I have spoken much in several posts on the act of giving up all that one owns for the sake of Christ, but I have spoken little of the driving force behind such a step. Yes, I have spoken of obedience to Christ, and that is indeed a chief motivation, but there is a greater underlying and supernatural motivation that drives one to obedience and then to sacrifice. Jonathan Edwards labeled this underlying force by the title of one of his great essays, viz. “A Divine and Supernatural Light, Immediately Imparted to the Soul by the Spirit of God, etc.” If there is to be any true religion, any obedience to Christ, and any desire to love him with our entirety, it must begin with a prevenient work of the Spirit of God.
The prevenient work of the Spirit of God is described in several ways in the Bible. It is called at one point new birth, at another the writing of the law upon our hearts, at another the removing of the scales upon our eyes, etc. There are numerous others, and they all demonstrate that our coming to God is fully initiated by God. Christ said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).
The necessity of this prevenient work of the Spirit lies not in any lack of our Object of worship and obedience, but it lies in our natural condition in Adam. Scripture declares that all men apart from God’s grace are dead in their sins, blind to the glory and beauty of God, and deaf to the call and demands of the Gospel. Romans 3 declares that no one is righteous, not a single one; all have turned aside and no one seeks God. Elsewhere Scripture declares that even that which we as men consider to be righteousness is in the eyes of God rags of filthiness. There is nothing in us that compels us to call upon the Lord, and there is nothing that we do that commends us to God.
Therefore, even a spark of divine fire to seek after God (as Henry Higgins so eloquently put it) is a spark created by God in the soul.
When God in his Infinite and Providential Wisdom causes this spark of regeneration to happen in the life of the soul, it is nothing short of spectacular–it is life from the dead, it is new birth, it is being given a new heart, it is exchanging sight for blindness and hearing for deafness–it is by all accounts the most spectacular transformation in the universe. The angels in heaven know this and rejoice in unison when a lost soul is brought into God’s fold, even more than they rejoiced when Christ restored physical sight to the blind, or mobility to the crippled, etc.
This supernatural transformation wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God is by most accounts not what is being preached in American pulpits today. Most teach of a conversion that involves praying a prayer, walking an aisle, accepting a Savior, but they do not teach its supernatural and transforming elements. This method of preaching might create many converts and might increase the number of names on church rolls, but it does not save souls. Any acceptance (what a horrid word to use for being saved by the God of the universe!) of Jesus Christ as Savior without seeing him as glorious and beautiful and without full surrender to him and his commandments is not salvation neither in this life nor in the one to come. God does not save prostitutes and heathens so that they remain prostitutes and heathens, but so that they will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ to the glory of the Father.
This prevenient work of the Spirit continues in the sustaining work of the Spirit, for “He that began a good work in you will carry out till the day of Christ Jesus.” This good work that the Spirit continues in us, which is commonly called sanctification, is nothing more than the desire for and the accomplishment of obedience to God’s commands. On God’s side, it is his Spirit working and willing his good pleasure in us; on our side, it is our seeing Christ as our glorious and beautiful King and regarding all the world’s pleasures as rubbish when compared to him.
This is why Christ commands that we forsake all for him, for only those who see him as he really is will do it. When the rich young man turned away from Christ grieved, the disciples marveled not at the rich man’s leaving but at Christ’s command to him. “Who then can be saved?” they asked. They recognized that no man, regardless of his wealth, can deny themselves for the sake of Christ. But Christ responds, “With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” God can do it. God has done it. He has done in all those whom he has called to himself, and it is to those that he commands, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor,” “Take up your cross and follow me,” and “Lose your life so that you might gain it.” These commands on not burdensome to God’s children, not because they are not humanly difficult, but because God is so much better to them than the world’s treasures.
This view of the work of God in the soul demands several questions be asked of those who claim to follow Christ: Do you see Christ as more precious than the treasures of the world? Do you say that you treasure Christ but neglect Christ’s commands and hold onto your possessions? If you do not see Christ as better than the world’s treasures or if you do not keep Christ’s commands and sell your possessions, you have nothing on which to base your assurance. The work of God in the soul is a work of God unto obedience, and God does not fail in anything that he does.