Just over 2 weeks ago, our third grandchild, Alistair came into the world. It was a snowy “summer” day in Edmonton. As far as births go, his entrance into the world was fairly typical and uneventful. There were no complications and he went home with his parents the next day. As he grows up, he probably won’t remember any of the details of that special day for us.
Do you remember the details of the day you were born? Of course not! Why? Because your birth was something done for you, not done by you. God uses experiences in our physical life to help us understand our spiritual life. How we are born physically teaches us a lot about how we are born again spiritually.
In John 3, Jesus has a conversation with Nicodemus, one of the religious leaders of the day and in their discussion reveals that many people are physically alive but spiritually dead. John writes: Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
Nicodemus was flabbergasted. How was this possible? He didn’t understand that the beginning point wasn’t “pre-birth,” rather it was death. This is something the Bible says clearly and repeatedly: Colossians 2:13 says, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.” And in Ephesians 2:1, we read, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins.”
Over and over, the theme that humanity is dead apart from Christ is emphasized and taught. That is why Paul, in Ephesians 2, tells us that “[God] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” What this tells us is dead people do not make decisions of any kind. Dead people cannot simply choose to be alive.
With this truth, it brings up a question that has been debated over and over and over: who chooses who becomes a Christian? In its simplest sense, there are only three choices. The first choice is Satan chooses. The answer to that one is easy because, for him, he wants everyone to join him in Hell. Secondly, we choose for ourselves. Now we might think the choice then is simple, right? But Romans 3:10–11 says, “ ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.’ ” In other words, no one can measure up and no one is actually looking. Thirdly, God chooses us. Now it isn’t a simple “He chooses us and we go,” rather we respond by choosing Him.
But how does this work then? Our choice begins with God’s regenerative work in us. This is what God promised in Ezekiel 36:26–29, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws… you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you.” As much as we would like to take credit for our salvation, God is very clear that the new birth is something He alone does.
This is the parallel we see in comparing our physical birth with our spiritual birth. Being made spiritually alive, or born again, is something that God does for us. After God makes us new, we cry out to God from our new heart. Think of it this way: a mother does all the work of birthing a child, possibly with a little help from a doctor, and once the child is born alive, the child cries out. God the Holy Spirit does all the work of spiritually birthing a child of God, and once brought forth spiritually alive, they cry out to God.
So what does that mean for all the people in the world? Since everyone begins spiritually dead, our only hope is that God would cause people to be born again, to be made spiritually alive. Only then can they know and receive the gift of eternal life and the blessings of living for Him.
If you are a Christian, give thanks to God for this is exactly what God has done for you. God has chosen to love you, forgive you, change your soul, transform your destiny, and place His Spirit in you to make you new! But it doesn’t end there. It also means we have a responsibility to share that hope we have received and experienced and pray that God would use our efforts to bring life into those whom we meet.