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- Jacob Ninan
Some people go through a dramatic conversion in a time of crisis. Some others are unable to identify when exactly they were born agin because their conversion was not dramatic but took place over a period of time. It is not that the second type is less genuine than the other, even though such people may have some confusion about it. Any genuine conversion should have repentance and faith--a turning of the mind from sin and the old life, and putting trust and confidence in Jesus as the one who died in one's place for taking the punishment for sin. But when these things do not take place suddenly, in an instant, which is what happens in the case of dramatic conversions, they can be spread over a long time. Let us take an example.
Imagine a man coming to Jesus in prayer because he needs healing for his son. His faith is not concerned with sin or salvation, but only in that Jesus is able to heal miraculously in answer to prayer. Jesus is eager not only to save people from their sins, which is His primary concern (Mt.1:21), but to help and bless anyone who comes to Him. Assume Jesus heals this son. This man becomes a 'believer' in Jesus, starts attending a church and even takes water baptism. But actually he has not been born again yet. He only has faith in Jesus as God. Perhaps while attending the church he comes to hear about sin, hell and salvation, and he repents and places his faith in Jesus as Saviour. At this point he is instantly born again by the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit in his heart. He gets a new heart, new desires, a hatred for sin, etc. After some time he begins to love God with all his heart and recognises Jesus as the Lord of his life, and begins to live as a disciple of Jesus. Perhaps around this time he hears about the baptism in the Holy Spirit, seeks for it and receives it.
When we read the accounts in the New Testament we get the impression that all of these things happened almost at the same time. But what we see now in many cases is a process that takes place in spurts. The reason is that preaching is not clear, and does not present the whole picture together. Many times preachers do not emphasise the need to repent from sins before one can receive forgiveness. As a result, the sad thing is that many people assume they are 'believers' just because they have had some experience with God such as an answered prayer or because they have repeated a prayer (without meaning it). Hopefully such people will come to know the full truth over time, but unfortunately it does not happen in many cases.
God wants all men to be saved (1Ti.2:4). He will never cast off anyone who comes to Him (Jn.6:37). He is delighted whenever someone takes steps towards Him (Mk.12:34). But only those who have been born again can actually enter the kingdom of God (Jn.3:5). That requires repentance and faith in Jesus (Ac.2:38;16:31). How sad it is to assume that one is a Christian and discover it is not so in the end!