Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.John 1:12-13
John's gospel, in chapter 1, immediately confronts us with the world's darkness, and with men's blindness that cannot see the Creator's power when demonstrated in their midst, and cannot see the Messiah when he fulfills all the Old Testament prophecies. But John never calls this a failure, and we must never read it as such. God did what he set out to do—some believed and some received, as we read in verses 12 and 13.
Here is one of the strange and often-repeated paradoxes of Scripture. Somehow God allows everything to seem totally lost; for all to seem a failure. This may mirror your life as well, so you'd better be ready for it. When it seems that everything you counted on to achieve what you longed for has already failed, then God starts to work. That is what he did here.
Though the Messiah was rejected and the Creator was unrecognized, nevertheless in that rejection God produced a whole new creation; a new humanity came into being. John tells us it starts like the old creation—with a birth. Every person entered human life by means of birth. There is no other way in except by being born. And that is true in the new creation as well. There has to be a birth. There is no other way into the new kingdom except with a birth.
John then lists the ways people wrongly think they can come to God. He says, first, that new birth is
not of blood. That means, not by inheritance or ancestry. Even being raised in a Christian family where everyone is Christian except you does not make you a Christian. You can attend a Christian school, and spend all your life involved in Christian activities, but until you are born again you are not a Christian.
Second, the new birth is
not of the will. You cannot determine yourself to be a Christian, make yourself one or talk yourself into being one. You cannot study Christians, act like them, join their church and sing their hymns, or even go through all the Christian externals to become a Christian. You cannot do it. It is
not of the will.
Third, the new birth is
not of the will of man—that is, the efforts of others. Nobody can make you a Christian; no bishop, no minister or priest. It cannot be by a ceremony, by reading a creed, by going forward or by kneeling at a bench. That will not make you a Christian.
It is what has happened in your heart that makes you a Christian. It is a new birth. It is done by God—
of God, John says—all beyond any human effort, cleverness or manipulation. It is
to all who received him, not who merely believe in him. Many people say,
I believe in Christ. I believe that he lived, died and rose again, and was who he said he was. But that does not make you a Christian. It is when you receive him, when you yield to him and surrender to his Lordship that you become a Christian.
Deep in the human spirit, if you receive him, something happens to you. Deep in your spirit a transformation occurs. God does it. You cannot do it. When faith meets the Word of God, and the Son of God is invited as Lord into the life, a new life begins in the human spirit. A change of government has set in. That is the mark of a new birth. A new creation has begun which will grow into the image of Christ.
Creator of all things, thank you for recreating me in the image of your Son. This is your work, Lord, and not my own. I invite you today to continue to live your life in and through me.
Do our lives bear witness to a radical re-birth and governance?