So the question remains how to determine when one is reborn? For in churches these days we have come to a point where we think it is alright for people to simply say a small prayer. The sinner’s prayer has become an almost cheap method of duping us into thinking people have given their lives to God. The sinner’s prayer as a novelty practice has evolved over a long time, but there is little Scriptural evidence of simply praying Jesus into your heart. As it is, a novel technique called the sinner’s prayer popularized through recent revivals has replaced the biblically sound practice. Today, hundreds of millions hold to a belief system and salvation practice that no one had ever held until relatively recently. The notions that one can pray Jesus into his or her heart and that baptism is merely an outward sign are late developments.
The sentiments of the sinner’s prayer where we confess our sins and Jesus as Lord are not found anywhere in the literature of the New Testament. A careful study of the conversions in the book of Acts will reveal that in not a single instance is the lost sinner instructed or encouraged to “pray” for his or her salvation. Rather, those honest souls who longed for redemption were admonished to believe on the Lord (Acts 16:31), repent of their sins, and be immersed for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38; cf. 22:16) to enjoy a relationship with Christ (Gal. 3:27) and enter his spiritual body (1 Cor. 12:13).
Some claim that Acts 2:21 is a proof text for the so-called sinner’s prayer. It says: “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Compare this also to what we read in “Acts 2:38 “And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” and also “Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on his name.” The claim that Acts 2:21 provides authority for the “sinner’s prayer” is baseless. The “call” contemplated in this passage was fulfilled when penitent sinners surrendered to the terms of the gospel plan of redemption explicitly announced later on the same occasion. The “forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38) is the equivalent of “saved” (Acts 2:21). Accordingly, the “call” of verse Acts 2:21 is a generic term that embraces the “repent … and be immersed”, which was commanded of believers in verse Acts 2:38.
Scripture elsewhere makes it very clear that the mere act of calling out the Lord’s name in an attempt to access divine mercy in the absence of obedience is an exercise in futility. It is very clear in Matthew 7:21 where we read “not everyone who says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he who does [present tense—persistently does] the will of my Father who is in heaven.” In Luke 6:46 we read: “And why do you call me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?”
The reality is that man in his sinful state needs to authentically and genuinely arise and embrace the conviction of the Holy Spirit when it comes to bowing before God as Lord and savior. John 6:44 may seem controversial, but it is true for it says “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” It is so easy at times for us to answer an altar call because of various reasons, and many times it can even be selfish. Maybe at that time we just need to address our guilty conscience, or we have in a desperate place in our lives looking for desperate means to escape. Basically, if we answer an altar call without God drawing us and convicting us, it can be an action born out of the flesh, a carnal need, or even a misguided or misplaced desire. When we truly answer the call of the drawing of God then it is truly authentic and genuine, which results in true fruit and conversion.
The sinner’s prayer sadly falls into the growing trend within Protestant churches to adopt microwave faith, thus everything has to be instant. And so we think our salvation can be a quick fix to our problems or bring instant healing. Yet salvation is but the first step. Then we need to submit to God as our King and Lord. This means denying the Self and carrying the cross. Too many believers are falling out of their faith or even denying God or struggling to uphold their beliefs because so many times their salvation, or conversion, was not authentic or genuine. They are thus Christians in name but not reborn.
It is the Holy Spirit that truly convicts and brings us to a point of realizing we desperately need God in our lives. It is only when the Lord’s stirs that desire of our fallen state and we arise to meet the desire that we are truly moved to a point of utter surrender. To be born again is truly realizing we lost without God and only by yielding to God can we be made new. The sinner’s prayer at times can create an illusion that we are saved.
If we are born again, it means our entire must now reflect a desire to serve and worship God. Indeed, we should no longer be seeking after the things this world values, but instead, you desire to live for God’s glory and His pleasure (Isaiah 43:7). You long to please God and to demonstrate your love for Him by obeying His commands and doing the works He created you to do (John 14:15; Ephesians 2:10). You desire to honor Him in thought, word, and deed and to make Him known to others who also need the peace, joy, love, and freedom that only He can provide. Seeking God and His kingdom and ‘walking by His Spirit’ becomes your priority instead of living to satisfy the desires of your flesh (Matthew 6:33; Galatians 5:16).
The test of knowing God is underlined in “1 John 2: 3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God [a]is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked … 9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
When we are truly reborn, it says in John 3 that we ‘will see the Kingdom of God’. This means we now walk by faith and no longer by earthly sight. Our vision changes. Our eyes become fixed upon what is unseen rather than upon what is seen, or in others words upon what is eternal rather than temporal (2 Corinthians 4:18). We now truly seek after God’s Kingdom and His righteousness instead of the kingdom of this world.
To be reborn is to deeply and utterly realize that your DNA has to reflect the glory of God, and the very blood of Jesus has to run in our veins! Ephesians 3:16 speaks of Paul praying that the Lord will grant believers “according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.” It is indeed within the inner man where we need to change. It is not something superficial. It is not something temporary. It is eternal. Psalm 42:7 speaks of “deep calls unto deep”. It is within the deep recesses of our heart, our mind, our will, and our spirit that we answer the call of God and we yield to His embrace, His touch, and His will. We then truly become like the clay in the potter’s hands (Jeremiah 18:6).
When we are truly reborn, what we think about changes. We are given a new mind, thus the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Your mind is renewed as you read His Word that reveals His character and His ways and enables you to discern what is the ‘good, pleasing, perfect will of God’ (Romans 12:2). Reborn disciples think of the Kingdom, of God, and His truth and God’s ways. Instead of the rebellious, self-focused, worldly thoughts you had before knowing God, His thoughts will become your thoughts, and His ways your ways (Isaiah 55: 8-9; Philippians 2:5). For truly, your minds are not focussed on the eternal, on the beautiful and the glory of God. For your thoughts have been crowned with salvation. Philippians 4:8 says: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
Just as the mind changes, so does the heart. Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” And also “Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” If we are truly reborn, we need to allow God to put a new heart within us, for we need to have the heart of Christ. Yes, just like we must have His mind, we must have his heart. We need to love the way Christ loves. We need to share His compassion and passion for the lost, for the needy, and the broken. With a new mind and heart, our conduct will truly reflect the glory of God. Indeed by God’s grace, we are given a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26). God loves righteousness, and He gave us His commandments for our good so that we can live righteous lives that are filled with freedom from every bondage, peace, and joy. He also hates what is evil– which is rebellion against His perfect will– because He knows rebellion, which is sin, always leads to death and destruction and He is the Giver and Sustainer of Life (Luke 10:27; Amos 5:15; Psalm 97:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; Matthew 5:43-44). So we must also love what is good, hate what is evil, and we must show love above all for God is love.
In Matthew 15 the Lord said “19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” So for us to truly walk in the renewed state of God, our hearts need to be renewed, thus restored and also reborn by the touch of God. Then we become living sacrifices unto God (Romans 12:1). Yes, it is truly about having the heart of a Saviour who died so that all may be saved who believes. God loves all of His creation, and as your heart becomes more and more like His heart, you too will love others ‘as Christ has loved you’, even those who persecute you and are your enemies (Matthew 5:43-44).
As your mind and heart change, so do your words. It says in “Luke 6:45 that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”. As you gain a new heart when you are ‘born again’, what comes out of your mouth changes too. Blessings rather than curses will pour forth from your mouth! You will sing praises to God, and offer up prayers to Him and for His people (Psalm 7:17; 35:28; 71:15; 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18; Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18). You will find ‘rivers of living water’, wise, and just words will pour forth from your mouth that will be a fountain of life to others! (John 7:38; Proverbs 10:11; 21; Psalm 37:30).