why some churches call themselves charismatic; because they believe that they operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Whether they actually do or not is a matter of conjecture, since the outward gifts like tongues and prophesy can be faked by delusional people, or they can be manifested by fallen angels who are capable of producing lying signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9) and who also present themselves as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
For this reason, the charismatic gifts are NOT evidence of salvation.
If a church or an individual Christian claims to be operating in the gifts, this needs to be tested and discerned. The process for doing that is through the fruits, which we will get to shortly, and also by seeing whether the gifts operate in truth. The Holy Spirit will never give someone a prophecy which does not come true. He will also never give someone wisdom or teaching which flies in the face of the scriptures. God does not contradict Himself, nor does He change His mind and He does not make mistakes. Anyone found to be wrong about a word of prophesy is a false prophet and should not be trusted.
Galatians 5:22-25 (NKJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
The fruits of the Holy Spirit are much harder to fake than the gifts, but it is possible that someone could pretend to be a good person for a short time, since the fruits are centered around character traits. Wolves in sheep’s clothing will pretend to be kind, loving and gentle for a while, but they often have trouble sustaining it and they usually have someone in their intimate circle that they lash out at in order to relieve the strain of having to act nice. Give people plenty of time to reveal themselves and keep watch for how they treat their spouse, children, close friends, parents, etc.
If they haven’t fully submitted to the authority of God in their lives and accepted the instruction of the Holy Spirit, then they will continue in their old ways on the down-low and go to great lengths not to be discovered.
Galatians 5:16-21 (NKJV) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
We can see what the opposite fruits are from this example, which is important to keep in the back of your mind when you meet someone at church. Not everyone who calls themselves a Christian actually is a born-again Christian.
Conviction of Sin – the ONE sign you must have
The final sign of salvation is the most reliable because it indicates that a person has repented of their former ways, which is the first step to being born-again. No one can be saved without it.
John 16:7-11 (NKJV) Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Mark 1:14-15 (NKJV) Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
This is the process of salvation: repentance because of the understanding that we need to be saved from sin, then Jesus Christ atoning for our sins with His blood, and our faith that He promises eternal life to anyone who carries their cross and follows His narrow way. This is the whole reason Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross.
Can we intellectually accept that God exists? Yes. Does that mean we are saved? Not really. The scripture says repent and believe. Belief alone is not enough.
Believing without repenting is not going to give you the conviction of your sins which is necessary for the process of being born again and having a supernatural heart-transplant. God gives us His Spirit, not so that we can intellectually agree with an idea, but so that we can be transformed into a whole new creature radically different from the world around us.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NKJV) 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.
God wants us to become more like Him and to know how to love properly. We cannot do that with hearts hardened to stone by a cruel world.
How do we know what the conviction of sin feels like?
The first thing is to rule out what it doesn’t feel like and that is; guilt, accusation, and condemnation. Those are not from God, those are from Satan. Satan is the accuser. God is love and life. It should never feel like a hopeless situation.
Instead, it should feel like grief.
The heart of God is utterly broken over sin because sin leads us towards eternal death and the last thing God wants is for human beings to perish. The heart of God is a wonderful privilege to experience but is also the most excruciating, gut-wrenching agony. Most people I know who I would say have been born-again spent a lot of time crying when they were first saved. Many of us continue to cry in prayer.
If you want an analogy to understand the weight and gravity of the situation, imagine that you are married to someone who lies, cheats and steals from you without remorse. They constantly break your trust and they never feel bad about it. You give them so many chances, but they throw it back in your face and say that they can easily do better if you decide not to put up with their behaviour anymore.
That’s how humanity treats God. That is the level of pride which cannot humble the heart enough for God to get through to people with the offer of grace. They don’t believe that they need it. They find His grace insulting to their pride because they see nothing wrong with what they do.
Now, imagine that arrogant person suddenly realising how terribly they have betrayed their spouse and trampled on that person’s love. They now understand that their partner never deserved to be treated that way, and they can see how kind and patient the other person has been all along.
Would that person be filled with remorse and regret? You would certainly hope so.
That’s the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
God will never force you to turn away from your sins, because He won’t control you, but He does everything else to make it possible for us to be saved. However, we have to seek Him and open that door. We must know and follow the will of God, trusting in His loving character to lead us into truth and righteousness.
We must be humble and repentant.
Thirsty for the Word
One last sign of the Holy Spirit is given to us in the very first passage of scripture I quoted from Jesus in John 14; “He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
The first sign that I had of encountering the Holy Spirit was a clear memory of bible verses I had not read in about 20 years since I was a teenager. They were word-for-word perfect whenever I googled them and it was beyond weird to experience.
It prompted me to go out and buy a bible. Once I started reading it, my thirst for the word was unquenchable. Not only was I eager to read the bible, but I also understood it. This is exactly what Jesus promised; that the Holy Spirit would teach us all things through the word and bring remembrance.
The Spirit speaks through the scriptures because He wrote the scriptures. Yes, human authors were involved and they brought their own unique flair to the equation, but they wrote things which no human could have known without divine revelation.
As I hinted earlier, the change we undergo is not just in our hearts through the grief of the Spirit, but also in our minds.
Romans 12:2 (NKJV) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
This eagerness to know God on an intellectual level cannot be underestimated. He created us in His image with the most complex brains so we could have the capacity for reason. He did that so He could communicate with us and teach us like a good Father does.
Like all loving children, we should then desire to know how to please our Father and be obedient to Him. Once we know the will of God we can start walking in His ways and be ready to receive instruction from the Holy Spirit. Once again, this is an incredible privilege and opportunity.
In my opinion, the least useful evidence of salvation is charismatic gifts. Fruits are very useful, but they take time to develop and can potentially be faked temporarily. The true sign that God is calling us to Him is when our hearts long for reconciliation and our minds have the understanding of our own folly.
That’s how you know you have the Holy Spirit. We must have a thirst for the word and the will of God.
*The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Copyright © 1982 Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.