We are all familiar with the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” In this famous tale from Aesop’s Fables, a shepherd boy repeatedly lies to the townspeople. He tells them that a wolf is attacking the village sheep. But when the townspeople investigate, they learn that there never was a wolf. The boy was “sounding the alarm” dishonestly and whipping the people into a false panic when there was no wolf and the sheep weren’t really in danger. After a few rounds of this ruse, a real wolf does appear. The boy cries, “Wolf!” But, the townspeople no longer believe the boy. He’s ruined his credibility with them. This time they don’t take his cry seriously. The sheep are slaughtered and even the boy is eaten by the wolf.
The moral of the story is simple: tell the truth. If you lie too often, eventually people won’t listen to you. They won’t believe you when you are honest. Your friends will one day grow tired of your falsehoods and write you off as someone who shouldn’t be trusted.
I must confess that in my sin I’m tempted to not believe the gospel. I would wager that your struggle isn’t much different than my own. You sin. You are grieved by your sin. You confess your sins to God. But, then the questions creep in. “What if I’m not grieved enough? What if I’m not quick enough to confess. If I really loved Jesus, I wouldn’t continue to struggle. Haven’t I been made a ‘new creation’ in Christ?”
That’s when the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” pops into my mind.
Is God like the townspeople in this fable? Does he eventually grow tired of hearing you confess the same old thing? Does he have a “three strikes and you’re out” policy? Surely he does. Wouldn’t you if you were him?
Here’s what Satan whispers in my ear: God isn’t buying your confession this time. He’s tired of your crap. He forgave you the first time. He forgave you the second and third time. But, at some point he gave up on you. You’ve cried “wolf” one too many times. Even if this time you’re really genuine, it is too late.
Brothers and sisters, if you’re like me you’ve had these same thoughts. You believe that God is tired of trusting you. But, the truth is God isn’t like the townspeople in the fable. We are. It isn’t that God struggles to believe our repeated cries of “wolf.” Rather, we struggle to believe God when he repeatedly comes to us with forgiveness and mercy on his lips. We believed him when he cried “forgiven and absolved” the first time. We believed him when he cried “justified and adopted” the second time. But, eventually we struggle to believe that His mercy and grace are sufficient.
But, he doesn’t give up. He doesn’t stop shouting.
He meets us with absolution of our sins week after week. He gives us the preached word of his Son’s finished work. He gives us the waters of baptism. He gives us the weekly bread and wine of his Son’s body and blood.
The shouts of the boy who cried wolf are eventually silenced as he’s swallowed by the wolf.
But, in the gospel of Christ, his shouts of forgiveness and mercy never stop ringing. Because on the cross the Son of God gave himself to be swallowed by the wrath of his father’s anger at your sins and mine. Jesus died. He rose from the dead. Crushing and silencing the wolf and his threats. So, now his only cry is: It is finished.
"Sin and despair, like the sea-waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater–
yes, grace untold–
Points to the Refuge, the mighty Cross.
Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!"
(Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord, Julia H. Johnston, 1910)