Ok so I am no longer on vacation, which means I am back on the job of solving the worlds problems. It is a hard job but someone has got to do it.
The other day I was reading the Scripture and I came to the word 'gift'. The word and concept is splattered in Scripture many many times. Take a look at
Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Believing or having faith in the Gospel surely has to be a gift. Its got to be. It must be a gift because the natural mind says that one has to work for one's standing with God. It is not natural for us to think of our relationship with God any other way and if there is any way we can get right with God we have to earn it. In fact this is where Biblical Christianity is unique because all other religions are already saying that, meaning - saying that if you want God to be kind to you, you do this and that...
So when a man/woman believes the Gospel it has to be a gift from God because all human senses say salvation or forgiveness of sins is by works. Every nerve of our being says -- there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Even Christians get Christianity wrong in portraying it as morality. Well, all other religions have that and that is not the core message of Christianity, it is not about morals though it is an aspect of it but it is not about it.
I notice people have some attitudes towards this Gift. Some think it is not a gift so they go to methods or measures - Charles Finney and his disciples are in to this. If faith in the Gospel is not a gift then one can be coerced (spiritually) to 'believe' or 'decide to believe'. This one leads to works.
Then there is another attitude, it is a gift alright some say and it comes out of the sky. It is immediate. It just happens. In other words the gift is not mediated.
I have counselled some young people struggling with this because they have the notion that a gift is not mediated, God just zaps people into believing. This one leads to dispair.
In fact both lead to uncertainty.
Here is where Concordians are different - sure faith in the Gospel is a gift but that gift is mediated - in other words, though Jesus is the author of faith, God creates faith in the Gospel via means - Word and Sacrament. The very promises of God is the very means God uses to create faith in the heart of the sinner. He does not decide, he does not get zapped out of the blue, but the promises is mediated - delivered and it is the very power to create or provide what God demands - faith. It is both demanded by God and at the same time created by God - through His Word.
So in this theology - there is no room for dispair or hopelessness, there is always a looking in one spot - in the Word - it is the same, yesterday and forever. Even this, even the fact that though faith is a gift, God nevertheless creates it using means -- this itself is -- good news. So God does not leave us alone to fend for ourselves.