Many things in life happen in stages. Human life is born into the earth by stages of operation. Two people are attracted to one another, seed is sown, there is a period of growth and change of the baby in the womb, a time comes of labor, and there is birth and release from the mother. Jesus used human birth as an illustration of how a person goes from being natural human being to being “born of the Spirit” (John 3:1-8). An overall examination of the Word shows us the following stages.
There is a drawing from God to a person’s soul, to draw that person from a mere natural life to an eternal spiritual life in God (John 6:44). In this stage there is a curiosity to know more about God and a realization that there is more to life than just the way we are. In this stage we begin getting realization of spiritual need in our life.
The next stage is enlightenment (Hebrews 6:4). In this stage we receive knowledge of our spiritual condition before God, that we definitely do have spiritual needs. We realize that sin separates us from God, and without remedy, we are living a life that is spiritually devoid of a real connection with God. We begin to understand the consequences of our condition. On one hand we can realize that we are devoid of his love and life and are deficient in that way. On the other hand we can realize in the event of death, we will be eternally separated from God, which is hell.
The next stage is conviction (John 16:7-11). In this operation of God in our life, the Spirit of God convinces us that because of sin we are separated from God. On one hand we can realize his love for us in giving Jesus to save us from our sin. This love causes us to desire him and lay our life in his hands. On the other hand, we realize that because of our sin our destiny is hell, and Jesus and his work for us is what saves us from our sin and hell.
These stages are not the new birth. They are leading to new birth.
The next stage is conversion (Matthew 13:15). In this stage we experience a change of direction in our life from serving our self interests to serving God’s interests. Jesus becomes our Lord and Savior. This is sealed by confession of Jesus as Lord and commitment to obey him in water baptism (Romans 10:8-10, 13; Acts 2:38).
We want to make sure we have gone through all the stages to be truly born of God. Just being convicted of sin and of a deficient condition is not a full new birth spiritually. There is no shame if we discover we are not fully and truly reborn spiritually. We just want to see it, deal with it, and come into the full and true new birth. This is our eternal life.