Friday, September 15, 2006

Christian Faith: The Basics, Part 33

[With this installment, we pick back up on a series for which I last posted on August 16.]

It's God the Holy Spirit Who makes faith in Jesus Christ possible.

In a previous post in this series, I said that one indicator that you might have of the facticity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in which Christians believe is the internal experience of those who have dared to believe in Christ. When people take the chance of believing, depending on, and praying and living in the Name of Jesus, they discover His presence to be very real in their lives and in the life of His family, the Church. They discover the truth of promises He made to His followers, such as these:

"...remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)

"...I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned..." (John 14:16-18)

We can believe in the Good News of Jesus and the promises of His continuing presence in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit makes it possible for us to trust the Gospel (which means good news) about Jesus in spite of all the bad news in our lives. First Corinthians 12:3 says, " one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says 'Let Jesus be cursed!' and no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit."

Writing about the Holy Spirit in The Small Catechism, Martin Luther summarizes this power to create faith in those willing to trust in Christ by saying, "I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me..., enlightened me..., and sanctified and kept me in true faith."

How does this work? I can tell you how it has worked in my life. Back when I was an atheist and I found myself, against my will, falling in love with Jesus Christ because of the way I saw ordinary people in a church in Columbus, living for Jesus, I finally put down my dukes. I quit resisting the stubborn love of God, offered through the crucified and risen Jesus, and let Him love me. I didn't demand that He be real. I let His reality soak into my life.

That, my experience suggests, is how faith in Jesus Christ comes to be. It's never coerced. Faith in Christ, in fact, cannot be coerced. But if, as the Spirit woos us, we allow ourselves to be open to His entry into our lives, He will enter us and faith will take hold.

Over time, God has revealed Himself to be one God in three Persons, a reality which Christians call "the Trinity," although that term is never used in the Bible. We've already looked at God revealed as Father and as Son. Over the next few installments, we'll look at God the Holy Spirit and at what He does.

But above all, you simply need to know that it's God the Holy Spirit Who makes faith in Jesus Christ possible. It's the Spirit Who loves us into trusting God.

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