I always get a thrill of joy when I read John 1:9-13, particularly verses 12 & 13.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, the gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [John 1:9–13, ESV]
To be given the right to become a child of God, born anew by the choice and approval of God!
Perhaps the thrill I find in this passage is the result of having been on both sides of the belief fence described here. Growing up I was agnostic, verging on atheistic in my attitudes towards Christianity in particular. Yet, when I did encounter Christian faith up close I found I envied my friends who could believe in God and Jesus. Even in my unbelief I saw the comfort that could come from having wholehearted faith in God, but I simply did not have even a hint of such faith.
It was about three years later that I crossed from being someone who didn’t know Jesus to believing in him and being given the right to become a child of God. And the faith which got me to that place was also a gift from God, coming through reading the gospel of John before I believed.
As I read John’s gospel I had an increasing sense that what I was reading was true. Jesus as portrayed in this gospel was alive and real, interacting with ordinary folks like me, quite different to how I had imagined God to be. The more I read the more convinced I became that what I was reading could be true. And if it was true, then I was in big trouble!
God let me stew on that for half a week before I was invited to church by a friend and somehow found myself praying to Jesus, asking him to forgive my sin and redeem my soul.
What stands out to me now almost thirty years later is that God birthed faith in me through my reading the Bible despite me barely understanding what I was reading. Now I seek to rekindle the fire of my faith, remembering the way God started me on this path confirms that I should I seek Him again in His Word.