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How Faith Begins

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Dive (6-8)Year 2Unit 1 (What Is Being a Christian All About?)Session 1
1

How Faith Begins

Focus
The Holy Spirit creates faith in my heart by the gospel.
Faith Nurture Goals
  • Reflect on faith as a lifelong journey.
  • Recognize the role of the Holy Spirit in our journey of faith.
  • Open our hearts to God’s leading and guidance.
Memory Challenge

Leader Reflection

Preparing to Tell God's Story

The Q&A for this session and the story we look at today both point to a friendly but persistent divide among Christians on the question of how people come to faith. On one side are those who say we come to faith by free will. It's our choice. On the other side are those who say that it is impossible for people to come to faith on their own. We are too lost in sin. We can only come to faith by the work of God in our hearts. That's the Reformed viewpoint, and it says that we human beings radically depend on God's love and grace for our salvation.

One of the Bible stories Reformed folks point to is the story of Lydia we are reading today. Paul heard a call in a dream to cross over for the first time into Macedonia, a new continent.

His first stop was the leading Roman city of Philippi, and as usual he made his way to the synagogue---there seemed to be one in every major city of the Roman world. There he met a woman from Thyatira named Lydia. A dealer in purple cloth, she was presumably a fairly wealthy, independent businesswoman; her presence in the synagogue indicates that she was deeply interested in the God of the Jews.

Luke, the author of Acts, describes what happens to her as she hears the gospel from Paul in a way that is similar throughout Acts. "The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message" (16:14). God is always the author of faith, and the Holy Spirit is the agent of that power. It does not begin with human beings but with God.

While Luke says that "those who accepted [Peter's] message were baptized," he concludes a few verses later, "the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Clearly faith and salvation are a "God thing" from beginning to end.

Where does faith come from? It comes from the Holy Spirit. We do not force it, invent it, claim it, or give birth to it. Faith is God's gracious gift. But that gift of faith doesn't come to us in a vacuum. It comes, according to the Q&A, through the gospel and sacraments. Faith is planted by the Holy Spirit when we hear the gospel, and it is confirmed when we receive the sacraments.

This truth humbles us. We can never boast in our faith because it's a gift. But this truth also makes us bold. It means that faith does not depend on how well we present the gospel or how persuasive we are. God is ahead of us, preparing people's hearts to receive the gospel.

That's what happened to Paul. First God called him to come to Macedonia, and then when he obediently went there, God prepared the hearts of Lydia and many others to believe. We are saved by God's grace alone. And we too can be used by God to bring the gospel to a person in whom the Holy Spirit is already at work.

Wondering
  • How do you picture Lydia? What do you have in common with her?

  • How has the Lord opened your heart? How have you seen the Lord open the hearts of others?

  • Does this teaching give you confidence in your teaching?

Teaching
  • Some may ask how it is that God opens the hearts of some, and not others. Two points are important to make. First, the “system” is not closed but open. As the hearts of some are opened, they become the means by which others are reached. Lydia herself begins to witness to the Lord, and other hearts are opened by God through her witness. Second, we cannot explain the ways of God, except for two unshakable convictions—God is infinitely merciful, and God is truly just. Nothing God does can contradict his mercy and justice.

Steps

Step 1 Gathering for God's Story

  • picture smart
  • word smart
  • ​​people smart
Tip

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