One of the core beliefs of Christianity is:
The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all persons: (a) the requirements of the law are written by God on every heart, (b) Jesus Christ knocks at the door of every heart, (c) the Holy Spirit calls and convicts each person and (d) God's eternal power and divine nature are evident in the world around us. Nevertheless, many resist the grace of God. (I)
- The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all persons (Titus 2:11):
- (a) the requirements of the law are written by God on every heart (Rom. 2:15),
- (b) Jesus Christ knocks at the door of every heart (Rev. 3:20),
- (c) the Holy Spirit calls and convicts each person (John 16:8) and
- (d) God's eternal power and divine nature are evident in the world around us (Rom 1:20).
- Nevertheless, many resist the grace of God (Mat 25:46; 2 Thes 1:8-9).
The grace of God that comes before salvation is called prevenient grace. Prior to salvation, God initiates, advances and perfects everything that can be called good in man. God leads the sinner from one step to another in proportion as He finds response in the heart and disposition to obedience. Some men allow God to quicken, assist and nudge their free will to facilitate confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience so they may receive the great gift of salvation (1 Pet 1:9). Other men choose to resist and reject the grace of God (2 Thes 1:8-9).
The Holy Spirit is the emissary of prevenient grace. In that capacity, He calls and convicts each person (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit begins by calling your soul; you may choose to ignore the phone and let it ring. But until He senses a response in your heart He will go no further. If you eventually answer the call, He will try to awaken you to the idea that there is something wrong with your soul. As weeks and months go by while you ponder this thought, He is gradually drawing you closer to Himself. Then comes the hard part! You must confess your own sin nature and sinful behavior. You must confess that your heart, intellect and will are corrupt beyond measure. Only by acknowledging the poverty of your own soul can you enter the kingdom of God; those who are baptized with the Holy Spirit have a sense of absolute unworthiness. You must be convicted of your own sin nature and behavior. Without conviction, it is not possible to have true remorse in your heart. Without remorse, it is not possible to repent. Without repentance, there is no faith; belief must be preceded by repentance and followed by obedience to qualify as faith. Without faith, there is no obedience. Without conviction, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience, there is no salvation.
The path followed by the Holy Spirit appears to be: call, awaken, draw near, convict, save and empower. Most of us will not answer the phone when the Holy Spirit first calls our souls. If we do answer, we become so frightened by what we hear that we pull away from God and disconnect the call. He won’t place another call for a while; in the interim, we accumulate the consequences of our evil lives. I spent the first 40 years of my life as a completely godless person; I grew up in a godless family. As a young man, I began to kneel at the altar of science; great thinkers became my gods. The Holy Spirit placed many calls to me during those 40 years, which I quickly disconnected; but so much time has passed, I remember only two.
While working in an engineering laboratory, I developed a friendship with another godless man who I admired for his poise, bearing and soft spoken confidence. One day he confided that he suffered from anxiety and depression. I was surprised because I couldn’t imagine him having either. Then he told me an unlikely experience for a godless person. During one particularly bad attack, he was admitted to the psychiatric ward of a local Catholic hospital. As he lay in bed for several days, he began to feel himself slowly slipping into insanity and there was nothing he could do to stop it. On the wall, opposite his bed, hung a picture which was supposed to represent Jesus Christ. One night he began to stare at the picture. He began to feel as if the picture was staring back. The image appeared to slightly lift off the canvas and begin to glow. He felt his mind slowly begin to clear; his anxiety and depression was lifted from him in a matter of hours. In a day or so, he was released from the psychiatric ward and went on with his life. He occasionally thought about that experience but shrugged it off as just the workings of his mind trying to heal itself. In retrospect, he was called by the Holy Spirit, but, after being healed, hung up the phone. After hearing that story, I thought about it for a while and then, I too, hung up the phone.
Another pre-salvation call from the Holy Spirit, which I subsequently disconnected, happened when I was working in a nuclear laboratory on the RTG (radioisotopic thermoelectric generator). This device creates electricity from the heat generated by alpha particle decay of 238PuO2. I was attempting to model multi-constituent diffusion and helium release for a sphere of this oxide. I first developed a model and then wrote a Fortran finite difference code. Such codes must be convergent, consistent and stable. In other words, they must converge to an answer, the answer must be consistent with reality and they must remain stable. My code had about 30 input parameters. In those days, there were no interactive computer systems. The code was punched onto IBM cards. The cards were read into a card reader at some remote location and then you waited for the mainframe to crunch out the results and send them to a line printer.
My program was unstable. After generating little more than a minute of simulated results, the program output would explode into a number so large that the mainframe couldn’t handle it. The program would terminate and I would receive the terminated output on the line printer.
I worked on the stability problem for weeks. I tried forward differencing, backward differencing and mixtures of the two. Nothing worked. I had nothing to show for months of effort. One night I was alone in a remote concrete basement housing a card reader and a line printer. It was about 9:30; I had been there since 2:30 working on the stability problem. For reasons I can’t explain, I began to think about God. I knew nothing about God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit. I said something like, “God, if you’re listening, I would like you to fix my stability problem. If you do, I promise to seriously consider the possibility of your existence.” That seemed like a prayer I could weasel out of if necessary. I brought many new input parameter cards with me that day so I just picked one; I made no changes to the program itself. I put my more than 100 cards into the card reader for processing and then waited. I was used to getting output after about 5 minutes; but after 15 minutes I still had no output. Then the line printer started chattering. The program had run with no sign of instability.
In the days that followed, I thought about the possibility of God’s existence and I thought about what had happened in that basement room. But I just didn’t have time to pursue this God business; I decided to put it off until later. Six tumultuous years went by before the Holy Spirit arranged to get my attention again. These were years of turmoil and sadness.
If you are unsaved and get that phone call, don’t hang up!
(See also Sections 4.2, 4.9 and 4.10 of Theology Corner)