If there is anything we as believers can be sure about, it is the fact that God is good and He is looking out for our good and that’s not going to change.
Unfortunately, sometimes that feels very difficult for us to believe.
How can we be certain that God’s not out to get us and that His desire is our good?
After looking at God’s character, James gives proof of God’s goodness to us as Christians in James 1:18.
“In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”
It is as if he is saying, ‘I’ve told you that you can trust God because of who He is. But you need more? You want me to get specific? God is good, and He gives good gifts. You want proof? Let’s think now a little more carefully about your salvation, about exactly what God has done.’
And you can see James zones in on one particular aspect.
How God brought us forth.
Which, is a fine translation, I suppose, but the actual word, he uses is literally, regeneration. As someone has explained, he’s “using language that ordinarily applies to physical birth (being brought forth out of our mother’s wombs, and into the world) and applies it to spiritual birth.”
He’s basically saying God has given birth to us.
And He had to do that, because we weren’t born spiritually alive.
It’s important we reflect on this, even if we know it, because there are just times where we think God’s not doing much in life, things seem slow, and we start to wonder about His goodness, but really, seriously look back.
Because you were born dead.
As soon as you came into this world, and looked at the One who made you, you started running from him as fast as you could.
I mean, you can take all the words to describe a pitiful condition, and that’s how it was for us.
Before God saved us.
We loved what was bad for us and we hated what was good for us. We had absolutely no sense of what was important. We got excited about the things that were trivial and were bored by the things that were important.
We had no spiritual understanding.
And the only way that any of that ever changes, is if God Himself steps in and performs a miracle in us, giving us spiritual life.
And if you are a believer.
That’s James point, He brought us forth.
God gave you a heart that sees and understands and loves the things that matter most, he’s given you insight into the kind of knowledge that is out of the reach of unbelievers, He’s given you a taste and delight for that which is most sweet.
If you are a believer, something has happened to you, the most important thing has happened to you, and you need to remember it.
God has given you birth.
And it’s completely Him who did this.
James says that it’s because of the “exercise of His will” that “He brought you forth…”
Which sounds kind of confusing, maybe.
But the exercise of his will is just one word in the Greek and it refers to desire. It’s not like a whim or a passing fancy. It’s a deliberate thought out desire. That’s why our versions read in the exercise of His will. The translators are trying to get across this idea that you are born again because of a deliberate and purposeful desire of God.
You are saved because He wanted you for Himself.
End of story.
You are not born again because you were seeking it.
And you are not born again because you planned it.
This is all God. Start to finish.
He brought you forth in the exercise of his will, James explains ‘by the word of truth.’
The phrase word of truth is used in the New Testament as a way of describing the gospel message. God uses the gospel to save people and to give them new life. Which once again just points back to God’s mercy and God’s goodness.
As one writer explains,
“When miserable man, whom He had no need of, who did Him no good, nor could be of any advantage to Him, had made himself miserable by his rebellion against God, God took such pity on him that He sent His only Son to undergo his torment for him, that he might be delivered and set free.
And now He offers freely, to bestow upon these rebels, complete and perfect happiness to all eternity upon this, His Son’s account. There never was such an instance of goodness, mercy, pity, and compassion since the world began: all the mercy and goodness amongst creatures fall infinitely short of it: this is goodness that never was, never will, never can be paralleled by any other being.”
I mean guys, we rebelled against God.
He created this perfect world, and we disobeyed and ruined things. And we didn’t run back to God at that point and say how can I be right with you? We ran away from God. But God pursued us.
We were totally lost, totally confused about who God was.
All of our great ideas about God just led us away from Him. Paul says in Acts 17 we were groping about for God, and we know from Scripture, that left to ourselves, we would not find Him. So God revealed Himself to us in a person – Jesus Christ – and in a message – the word of truth. This word of truth reveals God’s great grace and His plan for saving men – Jesus Christ.
And so as we look at our new birth – we are just overwhelmed with the goodness of God – because it’s all Him.
He brought us forth.
In the exercise of His will.
By the word of truth.
