Saturday, March 15, 2008

Motivated to Believe?

Recently a young friend of mine asked me what I think motivates someone to believe. Much of what passes for preaching these days is encouragement to stop not believing and trust in Jesus and everything will be better. Tell that to the early church many members of which suffered severe persecutions many of them were killed for no other reason then the testimony of Jesus. To this day in many parts of our world brothers and sisters are robbed of livelihood, beaten, outcast and killed for the same reason. No the idea that one can come to faith under the sweet talk of a so called preacher is nothing but the Theology of Self Glory. This strokes our flesh by telling us we can do something to change our relationship with God. Just by making a decision to accept Jesus is all it takes in these fevered imaginations. They will say that making a decision is not a work. Don’t believe that for a minute. Many executives get paid massive amounts of money for decisions.

Matthew 18:12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. ESV

The passage above is commonly referred to as the Parable of the Lost Sheep. Rev. Tom Baker of the Law and Gospel broadcast says it is misnamed. The name of it should be rather Parable of the Rejoicing Shepherd. This title places the emphasis where it belongs on Jesus the Good Shepherd.

Jesus is the one who motivates one to the Christian faith. He seeks out the lost, breathes life into her and carries her back to His fold. What is placed upon His shoulders is the curse of the law which He carries up Calvary and pays the penalty with His own precious blood.

Once the person is given new life she will see Jesus as a loving God not the ogre which used to scare her. That god is the devil masquerading as God in order to keep people in enmity with Him. This is part and parcel as to the reason one cannot claim any credit for coming to God. Prior to the gift of faith one had a caricature of God not the real Creator.

Yes many people are scared of God and with good reason. Each and every person knows there is a problem between them and God. But they think it is God’s problem and they must find ways to get on His good side. Some have committed suicide by drinking poisoned Kool-Aid and others have flow jets into buildings in order to placate this angry Creator. Given the viewpoint the unbeliever has of God who can blame them for trying to become atheist.

No. We have a kind and loving Shepherd who gave His life for each and everyone of us. He gives us the faith by which to receive His gifts of Baptism, eternal life, preaching of the word of forgiveness, and the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of sins and strengthening of our faith.

What does He ask in return? Not a thing. Out of love and gratitude we want to do things for our neighbors that will please Him. But those acts of charity do not add anything to our salvation for it is finished.

God’s peace. †

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