February 23, 2010

To Live is Christ — an incredible, unearned privilege

Today’s devotional reading asks, “Just because we have the right to become God’s children, does that mean we will?”

This is an assumption that the word “right” means the same in the Bible as it does to the ACLU or the average person who wants what he wants and demands it. However, good Bible interpretation means not taking a word out of context and putting a modern meaning on it. Notice the way it is used in this verse.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13)
This is a qualified “right” that requires certain conditions. First, it is exclusive in that it is given only to those who have believed in Jesus Christ and received Him. These people have been spiritually reborn, something that God does. The verses say that this birth does not happen by human decision. God has to do it.

That is, no person can simply say they have the right to be a child of God and claim that it is so — unless they fit these conditions. No faith = no rights. Christ does not live in them (He has not been received) = no rights. No new birth = no rights.

The last one really bothers those who call themselves Christian but have not experienced this spiritual regeneration. One woman told me that “this born again business creates two classes of Christians” and thought that it was snobbish. Even though it is exclusive that new birth qualification isn’t my idea, nor the idea of the evangelical church. It is in the Bible as a requirement for having the right to be called a child of God. While salvation is open to all who come to Christ, it is always on God’s terms, not ours.

The other truth that I see in these verses is that no one who is “born again” has any reason or right to gloat about it. It was not their doing. I cannot lift myself up because Jesus lives in my heart. The Bible is clear that if my spiritual condition was left up to me, I would still be in my sins, unforgiven, and not caring at all if I pleased God or had a relationship with Him. Salvation is of God, not my own doing.

For practical living, that means humility. Sin makes me proud and vain, and I can easily put myself on a pedestal, but the truth puts me where I belong — on my face before God, eternally thankful that He is merciful to sinners such as I. No one earns or deserves to be a child of God. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9)
Today, Tuesday, February 23, I am rejoicing that God has mercy on me, and that because of Jesus, He gave me the incredible privilege of being in His family.

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