Spiritual birth is a separate matter from a heart-led existence.
Non-Christians can be heart-led. What makes one a Christian is the presence of His Holy Spirit in your soul. Only your heart knows for sure; your mind will simply have to take the heart’s word for it. This includes whether the Lord has brought your dead spirit to life. Trying to construct a theology on spiritual birth is guaranteed to fail, because it twists you around impossible logical puzzles. Everything the Bible has to say about it is offered in parables, or symbolic language. That’s because the thing itself is beyond the intellect’s grasp.
The symbolism is chiefly two images in Scripture. One is the idea that you are born without a living spirit. Thus, you must be born from above, as Jesus told Nicodemas. The other image is that we are born with dead spirits, and they must be brought to life by the invasion of the Holy Spirit. Neither image fully captures what is going on in the Spirit Realm.
The few apparently blunt statements in Scripture indicate that God Himself decides who is born into His Kingdom; the initiative is His alone. You can become aware in your heart that He has called you, but there is no way you can prove it to anyone else. Instead, we rely on indicators referred to as Fruit of the Spirit. Yes, people can be self-deceived or faking it if they have a strong enough will, but God promises that He will eventually expose the fakes. So it’s really a question of what you can do with people in our fallen existence, not whether you can discern the ultimate spiritual reality.
This is why there is such a powerful emphasis on conduct and covenant law. We need to take a moment to put something to rest: grace versus law. The Reformation made a lot of that and it’s actually a false dichotomy. The New Testament passage that refers to “under grace, not under law” is in the context of “law” as the Talmud, a body of human tradition that Jesus disparaged as contrary to actual revelation from God. Again, the Jewish religion of Jesus’ day was deeply perverted by the intellectual influence of Hellenism; it was not genuine Old Testament religion. Thus, saying we are not “under law” means Christian Jews had no obligation to the Talmud, except as a matter of secular government regulation. It was the legal tradition of the official Jewish government, nothing more. Meanwhile, Paul says of the Old Testament that we are obliged to study it and “rightly divide” how it still applies to our lives in Christ.
In the Radix Fidem community of faith, we have a tradition of referring to Biblical Law. The term is meant to imply the Mind of Christ, by restoring the ancient Hebrew concept of law as the will of your sovereign, not merely some body of rickety legislation. We seek to overturn all the false images of law as it arose and exists in a Western society. Instead, we breathe life back into law as the living manifestation of a Person. Jesus Himself is the Living Law of God, so we use the term “Biblical Law” referring to an organic and vivid apprehension in the heart of what God designed us for.
The written record of various Law Covenants in the Bible are expressions of that Biblical Law. They were delivered in a context, and apply to that context. The Covenant of Moses applies directly to anyone seeking to claim the mission and name of Israel — you gotta have that mission or the name means nothing. It’s the mission to reveal the nature of God and His Creation, of how to live in a fallen world, as a nation of people who, as a whole, can claim His divine favor.
The much older and less detailed Covenant of Noah still stands today as the proper covenant of law applying to all other human governments until the Return of Christ. In other words, whether any particular government recognizes it or not, God is holding them all accountable to Noah’s Law so long as rainbows appear in the sky.
Anyone who represents themselves as a follower of Christ will most certainly revere and follow the Law of Noah, and will tend to live in a way that echoes the Law of Moses. Thus, we distinguish between the ineffable Realm of the Spirit and the very real Fallen Realm of human existence. For the sake of convenience, we refer to a moral realm where those two realms overlap. Among those who live under the Fall, there is the possibility of touching the Spirit Realm by awakening the heart to rule over the mind and embracing Biblical Law.
You see, only humans are fallen. The rest of Creation remains as it was from Eden. However, Creation was meant to be under our management, so it tends to be chaotic because as fallen creatures, we are unfit and simply unable to manage Creation by the Creator’s power. By extension, we cannot properly manage our own lives in a fallen state. We are an integral part of Creation, but we are fallen, while the rest waits for us to recover our eternal natures through a heart-led life and spiritual restoration. Without the heart-led way and without spiritual birth, we are alienated from Creation. It only seems that we are somehow separate because our sense of awareness is damaged; it’s the reason Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden. Nothing had really changed, but human awareness of ultimate truth was shattered by the Fall. Adam and Eve had closed their minds to the truth from their hearts. They didn’t know God, they didn’t know Creation and they didn’t know themselves.
The remedy is to kneel before God, to pass through the Flaming Sword at the entrance to Eden. The New Testament equates the Sword to the revelation of God. The revelation of God came first in terms of Law Covenants. But the law is not the revelation itself; the law is an earthly manifestation of God’s divine moral character. Get to know the law in that sense and you begin to understand the personality of the Father. Get to know Jesus and you know the Father.
Your mind can organize for you individually what you know about Jesus, but only your heart can truly know Him as a Person.