How the Holy Spirit Works Through Us Today

We have been invited by Jesus to help build his church.

And to this end the Holy Spirit works through us.

He works through our natural skills and abilities and even gives us supernatural gifts. These abilities and gifts are given by God for us to glorify him and serve others.

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There are four primary ways the Holy Spirit works through us today.

1. The Holy Spirit Calls Us

The Holy Spirit not only calls people to faith in Jesus Christ, but he calls us to a specific vocation or task.

This means that the God of the universe will guide you into the vocational decisions you make. Sometimes our life will appear to be a random hodgepodge of loosely connected events tied together, but this is not the case at all. God is directing your steps and guiding your life—even when it comes to work.

Here are just a few examples:

  • The Holy Spirit asked for Barnabas and Saul to be set apart “for the work to which [he] called them” (Acts 13:2)
  • The Holy Spirit led Philip to help an Ethiopian eunuch understand the Old Testament (Acts 8:26-40)
  • The Holy Spirit even forbid Paul from entering specific regions to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 16:6-7)

Sometimes the Holy Spirit will supernaturally guide us in the decisions we make. But here me loud and clear on this one: This is the exception, not the rule. (Sorry to disappoint you.)

Normally the Holy Spirit guides us through the ordinary ebbs and flows of life. As you trust God (Prov. 3:5-6), read the Bible (Rom. 12:1-2), and seek godly counsel (Prov. 11:14), the Holy Spirit will guide you into the work he has called you to.

2. The Holy Spirit Empowers Us

The Holy Spirit also empowers us for service.

This means he enables us to do what we’ve been called to do.

From the pages of the Old Testament we observe the Holy Spirit’s empowering presence in the lives of Joshua (Num. 27:18), Saul (1 Sam. 11:6), David (1 Sam. 16:13), and many others, to accomplish what they were called to do.

In the New Testament, we see that he empowered Jesus’ earthly ministry (Luke 4:14), the early disciples (Acts 1:8), and the preaching of the gospel (Acts 4:8, 31; 6:10; 1 Thess. 1:5).

The Holy Spirit is capable of empowering our natural abilities and improving upon them for a special task or purpose. This explains how God is capable of accomplishing his work through your average, ordinary, and even rejected members of society.

Shoot, Peter and John, two of the most important men in church history, were considered “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:13), yet God powerfully worked through their lives.

So take heart and be humble if you’re reading this today.

For “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:27).

3. The Holy Spirit Empowers Evangelistic Efforts

Jesus is alive and he is building his church.

His church isn’t built through political engagement or military might. His church is built through the proclamation of the gospel.

Thankfully God hasn’t left us alone in his work. He sent the Holy Spirit to empower our evangelistic efforts.

The Holy Spirit empowers us to be a witness (Acts 1:8), directs our evangelistic efforts (Acts 8:26, 29), and empowers our evangelistic efforts (Acts 4:38, 31; 6:10; 1 Thess. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:12).

The Holy Spirit’s aim in glorifying Jesus Christ is fulfilled by him enabling, guiding, and empowering our proclamation of the gospel.

4. The Holy Spirit Gives Spiritual Gifts

The Holy Spirit also works through us by giving us spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:11).

He doesn’t give us these gifts for our personal benefit, either.

He gives us gifts for the common good of the church (1 Cor. 12:7). This means that we receive spiritual gifts for building up the church, not our personal platform.

He also gives us gifts for us to serve others with (1 Pet. 4:10), not ourselves.

God also gives some spiritual gifts, such as tongues and prophecy, as a sign for unbelievers (1 Cor. 14:22). At times God will reveal his glory to unbelievers through a supernatural display of spiritual gifts.

There are multiple spiritual gifts listed in the Bible (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12; 1 Pet. 4:10-11). We don’t get to choose what gift we receive. They’re given to us by God for his glory and our good.

Has Social Media Made Pride Acceptable?

From Craig Groeschel:

Imagine if I stood before our church and told everyone: “Joe Smith said, ‘Craig you are the best preacher ever! Your sermons changed my life.’ And Jill Denny said, ‘I loved your book. Everyone should read it. You are the best author I’ve ever read!’ Not only that, but Mike Mitchell said, ‘Craig, Life Church is the best church in the world! No church is as good as Life Church.’”

Chances are good most people would look at me funny and think I’m a little full of myself for saying such things.

But if I simply retweeted those exact same statements, my retweets would seem totally acceptable to most. Honestly, I’m wondering if that is acceptable to God, or if it’s just pride in disguise.

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I believe we need to walk a very careful line in ministry. (I am certain I have crossed this line at times.)

