But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.  For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,  who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:8–11 ESV)
We’ve already learned that ultimately our security is in God himself, and not in ourselves. Yes, we’re responsible to protect ourselves from the coming wrath by putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of the hope of salvation. But the reason why our hope of being saved from the wrath to come is sure and certain is because God appointed us to obtain salvation. You see, God knew that the human race would fall into sin, and when that happens, he knew they would never choose him because their hearts would then become corrupt, desperately wicked and beyond cure. As Romans chapter 8: 7ff. says, “The fleshly mind (the mind of the natural person) is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” So, he has to choose us first before we can choose him.
But as I said before this does not work automatically. God’s will, of course, cannot be thwarted and if he chose us to obtain salvation then we will surely obtain it. But this doesn’t mean that he can just ignore the main obstacle that keeps us from enjoying eternal fellowship with him, and that is our sins. The wages of sin is death. God is a holy and just God, and his justice demands that the penalty for sin be paid. In order for him to save us a way must be found to pay the penalty of death which we richly deserve. Since we could not pay for it ourselves, Jesus came down to earth to pay the penalty for our sins, so that we could be forgiven of all our sins and be saved from eternal punishment. In other words, Jesus by his atonement implemented God’s appointment of us to obtain salvation.
But even though Jesus Christ paid for all our sins, we don’t receive the benefits of his death automatically. The Bible teaches that we have to sincerely and truly believe in Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior in order to be forgiven of our sins, in order to receive eternal life, or in other words, in order to be saved (Acts 16:31).
1. WE CANNOT BELIEVE ON OUR OWN.
And this is where a very big problem arises: Because we are in the flesh, because we have sinful and corrupt hearts that cannot please God, we cannot do the one thing that can make the benefits of the death of Christ effective in our lives: Believe! Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” So, faith is good, true faith is pleasing to God. True faith saves. But the problem is: Rom. 310-12 says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” So, the very thing we need to do in order to be saved is the thing we don’t do, don’t want to do, and cannot do! How then can we be saved? How can God’s appointment of us be fulfilled? How can Christ’s atonement for us become effective in our lives?
But before I say more about that, let me tell you a story: More than a year ago we bought our daughter a gaming computer for her 13th birthday to celebrate the fact that she was now a teenager. But in addition to the CPU, we also bought her a gaming keyboard, headphones and mouse. The point is: the CPU would have been useless had there been no keyboard, mouse and headphones along with. Now, applied to the death of Jesus Christ, we believe that Jesus Christ actually – not hypothetically – paid for our sins and obtained forgiveness and eternal life for us. But all this would have been useless and would have gone to waste had he not also through his death obtained faith and repentance for us! So to make sure that his death would not go to waste Jesus Christ through his death not only obtained forgiveness for us, he also procured for us the faith and repentance we would need in order to be saved, which would be given to us at the proper time.
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously (freely) give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32)
2. THE SPIRIT HELPS US TO BELIEVE.
And that is why the Bible teaches that ultimately faith and repentance are themselves gifts of God!
“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing: it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8)
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6;29)
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)
“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Heb. 12:2)
“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” (Phil. 1:29)
When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:18)
“With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:25)
“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1:30 NASB)
This is where the Holy Spirit comes in: He will take from the treasury of Christ the faith and repentance and forgiveness and eternal life that Christ has purchased for us and deliver these to us and apply these to our lives.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-15)
 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—  these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.  The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:9–14 ESV)
On our own we cannot understand and do not accept the wonderful things of salvation that God has prepared for his chosen people (the true Israel as opposed to mere ethnic Israel) because in our natural, unregenerate state these things are foolishness to us. But the Holy Spirit has revealed these things to us. He is the one who opens the eyes of our understanding and melts our stubborn hearts so that we not only come to understand but actually receive and believe these things and, as a result, are saved.
 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,  because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. (1 Thessalonians 1:4–5 ESV)
Many years ago, I heard an evangelist preach. His preaching was quite simple and quite ordinary. But for some reason I felt strangely moved by it. And when I looked around I saw I wasn’t the only one moved by it. It was heart warming, convicting and full of God’s love; an unusual spiritual power accompanied it. And when the invitation to come forward to receive Jesus Christ was given, many people came forward. But the next night, he preached the same sermon to another crowd in another municipality. It was practically the same sermon, but something was different: The power that accompanied it the night before was no longer there. And when the invitation to come forward was given, almost no one responded. What accounted for the difference? I believe it was the Holy Spirit who blows where he pleases.
1. Be thankful. We owe everything about our salvation to him, even our faith and repentance.
2. Be hopeful. When we preach let us simply do our best; the Spirit as he chooses will blow where and as he pleases, and when it pleases him, the harvest will be great. For the same reason, let us not give up hope on anyone and let no person give up on himself or herself, for when it pleases the Spirit, the scales from your eyes shall fall off, you will see the light of the Kingdom, and you shall enter in.
Holy Spirit, blow upon us with your life-giving breath, that we may rise from the dead and enter the Kingdom of our Lord where we shall live forever with him. Amen.