Much of today's Christianity is nothing more than a tool of the devil. It, like every other religion, presents itself as the solution to man's heart-felt desire to be good. And it, like all religions, has a formula whereby goodness can be achieved. For the majority of those claiming to be Christians, their solution to self-loathing due to our inability to live a sinless life, is to simply believe the Bible, pray the "sinner's prayer," and to publicly proclaim Jesus is our Lord. From that point on, we call ourselves "saints." We used to be "sinners," but we have "switched teams." Right?
The only problem is, Jesus warned that not everyone who believes the Bible, who says a ritualistic prayer, who publicly claims to be a believer in Jesus as Lord, is actually born again. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity."
Notice, the people of whom Jesus was speaking acknowledged Him to be the Lord; not only the Lord, but their Lord. That would mean they believed the Bible was true, that Jesus was in fact the Christ, and they had spent their lives doing "wonderful works." In other words, they felt they had the right to be part of His kingdom. They felt they were no longer to be considered unworthy (sinners), but that they did what was necessary to be accepted (saints). They were wrong! But why? How had they been deceived? The answer is, they were religious, not born again! Like Nicodemus, they did not understand that salvation is the work of God; it has nothing to do with religion (Jn. 3:1-21). Nicodemus believed the Bible (the O.T.), and he recognized Jesus was "a teacher come from God" (v. 2). What he did not know was that Jesus IS God!
So how does a person become "born again?" First, he must realize that his sin nature has absolutely no desire to trust in God (Rom. 3:10-12). It is the work of the Father that gives man the "want to." John 6:44 says, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." The Holy Spirit uses the Word to produce the faith he needs to trust Him enough to approach Him (Rom. 10:17). He uses the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16), to graciously give him faith in the finished work of Christ on his behalf (1 Cor. 15:1-8; Eph 2:8-9). Before he is born again, he was a lost sinner; and now that he has accepted that fact, believed the Father sent His Son to suffer in his place, turned from walking away from God to following Jesus (repented and surrendered to His Lordship), he is still a sinner! Only now, he is a "saved sinner" (Rom. ch. 7; 1 Jn. 1:8-10). He has not become religious; he has entered a relationship with his Father. And, just as we have absolutely nothing to do with being born physically, we have nothing to do with being born spiritually (being born again). We are His child because He chose to give us life. To God be all the glory!