Sure we want to celebrate what God is doing in our churches. Of course we want to get the word out about a new series or a book we’ve written. Unquestionably we want to share more reasons to give praise to our God.

But at the same time, we need to be careful that we’re not drawing attention to ourselves.

You can read the entire article here.

Question: Do you think social media has made pride acceptable?

The Guide to Creativity for Non-Creatives

Adapted from Todd Henry, The Accidental Creative:

To unleash your creative potential now and thrive over the long term, you need to establish your own rhythm—one that is independent of the pressures and expectations you far each day. This Creative Rhythm will provide you with the stability and clarity to engage your problems head-on

1. Focus

In order to create effectively, you need a clear and concrete understanding of your objectives.

2. Relationships

One of the most powerful sources of creative inspiration and rejuvenation is other people…If you want to thrive, you need to systematically engage with other people, in part to be reminded that life is bigger than your immediate problems.

3. Energy

To make the most of your day, you need to establish practices around energy management.

4. Stimuli

If you want to regularly generate brilliant ideas, you must be purposeful about what you are putting into your head.

5. Hours

You need to ensure that the practices that truly make you a more effective creator are making it onto your calendar.

Practices in each of these five areas (F-R-E-S-H) provide the foundation for a life that is prolific, brilliant, and healthy.

Todd Henry, The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s  Notice (New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2011), 20-22.

The Baby Steps of Permission Marketing

Seth Godin, Permission Marketing:

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1. Offer an Incentive to Volunteer

Every marketer must offer the prospective customer an incentive for volunteering…If you don’t provide a benefit to the customer for paying attention, your offer will suffer the same fate as every other ad campaign that’s vying for their attention. It will be ignored.

The incentive you offer to the customer can range from information, to entertainment, to a sweepstakes, to outright payment for the prospect’s attention. But the incentive must be overt, obvious, and clearly delivered.

2. Offer Curriculum

Using the attention offered by the consumer, the marketer offers a curriculum over time, teaching the consumer about the product or service he has to offer…Every step along the way has to be interesting, useful, and relevant.

3. Reinforce the Incentive

Over time, any incentive wears out…The Permission Marketer must work to reinforce the incentive, to be sure that the attention continues. This is surprisingly easy. Because this is a two-way dialogue, not a narcissistic monologue, the marketer can adjust the incentives being offered and fine-tune them for each prospect.

4. Increase the Level of Permission

The goal is to motivate the consumer to give more and more permission over time. Permission to gather more data about the customer’s personal life, or hobbies, or interests. Permission to offer a new category of product for the customer’s consideration. Permission to provide a product sample. The range of permission you can obtain from a customer is very wide and limited only by its relevance to the customer.

5. Change Consumer Behavior Into Profits

After permission is granted, that’s how it becomes a truly significant asset for the marketer. Now you can live happily ever after by repeating the aforementioned process while selling your customer more and more products. In other words, the fifth and final step is to leverage your permission into a profitable situation for both of you.

Seth Godin, Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999), 45-48.

The Prosperity Gospel Game

Are you tired of being stuck financially?

Are you behind on bills?

Have the demands of your family burdened you financially?

Are you unable to save for retirement, let alone for the vacation you so desperately need?

If this is you, give me one moment to introduce you to the worst investment scheme—ever. (You’ll thank me later.)

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The Worst Investment Scheme—Ever 

Unbeknownst to you, the worst investment opportunity of all-time is found in one of the most unlikely of places.

It’s not on Wall Street.

It cannot be found at your local bank.

And it’s not a lame email scam.

Access to this investment is not difficult.

Shoot, you probably have access to it in your home—let alone your phone.

This terrible, horrible, very bad, no good investment scheme can be found across America in the home of many houses of “worship.”

This so called “investment” is called The Prosperity Gospel Game.

The Prosperity Gospel Game

The Prosperity Gospel Game is simple.

You play the game by giving money to an individual or organization with the hope that their rich benefactor—“god”—will richly reward you. You basically throw down your money, pull the handle, and have faith that you’re going to get a huge payout.

Simple, eh?

Unlike other games where you play against the odds of winning, with The Prosperity Gospel Game there are no odds. That’s right. The manufacturer of this game says you will win every time, have a happy life, and be financially rewarded for your giving. They promise a 100% return on your money—guaranteed.

Unfortunately, this is a popular game played by people all across the world.

Here’s a recent testimony from a New York Times article.

During the time that this article was penned, the United States of America was experience tremendous economic turmoil, yet the Copeland’s (Prominent Prosperity Gospel Preachers) and their friends did not hesitate to emotionally stir up their audience to encourage them to give money towards their ministry with the hope that “god” would financially reward them in return. One conference attendee, Edwige Ndoubi, said, “If God did it for them, he will do it for us.”

