In Romans 8:8, Paul writes, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” What he means is that whoever does not have the Holy Spirit living in their human spirit cannot do what God wants, demands, or requires.
This verse is enough for me to believe that the new birth happens only by God’s doing with no contribution of our own. Why? It’s simple. If a person who is only flesh (i.e. not born again) cannot please God, then how can he muster up enough faith to do the ultimate pleasing and believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior?
The answer is that he cannot. There is not an iota of goodness in a human being in God’s eyes before salvation (Rom. 3:10-18). That is what is communicated when Paul uses the word “flesh.” Flesh is opposed to the Spirit (see Gal. 5:17). Flesh is our carnal, sinful nature. Spirit is our God-given, new nature. Before salvation people live “according to the flesh” and “set their minds on the things of the flesh” (v. 5) because they don’t know anything else. But Paul goes further than that though. He says that unregenerate people “cannot please God.” In other words, it is impossible.
So if there is no good in people — apart from Christ, when there is no Spirit in them — then there is no desire to do good, be good, or seek to know and please the One who is infinitely, inherently, and eternally good. For that to happen, it would take a miracle, and this miracle is called being born again. This is impossible with man, but the good news is that with God nothing is impossible.
To be continued.