Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
This verse is a beautiful description of what “being born again in the Holy Spirit” means. It is a sign of God’s perfect love and a display of God’s glorious power as the Creator of everything. Through being born again, you change from a mere earthly creature to someone who has been called out of the world to follow Jesus. Being born again means to inherit the Kingdom of God, to have eternal life and to be adopted into God’s holy family. The Holy Spirit saves us from eternal destruction and doesn’t require anything in return! In my opinion, that makes it the most beautiful miracle God is performing in our midst.
What Scripture Tells Us About Being Born Again
Although it is such a gigantic and powerful miracle, I have heard several people say that God doesn’t perform miracles anymore. Some others claim that there is no such thing as “being born again” or that you can work yourself into salvation. All of those statements are wrong which is confirmed by the Bible:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
Through spreading those lies, the power of God is being degraded and some people even lose their hope! To work against that, I want to share three stories which show how amazing and powerful God’s salvation is and that it is for everyone – without exception!
Paul the Apostle
I suppose many of you know the story of Paul, who is the prime example for the effect God’s salvation can have on a person. However, that doesn’t make this story less inspiring and stunning. And it’s like with the rest of the bible: Just because you have read it once, doesn’t mean you won’t have a new revelation when you read it a second, third or fortieth time. So, here it is:
What Paul Was Like Before Being Born Again
It was the year 36 AD (compare britannica.com and biography.com) when the first martyr laid down his life for Jesus. His name was Stephen and he was stoned by the Jewish leaders. All the while, a man named Saul (later known as Paul) stood at the side, watching the cloaks of the men who were killing Stephen. Although Saul didn’t participate in the stoning, the Scripture is clear about his attitude towards it:
And Saul approved of their killing him.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Acts 8:1-3 NIV
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. Acts 9:1-2 NIV
He sounds like one of the worst people to be around as a believer. That didn’t change God’s plan for him though. And to be honest, without Paul being so fully committed to destroying Christianity, we wouldn’t have an evidence of how great of an effect the rebirth in the Holy Spirit can have. Here is what happened next:
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrumentto proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands onSaul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord — Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here — has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. Acts 9:3-20 NIV
The Effects of the Change
Though he was on a mission and fully convinced of what he was doing, a simple call from the Lord turned Paul form a persecutor to an apostle. And not just any apostle! Paul became the leading apostle in preaching the Good News to the Gentiles (which would be most of us). Futhermore, he became the author of 13-14 of the 27 books of the New Testament. That is between 48.15% and 51.85% of the whole New Testament! I don’t know if there is any better example of someone being a completely new creation after being born again. However, by looking at this tesimony I do know that no one should claim to understand the ways of God. Or who of you, when being in Ananias’ skin, would have not doubted and feared?
(By the way, I want to acknowledge Ananias’ boldness in walking up to Paul. It is a great example of how God might throw things in front of us which seem terrifying at first but turn out to be wonderful. If you are being challenged with a task like this and know that it came from God, just go for it! God won’t let you fall, especially when you step out in faith to him. If you are still hesitant, reading about God’s Unfailing Faithfulness might give you the courage you need.)
The story of Paul shows us how there is no soul which cannot be saved and no situation which the Lord cannot turn around. Nonetheless, I know that some people will say that this happened just in the Bible and that there are no stories of something like this happening in our day and age. Well, I am very happy to be able to introduce to you the next testimony about someone being born again.
Zahid, ca. 1986, Pakistan
The story I am about to cite is much like the one of Paul, but it happened way later — just 33 years ago. It is written in the book “Jesus Freaks: Martyrs. Stories of those who stood for Jesus: the ultimate Jesus Freaks” by dc Talk and The Voice of the Martyrs. You can find it on the pages 52-55. (I am not making any money with this Amazon link. Its only purpose is to show you which book I mean. The link to The Voice of the Martyrs however, I highly recommend checking out. They are an awesome organization, fighting for Christians worldwide.)
What Zahid Was Like Before Being Born Again
Zahid was a young Musilm priest with a deep hatred against Christians. His hatred came from his family and the Sharia law. This law demands that anyone who blasphemes against the prophet Mohammed or the Koran must be put to death. People who reject the teachings of Mohammed by becoming Christians are the worst in the sight of those, living this law. Zahid was one of them, as can be seen in the way he spoke to the youth group of his moske:
“When you catch the infidels, beat them! Allah will be pleased.”
Jesus Freaks: Martyrs, page 52
Shortly after saying that, Zahid and the youth group went outside to find and beat up Christians. As they fled, one of them dropped his bible. Zahid had preached to his youth group to burn all bibles, but this time he felt compelled to keep it. His intention was to prove its errors to the people in his moske. Well, that didn’t work out the way he expected, which is best told in his own words.
“I was reading the Bible, looking for contradictions I could use against the Christian faith. All of the sudden, a great light appeared in my room and I heard a voice call my name. The light was so bright, it lit the entire room.
Then the voice asked, ‘Zahid, why do you persecute Me?’
I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. I thought I was dreaming. I asked, ‘Who are you?’
I heard, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’
For the next three nights, the light and the voice returned. Finally, on the forth night, I knelt down and accepted Jesus as my savior.”