Well, not so fast honey.

I imagine your belief is sincere, but I think you’ve been sincerely duped. Believe me, I know this from personal experience.

Unlike a cranky sports commentator sitting in a comfortable booth far above the playing field, I actually played the Prosperity Gospel Game and lost—big time.

I know this is probably a bitter pill to swallow and I’m sorry to be the one to offer it to you, but here are three practical reasons why I don’t believe you will hit it big playing the Prosperity Gospel Game.

1. You Don’t Have a Platform

Unlike the Copeland’s and other Prosperity Gospel Preachers, you do not have a large following of people devoted to you and your message who you can ask for money.

The reason why these preachers have fat stacks of cash is simple: They have a lot of people giving them money and you probably don’t.

2. You Don’t Have a Marketing Department

Not only do you lack a devoted following, but you probably also lack the financial resources to support a fully staffed Marketing Department who can promote you and your message, attract new supporters, and ask for more money from current devotees.

3. You Don’t Speak at Conferences

Since you most likely don’t have a significant platform, that means you don’t have the ability to host conferences or be invited to large speaking events and ask for money from people.
This means you don’t have the ability to pump up a crowd to pump money into your “ministry.”

The Prosperity Gospel Game will not provide you blank checks in the mail, extravagant vacations, or elaborate homes.  The only thing you should expect playing this game is a lifetime of unfulfilled promises at the hands of those you trust.

If you are currently playing the Prosperity Gospel Game—as I once was—I encourage you to heed these words from the Apostle Paul to Timothy:

If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Tim. 6:1-10, italics mine).

Brother or sister in Christ, be content in Jesus and aim to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

8 Motivations for Writing a Book: What’s Yours?

From Tucker Max, Ryan Holiday, and Nils Parker, The BookStrapper Guide to Marketing Your Book: Creating a Best Seller by Yourself:

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1. Sell a lot of books (Make a lot of money)

You need to ask yourself if you’ve written something that will be interesting to “a lot ” of people, however you define that number. And remember, what you think is interesting is less important than what the people buying the book think is interesting, at least if you want them to buy it. Because if they don’t think your book is interesting, you’re not going to sell lots of copies or make any money.

2. Get on a bestseller list

The book must be on a topic that a lot of people care about, it must be well written, and it must have a great marketing plan that is executed very well. And after that, you still need some luck.

Also, ask yourself: Why do I care if my book is a bestseller?

3. Become a thought leader/influencer/authority in a field

Make sure your book says or offers something about its subject that people will respond to. Do you have something new to say? Are you contributing something valuable to the world? What are you going to do with this position of authority if you earn it?

Also, it makes sense to understand precisely why you care about influencing what people think about your subject. What are you going to do with that influence? How do you want to use it? Where do you want it to lead?

4. Get speaking engagements and consulting jobs

…you’ll need to gear your marketing to the places where the decision makers in your field will read the stuff you’re writing. And you’ll need to make sure that it appeals to this niche in a way that drives them to consider or consult you.

5. Get attention for a cause

You really need to think about whether your book is compelling and engaging enough for people to pay the kind of attention you’re asking for. Most readers don’t respond to things that are boring (to them) or old news, especially if they think it doesn’t matter. You also need to consider who the audience is, what platforms already exist that care about this cause, and how your book can tie into them.

6. Launching your writing career

If you want to be a professional writer, then you really need to begin building your platform…You also need to think about how this impacts your marketing. You’re not just launching one book anymore, now you’re planning and launching a career.

7. Help bring attention to an existing business or service

This type of book cannot just be a sales document or a promotional brochure for your company. It must provide real value to customers and, more importantly, be marketed in a way that makes that value clear. For many people, this means giving away information you would normally charge for, so prepare yourself for that if this is one of your goals.

8. “I don’t care what happens with marketing, I just wrote this for myself

Yes, authors have said this to us, and yes, it’s a perfectly valid goal…

Question: If you’re writing a book, what motivation above do you identify with? Is there a different motivation you would add to this list?

How Men Either Fake or Make Friendships

The writing is on the wall.

Friendships among men have been on a steady decline in America for decades.

From the collapse of American community, decrease in social groups and activities, to superficial connections online, there are many tributaries that have contributed to this swelling decline.

Though men tend to lose friendships after leaving school and even after getting married, men don’t have to be terrible at being a friend and making friends.

I’m no expert at male friendships, but I know someone who is: C.S. Lewis.

