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There is a lot of interesting and important information in the answers above. If I may just add one small side note for your consideration. The term "born-again Christian" contains an inherent redundancy. There are no Christians who are not born again, and anyone who is truly born-again is certainly a Christian! Using the term "born-again Christian" is like referring to a man as an "unmarried bachelor!" The quality of being unmarried is the very essence and definition of bachelorhood and is, therefore, a redundant and unnecessary qualifier. If I am born-again, I am a Christian. If I am a Christian, I am born-again. Either term is sufficient on its own merit to accurately describe our position in relation to our God.
When do Christians become inheritors—and no longer heirs? When is one truly born again? Recall that Paul wrote, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption” (I Cor. 15:50). Fleshly human beings cannot enter the kingdom of God—the Family of God, ruling over the entire earth. Christ told Nicodemus that, “Except a man be born again, he cannot SEE the kingdom of God.” When Nicodemus was confused, Christ said, “That which is born of the flesh IS flesh” and “that which is born of the Spirit IS spirit” (John 3:3-6). God’s Word teaches that the dead in Christ are resurrected at His Return. Some will not believe this, preferring to believe the dead go to heaven after having been “born again” in this life, upon “professing” or “accepting” Jesus. Paul explained: “Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” This is God’s answer to all those who will not believe in the resurrection of the dead—in being born again. Paul continues explaining, “For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins [understanding the resurrection becomes serious]. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (I Cor. 15:12-14, 16-18). There are few scriptures stronger than these. If there is no resurrection, then Christianity is a vain religion! So says God! Only through Christ, the firstborn, can others be born later. Christ comes first, with others appearing later in their own order. But when does this happen? When are others “born again”? “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (vs. 22-23). Christians are born again “at His Coming”—not before! Now here is what happens at the resurrection: “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump [the moment of Christ’s Return]: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [body from human birth] must put on immortality [divine body at spirit birth]” (vs. 51-53). The flesh is changed to spirit only at the resurrection. Let’s examine one more important verse from Paul to remove all doubt about when it occurs and what happens when it does: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep.” Most are ignorant about the resurrection—and them that are asleep—but they need not be. Now notice why Paul taught what he did: “that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (I Thes. 4:13). Many are now “asleep in Christ.” They are sleeping in the grave, awaiting the resurrection and rebirth. Christians hope to be resurrected. Here is exactly when the resurrection occurs: “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (vs. 16-17). In John 14:3, Christ said, “I will come again.” Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him: behold, His reward is with Him” (40:10). At that time, Daniel said, “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake [from sleep]…to everlasting life” (12:2). The knowledge that the dead are asleep in the grave has been understood since long before the New Testament era. We must stop listening to the false teachers mentioned in the Bible and start thinking for ourselves by studying the Bible in depth!!! Being born again before the second coming of Christ is the deception of satan. Don't fall for this lie. Your eternal destiny depends on it!!!!!
It is to be born from above, born of God. Everyone who has ever lived with the exception of Adam and Eve had a physical birth. To be born again requires that the Holy Spirit "quicken" or make us spiritually alive so that we can understand, believe and accept the Gospel of Grace. Read Ephesians 2.
