Calvary Road Baptist Church


Genesis 6.3


This evening I am preaching Asahel Nettleton’s sermon, “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 that “there is none other God but one.” And in First Timothy 2.5, it is affirmed that “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 coeternal and coequal Persons; the Father, His 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 place, and that salvation should be freely offered to the children of men, is an exhibition of astonishing mercy. And 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.

It would be natural for us to expect that God would do no more for such ungrateful creatures as us. But He has done more. He has given His Holy Spirit to strive with men. And the strivings of the Holy Spirit may properly be understood to be God’s last effort with a sinner. It is early on in the Biblical record, in Genesis 6.3, that God warns us that “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” And what a solemn warning that 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 come to Jesus for salvation. Though a sinner may listen to the preaching of the Gospel, his listening will not benefit him without the influence of the Holy Spirit. And he will continue to reject the counsel of God against himself till his day of grace has passed. So you see, 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.




Everyone who prays pleads to God with the certain knowledge that the Spirit of God has access to the minds of men.

But what is the object of the Spirit’s strivings? 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 after they had sinned illustrates the sad reality that it is just as natural for men to conceal and cover their sins as it is to commit sins. 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. 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 to do this in your life by troubling your conscience over some specific act of sin. Then the Holy Spirit lays open to you the plague of your sin-diseased heart. This is illustrated in my own experience. When I was a little boy walking home from school one day I realized, after 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. But 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. And in John 6.44, He went on to say, “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” The Spirit is sent by 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. You see, as a lost sinner you are warring against God. And to bring you to Christ the Spirit of God must war against you. Notice what Paul wrote in Second Corinthians 10.4-5:


4      (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

5      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 no one will be saved. Some of you may, perhaps, think you can come to Christ if the Spirit ceases to strive with you. But, of course, this is a delusion. Because 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 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. One example is, he stops fidgeting in church and looking at the clock and wondering when the sermon will be done. Another example is, 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 becomes 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, and 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. And 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. And 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.




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 should the Spirit cease to strive. But 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. And some people just live longer than other people do. In this, we see God’s sovereignty demonstrated. And does not God have a right to cut you off at any moment and put to an end your opportunity to be saved? And 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,” Hosea 4.17. And the Lord Jesus spoke to His hearers as if some of them were given over of God. In Luke 19.42 He said, “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.” Many are given up because they receive not the love of the truth that they might be saved. The apostle Paul wrote, “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. And Hosea 9.12 says, “Woe also to them when I depart from them.” You young people, have you been given up by God? I ask this question because even young sinners may be given up by God. You may have done some things against the Spirit of God, 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, Romans 1.28-32, 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.” Exactly when this point has been reached in your life no one can tell. I can only hope that it hasn’t happened with you already.

But 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 in some churches young sinners are advised to play and get silly after the Gospel is preached, with afterglows and parties. And such things are encouraged by the very preachers and parents who say they want young people to be saved, but who do not seem by their plans and actions to believe in conviction and conversion. But don’t you see that when you are distracted by such things 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 children fall under conviction, unknowing parents or friends will even advise a sinner to do things so he will feel better, or so his mind will be diverted from his problems. And some folks are as foolish as to advise medical or psychiatric help for sinners, when the problem you have is with your sins. Sinners also resist the Spirit by postponing timely contemplation of spiritual things. This is what Felix did when he put off the apostle Paul until a more convenient season. My friend, the time to deal with your sins and with salvation is now. 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 resist 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 like the new-evangelicals typically do, 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 let your friends go to drink coffee 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 that someone will 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.




What happens then the Spirit of God has been resisted so much by you that He ceases to strive with you any longer? There are several things that you might experience:

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 you 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 is not good even though many sinners think it is good.

Second, when the Spirit has departed you may feel very 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 came to 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, attended a Christian missionary school until he was fifteen. Rock singer Little Richard claimed at one time to be born again and was for a time a Pentecostal preacher. As well, a very famous jockey, known for his drug use, his wife beating, and his alcoholism, who races horses at nearby Santa Anita race track, used to come to Calvary Road Baptist Church, when he was a kid. What happened to these people? For a time the Spirit of God did strive with them. But they resisted His strivings and then He ceased striving with them. Before they died, Cho En-Lai and Josef Stalin were between them responsible for the deaths of an estimated 60 million of their own countrymen. The singer, Little Richard, portrays an effeminate homosexual persona on stage. And I’ve already told you about the jockey. These have come to despise and ridicule Christianity since the Spirit of God ceased His strivings with them. How far will you sink after the Spirit of God ceases to strive with you?

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 do not know, though I do fear for you.


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, and I sincerely hope it has not yet happened, then you will slumber on in your unrepentant and unconcerned state until you awaken in Hell, and your soul is lost forever.

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