HAPPY FATHER’S DAY
ALL YOU DADS
Thank God for Christian Fathers
Thank God for Christian Fathers
Have you ever heard of this? I hadn’t until my dad (a retired Baptist preacher) told me about the one he and my sisters attend.
Evidently, people can take their horses to this ‘church’ and remain seated on them during the entire service.
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO DIVINE SERVICE? But then, we’re not talking about anything even remotely close to Lutheran Worship now, are we….
My mom’s greatest disappointment is that there is no choir she can sing in. Bet they still have altar call though.
I wonder if they have poop-scoopin ushers?
Feud for thought….. that is if yah bring yer rifle….
Wonder if the preacher ever worries about preachin’ too much law with all those rifles in church…..
On a more serious note, it’s sad that these fad ‘churches’ are teaching so much error, one being that you can receive God’s salvation without and separate from the Holy Spirit.
For more on that topic please read my post entitled Feeling the Spirit?
OH NOE !!! I wash my sheets every week; sometimes MORE ~~ AND ~~ I just washed them yesterday! I know, ask you if you care… really……. and why would you?
But this morning when I was making my bed I found a DEAD spider in it! Thank GOODNESS it was on my husband’s side of the bed! He can handle it, he’s had cancer, afterall….. LOL!
Anyway… as you know, it doesn’t take much to ‘get me thinking…’ . AND this is no different.
I started wondering how the spider died. Did he get rolled over on? Did he get wacked by a million pound leg (in spider pounds of course)? Did he get chewed up and spit out? Because everyone knows that during the average person’s lifetime he eats at least 8 spiders in his sleep! And if you are one of those who didn’t know ~ well, now you do!
And who knows what that spider did before he died! He could have been crawling all over me. (shivers…. eeek…. yuck… freaks me out to think of it) And if he was doing that, what else was he doing? Did he crawl on my face? In my hair? Did he even think about crawling in my mouth? EEWWW!
Okay, so I’m a little scared of spiders. I HATE them. Especially the big fat hairy ones ~ and they are everywhere. You can’t get away from them! If I find one in the shower I am going unbathed until the professional spider killer gets home. That is unless I’ve had enough coffee and someone has made me mad enough that I think I can kill it on my own. I have been that brave, but not often.
I’m glad I didn’t find the spider on my side of the bed.
RE: Response to Timothy’s comment under my post entitled “You’re a WHAT?!”
The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod has written a response to the joint declaration on the doctrine of justification between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation (a body of liberal Roman-Lutheran Lutherans who are not really Lutheran at all). Read theirs here and here .
To those who mistakenly believe the LCMS to be a part of that process:
The LCMS has written a response to the above referenced agreement. You can read it here (pdf).
Whoever will be saved shall, above all else,
This isn’t a Lutheran Church, but it is highly relevant to all Christians’ freedom to worship in the USA.
A MUST read.
Yesterday we observed Pentecost, the day we celebrate as the birthday of the Church, the body of true believers and the Bride of Christ. As described in Acts 2:1-3, it was quite a day! The twelve apostles “… were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the spirit enabled them.” What a day! Wouldn’t you have loved to be there on that day! Better yet, wouldn’t you have loved to be one of those with the tongue of fire on your head! Just imagine the excitement they must have felt! Don’t you feel the excitment just reading about it?! I do.
Something my husband said in his sermon yesterday reminded me once again of where I came from and how I got here. He was talking about the wind and the tongues of fire and then he asked, “What are we missing?” When it comes to the Holy Spirit today – what are we missing? His answer – - ”nothing but the wind and the flames.” Huh? What do we expect to happen when we receive the Holy Spirit? I suppose the first question would be “how do we receive the Holy Spirit?”
Different denominations teach different things about this. This question is a source of great controversy among Christians.
