Taste buds, they are strange things. Everyone has them, and they dictate what we like and what we don’t like. For example, I do not like tomatoes. This bothers me. I desire to like tomatoes. They look great…but no matter how often I try them (and I do a lot), they taste terrible to me. Other people love them, such as my daughters. Why do they love them, but I do not? Taste buds. I think you would all agree with me that this is complexly unfair! What about my free will?! Shouldn’t I get to decide what I like?
This is also true about our love for God. Some people love God and some people don’t love God. Same God, but different results. Why is this? Spiritual taste buds. Some people taste and see that the Lord is good and some taste and find Him bitter. So who decides what taste buds you have?
First, everyone who is physically born is initially hostile to God. (See Colossians 1:21 if you want more Scriptural proof, just google verses that support total depravity). So how do people go from being hostile to God to loving God? Regeneration.
Regeneration is “a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us.” (Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Chapter 34, “Regeneration”)
In John 3:5-8, we are told that we must be born again before we enter the Kingdom. No birth, no Kingdom. How does this birth occur? Verse 6 says, “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Spiritual life comes from the Holy Spirit, not from us. How does the Spirit decide who to cause to be born? Verse 8 says, “the wind blows where it wishes.” The wind has a will. It decides. This is what we call Sovereignty. So how do we know whom the Spirit has chosen? Verse 8, “you hear its sound.” The only way we know whom God has chosen is by the effects produced by the act...they love God.
The Holy Spirit changes our taste buds for God. Those who are born again go from being hostile to God to loving God. Perhaps the best picture of this in the Bible is the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. He was on his way to kill Christians, and on the way he became one. So in summary, regeneration comes before faith, not after it. Regeneration is the cause of repentance and faith. Why is this important? Because this is what the Bible teaches and so that God gets the glory, not us.