Do We Choose God, or Does God Choose Us?

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.’ ”  (John 3:1–7)

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.

Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus reveals that many people are physically alive but spiritually dead. This is something the Bible says clearly and repeatedly:

  • Colossians 2:13: “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.”
  • Ephesians 2:1: “You were dead in your transgressions and sins.”
  • Ephesians 2:5: “[God] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”.

Dead people do not make decisions of any kind. Dead people cannot simply choose to be alive.

This 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. One: Satan chooses, so everyone goes to hell. Two: we choose for ourselves, so everyone goes to hell, as 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.’ ” Three: God chooses us, then we choose God in response.

This is what God promised in advance 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.” God is very clear that the new birth is something He alone does.

What is true of your physical birth is also true of your 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, and once brought forth physically 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.

Since everyone begins spiritually dead, our only hope is that God would cause us to be born again, spiritually alive. If you are a Christian, this is precisely what God has done for you. God has chosen to love you, forgive you, change your soul, transform your destiny, and place the Spirit in you to make you new!

How have you seen God change your thoughts and desires?

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