“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the truth faith…” (SC, The Third Article: Sanctification).
God the Father creates, God the Son redeems, and God the Holy Spirit creates faith through the Gospel, enlightens with His gifts (the Sacraments), and sanctifies (makes holy) and keeps us in the one true faith. This is contrary to what most Christians say, “I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.” But “you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (Ephesians 2:1). How can a dead person choose anything? Rather, someone must first make you alive. When Lazarus was dead, he couldn’t choose life. He was a rotting corpse! Rather, it wasn’t until Jesus commanded him, “Lazarus, come out!” that he walked out alive. So, we cannot walk with Jesus unless the Holy Spirit—the Lord and Giver of Life—first calls us “out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). If we’ve always held the capacity to choose God, then Jesus came and died for nothing. Rather, the Holy Spirit calls us out of death and into the life of Christ. This He does through the Gospel, which gives life, and not the Law, which kills. The law of our flesh is incapable of choosing Jesus; therefore, His Spirit calls us out of its sinful death and into the light and life of His Gospel. I love the following quote from the Christian fiction, The Hammer of God:
“You are right, my boy. And it is just as true that, if you think you are saved because you give Jesus your heart, you will not be saved. You see, my boy… it is one thing to choose Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior, to give him one’s heart and commit oneself to him, and that he now accepts one into his little flock; it is a very different thing to believe on him as a Redeemer of sinners, of whom one is chief. One does not choose a Redeemer for oneself, you understand, nor give one’s heart to him. The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap. A fine birthday present, indeed! But a wonderful Lord passes by, and has mercy on the wretched tin can, sticks his walking cane through it, and rescues it from the junk pile and takes it home with him. that is how it is.”Giertz, The Hammer of God, p. 123
The Holy Spirit also enlightens us with His gifts, which is the Word and Sacraments. Once again, we are brought to look outside ourselves (extra nos). Rather than looking inward and at our emotional experiences of the Holy Spirit, as the Charismatics do, instead we are brought to look outside ourselves and receive the outward gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are the Word and Sacraments. In these, we receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation—or as we say it in the Creed, “the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” Thus, Heaven is not the goal of the Christian, for Heaven and Earth will pass away (Matthew 24:35). Rather, the resurrection of the body in the new creation—the new heavens and the new earth—is what the Christian looks forward to.