In what follows, people who do good actions that come from themselves will be called “earthly people,” since their moral and civic behavior is earthly in essence; while people who do good actions that come from the Lord will be called “spiritual people,” because their moral and civic behavior is spiritual in essence.
The Lord tells us in John that no one can do anything that is genuinely good on his or her own:
People cannot receive anything unless it has been given to them from heaven. (John 3:27)
Those who abide in me and in whom I abide bear much fruit, because without me you cannot do anything. (John 15:5)
“Those who abide in me and in whom I abide bear much fruit” means that everything good comes from the Lord—“fruit” meaning what is good. “Without me you cannot do anything” means that none of us can do good on our own.
People who believe in the Lord and who do what is good from him are called “children of the light” (John 12:36; Luke 16:8), “children of the wedding” (Mark 2:19), “children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36), “children of God” (Luke 20:36; John 1:12), and those “born of God” (John 1:13). It says that “they will see God” (Matthew 5:8), that “the Lord will make a home with them” (John 14:23), that they “have the faith of God” (Mark 11:22), and that “their deeds have been done in God” (John 3:21).
These statements are summed up in the following words:
As many as received Jesus, he gave them power to become children of God and believe in his name, who were born not of blood, and not of the will of the flesh, and not of the will of a man, but of God. (John 1:12, 13)
Believing in the name of the Son of God is believing the Word and living by it. The will of the flesh is our own will, which in and of itself is evil; and the will of a man is our own understanding, which in and of itself is false as a result of the evil. Those who are born of these are people who derive what they intend and act and think and speak from their own selves. Those born of God are people who derive what they intend and act and think and speak from the Lord.
In brief, what comes from us is not good. What comes from the Lord is good.
from Life/Faith, Sections 16, 17