Apr 022013 0 Responses

An After Easter Reflection: Faith is more than a Feeling

Following Easter, several people have asked why I sometimes give a formal invitation following a sermon and at other times I do not. Here is a reflection revealing some of my thinking as well as some application points to how a Christian can present the message of Jesus to others.

Cars aren’t sold on facts. Salespeople don’t talk customers into smaller monthly payments. They don’t suggest a buyer forgo the new purchase and fix up the old car.

Cars are sold on feeling. “Get in, how does that feel,” they ask. “How does it look?” “Don’t you deserve it?”

Cars are sold on feeling because we tend to make worst decisions when choosing based on feelings. We have the extra piece of cake, rush into the bad relationship, and spend more money on a car than we should when making decisions based on feelings. Our bad decisions are good news for car dealers. Our mistake is their profit. Car dealers know this, so many of them sell cars based on feelings instead of facts.

As a Christian it is tempting to do the same. It is tempting to focus on feeling and not facts.

Yet faith is more than a feeling. The Christian faith is built on facts.

God acted in history. He sent Jesus at a specific time and place. Jesus lived, died and rose again as part of an historical record.

If Jesus was not born, did not die, and did not rise again, the Christian faith is false. Faith is dependent on facts.

Christian faith is not just a feeling; it’s an historical understanding. It’s an explanation of what was, is, and will be.

It’s not just a desire of what we hope, but a logical understanding of what is.

Because faith is grounded in history and facts, Jesus doesn’t have to be sold based on emotion. We don’t have to trick people into a foolish decision like a quick Vegas wedding or luxury sedan. Faith does not exist at the exclusion of our minds but from the understanding of our minds. Loving God with our minds is just as commanded as loving him with our hearts.

While emotion plays a role in every decision, faith is just as much about human reason as emotional desire.

Because faith is more than a feeling, we present the gospel in a different way then selling a car.

We refuse to separate the heart from the head. To ignore the head is to create a false faith. While no theology test is given as a prerequisite of faith, a person must understand the basic premise of the gospel to truly become a Christian. Faith does not require us to ignore science or the observations of this world. Faith requires us to understand what we see within the context of an orderly and powerful Creator.

We refuse to make a false pitch. If faith were a feeling, we might be willing to twist some facts or downplay some commands in order to swindle people into a conversion. Since faith is more than a feeling, we strive for complete honesty in every communication. Truth trumps emotion so facts must permeate our presentation.

We refuse to make a high pressure sale. While time is important because none of us are promised tomorrow, speed is often a characteristic of a bad decision. We need not rush people into faith. We desire for people to truly “count the cost.” Questions need to be answered. Issues need to be thought through. Since faith is more than a feeling, we desire a person make an honest decision and not simply an emotional response.

As a pastor (and a parent) it is tempting to focus on the emotion of a person, especially our children, when teaching them about faith. We care so much for them that we want them to have a secure eternity. But if we aren’t careful, we can work harder to get them to pray a prayer or walk then we do to make sure they are making a conscious commitment of their life to God.

As a preacher who regularly presents the gospel to a large group of people, I often struggle with knowing exactly how I should end a sermon. Two Biblical accounts intrigue me. The first is the general response of Jesus when talking to a crowd. He never really gave an invitation, he simply said “follow me.” All the expectation was left to the person who desired to follow. The second is the story of Pentecost when several thousand people became Christians. On that day people seemingly responded to some invitation and decided to follow Jesus. So as a service ends, sometimes I say “follow Jesus” leaving all the expectation upon the person and sometimes I ask for a response in order to see how many people are ready to respond that day. Rarely do I know exactly which is right.

What do you think characterizes a good presentation of the gospel?

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