I know someone who belongs to a church that calls themselves “non-denominational”. This church teaches that the Holy Spirit comes to a person at the moment they begin speaking in tongues (languages known only to God). They do not believe that the Holy Spirit is given to all who ‘decide’ to follow Christ. I know that Pentecostals believe something very similar to that. This belief can be traced back to the first Pentecost. But the Holy Spirit was around long before Pentecost and he revealed himself in other ways prior to that day. So why would God withold his Holy Spirit from some who believe and not others?
I should point out that when the Apostles spoke in other tongues at Pentecost, they spoke in other earthly languages. The languages (tongues) spoke in Pentecostal-type churches are unknown ‘languages’ that according to Scripture (I Corinthians 14:2), should not be done in worship. While you’re in I Corinthians, feel free to read that entire chapter. How appropriate that it follows what is written in Chapter 13.
Evangelical protestant Christians believe the Holy Spirit comes to them the moment they pray what they call the “sinner’s prayer”. But they have to be sincere about it once they’ve made the ‘decision’ to do so. So salvation and receiving the Holy Spirit requires that a person rightly and perfectly exercise their will. So what becomes of those who are like the soldier who said, “… I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24)? Not possible, for there is always some degree of unbelief in the human heart.
What do Lutherans believe? We know that we receive the Holy Spirit in Baptism and through the Gospel, the preaching of the Word.
So why the conflicting beliefs? God never changes, that’s probably one thing we all agree on. So how do we receive the Holy Spirit?
First, what do we know about the Holy Spirit? We know that He is part of the Trinity – - the Triune God. We know that Christ and the Holy Spirit are present with God throughout the Bible, from Genesis through Revelation. In Genesis we read of the Triune God before the world was ever created (Gen. 1:26). And in Revelation we read of the Triune God at the end of days (Rev. 22:16-18). Jesus tells us of the Triune God in John 10:30 and John 14:6 - 9 and Matthew 28:19. The Holy Spirit was with John the Baptizer while he was an infant in the womb (Luke 1:44). The Holy Spirit is revealed to us in Christ’s conception (Matthew 1:18), in His Baptism (Matthew 3:16), in His tempation (Matthew 4:1). So we see that the Holy Spirit was with Christ throughout His life on earth. So how do we know when and how we receive the Holy Spirit and salvation? We know the Holy Spirit serves to convict us of our sin. We know that He is also called The Comforter. Which comes first? What is the evidence? Shouldn’t there be some physical sign and shouldn’t we feel something when we receive the Holy Spirit?
That’s exactly what Baptism is when it is done in the name of the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit! Whether you believe it or not, that is exactly what Baptism is. Jesus instituted Baptism for us as a means of grace, a way to distribute the salvation from sin, death, and the devil, that he won for us when he died on the Cross.
In Mark 1:8 John says, “I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” When Jesus was baptized the Holy Spirit decended on him from heaven in the form of a dove (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:9). So why then, do we expect our Baptism to work anything less than the Baptism of Christ, the Baptism he institued for us? Is that too much to believe? As I said earlier, there is always some degree of unbelief in the human heart. No one is capable of perfect faith all the time. Another example of human logic and reason diverting us from the pure and simple work of God. Why must we continue to make ourselves greater than God by refusing to believe his promises to us? Why do we put more trust and faith in our own understanding of what Christ said rather than take him at his plain and simple Word?
Jesus didn’t need forgiveness of sins; he was without sin. So why did he want John’s Baptism of repentance? For us. He wanted it for us. In his own baptism, Christ made himself present in Baptism – for us. By commanding that we “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19) he took a baptism of repentance and transformed it into a means of grace by attaching his promise to it.
Both of the Sacraments we observe in The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Baptism and Communion, were given to us by Christ, for us, for the forgiveness of sins and for life and salvation.
And so I ask you: If these two Sacraments are only symbolic and if God works nothing in them, why did Christ establish them? And why did he Command us to continue observing them until he comes again? If Baptism is only symbolic and works nothing, why is it done in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? Insisting that Baptism works nothing and is only symbolic amounts to profaning the name of Christ, doesn’t it… ?
