“Do not wonder that I said to you, ‘It is necessary for you all to be born from above.” (John 3:7 Berean LB)
Recently I read about the thirty year old Gypsy Revival in England, and the miraculous changes among members of the ‘Travellers’ or the ‘Romany’. Their testimonies are deeply moving. Some excerpts –
Among them is Peter…“I see a great shift among Gypsies today. We’ve gone from being professional liars – and I was one of them,” he says bluntly. “Now, we don’t want to live that life no more, because the Holy Spirit’s inside us. We want to go 100% legal. That’s what happens when you’re born again,” he adds. He along with most of the other men at the convention, is now teetotal.
One of those caravans belongs to Diane Stephenson… “My mother used to go out telling fortunes, selling lucky charms like many Gypsy women, and sometimes I’d accompany her. I didn’t think it was wrong to do, it was just another way of earning a living… It says in the Bible have nothing to do with sorcery and witchcraft,” Diane explains.
Surprising? Miraculous, certainly.
The term ‘born again’ is becoming fashionable again in evangelical circles after two decades of near disuse, partly as a reaction to its overuse by American politicians eager to win Christian votes, and misappropriation by various New Agers. What does it mean to be born again, born anew or born from above?
When Nicodemus, a teacher of the law came secretly at night to visit the Lord, Jesus cut his greeting abruptly with this strange comment, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 HCSB).
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” (Join 3:4 NLT). Nicodemus knew that Jesus was talking about a spiritual phenomenon, not a physical one; but, he reckoned that a 180 degree change for anyone from where they are, in terms of lifestyle, is nearly impossible. All of us become so quickly set in our outlook and habits.
“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” John 3:5-8 ESV.
The Lord explained the process. Like wombs, our human spirits are incubators for new life, cold and vacant until the Spirit of God ignites a spark, and the process is set in motion. As in human conception, hidden from view, things happen. All is still and quiet from the outside, but within the womb, cells multiply and differentiate rapidly and purposefully resulting in the creation of a new human being. Like the blowing wind, that is felt but never seen, so the Spirit operates.
Spiritual rebirth is a gift from God. While we can do little to bring this about this supernatural phenomenon, our response is crucial. God initiates, but we must respond – by either yielding to, or rejecting, the wooing of Holy Spirit within our hearts. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13 NIV). “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away; behold, the new has come into being” (2 Corinthians 5:17 Berean LB).
Are there any feelings associated with spiritual rebirth or regeneration? Many describe a lightness and joy in their spirits, as though a great burden of guilt were lifted from their shoulders. Others feel nothing at all, but the absence of emotion does not negate the reality of their experience. An important consequence is that the Holy Spirit opens the person’s mind and conscience to spiritual truths – “When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8 HCSB). There is an increased clarity in one’s understanding of the scriptures, and things that seemed vague or puzzling in the past, begin to make sense. It is as if a light bulb had been switched on inside a person’s soul enabling them to see the world from a spiritual perspective.
There is also an increased abhorrence of sinful thoughts, attitudes and habits – indeed many things that seemed acceptable only a short time ago, are seen through new lenses – and with it an increased desire to change: “No one who has been born from God practices sin, because God’s seed abides in him. Indeed, he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born from God” (1 John 3:9 ISV).
Furthermore, there is a new hunger to hear the word of God being preached, and a longing to meet with other believers to celebrate this new found freedom and joy. Coming back to our Gypsy revival story, the author describes a worship meeting –
As night falls, worship begins in the big top.The women sit together and cover their heads to pray. The atmosphere is electric. Three thousand people clap a beat and a single guitar starts the service. Then the chant begins. “I will leave my sin, I will follow you,” resonates around the big top. The worship is led by Gypsy pastors, all men, who preach passionately, calling on those present for change.
Finally, but very importantly there is a great desire to see the others experience the same freedom and deliverance. As one of those amazing Gypsy elders, Pastor Jackie Boyd, puts it “England and Britain as a nation are going against the standards and principles of God in a big way. So we hope to see a revival and our people saved – but we want everyone to be saved.”
Father, thank You for this great revival among the Gypsies – we pray that it will spread far and wide, and many souls in Britain and around the world will come to Your truth. In Jesus’ name.