One of the churches I regularly preach in has been doing a series on The Doctrines of Grace, otherwise known as the Five Points of Calvinism. On Sunday evening I preached on the fourth point, Irresistable Grace. As beginning preachers have told me how helpful it is to see how other preachers write out sermon notes, I’ve made the fuller notes available here, and you can find the one page summary notes here.
I used to go straight to a one page summary when preparing, but more recently I’ve found it helpful to write out in full and then summarize. The fuller notes make me think things out more clearly in advance, and they also help my old memory when I maybe have to preach that sermon again at a later date and the summary notes are indecipherable even to me!
In one part of the sermon we considered the differences and the similarities in the way the Father draws sinners to Christ by the Holy Spirit.
Differences in the Father’s Drawing
1. Different ages: The Holy Spirit works on young hearts and old hearts. However, the majority are younger as their hearts and wills have not grown so hard and so skillful in resisting the Spirit.
2. Different time periods: Sometimes the drawing can take place in a few minutes; sometimes it can be over many years.
3. Different forces: The Holy Spirit is sometimes “violent” (e.g. Saul of Tarsus), but often gentle (e.g. Lydia).
4. Different expectations: Sometimes we are not surprised by who the Spirit draws to Christ. They have looked promising for many years and we have been almost waiting for them. At other times, the Holy Spirit picks out the least predictable and most unexpected.
5. Different means: The Holy Spirit may use a sermon, a Scripture reading, a tract, a book, a witness, even an argument to draw sinners to Christ.
Similarities in the Father’s Drawing
1. The Holy Spirit uses the Word: This is not some kind of mystical mid-air experience. There’s a mystery to it all right, but it’s always rooted in the Scriptures. It’s not just some fizz of feelings or emotional manipulation.
2. The Holy Spirit works through the mind: This is a rational experience. The Holy Spirit persuades and reasons with the sinner using the Scriptures. He explains his situation, exposes his need, exhibits him the solution, outlines what he has to do, encourages him with promises, beats excuses, and overcomes obstacles. “And they shall all be taught by God. Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” (John 6:45)
3. The Holy Spirit changes the will’s direction by changing its passions: As the reasons and arguments pile up, the will begins to change from South to North; it is turned 180 degrees and re-directed. It was going against God by going away from God. But now it is going towards God with love and happy expectation.
You cannot experience the Holy Spirit without emotion. Although He works through the mind upon the will, it is not an emotionless experience. There can often be deep and powerful emotions as the sinner’s mind, will, and heart are changed. There is usually a painful sorrow as the sinner looks back at his past resistance. There is joy over the grace extended and the forgiveness enjoyed.
4. The Holy Spirit draws to Jesus: The Holy Spirit directs the sinner’s attention to Jesus Christ in particular. It is not a general theism that is spoken of here. The Father draws to Jesus. We come to Christ. We see a beauty in Him we never saw before. We develop a fascination, even an obsession, with Him. We are more than attracted to Christ: we are impelled. And when we come, he receives. He has never cast our or driven away any sinner drawn to Him by the Holy Spirit (John 6:37).
5. The Holy Spirit always wins: Although there is a general, or common, work of the Holy Spirit that is successfully resisted, when the Holy Spirit sets out to save, He saves. He has never been defeated. A big fat zero is in His losses column. “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37). We’re not talking possibility or probability but certainty. And we are not talking just of coming but of staying…forever.
As the Shorter Catechism (31) put it: “Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.”