In the 70-80s, probably due to the influence of Billy Graham’s international ministry, it used to be fashionable to ask someone: “Are you born again?”, as a way to enquire whether they were a believer.
Hence, among most Christians circles, it might be taken for granted that one is born again if one attends church or becomes a believer.
However, it seems to me that being born again is a very distinct event from believing in Jesus Christ.
Indeed, I am concerned that many who sincerely claim to believe in Jesus Christ have actually not been born again.
The reason for my concern is this — in John 3, the Lord Jesus Christ told Nicodemus that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again“.
In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ did not explicitly promise eternal life to those who merely professed a belief in Him, but rather, to those who are born again.
If you think along these lines, the following verses in Matthew 7 would make perfect sense (verses 21-23; NIV): 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
The word ‘evildoers’ suggests that the people whom the Lord Jesus Christ would reject are those who have been unchanged by His grace, stuck in their old, evil ways right up to the very last day of their lives.
The born again experience isn’t just an intellectual experience; it is a tangible one. This explains John 3:8 (NIV) — “8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” — although one cannot see the wind, one is affected by it. Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the true, born-again believer in Jesus Christ does not remain unaffected and unchanged in his sinful condition. Rather, he/she is moved to repentance and becomes like (and transforms to) a new person, a new creation. This is why the scripture declares: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV).