The Holy Spirit delivers the great gift of salvation to a seeker for Christ, not as a haboob, but rather as a mysterious, gentle summer breeze that bathes the new believer in the breath of life. This gentle breeze suddenly appears, with the concealed power of a shock wave, and sets the seeker free from the bondage of sin, free from the evil power of ‘my right to myself.’ But what led to this event?
The Holy Spirit is the emissary of prevenient grace. In that capacity, He calls and convicts each person (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit begins by calling your soul; you may choose to ignore the phone and let it ring. But until He senses a response in your heart He will go no further. If you eventually answer the call, He will try to awaken you to the idea that there is something wrong with your soul. As weeks and months go by while you ponder this thought, He is gradually drawing you closer to Himself. Then comes the hard part! You must confess your own sin nature and sinful behavior. You must confess that your heart, intellect and will are corrupt beyond measure. Only by acknowledging the poverty of your own soul can you enter the kingdom of God; those who are baptized with the Holy Spirit have a sense of absolute unworthiness. You must be convicted of your own sin nature and behavior. Without conviction, it is not possible to have true remorse in your heart. Without remorse, it is not possible to repent. Without repentance, there is no faith; belief must be preceded by repentance and followed by obedience to qualify as faith. Without faith, there is no obedience. Without conviction, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience, there is no salvation.
I become aware of my personal journey toward the great gift of salvation when God convicts me that my heart is as black as a lump of coal and when that realization causes me to feel great remorse. At some point in time, I request an audience with God and say something like: Almighty God, I come into Your presence confessing my sin nature and behavior, having remorse in my heart, wanting to repent, asking Your forgiveness, forgiving those who have sinned against me, asking for Your mercy, receiving from You the far greater gift of salvation and believing I am saved from eternal damnation by faith, the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ; almighty God, I will seek to be obedient. God responds by giving me the great gift of salvation; I am born again. I immediately experience the regeneration or initial sanctification of my soul. By this gift, the Holy Spirit begins to reveal the will of God and helps me discern truth from lie. He occupies and purifies all the rooms of my heart into which He is invited. For the first time in my life I am not a prisoner of sin. I am free to pursue the path of righteousness. This is the first day of my Christian life. This new life is a daily dying to sin and living to pursue righteousness; it constitutes a life of repentance, faith and obedience continually reaffirmed and renewed. It means allowing my will and intellect to become increasingly aligned with the will and intellect of God. It means letting the Holy Spirit occupy and purify an increasing number of rooms in my heart. It means works of Christian love flow increasingly from a heart that loves God and loves my neighbor.
Being born again is a new beginning. I can no longer draw my life from any other source than God Himself. I must let nothing come between me and this pneuma of life from God.
(See also Sections 1.3, 1.4, 1.24, 3.1, 3.13, 4.1, 4.2, 4.9, 7.13 and 11.1 of Theology Corner)