“You did not choose me, but I chose you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…John 15:16
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had conversations with people only for them to walk away, holding onto a doctrine; a doctrine created by man, which states the opposite of John 15:16. They say: “I made a decision for Christ, or today my friend chose Jesus or I accepted Jesus or I invited Jesus into my heart.” This doctrine of man clearly states: I am in control. I am in control of when and how and if I make a decision for Christ. I decide on my terms and in my own way. After all, God created us with free will, didn’t He?
Yes we have free will. We often begin our day by opening our closet doors and choosing what we will wear. We base our decisions on the weather report, or the places we will visit, or even the mood we are in. Quite mundane decisions, to be sure. In these decisions we are exercising our free will.
The decision some folks say they make for Christ is of a caliber far more important than any other decision. It is a decision of a lifetime and will determine their futures. There is not one person, having made a mental “decision” to accept Christ, that can rightly claim they have been saved and are now a Christian. That may sound radical to some, but nonetheless it is true. We can not save ourselves simply by accepting Christ or choosing Christ, or making a decision for Christ, as good as that may sound.
We were not born good nor do we become good with the passage of time.
Psalm 51:5 says: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
A birth produces a living, breathing soul. A soul that does not know God nor does that soul desire God. We are all born dead in trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1) To clarify this situation, the apostle Paul, speaking to believers said:
“Among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. “(Ephesians 2:3)
Did you catch that? It is our natural inclination to gravitate towards sin. The body and the mind of the natural man are controlled by a sin nature resulting in the wrath of God directed upon our sinful state. This is the spiritual reality of every person born into this life. In and of ourselves there is no way of escape. Why?
Because a spiritually dead person can not make a spiritual decision.
Again, Paul (can you tell He is one of my favorites in Bible land?) asks the question:
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me me from this body of death?” Romans 7:24
Certainly not Paul, as great as he was. Certainly not any of his companions. Certainly not you or I. We have zero ability to deliver ourselves from the body of sin in which we live. We may intellectually comprehend the gospel and that is good, but we’re still not there. Something very important is missing. The vital missing element is a person. The Holy Spirit. The third person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit’s work of transforming our hearts, changing our hearts; in essence giving us a new heart, we would never willingly approach God with repentance and the faith that is needed to believe.
“No man can say that Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:13
When our hearts, our inner man is changed to conform to the will of God, then we will desire Him. Our souls will be convicted of sin and we will understand our need for a savior, who is Christ the Lord. The day we bow down before God, perhaps with tears streaming from our faces and confess that we are a sinner, having lived with ourselves as the central figure, with little regard for the One who created us, is the day we become joined to Christ for eternity.
A beautiful description of the Spirit’s work is found in Ezekiel 36:25: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.”
The new spirit is the Spirit of God and the new heart is our thoughts and will being brought into conformity with God. He has created for Himself a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17) We are now willing and able to answer the call of God.
Just as change and growth happen as a fetus matures in the womb, so God’s chosen ones undergo a transformation prior to the new birth into the Kingdom of God. These changes are initiated by God, not by human effort.
The process is this: first, regeneration by the work of the Holy Spirit. Second, the Holy Spirit of God pierces our heart, convicting us of living a sinful life apart from Him and giving us the gift of repentance and so we repent. And third, God gives us the gift of faith that enables us to answer the call of God. He reveals Himself to us and gives us the gift of faith so we can believe. Believe in the gospel which has the power to save a soul from sin, from hell and from the wrath of God which is to come.
All these gifts that pertain to salvation are a result of grace. He delivers these gifts of grace to whomever He has chosen from before the world was formed. He sets these gifts into motion according to His will and according to His good pleasure. The process of salvation belongs to God so He rightly receives all the credit, all the glory due His name.
Unfortunately, there are multitudes of people who believe they are saved based on a decision or a choice they have made. Or perhaps they were led to recite a “sinners prayer” or came forward during an altar call. They feel good about what they have done, but as time goes on and they don’t feel lead to pursue a relationship with God, or get involved with a church, or study the Bible. They begin to question God. They may blame God for their continued problems or their lack of interest in the things of God. They see no real real change in their lives.
The problem is that without the Holy Spirit, the conversion to Christianity can never take place. It is God who gave His only Son to die in payment for our sin debt. He directs the Holy Spirit to transform our dead spirit and creates in us a new heart that desires Him and gives us the gift of faith to believe. There is no way man can accomplish this unaided. And furthermore, He deposits the Holy Spirit within us to empower us to do the work Christ has called us to do. To testify of Him to the ends of the earth.
Let us examine ourselves carefully and not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. Let us not take credit for the things God has done. To God be the glory!