When you were born, what was your spiritual condition towards God:
The only biblical answer is 3: Dead!
Born Dead to God
Paul clearly stated that we were all spiritually dead in our sin in Ephesians 2:1-3
We are in this state because we are born sinners due to Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12) and we cannot change this condition. This is our spiritual DNA.
Even David understood this (Psalms 51:5)
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
As a dead corpse cannot make themselves physically alive, we cannot make ourselves spiritually alive. No matter how good we try to act, whatever we try to do to please God, we cannot affect our condition.
God Makes Us Alive
Since we cannot change our spiritual condition, then God is
the only one who can change us.
Paul continues in Ephesians 2:4-5
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Nowhere is our decision part of making us alive.
In John’s Gospel, John writes this in the first chapter
Yet to all who received 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.
One of the great “evangelical” questions is “Are you born again?” The problem with this question is that it can place the focus on the individual and not on God. Many people will answer this question by saying “I accepted Christ on . . .” The problem with this type of answer is that no one chose to be born again just as no one chose to be born physically. If you are a Christian, you are born again since all Christians are born again.
In Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus states (John 3:1-8)
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."
In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
We see that Jesus states that it is the Spirit that gives birth to our spirit. Nowhere is our decision part of this birthing process. Why is that? We are not spiritual alive but dead. This is no difference from our physical birth since no one can claim that it was their decision that led to their birth. Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus was telling him. Nicodemus was reviewing salvation as something he must do while Jesus was telling him that there was nothing he could do to be saved, it was 100% God's doing.
God’s Word Gives Life
So if we cannot make a decision, then why do we see people “making a decision” for Christ in the Bible? What gives life in God’s word? In Romans 10:14-15, Paul writes that it is the hearing of Gospel that gives one the ability to call on the name of the Lord. Through the book of Acts, people’s ability to respond to the Gospel is always preceded by the proclamation of the Gospel. What they take for "making decision" is actually their responding to what God has already done.
In Peter's proclamation of the Gospel to Cornelius' household, the Holy Spirit came down on those who heard the message (Acts 10:44). Later, the Apostles stated that it was God who gave the Gentiles that ability to repent (Acts 11:18). Our ability to repent is a gift of God.
The Role of “Free Will”
Many Christians state that we have the ability to “ask
Jesus into our hearts”. As we have seen,
scripture describes our condition as being dead to God. At best, we can state that our nature will reject God’s grace since we are all enemies of God. Our reconciliation with God occurred on the cross
when we were still enemies to God. We
contribute nothing to our salvation, including the ability to accept what God
has done for us. God must give us the ability to believe. Even our faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The most common verse many quote is Revelation 3:20: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” This is a misapplication of this verse. If you look carefully at the context of this passage you will find that Christ is talking to believers, not to non-believers.
In the end, we must accept the fact that we are dead in our natural condition. It is the act of God that even gives us the ability to believe. It is the proclamation of the Gospel that gives life. That's how God works.