Without wishing to quibble, I think a distinction should be made between regeneration (being born again) and the experience of regeneration. We (i.e. Evangelicals) believe that "you must be born again"; we do not teach that you must know the moment when it occurred. Most of us can indeed look back to a time when we can say it happened to us: in my case, some 49 years ago, though I remember it clearly. But some people who grow up in a Christian home, and hear about the Lord more or less 'from the cradle', cannot identify a time when they did not believe: but they know that they do believe, and do not doubt that they are born-again people - regenerated by the Spirit of God.
Concerning the experience, for some it is very quiet and private; with others, strikingly dramatic and accompanied with strong emotion.
As has been written above, when genuine, we look for the fruits of the new birth, that is growth in Christlike character and living.
Just to reiterate, there is no such term as “born again experience” in Apostolic and historic Christianity. The Lord’s teaching that we must be “born again” (or “born from above” as a more accurate translation), and the Scriptural references concerning our regeneration, refer solely to what takes place through the sacrament of baptism by virtue of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, and his sending down of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. In this sacrament, man is regenerated and “born from above” whether he realizes or experiences this fact or not. Of course, if a person is baptized later in life, when they have the ability to talk about and describe their experience (which is not the case with infants), they may relate how they actually felt regenerated and filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit when baptized. Whether one experiences this or not, however, man is regenerated when given a true baptism into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
While there is no such terminology as “born again experience” in Apostolic Christianity as something separate from the sacrament of baptism, the Orthodox Christian is able to renew his baptismal garments through the sacrament of Confession, through tears of repentance, and the self-sacrifice of martyrdom. In the sacrament of Confession and through tears of repentance, the sin and filth accumulated since man’s baptismal regeneration is washed away and man may indeed have this experience of being made new once again.
We see that in Protestantism, particularly among the so-called “charismatic” variety, “born again” terminology is used in a very unscriptural and perverse manner as describing some kind of subjective experience that is totally separate from the sacrament of baptism administered in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Here we find exemplified the strong gnostic foundation of such contemporary Protestant manifestations. While an Orthodox Christian may experience the fact of his regeneration through the act of baptism, and may experience this again after baptism through the sacraments of Confession and tears of repentance, he should never go around talking about such an experience and asking others if they have had such an experience, as if such an experience was the kind of litmus test as it has become within some Protestant sects. The exaltation of private subjective experience, and the promotion of some private subjective experience as if it were such a litmus test, is both gnostic and a sign of spiritual delusion from an Orthodox understanding. An Orthodox Christian will ask if someone is Orthodox, that is, if they have been regenerated through baptism and made a member of Christ’s body, the Church. But what one actually “experiences” in baptism and after baptism as they struggle to live a life of repentance in obedience to Christ, is not a subject for public discussion but is to be kept between a person and their spiritual father (typically an Orthodox priest or monk), and subjected to the discernment of the spiritual father.
It is very easy for man to be deceived by the devil so that he thinks he is regenerated and committed to God when in fact he has never been baptized into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and has never received the Holy Spirit through the sacrament of chrismation. Even if a man appears to produce all the fruits of the Spirit and to be a model of virtue, he may be totally deceived. From the lives of the saints we have many examples of those who appear virtuous and as possessing every external sign of regenerated Spirit-filled life, while secretly they nurture a hidden pride in thinking that they are already “saved” or somehow have “arrived”. In such cases, the devil assists them and helps them accomplish their supposed virtue in order to keep the man in delusion. The man may study the Scriptures and pray constantly, but be cut off totally from the grace of God because of his hidden pride. In such cases, when such a deluded person has been finally unmasked and exposed (usually by a very gifted spiritual father), and the devil has been chased away, the man suddenly may find it almost impossible to accomplish the acts of piety and virtue that he formerly did while in delusion. For this reason, frequent participation in the sacraments of the Orthodox Church and humble submission to a spiritual father are indispensable for man’s spiritual development according to the will of God. For this reason also, the Orthodox Church does not exalt any kind of “born again” or other experience as if such a subjective experience ensures that you are on the right path.