Note: This was written before the author’s conversion to Orthodoxy.
David asks, “[A]re [there] any who understand, who seek after God” (Ps 14:2)? Paul gives the answer, “There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God” (Rom 3:11).
So, the question goes out if there are any, and the response is definitively “no.” There are absolutely none among the sons of men.
Why? When Christ was preaching to the Jewish authorities, they could not understand. So, He responded, “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word” (John 8:43).
Imagine that. It is not a matter of one’s free will. Free will cannot make you do impossible things. Man, by his own free will, cannot hear a dog whistle when it is blown. In the same way, man in the same way cannot understand the things of God, because he “cannot hear” the words of God. Only “[h]e who is of God hears the words of God,” Christ points out. “[F]or this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God” (John 8:47).
Paul observes just this when he comments on why some can understand the preaching of the Gospel and some do not: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God…But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor 2:12, 14).
See the similarity? The natural man, which is the way we are all naturally born, “cannot understand” the things of God. The work of the Holy Spirit is necessary to change the nature of the man, so the natural man becomes a spiritual man who can understand spiritual things. This is why the Scripture says, “[N]o one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3).
Many take offense to this teaching. It is not because it isn’t abundantly clear in the Scripture. Jesus flat out says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). Rather, people take offense that man is so impotent and that God can so easily affect his life, that He can even change man’s very nature.
The idea that God can make us even better than we are is not offensive to us. However, people are not very keen on God willing that man be worse off in some way than he was before. We forget 1 Sam 10:9 that says, “God changed his heart” when speaking of how Saul started getting fits of rage. Further, King Nebuchadnezzar lost his reason and went into the wilderness to eat grass, because of God’s decree. When, as Nebuchadnezzar recounts, “my reason returned to me” (Dan 4:34) he blessed God and said, “He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand” (Dan 4:35).
Is it not obvious, that man is completely in the hands of God? The Bible is clear: You can’t choose God. However, do not let this intimidate you. For the Scripture says, “Ask and you shall receive” (Matt 7:7). If you ask for God’s forgiveness, He will grant it, because that’s His promise. If you place your faith in Christ and make Him the Lord of your life, you will be resurrected from the dead. And, if “it has been granted for Christ’s sake…to believe in Him” (Phil 1:29) be assured that your desire for salvation and subsequent faith is not of your own, but it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8).