And it was of His own [free] will that He gave us birth [as sons] by [His] Word of Truth, so that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures [a sample of what He created to be consecrated to Himself]. (James 1:8 Amplified)
I have never heard of a baby having anything to do with their being born, but yet many people seem to have the idea that they participated in their spiritual birth, like some sort of spiritual midwife. They attribute their new birth to their act of accepting, believing, confessing, deciding, etc. Somehow I am a bit uncomfortable with this; I think that is taking too much credit for what has happened. This same verse in James says that the Father did it by his will, not by ours.
And yet I know that we do have something to do with the process. God does not just take over a person’s entrance into his family, we must take some action. I think that our action has more to do with dying; beginning with our understanding of our status of being dead in sin. The Law of God had the purpose of exposing sin by showing man that he is unable to keep it. We are made aware of our spiritual death and our utter need for God. According to this verse in James the Word of Truth is the agent by which we are born of God, thereby making him our Father. But I think it is significant to note that we do not cause our new birth.
So why does this make any difference? Isn’t it just enough to know that we are part of God’s family, without having to worry about the details? I believe that these details matter very much. I have seen so many people that have very little idea what it really means to be a new creature, to have passed from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. It is obvious when they can’t even begin to explain the change in their own life, if indeed there has been one. It is true that we don’t necessarily need to understand all of the theological implications of the matter to be a child of God, but unless a person really understands that they were dead spiritually, I may doubt that their rebirth has really taken place.
I would be inclined to believe that our part in the process is more in accepting the fact that we were dead. (Romans 6 and 7 play this out in detail.) When we find out that we were included in Jesus’ death, and that his death destroyed the power of our sinful nature, this realization causes us to cry out to God for salvation. Only then can we born of God. After that the process of dying – or of considering ourselves to be dead to the old nature – is an ongoing process for the rest of our lives on earth.
With all this, it is not my intention to judge people as to whether or not they are born again. Rather, I am concerned that many may have only accepted a belief, repeated a prayer, or joined a religion rather than having experienced a real regeneration and rebirth into God’s family.
I believe that this difference is a matter of spiritual life or death. What do you think?