ILLUSTRATION: Dog carrying a piece of meat

preview.aesops_dogSuppose there’s a dog carrying a piece of meat in his mouth as he walks alongside a lake. He turns to look at the lake’s surface, and he sees the reflection of the meat in the water. He opens his mouth and snaps at the reflection of the meat, losing both the meat and the reflection in the process.

In order to become a Christian, one needs to cling to ‘what Jesus has done’, just as the dog clings to the meat. And if they do, it will be reflected in their life, just as the meat was reflected in the lake.

However many misunderstand the message of Christianity, and rather than cling only to ‘what Jesus has done’ (the meat), they feel the need to cling also to their ‘good works’ (the reflection). And by trying to place their faith in ‘what Jesus had done’ as well as their ‘good works’, they lose both ‘what Jesus has done’ and their ‘good works’.

The key to becoming a Christian is to cling only to ‘what Jesus has done’ on our behalf. If we do, the Holy Spirit will come into our life and transform us from the inside out. So that when others see us they will see a reflection of Jesus.

(Based on an explanation by Martin Luther in his book ‘The Freedom of a Christian’. The story of the dog is one of Aesop’s Fables and is numbered 133 in the Perry Index)


ILLUSTRATION: Demon Possession

demonic-possessionIf you have ever seen a movie where someone gets demon possessed, you would have noticed a battle going on between the demon, who wants to take control of the person to make them do evil, and the person, who want’s their life back. Sometimes the demon possessed person is controlled by the demon. Sometimes the person is in control of their own body. Sometimes it’s a combination of both.

Although it sounds a little strange, something similar happens to a person when they become a Christian.

The Bible teaches that when a person places their life and eternity into Jesus hands, the Holy Spirit comes into their life to wage war against their sinful nature. In a sense, they get ‘Holy Spirit Possessed’. From that moment on, there is a battle that rages within between the Holy Spirit, who wants to take control of the person to make them more like Jesus, and the person’s sinful nature, which loves sin and craves sin. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is in control. Sometimes the sinful nature is in control. Sometimes it’s a combination of both.

This is why when you meet a Christian, you can definitely expect to see evidence that the Holy Spirit has come into their life. The Bible describes this as ‘fruit of the Spirit’: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

But this is also why you will unfortunately continue to see evidence of their sinful nature: selfishness, gossip, lust, greed, complaining, unforgiveness, bitterness, envy, etc.

Galatians 5:17
“The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want”


jesus-walking-on-waterMARTIN LUTHER
“Faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing…

Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace”

(from “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522, Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith)


ILLUSTRATION: Police Officer

police-officerSuppose I decide that I’d like to become a police officer. So in order to get into the police academy, I head out into the city, find as many illegally parked cars as I possibly can, and then start writing out tickets. I continue to do this day after day, until eventually I’ve written out more than a thousand tickets. I finally feel like I may have done enough to prove myself, so I rock up to the police academy and show them records of all the tickets I have written.

Now of course this whole idea is riduculous. No one writes tickets in order to become a police officer. In fact, any attempt to write tickets before first being made a police officer is futile. The tickets would not be valid. They would be counterfeit.

A person does not write tickets in order to become a police officer. Rather they are first made a police officer, and then they won’t be able to help but write tickets.

The same is true in our approach to God. We don’t do good works in order to become a Christian. In fact, the Bible teaches that any attempt by an unbeliever to do good works in the sight of God is futile. Although their efforts may seem good to us, from God’s perspective they are counterfeit works.

The Bible says that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6), “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) and that “a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18).

So we cannot do good works in order to become a Christian, any more than we can write parking tickets in order to become a police officer. Rather we must first be made a Christian, and then we won’t be able to help but do good works.