What does it mean to be born again? John answers this very question. In fact, he gives very explicit details in two places(1 John 3:9 and 1 John 5:18). Unfortunately, the English Standard Version (ESV) used on this site, distorts the Greek in both passages, because the Church erroneously believes we are ‘born again’ from the moment we first believe. As I write this answer, nine people have given answers to this question. Only one of those (anonymous) shows that he understands the issue, and it is reflected in a single sentence from him: “Christians are born again “at His Coming”—not before!” If the Church could just wrap their collective heads around this statement, it would open the door to understanding why we are on this planet, and what God is doing. Why are we here? 1 John 3:8 explains that Jesus came “to destroy the works of the devil.” What are the works of the devil? In John 8:44 we find Jesus speaking to scribes and Pharisees on the temple mount, explaining that the devil is a liar and the father of lies. The works of the devil begin with lying. The ESV is on-point here when it states in reference to the devil, “he speaks out of his own character”. The NASB says, ”he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Lying comes from the corrupt nature found in the devil. It is part of his character, just as it is part of our character – less so after we are supposedly ‘born again’, but nonetheless still there. And that is my point! It is still there. We, as a body of believers, can still lie! This is NOT the case if we were truly born again. Being ‘born again’ is a process, just like the birth process. It is comprised of three parts: 1. Believing in Jesus and the Father, and being ‘In Christ’ – indwelled by the Holy Spirit – the conception phase, if you will; 2. Walking by faith and overcoming life’s temptations – the gestation phase. It lasts until you either pass away, or the Lord comes back; and 3. The actual birth into a glorified spirit body at the resurrection/Rapture when the Lord returns for His Church. If it is still part of our character to lie after we are truly born again, would Jesus have destroyed the works of the devil? I think you will see, in the words that follow, that Jesus did not fail, for to be ‘born again’ is a seed change to our character. It is an exorcism that casts off our sin nature, and exchanges it for God’s agape nature. For those who don’t know, God is agape love (1 John 4:8) and His nature is defined by agape (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Additionally, it is impossible for Him to lie (Hebrews 6:18). If you “look under the hood” at the Greek in 1 John 3:9 and 1 John 5:18, you will find that they are saying anyone born of God (born again) DOES NOT SIN, AND is NOT CAPABLE of “missing the mark”. “Make a practice of sinning” and “keep on sinning” are concessions to the current belief that we are ‘born again’ the moment we first believe. What we are ‘born again’ to when we first believe is a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). It is living because it lasts for the duration of our lives. It is not an actual realization until the resurrection, and therefore something to be hoped for. This is the mystery that Paul speaks of in Colossians 1:26-27. It is the hope of attaining to a glorified spirit body while being ‘In Christ’ – indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and walking by faith. “Missing the mark” comes from the definition of the Greek word, Harmartano (G264). It is the sin, in 1 John 3:9 and 1 John 5:18 that anyone born of God is NOT CAPABLE of committing. The ‘mark’ is God’s nature – His character. That is the prize (Phil. 3:14) that awaits those who are truly born again. It is not until the resurrection that believers will be perfect/completed in God’s nature and not able to lie (Phil. 3:8-12).
One who is truly “born of the Spirit” is like Enoch of old and has reached the point of overcoming the sins and weakness of this life. [Jesus said to Nicodemus] “You must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:7-8). By this definition, how many of us truly qualify as “born again”? We've misapplied the term to include anyone who has made a profession of faith at one time or another. We say, “He was born again on such-and-such-a-date.” In this passage, “born again” and “born of the Spirit” are synonymous. How many of us can literally come and go like the wind, appearing and disappearing, vanishing from plain sight, and showing up seemingly from nowhere? Jesus fulfilled this during His earthly ministry—even before taking on His resurrected body! Look at these passages showing Him disappearing from mobs intent on killing Him before His appointed time: Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by (John 8:59). Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him… Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand (John 10:31, 39). These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them (John 12:36). Of course, Jesus also appeared at a most opportune time, when in a tempest at sea His disciples despaired of their very lives: Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (Matt. 14:25-27). Because Jesus was “born of the Spirit,” He was like the wind: The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:8). Those who have been truly “born of the Spirit” are conquerors over sin, death and the grave. They are no longer subject to the death-knell laws of mortality. Their flesh has taken on the quality of deathlessness! It is to this never-ending life we seek to attain. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption… We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed… For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality [and hence we are born of the Spirit] (1 Cor. 15:50-57). Here are some of the characteristics of those who are truly “born of the Spirit” or “born again”: They are like the wind which comes and goes with no one being the wiser (John 3:8). We shall be like Jesus! “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). Who says this promise is only for believers who have died? They truly love God enough to keep His commandments. Through faith in Christ they are overcomers, triumphing over all worldly temptations (1 Jn. 5:1-5). According to the Apostle John, those who are “born of God” no longer sin. They have the power to keep themselves free from evil, even to the point where Satan cannot touch them! "We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him" (1 John 5:18). How many “born-again” people do you know who never sin? Who keep themselves pure and holy? Who never let the devil get the better of them? Me either. “You must be born again... The wind blows where it wishes." Are you like the wind yet? Can you appear and disappear at will? Have you overcome all doubt and sin? Do you, like Enoch, walk and talk with God? "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6).