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His friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien—author of The Lord of the Rings—is of legend and has even merited a few books (Here and here).

And Lewis’ advice on friendship from The Four Loves is arguably the wisest, most poignant, and practical I’ve come across.

Here’s just a snippet of what I’m talking about:

Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What?  You too? I thought I was the only one.”

It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate rumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision—it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.

In our own time Friendship arises in the same way. For us of course the shared activity and therefore the companionship on which Friendship supervenes will not often be a bodily one like hunting or fighting. It may be a common religion, common studies, a common profession, even a common recreation. All who share it will be our companions; but one or two or three who share something more will be our Friends. In this kind of love, as Emerson said, Do you love me? means Do you see the same truth?—Or at least, “Do you care about the same truth?” The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance can be our Friend. He need not agree with us about the answer.

Hence we picture lovers face to face but Friends side by side; their eyes look ahead.

His advice on how to fake friendships is equally as penetrating as his advice on how to make friends:

That is why those pathetic people who simply “want friends” can never make any. The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends. Where the truthful answer to the question Do you see the same truth? would be “I see nothing and I don’t care about the truth; I only want a Friend,” no Friendship can arise—though Affection of course may. There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or what mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travelers.

I encourage you to not only read the entire chapter on friendship from The Four Loves, but the entire book as well. It is definitely worth the time and money.

The Benefits of Building an Audience

One way to leverage one of the greatest opportunities for businesses today—developing direct relationships with your target market—is to build an audience.

Not just any audience, but “an audience who will rely on you for information, advice, and help, and will seek out your expertise.”

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Here’s a great example of the benefits of building an audience from Jason Fried and David Hansson, authors of Rework and founders of Basecamp:

All companies have customers. Lucky companies have fans. But the most fortunate companies have audiences. An audience can be your secret weapon…

Instead of going out to reach people, you want people to come to you. An audience returns often–on its own—to see what you have to say. This is the most receptive group of customers and potential customers you’ll ever have.

Over the past ten years, we’ve built an audience of more than a hundred thousand daily readers for our Signal vs. Nose blog. Every day they come back to see what we have to say. We may talk about design or business or software or psychology or usability or our industry at large. Whatever it is, these people are interested enough to come back to hear more. And if they like what we have to say, they’ll probably also like what we have to sell…

When you build an audience, you don’t have go buy people’s attention—they give it to you. This is a huge advantage.

So build an audience. Speak, write, blog, tweet, make videos—whatever. Share information that’s valuable and you’ll slowly but surely build a loyal audience. Then when you need to get the word out, the right people will already be listening.


Rework is full of practical advice presented in bite size segments that would serve the shelves of any personal library well. 

Seeing the Love of God Through our Labor

Labor Day falls every year on the first Monday in September.

This day was originally created to pay “national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of [the United States of America].”

Though this is an admirable goal and one that should be undertaken, there’s actually much more to Labor Day than labor itself.

Through our labor we can tangibly see the love of God. Through our labor, our vocation, our calling from God, God is at work through us expressing his love, care, and devotion for us.

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Check out this excellent synopsis from Gene Edward Veith in The Doctrine of Vocation: How God Hides Himself in Human Work from the Modern Reformation:

All of the vocations are thus channels of God’s love. Gustaf Wingren, the Swedish theologian whose Luther on Vocation is probably the best book on the subject, summarizes the point:

In his vocation man does works which effect the well-being of others; for so God has made all offices. Through this work in man’s offices, God’s creative work goes forward, and that creative work is love, a profusion of good gifts. With persons as his “hands” or “coworkers,” God gives his gifts through the earthly vocations, toward man’s life on earth (food through farmers, fishermen and hunters; external peace through princes, judges, and orderly powers; knowledge and education through teachers and parents, etc., etc.). Through the preacher’s vocation, God gives the forgiveness of sins. Thus love comes from God, flowing down to human beings on earth through all vocations, through both spiritual and earthly governments.

Thus, God is graciously at work, caring for the human race through the work of other human beings. Behind the care we have received from our parents, the education we received from our teachers, the benefits we receive from our spouse, our employers, and our government stands God himself, bestowing his blessings.

The picture is of a vast, complex society of human beings with different talents and abilities. Each serves the other; each is served by others. We Americans have an ideal of self-sufficiency and often dream of being able to grow our own food, build our own homes, and live independently of other people. But our proper human condition is dependence. Because of the centrality of love, we are to depend on other human beings and, ultimately and through them, on God. Conversely, other people are to depend on us. In God’s earthly kingdom, we are to receive his blessings from other people in their vocations.