“…so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”
Which is God’s ultimate purpose in our salvation. By giving you new life God’s has made you a kind of first fruits among his creation. This is a figurative expression drawn from the Old Testament. Where God commanded the Israelites to offer up to him a first fruits of their harvest, every year, to set apart the best of their crop for Him. Because while obviously all of their harvest belonged to God, this part of the harvest was especially devoted to him.
When God says that He has given us new life among all His creation He is saying that He has saved us that we might belong especially to Him.
And there’s no privilege, greater than this.
There’s no greater good.
And really, obviously, if this has happened to you, there’s no one anywhere on the planet who has experienced more kindness and proofs of God’s love than you have.
That’s the point.
It’s tempting for us to have hard thoughts about God.
It can even feel somewhat holy to think He is angry with us and if not angry, to feel that He only puts up with us and barely at that. I know there are times where I feel like God must look at me with a feeling of deep disappointment. Because of what we know about ourselves and what we know about people, we might think of God as someone who doesn’t have time for people like us, someone whom we bother by coming into His presence.
After all He has does have things to take care of, like the whole world. And He already enjoys sweet fellowship in the Trinity. It is not like he is hurting for friends. And He already has glorious beings who worship Him
I mean, it sort of sounds reasonable to think, who are we to bother God?
Only, that kind of thinking for us as believers is a flat out lie, from the pit of hell, that we must resist with our all might.
John Owen puts it like this, “Now there is not anything more grievous to the Lord, nor subservient to the design of Satan upon the soul, than such thoughts of these.”
Check that, not anything more grievous. Wow. In light of all the bad things we can do, it is really something to say that the thing that grieves the Lord most is not believing that He loves us. Not only is it grievous though, John Owen says it is Satanic.
Thinking like this is part of Satan’s great design.
He goes on, “Satan claps his hands…when he can take up the soul with such thoughts of God: he hath enough – all that he doth desire.”
What a picture. Satan clapping his hands with delight. Looking around at all the other demons and saying, this is awesome, I have what I want! And what is it that he wants? That we as believers look to God as angry and disappointed with us instead of loving and good.
These kinds of thoughts grieve God and make Satan happy.
Therefore, there’s hardly anything more important you and I can do today than assure ourselves of God’s goodness, to remind ourselves of the Father’s love for us through Jesus Christ. Remind yourself, preach to yourself, that God is good and that never changes, that His love for you is constant, deep, and unchanging.
Because you know, in the middle of all the uncertainties of life, in spite of who you know God to be and what God has done, you are still tempted to doubt it.
In fact, sometimes it feels like it is the hardest thing in the world for us to really trust that God is for us, that God is good and wants our good, in the every day realities of life. And while obviously you might not be saying it out loud, when life gets difficult, it’s so easy to start wondering whether God does love us.
And what we are saying is that is super spiritually dangerous.
Because, it’s when you start doubting God’s goodness, that you are tempted to start looking for peace and happiness and good somewhere outside of Him.
And you are not going to find it.
If you really want good, and I know you want that, because we are all looking for good.
But if you really want contentment and peace and happiness, it is not going to come first from getting something more, something you don’t have right now, like God’s up in heaven and he’s just not giving you that one thing you need to be satisfied because he’s being tough.
Real good, lasting good, peace contentment, it is not found first in getting something you don’t have right now as much as it is found in giving yourself, your desires, your ambitions, your hopes to God, and trusting completely in His blessing. Instead of thinking you’ll get the life you always wanted by getting something outside of you that you don’t have right now, you will find find peace when you start trusting all that you do have and all that you do want to God.
And you can.
Because He’s good.
He’s proven, He’s more for you than you are.
If you really want peace and satisfaction, instead of wasting too much time worrying about how you can get more, work hard at resting in God’s loving concern for you and trusting that He will provide for you exactly what is best.
That’s so important.
Because if you don’t, and you go outside of God, and you get what you think you want, you won’t end up enjoying it. If it’s good it is going to be from God, and if it is not from God, then it isn’t good.
“Without God’s blessing,” John Calvin once said, “we shall obtain nothing but what turns to our misfortune. Therefore, suppose we believe that every means towards a prosperous and desirable outcome rests upon the blessing of God alone, and that, when this is absent, all sorts of misery and calamity dog us.”