We do not receive the Holy Spirit in flames of fire dancing on our heads, or speaking in languages known only to God. This is why Jesus left us with Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, and the Scriptures.
And of course, in adults who have heard the preached Word of the Gospel prior to baptism, this is when they receive the Holy Spirit which works faith in their hearts. So baptism is the next step.
Further, we cannot rely on any feelings of the corrupt human heart for certainty of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. Surely, our hearts, minds, and souls are corrupted by sin from the moment of conception. But we can rely on God’s promises which he has attached to the common earthly element of water, when combined with the Word, established by Christ for us.
Interestingly, I am actually finishing up this post on May 31st, the date of my own baptism in 1970 when I was eleven years old. And so I celebrate this day.
Why does the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod practice close Communion?
Before I became a confirmed member of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod I sat in on a few services. Yeah ~ a daring thing for a professing “Baptist” to do. Those Lutherans have an awful lot of communion. They do it at least every two weeks, and even more during Advent and Lent. Why is that? And they use real wine too. Hmmmm…. Likewise, an interesting notion to someone who considered herself a very conservative Baptist. Everyone knows that a “good” Baptist doesn’t drink wine, or any alcohol for that matter. And especially not as part of the Lord’s Supper, which is only observed once every three or four months in the Baptist church. And why do Lutherans go forward to the altar to receive Communion? Baptists just stay in their seats and the ushers pass the trays of white bread with the crust cut off and little plastic cups of grape juice up and down the pews like the offering plate ~ and anyone who wants to can take it. So, as I sat in the pew watching those around me walk up to the altar to receive communion, I have to admit I felt a little left out and a lot resentful. Why do Lutherans have communion so often, why do they have to “sign up” for it, and why can’t just anybody who wants to, go forward to receive it? “What snobs these Lutherans are”, I thought. But why did it bother me so much when I didn’t even know what Lutherans believed about communion? Still, on more than one occasion, I thought “maybe I can just sneak up there and no one will notice” or “maybe I should just say I believe what Lutherans believe about communion, so I could have it”. But it wasn’t that simple and in my heart I knew that. Sure, I had read the Pastor’s statement on the back of the bulletin about communion. It said (with my own thoughts at the time in italics):
“+ I am a sinner, am sincerely sorry for my sins, and confess the need for God’s forgiveness. (okay – I agreed with that one. I know big-time what a sinner I am.)+ I believe in JESUS CHRIST as my only Lord and Savior from Satan, sin, and death. (yes, I believe that too!)
+ I believe that the true Body and Blood of Christ are really present in Holy Communion under the form of bread and wine (Augsburg Confession, Article X). (Now wait a minute! I had a huge problem with that. Southern Baptists believe that this is only a symbolic thing ~ don’t be talking about Christ’s true flesh and blood here.)
+ I desire forgiveness of all my sins, fellowship with Christ, and the proof of eternal life given in this Sacrament. (Okay, okay, okay! I believe all of this with the exception of the part about “proof of eternal life given in this Sacrament”. Afterall, didn’t proof of eternal life happen the moment I walked down that aisle to invite Jesus into my heart as my personal lord and savior, and agree to follow him?)
+ By the power of the Holy Spirit, I desire and intend to lead a more Godly and Christlike Life, trusting in God’s promises and obeying his commands. (yea, I guess I could say that and mean it…)
Those who hold in common this faith are welcome to join us in Holy Communion. If you have questions, or have not communed with us before, please speak with the pastor. (Now that was the clincher, I was sure that I did not hold in common that faith and I surely didn’t want to talk with the Pastor about it ~ he might try to “convert” me, and I wasn’t looking for that ~ I just wanted communion).”
So I stayed in my seat without realizing what I was missing out on and my heart was a little achy, because even in my own ignorance about what it was, I loved partaking of The Lord’s Supper. But that is not enough.