The purpose of one’s vocation, whatever it might be, is serving others. It has to do with fulfilling Christ’s injunction to love one’s neighbor. Though justification has nothing to do with good works, vocation does involve good works. The Christian’s relationship to God is based on sheer grace and forgiveness on God’s part; the Christian’s relationship to other people, however, is to be based on love. As Wingren puts it, “God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.”

Be sure to read Dr. Veith’s entire article or his excellent book God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life.

Answering a Call Made by God: The Holy Spirit’s Work Towards Us

There I was, minding my own business.

It was December of 2002 and the Christmas season was in full swing. I was a senior at Marshall University and most students at school, including my roommates, were home for the holidays, but not me. I decided to stay at school and make some extra cash. Turned out this would be the best decision I ever made.

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At the time I wasn’t involved with a church, nor did I have anyone in my life telling me about Jesus. I was simply minding my own business and doing my own thing when something I was totally not expecting happened—I had an interest in reading the Bible.

From my random collection of books, I decided to dust off the Bible I had and started reading the Gospel of Matthew since it was the first book in the New Testament. Being a first-time reader of the Bible, I found the writing to be archaic, clunky, and difficult to understand. But thankfully I had an unusual desire to keep reading a book that was apparently above my reading level.

God didn’t use a specific passage to cut open my heart like a skillful surgeon, but it was sometime around the passion narrative of Jesus when I was convicted of my sins, kneeled down beside my unmade bed, and committed my life to Jesus.

Changed From the Inside Out

At this point in my life I had no desire to know God.

I had no interest in learning about God.

I had no interest in living for God.

And I sure didn’t have any interest in surrendering my life to God.

Unlike my previous experience pretending to be a Christian, this time was different. Something changed inside of me. God changed my life and gave me desires to find my purpose and satisfaction in him. Living for God wasn’t something I had to fake; it was something I actually longed and loved to do.

I was changed from the inside out.

This change was not brought about by my personal effort, praying a magical prayer, or a recent move to the Bible Belt. This change and my new life was brought about solely by God the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is at work in the world. He is actively involved in calling people to Jesus and giving them a new life in him. These two actions of the Holy Spirit are what theologians call effectual calling and regeneration for theological shorthand.

A Call Made by God

God pursues us before we ever think about pursuing him.

God the Holy Spirit graciously invites us into a dynamic and vibrant relationship with the eternal Triune God of the universe through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit initiates and calls us out of our spiritual darkness and malaise to repentance and faith in Jesus (1 Cor. 1:26; Eph. 1:18). Don’t mistake the Holy Spirit for a telephone operator working at a call center making outbound calls and sales pitches. His call isn’t the type we receive on a phone. His call is one that is internal in nature. It is a call made in our souls, by which we answer and receive without question (Rom. 11:29; Eph. 4:1).

Normally the Holy Spirit’s internal call is coincided with the external call of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Preaching of the gospel with words—not actions—is the primary means God has provided by which God the Holy Spirit effectually calls people to Jesus Christ. In other words, people will not normally respond to Jesus without hearing the gospel (Rom. 1:16; 10:14; Matt. 22:14; 2 Thess. 2:15). My experience and others is the exception, not the rule.

The Holy Spirit’s call isn’t a prank call, either. His call in our life is made to connect us with Jesus Christ. A call to believe in the life he lived and the death he died upon our behalf (Rom. 8:27-29). It’s a call made by God to connect us with himself.

Responding to God’s Call

Following God’s call upon our life is regeneration.

Regeneration “is a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us” (Titus 3:4-7). This is the moment we receive a new spiritual life, a heart to love God, and the ability to see and enter the Kingdom of God by faith through Jesus Christ. This experience is described elsewhere in the Bible as being “born again” (John 3:3-15; cf. Ezek. 36:25-27).

This act of regeneration is brought about solely by the Holy Spirit. Regeneration is something the Holy Spirit does for us, not something we do for ourselves. This is what John was getting at when he said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

When the Holy Spirit gives us a new spiritual life, we are made alive to God (Rom. 6:11) and an “active faith in Christ is its immediate fruit…” This work of the Holy Spirit is not preceded by an expression of faith in Jesus, but rather precedes faith. In other words, regeneration is a precondition of faith, not a result of it. We’re only capable of responding to God’s internal call and the proclamation of the gospel because the Holy Spirit regenerates us by giving us a new life.

The Work of the Holy Spirit Towards Us

The work of the Holy Spirit towards us is a sovereign work in our lives, both calling and regenerating us. As a result of his work towards us we are able to respond to the external call of the gospel of Jesus Christ in repentance from our sins and faith in his finished work upon our behalf.