“GOD’S SPIRIT WILL NOT ALWAYS STRIVE”
The Bible is God’s Word, the detailed revelation of Himself and His plan for the ages to mankind. In the Bible is revealed to us that there is only one true and living God. Deuteronomy 6.4 reads, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.” First Corinthians 8.4 declares, “there is none other God but one.” In addition, in First Timothy 2.5 it is affirmed, “there is one God.” It is also revealed in God’s inerrant Word that though there is only one God, God exists in the form of three co-eternal and coequal Persons; the Father, the Son, Jesus, Who became a man that He might be the Savior of sinful men, and the Holy Spirit. That God should give His Son to die for this rebellious world, that the Lord Jesus Christ should consent to assume our human nature and suffer in our stead, and that salvation should be freely offered to the children of men, is an exhibition of astonishing mercy. In addition, that every member of the human race with one consent should begin to make excuse and refuse to accept God’s offered mercy is proof of astonishing depravity.
This evening I believe it is needful for me to review truths that most of you are familiar with, but that the unconverted among us very definitely need to hear again. It would only be natural for us to expect that God would do no more for such ungrateful creatures as us. However, He has done more. He has given His Holy Spirit to strive with men, and the strivings of the Holy Spirit may properly be styled God’s last effort with a sinner. It is early on in the Biblical record, in Genesis 6.3, that God warns us “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” And what a solemn warning it is. It is on the strivings of the Holy Spirit with sinful men that every preacher of the gospel must depend entirely for his success. For, you see, without the Holy Spirit’s influence no sinner will ever be brought to embrace the Savior. Though a sinner may listen to the preaching of the gospel, he will listen in vain without the influence of the Holy Spirit. In addition, he will continue to reject the counsel of God against himself until the day of grace is past. Therefore, you see that the striving of the Holy Spirit is indispensable in getting sinners converted.
This evening we will consider the fact that the Spirit does strive with men, the fact that He will not always strive with men, and the consequences of His ceasing to strive with men.
THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD DOES STRIVE WITH MEN IS EVIDENT FROM THE WHOLE TENOR OF THE GOSPEL
Everyone who prays pleads to God with the certain knowledge that the Spirit of God has access to the minds of men.
What is the object of the Spirit’s strivings? What does He seek to accomplish in sinner’s lives? Not to make you free moral agents, or to make it your duty to repent and believe the gospel. For you see, if you were not a moral agent already you would not be a sinner, and would not need the strivings of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit strives with you to convince you of sin. Adam and Eve’s attempt to conceal themselves from God illustrates the sad reality that it is just as natural for men to conceal and cover their sins as it is to commit sin. You love darkness rather than light, because your deeds are evil, First John 3.19. Every one that does evil hates the light, and will not come to the light, lest he should be brought under conviction. Therefore, the Spirit of God comes to demolish your excuses for sins, to destroy your self-flattery, and to show you your lost condition. He will commonly begin in your life by troubling your conscience over some overt act of sin. Then the Holy Spirit lays open to you the plague of your heart. This is illustrated in my own experience when I was a little boy walking home from school one day and I realized, after I let loose a blast of profanity directed at some of my school chums, that I was surely lost and on my way to Hell for my wickedness. The Spirit strives with men, not merely to show you your guilt and danger, but also to show you your need of a Savior and to incline you to come to Christ. However, when you see your need of Christ, you and other sinners like you are so often still unwilling to come to Him. “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life,” Jesus told them in John 5.40. Moreover, in John 6.44 He went on to say, “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Now, the Spirit comes at the behest of God the Father to draw reluctant hearts such as yours to Jesus Christ. If it were not for your awful reluctance to come to Christ this drawing would not be necessary. Looked at from another perspective, the language found in the Bible to describe this striving is very striking. It is military terminology. Listen to what Paul wrote in Second Corinthians 10.4-5: “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing which exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” All this, you see, is the work of the Holy Spirit, and without His agency, none will be saved. Some of you may think, perhaps, you shall come to Christ if the Spirit ceases to strive with you. But, of course, this is a delusion. Without the Spirit’s strivings, you will certainly continue in your sins, just as you have done to this point in time, until you wake up in the world of despair.