Jesus Freaks: Martyrs, page 53
The Effects of the Change
In this moment, all of Zahid’s hatred was gone and just like Paul, he started telling everyone about Jesus. Most people didn’t believe him though. They even imprisoned and tortured him, but Zahid had become a new person. The persecutor in him had died and he had been born again as a bold witness for our Lord. He never recalled his faith and was soon accepted by the Christian community as one of their brothers. For the rest of his life (I don’t know if or when he died), he preached that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life” in many villages.
This story shows how being born again is a true miracle and that this miracle is still happening today. It also shows, how relentlessly God’s love and grace are pursuing us until we come (back) to him — no matter what we did before. Sadly, there will always be people who try to come up with some kind of “logical explanations” about how this isn’t a miracle and how God is cruel and mean. That should not stop us from encouraging one another and testifying about the greatness of God though! To set a good example, I want to share a part of my story here.
My Rebirth in the Holy Spirit
My story is by far not as dramatic as the two above. Nevertheless, it is still a great display of God’s power. And since I am still here and have several independent witnesses for how much I have changed, no one can claim that my story is made up. If you still want to argue about this, please contact me personally and I will try to remove your doubts.
What I Was Like Before Being Born Again
I grew up in what would be called “modern society”. As a result, my goals were those of the world: being independent, making a lot of money and becoming famous. I firmly believed in science and the big bang theory and the way, creation is described in Genesis seemed like nonsense to me. Furthermore, all the miracles of the bible seemed to be explicable with the laws of nature. Well actually, that only worked when you ignored certain key facts, like
So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side! Exodus 14:22 NLT
The time came, when the world and its people started suffocating me. I was being hurt from all sides and couldn’t find anything to hold on to. My most desperate wish of that time shows how truly lost I was. This is what I wrote in a chat:
“I want them to feel the pain they made me go through […] I want them to be ‘punished’ for what they’ve done […] I am not going to let them get away with that – not anymore!”
Nina Rößling, 26th of May 2018
When I read those lines, I feel my anger burning through them. My resentment is so evident that it scares me every time. I am so thankful for my salvation and that I have truly been born again!
I was saved through listening to a teaching series about the foundational beliefs of my church. Back then, I was not a member of any congregation and just looking for answers. I had tried to find some answers before, because religion didn’t really make sense to me, but was disappointed twice. When I found my church online (it was located on the other side of the world), I decided to give it one last shot. They guided me to this teaching series which I then listened to.
In this series, they introduced the gospel and told it from beginning (the creation, Adam & Eve and the fall) to end (Jesus crucified, risen and what that means for us). There was no flashing of light in my room and no vision of Jesus — just a plain teaching with some notes and citations of the Bible. That didn’t reduce the effect though! I described what happened to me in an Email to the apostle who was the preacher of this series. (To preserve the power and devotion of my message, I didn’t remove any spelling or grammar mistakes, so this is the exact message I wrote.)
While listening to your second session of Vision & Commitment though, I fully understood the meaning and the power of the gospel. For the first time I felt the urge to fall to my knee and bow before the Lord and Jesus. All the times before it was just because everyone else was doing it, but this time it came from the depth of my heart. I want to thank you for opening my eyes and heart to that, for bringing this good news to me, to the other side of the world, and for waking the thirst for saving and salvation in me.
Nina Rößling, 6th of September 2018
I think that says it all.
The Effects of the Change
After this incident, I felt the urge to read the Bible myself and to get baptized (again). As a result, I bought myself an English Bible and read all of it in about 5-6 months. It really became the source my life. Furthermore, all my visions and opinions on the world had changed. Now I believed God more than science, lost every desire to make a lot of money and got rid of my wish for independence. Also, I forgave all the people who had hurt me and didn’t want them to be punished anymore.
Through submitting to God and the authority of men, I learned who I was. Jesus is now the Lord of my life and whatever He says shall be done! Also, through the trust in the truth God’s word, I became more confident. As a result, I started stepping out in faith, even though I was afraid. Frankly, even starting this blog terrified me. I only did it, because there was so much evidence that it was God’s will for me. Well, now that it exists, I couldn’t be more happy and thankful for it. All I want to do is shout into the world how awesome, good. loving, gracious, holy, powerful and amazing God is!
What Is Your Story?
As you can see above, salvation is different for everyone. Sometimes it comes with a mighty crash and sometimes it is just a change within that no one sees at first. However, even the smallest changes can make a huge difference, as we learn from Jesus:
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32 ESV
Thus, we should not discard the small things! Instead, we should keep our eyes open and look out for all the changes within and around us. God is working miracles all the time, but if we don’t pay attention, we will miss them. When we start esteeming even the small things though, we will become more aware of God moving in our midst. As a result, we will see more and more of his miracles. In addition, through bold testimonies about everything God does, even the world won’t be able to deny his glory!
If you feel like your story is not important enough or you’re not bold enough, don’t listen to these thoughts! Every story is worth telling and you are as strong and powerful as Moses, David, Elijah and Paul! The key is not your own strength, but relying on the God to whom you belong.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 NIV
Chin up, we will get through this together!