When we become Christians, what actually happens is that God's own spirit becomes our life. That is what makes us 'Christian'. The word 'Christian' means 'little Christ' - not that we become deity, but that God unites or marries himself to us and he is free to live his life through us. We are Christian because his Spirit is in us, not the other way around. How do you make someone alive who has been (spiritually) dead for years. Pumping the chest won't help. Breathing into the lungs won't help. Neither will tying strings to their wrists and ankles and making them walk around like a puppet. The only way is to put a new spirit inside them, and this is just what God does. He puts his Holy Spirit in us to be our new life. That's what it means to be born of the Spirit. God himself is our new life. We're all born of water, believer and unbeliever alike. It's being born AGAIN of the Spirit that Jesus is emphasizing here.
What you will find that partains to being "born again" or "saved" is found in Acts 2:37-38. 37. "Peter's words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and the other apostles, "Brothers, what should we do?" 38. Peter replied, Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." NLT This is what it means and how a person is "born again."
Wow! So many good scriptural answers. So I would like to say something a little different. Being born again is just what true salvation is. When it happens you know that you know a change has occured that can't really be fully explained. When I was born again my favorite curse word use almost in every sentence suddenly disapeared. My need for drugs was gone. My need for drink disapeared over night. My desire to fornicate disapated. My desire for marriage appeared. My desire to have a family increased. My desire to be churched and read God's word became fanatical. Many changes were instantaneous. My nicotine addiction went away in one prayer but that prayer was desperate. Every fiber of my being was desperate to be free. I saw God's devine providence at work every where. I realized a strugle had begun. A tug of war between Satan and my heavenly Father had begun but it was the Father's good pleasure to give me a fighting chance and help me along the way to maturity. Maturity is sactification that works on the inside and shows on outside. Jesus can make all things new again. That is the born again experience. It sarts with salvation, incorperates batism in water and finishes with impowerment through Holy spirit. The word of God becomes the source of that new life, light and truth. The word of God is the manna that came down from heaven. That manna is the word of God. It is Jesus. It is the heavenly Father revealed.
Truly being Born Again of the Spirit, makes your faith in Christ real and alive, you became a true Christ follower. My experience is similar. I knew of God my whole life, I was in Church nearly every day of my life until high school, and weekly after that. I knew I was a sinner and nothing I did was good enough, (not for my parents) so how could I ever be good enough for God to even care about me? Personally, I couldn't change a thing about my sinning, I just felt more and more guilty and hopeless and fell deeper into darkness. I was going through the motions, until I stopped trying or caring. The darkest days and years of my life followed. God knew everything about me, my heart was broken, my spirit defeated, yet He sent me hope. A glimmer of desire to truly know Him began quietly...then Holy Spirit came and convicted me of my depravity and sin. I fell on my knees sobbing before a loving God, who not only forgave and wanted me, but in that moment made EVERYTHING about me CHANGE? I was truly Born Again. I was so different inside and out... without my saying a thing, my husband looked at me the next day and said, "What happened to you?" I told him, he scowled, but it didn't matter. I knew God loved me. It is not just saying a prayer of faith that you believe in Christ that makes you saved. That in itself is a "work". Scripture says that even satan believes in God, knows HIM personally too, yet he isn't saved! WHY NOT? Because he has not, nor will he, acknowledge... much less repent of his sins; humbly, sincerely, and desperately seeking God's love, forgiveness, and salvation. So why should we be saved by reciting a prayer? After being Born Again, it is as Jay describe... sin is repulsive, we thirst greatly for God and His Word, what we do, how we live, where and who we hang out with all changes, and so much more. Baptism is our outward declaration stating to God and the world of our inward decision and change to live as Christ. It is but one act of love, surrender, and obedience to the Word of God, as we endeavor to live each day for Him. I know many who claim to be 'Christians'. They say a prayer and believe they are saved, though their lives haven't changed. Scripture Matthew 7:20 states, "by their fruits you will know them." Actually in Matthew 7:1-28 Jesus himself states what true Salvation is like, and the result of just going through the motions. I truly agree with Jay, "When it happens you know that you know a change has occured that can't really be fully explained." AND you will never be the same again! Praise God!