Let me now mention some evidences of the Spirit’s strivings with sinners. First, when the Spirit strives a sinner typically loses all interest in the concerns of time. He stops fidgeting in church and looking at the clock and wondering when the sermon will be done. His search of the scriptures for insight into his spiritual dilemma will run on for the longest time without concern for the lateness of the hour. Second, the world is seen to be completely unattractive to him. He has no appetite for its pleasures. The noise of silly laughter and frivolity fills him with distress. I have seen young people lose interest in the childish chatter of their friends, give no thought to amusement parks, and play when the Spirit of God was striving with them. Additionally, they turn off the television set, stop playing video and computer games, and even give up their sports, because the appeal of such pleasures and distractions is clean gone from them. Third, when the Spirit strives the sinner is filled with fear and trembling. However courageous he may have been in the past, he is now afraid to be alone. He is afraid of God. His thoughts echo the words of the Psalmist, “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Whither shall I flee from thy presence?” He is faced with the Spirit’s strivings wherever he turns. Fourth, when the Spirit strives the sinner is troubled about that great change of heart which the Bible teaches him he must experience, or he cannot be saved. Fifth, the sinner is troubled about beginning to pray. He knows it is his duty to worship God, and yet his proud heart resists the conviction. When the Spirit strives with him, there is an awful struggle between his conscience and his heart. His conscience pleads for God, but his heart still clings to sin.
Next, CONSIDER THAT GOD’S SPIRIT WILL NOT ALWAYS STRIVE WITH MAN
This is clearly stated in our text. Some may have tried to coddle you by saying outright, or by otherwise convincing you, that there is little or no danger of the Spirit’s ceasing to strive. The Bible tells us something altogether different. “And the LORD said, my Spirit shall not always strive with man.”
How long the Spirit will strive with any individual no one can tell. With some people, you see, He strives longer than with others. In addition, some people just live longer than other people do. In this, we see God’s sovereignty demonstrated. Does not God have a right to cut you off at any moment and put a period to mark the end of your day of salvation? Though you may continue to live for years afterwards, you have no guarantee that the Spirit will continue to strive with you. You see, the Bible speaks of some who were given up by God. “Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone.” The Lord Jesus spoke to His hearers as if some of them were given over of God. “If thou hadst known, even thou, in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes,” Luke 19.42. Many are given up because they receive not the love of the truth that they might be saved. “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness,” Second Thessalonians 2.11-13. “Woe also to them when I depart from them,” Hosea 9.12. You young people, have you been given up by God? I ask this question because God may give up sinners while they are young. You may have done such things against the Spirit of grace, as young as you are, to be given over to a hard heart and a reprobate mind. I say this because the list of sins committed by sinners who have been given over to a reprobate mind by God includes being “disobedient to parents,” a sin which only a child can be guilty of, proving that even children are given up by the Spirit, Who will strive with them no more. “Turn you at my reproof,” said Christ. “Behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you. I will make known my words unto you.” Then He adds, “Because I have called, and ye refused; . . . Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me.” When this point has been reached in your life no one can tell. I can only hope that it has not happened with you already.
