One of the greatest joys of being a kid is having birthday parties. Every year, you pick something fun to do and/or somewhere fun to go. You invite all your friends. You eat cake and ice cream. Best of all, you open presents!
What was the best birthday present you ever received? A few stand out to me. On my seventh birthday, I got a SEGA Genesis. On my twelfth birthday, I got a PlayStation. And on my sixteenth birthday, I got a driver’s license. Now that I’m older (and more boring), I’m happy with a Barnes & Noble gift card or – what else? – cash.
Can you imagine a kid rejecting presents on their birthday? As in when it’s time to open them he/she says, “No thanks”? That would never happen! In fact, it couldn’t happen because there is nothing in a child’s nature that compels them to reject a present.
This is what God does for us in Jesus. When He brings us to life in Christ, we are born anew into His family. Since there is nothing in our new nature that compels us to reject Christ, we receive Him in faith. And God bestows to us spiritual birthday presents – the blessings of salvation.
Conversion – Our Spiritual Birthday
Not only do we receive blessings during conversion, but conversion itself is a gift. Christian churches encourage the lost to “make a decision for Jesus.” But this isn’t something we can do on our own. We aren’t capable of inclining ourselves toward God or deciding to be saved.
So God regenerates us according to His mercy. He makes us alive in Christ by giving us a new heart and a new Spirit. This isn’t something we ask for; He just does it. After all, did you decide to be born physically? No – your parents made that choice. In the same way, you didn’t decide to be born again spiritually. That was your heavenly Father’s choice (John 1:12).
Then God takes His saving plan a step further. He converts us by producing faith and repentance in our hearts. Not only does He require faith and repentance for salvation; He meets those requirements for/in us! And because there is nothing in our new nature that rejects His gifts, we gladly yield to His converting power.
The Bible speaks of faith and repentance as gifts that are received. Peter greets his readers, “To those who…have received a faith as precious as ours” (2 Peter 1:1; cf. Ephesians 2:8). After he preaches to Cornelius’ family his fellow Jews conclude, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18; cf. 2 Timothy 2:25).
The Gospel – A Party Invitation
Part of planning a birthday party is inviting your friends. You write a guest list and prepare and pass out invitations. This is what God does. We were written on His heavenly “guest list” when He chose us for salvation. He invites us to be saved through the preaching of the gospel.
But He does even more. Isn’t it disappointing when someone doesn’t RSVP? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could guarantee that everyone you invited came to your party? This is what God does. He doesn’t just invite us to be saved; He produces the right response in us. He procures our “RSVP.”
Paul explains, “Faith comes through hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17). He declares, “I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
The Bible refers to this as being “called.” Paul says to a church, “God…has called you into fellowship with His Son” (1 Corinthians 1:9). He tells another, “God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
God’s Choice and Ours
Theologians refer to God’s calling as “effectual” because it produces the desired effect. Those whom God calls to salvation WILL respond to the gospel. Paul simply states: “Those he called, he also justified” (Romans 8:30).
At this stage of the “plan of salvation,” we begin to cooperate with God. After He regenerates us, there is no longer anything in our nature that compels us to reject Him. So we do not resist as He produces faith and repentance in our hearts. Indeed, we cannot resist!
God bestows many blessings on us at our conversion. Follow my blog to receive my next post about these spiritual birthday presents!
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