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The Third Stage of Spiritual Development

We now come to a crucial stage in spiritual development: the birth of God's spirit in us. This is crucial because without this stage we cannot say that spiritual development has practically begun. Everything before this has been a preparation for the birth of the spirit in us. Without this birth we cannot talk of any growth in the spirit.

The birth of the spirit in us or spiritual birth happens after a period of conception of the seed of the spirit in us. This seed is the Word of God.

Thus, it is not true to say that after a person believes in Jesus he/she is born again as a spirit. The process takes time, just like in human birth.

Not a Matter of Just Believing in Jesus

There are many Christians who say that they believe in Jesus. They also sincerely think that they believe in Jesus. But their lives show plainly that they have not actually, personally experienced spiritual birth. If they have truly experienced spiritual birth, they would be spiritual beings and they would behave like their Father Spirit. But they plainly show by their thoughts, words and actions that they are still only mere human beings, not yet divine beings, children of the divine Being, God. So a person can sincerely say that he/she believes in Jesus but he/she has not experienced spiritual birth.

Outline of the Process of Spiritual Conception and Birth

The seed or Word of God is planted in the human heart by preaching. This Word of God grows in that heart over a period of time by silence, meditating on it, obeying it. When the Word of God is fully developed in the human heart, it is born as a spirit of God. This is the spiritual or divine birth. This birth is not the direct result of an act of decision for Christ, to follow him. It is the end of a long process.

The process is that after a while the person is convinced of the complete trustworthiness of the Word of God and a word from that Word penetrates his/her heart and he/she surrenders himself/herself completely to Jesus without any reservation. It is like the infant surrendered completely into this world at the mercy of his/her parents, and thus being born physically.

How do we know that we have been born spiritually? Or how do we know that we have been born as a spirit?

Principal Signs of Spiritual Birth

There are three principal signs by which we know that we have been born as a spirit. There are also three secondary or corroborating signs that this has happened in our life.

The first principal sign is an intense desire to read God's Word. It is like a thirst for God's Word. The newborn human baby immediately longs for his/her mother's milk. So also the newborn spirit longs for the Spirit's milk, the Word of God. Sometimes the person finds himself/herself unable to put down the Bible. He/she keeps on reading the Bible, even through the whole night. This is the normal, usual experience of a newborn spirit. He/she wants to read more and more of the Bible because for the first time he/she thinks he/she is able to understand it in a new light, as if the words are personally addressed to him/her. If he/she is not literate she intensely longs to listen to the reading of God's word.

The second principal sign is that he/she seeks companionship with other spirits. The newborn human baby seeks the comfort of his/her mother or other human beings. The same is true with the newborn spirit. He/she seeks other spirits to seek comfort and encouragement from them.

The third principal sign is that there is a change in the attitudes of the person who has undergone spiritual birth. This change in attitudes is not something studied or determined or willed by the person. The change happens naturally without any effort on his/her part. He/she just gets into these new attitudes, sometimes to his/her surprise. He/she has now a forgiving attitude where before he/she was vengeful. He/she is now considerate of others where before he/she was only self-seeking. And there are many other good attitudes which to his/her surprise she has now.

Secondary Signs of Spiritual Birth

Besides these three principal signs, there are three secondary signs. But these are mostly subjective. It is only the person who is born as spirit who knows these. These are corroborating evidences which prove that indeed a spiritual or divine birth has taken place.

The first secondary sign is that the world of creation seems new to him/her. He/she feels that it is springtime, even if it is the height of summer or the coolest of winter. There is a newness in all he/she sees. This is caused by the experience of a new life within him/her, the life of the spirit.

The second secondary sign is that the person has a feeling that something which has been lacking in his/her life is now fulfilled. He/she now feels that there was something he/she was seeking in his/her life which he/she could not even describe before, but how he/she feels that he/she has found this now. That is why in one evangelistic campaign the rallying words were "I found it."

The third secondary sign is that there is a lingering sickness that is now cured. The person may have suffered from a skin disease or ulcer or tuberculosis or other sickness for quite some time. Now the sickness is gone forever. The person may have been an alcoholic for several years. Now, suddenly the taste for alcohol is gone. Or he/she may have been a chain smoker for decades. Now the pull of the nicotine is gone forever. A person may have been attracted to the same sex for a number of years. Now he/she finds himself/herself normally attracted to the opposite sex.

If a person has not experienced these three principal signs and some of the secondary signs, then it is safe to say that he/she has not actually experienced spiritual birth. He/she might have experienced mystical or juridical spiritual birth through some ceremonies, but he/she has not personally, actually appropriated the experience of spiritual birth.

Conception in One Church, Birth in Another Church

It has happened very often that a person hears the Word of God for the first time in the religion he was born into, whether this religion is Christian or not. Then he/she nurtures this Word in another religion or church, through Bible study, for example. And while being nurtured in this other religion or church he/she is born spiritually. The tendency is to depart from his/her native religion and switch to the religion or church where he/she was nurtured in the Word of God.

Thus we have countless cases of Roman Catholics who first heard the Word of God in the Roman Catholic Church through principally the reading of the Bible during the Mass. They later nurtured this Word in another church, through Bible study groups and fellowships. They are born spiritually there. They leave the Roman Catholic Church and despise this Church. They do not realize that without their listening to the gospel readings in the Catholic Church they would have difficulty nurturing the Word of God in the church to which they now belong. The conception of the Word of God has been made easier by this first nurturing in the Catholic Church.

Only the Beginning

But this birth is only a beginning. The newborn spirit has to grow in order to develop spiritually.

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