What do Lutherans believe about The Lord’s Supper? It is not just bread and wine. It is not symbolic. It joins us to Christ and to each other. It works forgiveness of sins and strengthens our faith. Human nature asks how this can be. How can these common earthly elements of bread and wine work anything for our spirit? Jesus, himself gave us this Holy Supper. Luke 22:19 & 20 says, “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’. And likewise the cup after they had eaten saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’” There is a lot to decypher in these two statements. This “new covenant” replaces the old covenant of Passover. (Likewise, the new covenant of Baptism replaces the old covenant of Circumcision, but I will save that for another time.)
God made promises to save and protect his people through their observation of Passover. God has attached, with his word, the gifts of grace and forgiveness to physical elements since the beginning of time, but it has to be done in His way. The Passover lamb was without blemish and was roasted whole, not a bone broken, on two spits (one horizontal and one crossing vertically over the other) upright over an open fire. Then it was eaten completely in haste with wine and bitter herbs; and all of it was to be eaten. Families too small to eat all of the lamb were instructed to invite enough guests over to help them eat the entire lamb. And it was the blood of the lamb smeared on the door posts that saved the Israelites from death. This was God’s promise. Likewise, it was at God’s command that the Passover be observed from thence forward. Jesus instituted The Lord’s Supper during Passover. Thus, under the new covenant, The Lord’s Supper is the fullfilment of the Passover meal and Jesus Christ is now become the Passover Lamb without blemish that takes away the sins of the world and saves us from death and the devil. True man and True God became the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Just as God saved the Israelites who observed the Passover meal as he instructed them to, He now also saves us men who observe The Lord’s Supper as he has instituted it for us and for our benefit. Our Lord’s body was broken for us and his blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus took God’s wrath that should have been mans upon himself. This is the new covenant in his blood. Now we Lutherans do not claim to know how God accomplishes this in communion. But because Jesus said “this is my body” and “this is my blood” we believe that He is truly present in the sacrament. We acknowledge that this is a mystery from the human perspective. But he said it and I believe it. The word “Is” means IS. (no redefining the meaning of the word here.) I find it interesting that other denominations can pick and choose the things that Jesus said, as they wish to believe them. But there is no getting around the word “is”. It truly is that plain and that simple.
Why do we human beings expect God to work in wondrous ways through wonderous means? It is the Word of God combined with these common elements of bread and wine that bring the true presence of Jesus Christ into the Holy meal, as is true in Baptism. And this is a wonderous mystery. In Baptism, the Word combined with the water works salvation and forgiveness of sins. And without the Word, the bread would be bread alone, and the wine would be wine alone. Without the Word, the waters of Baptism would be water alone. God joins himself in and through the Word, to these common elements and they become the saving grace that was issued from the Cross of Christ himself.
I Corinthians 10:16 says, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” We practice close communion to protect the unbelieving soul from drinking to his own damnation. I Corinthians 11:27 says, ” Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” And as it is written in I Corinthians 10:17, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” And, so we also practice close communion to preserve the fellowship of true believers as they come to The Lord’s Table.
Before I became Lutheran, communion was a time to sit in my seat and beat myself up for being so evil that it required Jesus’ death to save me from my sins. It was a time for feeling guilt, shame, and unworthiness. And following communion, I left feeling the same.
But now that I know the true meaning of The Lord’s Supper, I gladly run to His table where I receive grace, forgiveness of sins, and strengthening of faith in partaking of, and participating in the Lord’s true body and true blood until he returns to take me home where I will join him at his own table in Heaven
I was chatting with one of my Lutheran friends this morning and she said, “Sunday the choir is singing ‘Day by Day’ and we’ve jazzed it up quite a bit. We haven’t told pastor so he’ll be surprised. But he likes contemporary music anyway.”
That got me to thinking… That sounds like something I’d expect to hear from a member of practically any church body, except Lutheran.
Although I love my friend dearly, I have to ask: What is it with all these Lutheran Baptist-wanna-be’s? Being raised Baptist myself, and being the daughter of a Baptist minister, I have to say ~ You Lutherans don’t know what a treasure you possess! