In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. (James 1:18)
Johnny Carson, the legendary television host, once described an interaction between a disgruntled teenager and a disappointed father as they warred with one another. The teenager, about to slam the door and storm off, shouted, “I didn’t ask to be born!” In response, the father shouted back, “And if you had, I would have said no!”
None of us asked to be born. And in fact, none of us asked to be born again. James points out the humbling truth that our spiritual birth was not something we prompted God to do. In God’s goodness, our new birth in Christ was His choice, unpressured by our helplessness and unaided by our supposed goodness. He acted solely in accordance with His free, sovereign will. As Jesus put it, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
Apart from the work of the Spirit in showing us Christ, our foolish hearts remain darkened, and sin has a deadening effect on our sense of morality. By nature we are lost to sin’s grip, desperately needing to know the solution to our predicament but unable even to see what the nature of our predicament is. But even having each become a member of God’s family by grace, through faith, we are still sometimes inclined to believe that our salvation is the result of what we did—that we chose, and must continue to choose, to turn away from sin and turn to God in childlike trust. The truth is that it was “of his own will” that God “brought us forth” as we heard and were enabled by Him to respond to “the word of truth.” When we put the pieces together, we discover that our choice of Him was and is made possible only by His choice of us.
As the Alec Motyer put it, “It is no more possible for us to be agents or contributors to our new birth than it was for us to be so in our natural birth. All the work, from initial choice to completed deed, is his … And until his will changes, his word alters or his truth is proved false, my salvation cannot be threatened or forfeited.”
What security, peace, and comfort are found in knowing that the goodness of God through Jesus Christ not only brought you to repentance and faith but will also keep you in the faith! If your faith and salvation depended on you, they would never be secure, and you would always be anxious. But it depends on Him, “with whom there is no variation of shadow due to change” (James 1:17). You did not ask to be born; He willed it. Therefore you can be sure that you are His child—now, tomorrow, each day, and forever.
Devotional material is taken from Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg. Copyright © 2021. Used by Truth For Life with written permission.
FOOTNOTE 1 The Message of Ecclesiastes, The Bible Speaks Today (IVP Academic, 1985), p 60.