The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14
In the Augsburg Confession, Article 2 (Original Sin), we confess:
1 It is also taught among us that since the fall of Adam all men who are born according to the course of nature are conceived and born in sin. That is, all men are full of evil lust and inclinations from their mothers’ wombs and are unable by nature to have true fear of God and true faith in God. 2 Moreover, this inborn sickness and hereditary sin is truly sin and condemns to the eternal wrath of God all those who are not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit.
Corresponding to this article of our confession is Article 18 (Freedom of the Will), where we also confess:
1 It is also taught among us that man possesses some measure of freedom of the will which enables him to live an outwardly honorable life and to make choices among the things that reason comprehends. 2 But without the grace, help, and activity of the Holy Spirit man is not capable of making himself acceptable to God, of fearing God and believing in God with his whole heart, or of expelling inborn evil lusts from his heart. 3 This is accomplished by the Holy Spirit, who is given through the Word of God, for Paul says in 1 Cor. 2:14, “Natural man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God.
4 In order that it may be evident that this teaching is no novelty, the clear words of Augustine on free will are here quoted from the third book of his Hypognosticon: ‘We concede that all men have a free will, for all have a natural, innate understanding and reason. However, this does not enable them to act in matters pertaining to God (such as loving God with their whole heart or fearing him), for it is only in the outward acts of this life that they have freedom to choose good or evil. 5 By good I mean what they are capable of by nature: whether or not to labor in the fields, whether or not to eat or drink or visit a friend, whether to dress or undress, whether to build a house, take a wife, engage in a trade, or do whatever else may be good and profitable. 6 None of these is or exists without God, but all things are from him and through him. 7 On the other hand, by his own choice man can also undertake evil, as when he wills to kneel before an idol, commit murder, etc.’
The teaching that sinful man has freedom to “choose” God or to “make a decision for Christ” apart from God’s gift of faith in Christ (and thus, being created anew, i.e. John 1:12-13; 1 John 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17) is not in accordance with Holy Scripture. Sinful nature always wants its own way. This is the way of the flesh (see Matthew 15:19-20; Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-9).
The way of the spirit, however, desires the way of the Lord, which the Lord Himself makes known to us by means of His Word (see Romans 8:1-17; 10:17; Galatians 16-18, 22-26; Colossians 3:12-17). Such desire of the spirit comes from a changed heart, produced by God’s work according to His Word and not without it or apart from it. By means of Law and Gospel, God creates a people for Himself, people diligent to be about His Word, people believing it, and people who desire to live in accordance to it. Such people do not create themselves, nor do they make the changes themselves (John 1:12-13; 3:5-8; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Rather, does God form and mold His people to be as He would have them, loving Him above all things, and loving one another (see Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:3-6; Romans 9:14-24)—by means of His Holy Word.
Instead of glorifying and praising man and what he does or accomplishes, the Christian confesses, praises, and glorifies God for what He does, even what God does through poor sinners like ourselves.
Thanks be to God for His goodness! And thanks to be God that His will is not at all according to our nature! Amen.
“Let us praise God the Father, therefore, and give Him thanks for His indescribable mercy, that when we were incapable of doing so by our own strength, He delivered us from the kingdom of the devil, in which we were captives, and did so by His own Son. And with Paul let us confess that all our works and righteousness, with all of which we could not make the devil stoop down one hairbreadth, are nothing but loss and refuse (Phil. 3:8). And let us tread underfoot and utterly abhor, as a polluted garment (Is. 64:6) and the deadly poison of the devil, all the power of free will, all the wisdom and righteousness of the world, all religious orders, all Masses, ceremonies, vows, fasts, hair shirts, and the like. On the other hand, let us praise and magnify the glory of Christ, who has delivered us by His death not only from this world but from this “evil world.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p41-42).
Prayer: Father, I praise you for all your goodness to me. I am humbled by all that you do for my good, even as I do not see it or fail to see it because I am a sinner who looks to my own ways and seeks my own glory. Forgive me for abiding by my own expectations. Shape me, form me, and mold me to be nothing but Your humble and lowly servant. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.