"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? . Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered. . .Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:3-6 - KJV)
Jesus uses the concept of rebirth to teach what a person's relationship with God can become. To be a Christian, a person must repent of his sins, accept Jesus Christ as his savior, consecrate his life to God, and receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is the symbol of what occurs in a Christian's life:
"Do you know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
"For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is free from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:3-11 - RSV).
The Christian accepts the sovereignty of God in his life, and enters the kingdom: ". . . giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved son" (Colossians 1:12-13 - RSV). God makes the blessings of His kingdom available to the consecrated Christian through Christ, He saves the Christian from being under the sovereignty of sin; and through the Holy Spirit, the Christian receives the power to transform his life.
"So then my brothers, because of God's many mercies to us, I make this appeal to you: Offer yourself as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform outwardly to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God - what is good, and is pleasing to him, and is perfect" (Romans 12:1-2 - RSV).
Becoming a Christian means changing: ". . . if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17 - KJV). Being a Christian is an ongoing process of separating oneself from the sovereignty of this world, and living in the kingdom of God instead.
As a new Christian submits himself to God's sovereignty, his behavior will begin to change. He will spend time in prayer, and his prayers will become more effective. He will begin to understand God more fully, through study, meditation, and a new perspective on life. The new Christian will evaluate and alter his priorities in how he spends his time and money. He will begin to look for ways he can use his abilities in the service of God. His conversation will change. As he grows closer to God, he will want to talk about his new life:
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, and a people claimed by God for his own, to proclaim the triumphs of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. You are now the people of God, who once were not his people; outside his mercy once, you have now received his mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10 - NEB).
A new Christian's behavior towards others will also begin to change, and his relationships will be altered. He will find he has less and less in common with his non-Christian friends. He will begin to spend more time with other Christians; when he meets one, he will be pleased that they have so much in common. He will feel encouraged by his conversations with other Christians, and will make an effort to meet regularly with them, fellowshipping informally in friends' homes and worshipping at church services and conventions. The new Christian will become more understanding and patient with his acquaintances - in his neighborhood, at school, at work. God's kingdom will come into the Christian's home, and his family life will become more Christ-oriented. His love, reflecting God's love more and more, is an indication of his place in God's kingdom: "We. . .have crossed over from death to life; this we know, because we love our brothers (1 John 3:14 - NEB).
As his habits and relationships become directed and blessed by God, the Christian will realize his whole personality is indeed being transformed - he is becoming a completely different person. He now worries less, because he knows his life is in God's hands. Understanding God's plan for man, the Christian has a new perspective on life - in the middle of a disintegrating world, he is cheerful, enthusiastic, and optimistic. He feels secure in God's kingdom, knowing that even when he makes mistakes he can ask for forgiveness, and still be God's son. The Christian now strives for spiritual growth rather than for materialistic profit. He is flexible, looking to God for direction. Realizing what God has done for him, the Christian is humble and grateful.
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:1-4 - RSV).
The person who has successfully submitted himself in full consecration to God's will in this life will be a member of the church of God. He becomes a part of a group of people whom God has individually called since the time of Christ. This body of devoted Christians comprises the bride of Christ. Members of this bride class who have died will be resurrected at Christ's second advent. The faithful who are still alive at Christ's return will be instantaneously transformed into perfect spirit beings. Together with those raised from the dead, they will be caught up into the air. The marriage between Christ and his bride (the church) will take place. As divine beings, the members of the church will serve as kings and priests with Christ forever.
"His divine power has given us everything we need to live a godly life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share his own glory and goodness. I n this way he has given us precious and very great promises, in order that by receiving what he has promised you may escape from the destructive passion that exists in the world and come to share the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:3-4 - GN)