Man Doesn't Choose to Obey God Until God Chooses that Man
This spiritual life is imparted to us by the Holy Spirit in order that we might be enabled to obey the terms of God’s holy covenant. By this new life, God writes his law in our hearts and then we are able to walk in obedience to his commandments. Without this ruling principle of spiritual life there can be not spiritual obedience. To say that we are able by our own efforts to think good thoughts or give God spiritual obedience before we are spiritually regenerate is to overthrow the gospel and the faith of the universal church in all ages. It does not matter how powerfully we are motivated and encouraged, without regeneration we can do no good works which are pleasing and acceptable to God. A religious, decent, moral life, derived from self and not ‘born of God’ is as sinful as the worst of sinful lives.
Preachers of the gospel and others have sufficient warrant to press on all men the duties of repentance, faith and obedience; although they know the unregenerate have no ability to do these things. They must show the unregenerate why they are unable and that it is their own fault they are unable to do these things. It is the will of God and the command of God that the unregenerate should be told his duties. We are not to consider what man can or will do, but what God says they should do. There are two good reasons why these duties should be pressed on the ungodly. The ungodly must be stopped from going further into sin and being more and more hardened, and these duties are the means appointed by God for their conversion. ...by God’s grace working in due time …
- from "The Effectual Operation of the Blessed Spirit in the Regeneration or Conversion of Sinners" (a sermon by John Owen)