Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Faith – The Gift of God

                The focus of our messages, this past month, has been on faith.  We’ve been looking at what it means to have faith, primarily from the words of Jesus, found in the gospel of Matthew.  This focus brings up many issues that are important for us to address, which we’ll look at in these posts over the next several weeks.  The first question that comes to mind, as we think about faith, is this: How does a person come to faith in Jesus?                
There’s a tendency in today’s church to think of faith as an intellectual pursuit.  We often think that we can convince people to come to faith in Jesus.  Although apologetics is a very important area of study, and even though it interests me a great deal, this is often an improper use of this field. 
We believe that, if we can convince others on a scientific basis that creation is plausible, they will place their faith in Jesus.  We think that, if we can verify the resurrection of Jesus from an intellectual perspective, people will certainly trust in Christ.  We think that, if we can explain the Christian faith from a purely rational perspective, this will draw the masses to salvation.
We fail to remember what Paul says in 1 Corinthians.  In the first chapter of this book, he tells us that the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing.  He says that the message of the cross is a stumbling block to Jews and Gentiles alike, who are seeking miraculous signs and wisdom.  So, even though the gospel makes perfect sense to us, it’s foolishness to unbelievers.  It doesn’t make sense to them in the least.
We also tend to think of faith as a decision that we make.  We think that, at some point, we choose to place our faith in Jesus.  We think that, at some point, we make a decision for Christ.  However, this idea is directly opposed to the teaching of Scripture.
According to the Bible, faith is a gift of God.  It isn’t a choice that we make by our own power and wisdom.  The only reason we come to the Lord is because God himself draws us.  Left to ourselves, this would never happen.  As Jesus says, in John 6:44: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”  
In 1 Corinthians 12:3, the apostle Paul writes: “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit.” So, according to Paul, our very ability to profess faith in Jesus is empowered by the Spirit of God.  It’s not something we can say on our own.
When he says this, he’s talking about a sincere confession of faith.  After all, anyone can utter the words “Jesus is Lord” in a meaningless way.  But if we’re to believe it, if we’re to genuinely confess it, this has been empowered by the Holy Spirit.
We see a similar idea expressed in John 1, starting in verse 12.  John writes: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Through faith in Jesus, we’re empowered to become God’s children.  It’s a right that’s given to us as we trust in him.  And John’s careful to point out that this happened exclusively as a gift of God. 
He says that we’re born as God’s children not of blood.  In other words, our position in Christ has nothing to do with our heritage.  We’re born as God’s children not of the will of the flesh.  It’s not something that we decided or chose by our own power or wisdom.  And we’re born as God’s children not by the will of man.  Just as we didn’t make this choice for ourselves, neither did anyone else make it for us. 
This tells us that, just as we must give credit to the Lord for our redemption, so must we give him the credit for our faith.  Had he not worked in our life, we would not believe, and we would not be saved.  We can’t even credit our decision as the reason we’re saved.
The only decision we can make, as God works in our life, is to walk away.  We can choose to reject him and the salvation he brings.  This is something we can do by our own power and wisdom.
This, of course, raises still other questions.  For one: How does the Lord bring us to faith?  And that will be the topic of my next post.

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