Debunked: Impossible Decision
By Jake Sletten
Why making a decision for Christ is impossible…and why that's a very good thing.
"I believe that I cannot believe." The Visual Edition of the Small Catechism (which, by the way, you should get a copy of if you haven't already. . .it's awesome) summarizes Luther's meaning to the Third Article intricately well. The fuller context is this: "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him…"
Unfortunately, there are many Christian church bodies which believe that God's people actually can make their own decisions to accept Jesus into their lives or their hearts. This line of thinking is exemplified when these church bodies advocate for something called the Age of Accountability. Essentially, this means that only when a person has achieved a certain age can they really and truly have a full understanding of what Jesus has done. Then--and only then--can they become baptized, which is their way of making a commitment to God to follow Him all the days of their lives.
First, I wish to be intentional in making this point: We will see people from other Christian church bodies in heaven. No, Lutherans are not the only ones getting into heaven. Yes, it's perfectly fine to be friends with other Christians who are not Lutheran.
The next question you might be asking yourself is this: If we'll see other Christians in heaven, what's the big deal? Why does it matter whether or not someone can make a decision for Christ? Well, I'm glad you asked! I hope you will keep reading the rest of this article, but I will give you the answer now: The only reason anyone is getting into heaven, is because the Creator seeks and retrieves what was His in the first place.
To be sure, there are many Scripture passages that I could discuss which prove this point. Actually, once you have a right understanding of who is Creator and who is creation, ALL of Scripture proves this point. But I want to focus on two passages that point to the Third Article, because I believe they set the table so well for the reason our salvation MUST be done in the way God planned.
"And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden."
Adam and Eve were so convicted by what they had done (and embarrassed by what they saw of themselves!) that they tried to hide from God. They didn't want to be found. More specifically, they did not want God to find them. Their sin caused them to be lost. They were also lost from each other--not able to see each other as they once did. They were lost from creation; suddenly it was no longer a safe place. They were lost from their Creator because they were no longer living in His image.
Is it just coincidence that right after Adam and Eve fell into sin that, as Moses records, God came walking in the Garden? Perhaps. But we also believe that God is omniscient--He knows everything there is to be known. He knew that His creation had fallen, and so He went looking for them even though they were trying to not be found. And once He found them, they fessed up about everything that had happened. God levies curses upon both of them, and then He clothes them.
Wait. What?? He clothes them? Verse 21 of chapter 3: "And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them."
Verse 21 gives us the answer to why God went looking for His creation: because they were His. He, Himself, will be the one to clothe them with proper clothing--clothing that comes from the first blood sacrifice ever recorded in Scripture. He will do it because they belong to Him still, even in their sin.
"The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein…"
This verse doesn't take much explaining. The earth and everything that is in it belongs to God. Whether it's you, me, the mountains, the oceans, the forests, the plains, our families, our friends, our enemies, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, everything and everyone belongs to the Lord.
Why does everyone belong to Him? Because the world and everything in it has always belonged to him.
To be sure, it was once lost. We as His creation were truly lost to Him. Sin made us an enemy of God. No longer were generations of humans made in the image of God. A price needed to be paid for the treachery of Eden and its deathly consequences. But only one price would do: a price that would give new life to the creation that God had made. New life in which God's creation would once more share His image.
And to do it, another blood sacrifice had to be made. This time, however, it would not be the sacrifice of an animal that would save the people. This time God Himself would be sacrificed, so His people would be clothed in Him and nothing but His perfect righteousness. And so, on Good Friday, the Son of God was crucified on the Cross. He died and was buried. He broke down the gates of hell itself and freed His creation once and for all from their sin.
God went looking for His creation again. Why does He go looking for them? To retrieve them, to bring them back to Him because they are His and they have always been His!
Making a decision for Christ is impossible for one very simple reason: It's not our decision to begin with. This is clear in the following Scriptures:
"You are not your own, for you were bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
"For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's" (Romans 14:8).
"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you" (Jeremiah 1:5).
Even if we could make the decision to accept Christ into our life, our sin would prevent us. We would simply go and hide in our shame just like Adam and Eve did, not wanting to be found. Instead, God has no time for our decision making. He goes and finds and restores us because we are His. We have always been His. We will always be His. "For the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost" ( Luke 19:10). And that is a very good thing.
Rev. Jake Sletten is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Freistatt, MO. He thinks the mission of Higher Things is exciting: to help raise up new generations of believers for the Gospel. He is husband to Courtney, and dad to MJ, Bradley, and Emma. He loves going on dates with his wife, grilling on his Weber, coaching his kids' basketball teams, watching basketball (mainly his Los Angeles Clippers), and reading books about dragons.
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