I am aware of three general options or ways in which “born again” is taught among various traditions.
1. The Spirit is given before one believes. The Spirit is given and He Regenerates or makes someone born again so that they can believe and start their Christian walk.
2. The Spirit is given at the moment one believes and repents. There is only one reception of the Spirit.
3. The Spirit is given at the moment one believes and repents, but later one may receive a Spirit baptism – there are two distinct receptions of the Holy Spirit.
My own tradition hails from option three, but what I have been proposing (a fourth option) is a modified combination of the second and third options (I see the first option as having no Biblical support and is mostly deduced to support a theological presupposition).
Like the first option, there is only one reception of the Holy Spirit in the born again process, but like the second option, that reception happens sometime after one believes, repents and usually after water baptism as well. (For the evidence to back this up read Part 1 and Part 2 in this series.)
I Am Born Again (My Own Testimonial)
Belief and Repentance: I was eleven when I watched the Jesus film put out by Billy Graham (1990). At the end of the film the narrator led me into the “Sinners Prayer” (a tool invented by evangelists, but used by God) which I prayed with all my heart believing the gospel I had just witnessed.
Water Baptism: When I was about twelve or thirteen (within two years of when I first believed) I got up in front of some one thousand people, and with a quivering high-pitch voice I publically confessed my allegiance to Christ only moments before the ministers buried me in a pool of water – death by immersion. This was promptly followed by a new resurrected life (in enactment) rising out from the watery grave.
Spirit Baptism: About one year later when I was fourteen I had a spiritual experience which has never been matched and which dramatically changed my life! At the altar of a small church, surrounded by a dozen other teenagers at a youth gathering, I got on my knees and began to pray. What happened at the time I can only describe as having been overwhelmed by God, a flooding sensation which boiled up the greatest joy I have ever known.
Not everyone’s experience will be identical to my, but my experience has confirmed what I have discovered the scriptures actually teach about the born again process. The Spirit is given to those who obey (Acts 5:32).
The born again process should be quick. Those who wait a long time to get into the water are making a grave mistake. Do not delay. When you mission, do so in such a way as to teach what I have been suggesting: become a follower of Christ. This involves belief in the gospel which will be accompanied by repentance, followed by Baptism as quickly as possible (Acts 8:35-38). In short order, and because you have been obedient to God, the Lord will fill you with his Spirit (Acts 5:38, Acts 2:32), and then you will be Born Again (John 3:3-5)!