A gracEmail subscriber requests some discussion here about “revolutionary” people, power and purpose, the titles of my classes at the March 2009 Tulsa International Soul-Winning Workshop.
The power that turns hearts to God is not human in origin but divine. George Atkins’ 1819 song restated biblical truth in its request: “Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word? All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down.” People who under-rate the power also usually understate the result. If nothing happens in “conversion” besides a change of intellectual content, then human strength is adequate to the task. But the Bible sees much more in someone’s coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
The transformation of an unbeliever into a believer is like God commanding light to appear in a dark universe (Gen. 1:1-3). When we observe the result of the miracle of faith, we may know that the same God who once said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in an unbeliever’s heart, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:3-6). This wondrous event is illustrated in the saleswoman Lydia of Thyatira, whom Paul met at a riverside women’s prayer meeting in Philippi. As Paul declared the gospel message, “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said” (Acts 16:13-14). Unless the Lord opens hearts and speaks light, hearts remain dark and closed.
The spiritual change that occurs when a person comes to faith is fully as radical as the transformation pictured in Ezekiel’s visionary valley of dry bones (Ezek. 37). In a vision, God places the prophet on the site of a one-time battlefield, littered with broken skeletons of an army long dead. God then commands his bewildered spokesman to prophesy to the bones, which Ezekiel faithfully does. As he speaks, something marvelous transpires. Throughout the field, like some giant jigsaw puzzle solving itself automatically, bones begin to move, finding their adjoining bones and reassembling into whole skeletons. Sinews appear, then flesh, then skin. The prophet then prophesies to the wind. Breath enters the skeletons and a once-dead army, now brought back to life, stands in formation on its feet. Similarly, we believers were once dead in our sins, but God made us alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1-7). Saving faith itself, like salvation in its entirety, is a gift of divine grace — the result of God’s activity and not ours.
— continued —