For God so loved the world, (all of us) that He gave His only Son, (Jesus) that whosoever, (you and me) believeth on Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. All of us are sinners the bible says. There is no one righteous before God. But Jesus went to the cross to take all the punishment for all our sins, past, present, and future, so that we could be saved by what He did for us. So if we trust in what Jesus did for us we have eternal life given as a free gift of God. For the wages of sin is death, but the Gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Our salvation is complete in Him the minute we trusted Him to save us and we can never be lost. John 6:37-40 When we trusted in Jesus as the only way we could be saved, we were sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption. Which means we can never be lost. Ephesians 1:13. Since Jesus has paid for all our sin, we can not go to hell to pay for them. All we have to do is believe He shed His blood just for us, and has given us His righteousness through the spirit that now lives in us. Romans 4:5. So if we have believed that Jesus died on the cross just for us, that He took full payment for all our sin, we are born into the family of God and are now the sons and daughters of God by faith alone in Jesus blood sacrifice for all our sin. It is all by grace, and not by anything we have done or will do. Our works. We could never do anything to merit or earn salvation, so Jesus did for us what we could not do, pay our sin debt in full. Ephesians 2:8-9 So if you have trusted Jesus as your only savior, you are born again by the spirit Ephesians 1:13, and can never be condemned. You are made righteous before God by faith in what Jesus has done for us plus nothing. Now we should rejoice in the Lord for what He has done to save us sinners. We have nothing to boast in because Jesus did it all. He paid our sin debt in full. Now we have eternal life given to us as a free gift.
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. John 3:5 (KJV) To be born again we must do what Jesus told Nicodemus to do. To avoid Bible teaching regarding baptism many people try to make this passage mean something besides what it means. They will explain that the water part of this is the water associated with natural birth. But all people saved and unsaved experience the water associated with natural birth. So what other water does the Bible talk about? It has to be water of baptism. there is nothing else in the New Testament about water in association with our salvation. We have to take Jesus for what He said. The Word delivered by the Holy Spirit enters our hearts when we are exposed to it For the gospel is the power to save us: (For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation Romans 1:16.) Conception begins with the hearing of the word the Holy Spirit delivered -- that's His part in the new birth. The water part is that of baptism.
To be born again Christian is closely related with Christian baptism mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew 3: 11-17; 28: 19-20; Mark 1: 1-11; 16: 16; Luke 3: 15-18 and John 1: 12-13; 3: 3-6. For the Jewish people, baptism is mentioned in the book of prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 36: 25-32) and they who believed in it, came to be baptized by John the Baptist (Matthew 3: 5-12). Based on these passages, we can summarize: to be born again Christian means a repentance from doing evil and having faith in the Word of God (John 1: 1; 6: 63-65) as John 1: 13 says: "Children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or husband's will, but born of God".
Jesus said Nicodmus that he will not see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. Nicodemus wanted to talk about what Jesus had been doing but Jesus wanted to tell what God is doing giving birth sons and daughters in the Kingdom. The phrase 'born again' was used in Judaism. It referred to. Gentiles who became full proselytes. The rebirth happens through water and spirit. Water is a spiritually charged term. Water has healing associations(Jn.5:2,9:7) as well as divine associations(Jn.6:19) Jn.3:6 confirms he speaking of spiritual birth and not of physical birth. In today's time the verse Jn.3:6 is important to us. We should have spiritual rebirth, a continuous process of rebirth, rather a regeneration. Nicodemus should have understood the radical new birth which Jesus had been speaking about. It is spoken I n Ezekiel 36:26. Jesus spoke I terms of wind(pneuma) and water and birth, earthly images meant to make clear truth.
"Born again Christian" is a mere gloss of what Jesus actually meant by "born again". Nobody has been "born again" -- unless you've been already "resurrected from the dead to everlasting life", which will not happen until the "2nd coming" and "judgment day".
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