How do sinners resist the strivings of the Spirit? Maybe you are one who rushes out of the auditorium to chatter and gab with your friends after church. Or perhaps you head off to some form of amusement after God’s Word is preached. “And what’s wrong with that?” Are you converted? I realize that you may do this through ignorance, not knowing that the Spirit is striving with you. I also understand that oftentimes young sinners are advised to play and get silly after the gospel is preached, with afterglows and parties. Such things are encouraged by the very preachers and parents who want you to be saved, but who do not seem to believe in conviction and conversion. Don’t you see that when you are so distracted you only succeed in wiping out whatever impression the truth made on you, and that such things only decrease the impact the Holy Spirit seeks to have on you? When some fall under conviction unknowing parents or friends will even advise a sinner to go on a trip so he will feel better, or so his mind will be diverted from his problems. Some folks are so foolish as to advise medical or psychiatric help, when the problem you have is with your sins. Sinners also resist the Spirit by postponing timely contemplation of spiritual things, such as when Felix put off the Apostle Paul until a more convenient season. Felix did not think he was ready, though lost people are unqualified to make such determinations about themselves. Still others resist the Spirit of God by self-righteousness, convincing themselves that they are not the sinners God’s Word says they are, and refusing to accept as true God’s low estimation of their sinful state. Perhaps you are one who resists the Spirit by being unwilling to see your situation before God as being as bad as it is. You will justify yourself by minimizing the wickedness of your continued unbelief and failure to respond. Do you realize that you are discounting the accuracy of the Spirit of truth? You could also be one who refuses to retire from the world to confess your sins to God. You may not run to Magic Mountain right after church, or hot foot it over to Chili’s, but you do refuse to spend time alone. You won’t turn off the television set. You won’t shut the computer or the play station off. You won’t put the science fiction book down. You won’t quit texting. You won’t let your friends go to Starbucks without you, so that you might get on your face before God and cry out to Him for mercy and grace. You simply will not get alone and strive to enter in at the strait gate. When you are that way, you are resisting the Spirit’s strivings. Or it could be that, at the root of it all, you are just ashamed of Jesus Christ specifically and spiritual things in general. You will resist the Spirit of God for fear of someone coming to realize that God is dealing with you about your soul’s sins and your rejection of Jesus Christ. Whatever methods you employ to resist the Spirit of God, keep in mind that the Spirit will not always strive with man. At some point, when you resist the Spirit He will be done with you.
Finally, THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE SPIRIT’S CEASING TO STRIVE
What happens when the Spirit of God has been resisted enough by you that He ceases to strive with you any longer? There are several that you might experience, with perhaps one surprising consequence that I would like to mention before I conclude.
First, when the Spirit has departed the sinner may be cheerful. Think about this, my friend. The stated ministry of the Holy Spirit of God in the life of a sinner like you is to convict of sin, righteousness and judgment to come. In other words, the Spirit’s goal is to make you sad, not to make you glad. So, when He ceases to strive with you and you become cheerful as opposed to feeling bad for your sins, that’s not good even though many sinners think it is good.
Second, when the Spirit has departed you may feel little concern for the salvation of your soul. Jesus points out to us that when the Flood came, after the Spirit ceased striving with those of Noah’s day, they were marrying and giving in marriage. In other words, they were preoccupied with the normal concerns of life and quite unconcerned about the salvation of their souls. Has that lack of concern for your soul overcome you? Perhaps the Spirit has ceased striving with you.
Third, when the Spirit has departed you may even laugh and make fun of Christianity. Let me list the names of just a few who were once convicted of their sins, but who now laugh at the things of God: Soviet dictator Josef Stalin was once a seminary student preparing for the ministry. Cho En-Lai, the #2 man behind Mao Tse-tung for many years, attended a Christian school until he was fifteen. Kim Il Sung, the first of Korea’s communist dictators, was the son of two very godly Christians. Rock and roll singer Little Richard claimed at one time to be born again and was for a time a Pentecostal preacher. Then there is the drug using, wife beating, alcoholic jockey used to come to this church on one of our bus routes when he was a kid. Former Senator Bill Bradley and former vice president Al Gore both once claimed to be born again Christians, who now advocate abortion on demand. What happened to these people? For a time the Spirit of God did strive with them. However, they resisted His strivings and He ceased striving with them. Cho En-Lai and Josef Stalin are between them responsible for the deaths of an estimated 60 million of their own countrymen. Little Richard portrays an effeminate homosexual persona on television. I have already told you about the jockey. These have come to despise and ridicule Christianity since the Spirit of God ceased His strivings with them. Some of you are even now progressing toward that end, even going so far as to pursue a career that conflicts with faithful church attendance. This will not end well.
Fourth, you may continue to listen to a preached gospel, to the most solemn warnings, and to the most melting invitations to come to Christ, but it will be all in vain. Some of you may already remember how sermons used to stir your soul, used to strike terror into your heart as the Spirit of God did strive with you, used to cause your face to flush with shame and conviction of sins. But no longer. Has the Spirit ceased to strive with you once and for all? I don’t know.
My friend, if the Spirit of God has ceased to strive with you He may have ceased once and for all, and is now done with you. If that be true, then you will slumber on in your unrepentant and unconcerned state until you awaken in Hell, and your soul is lost forever.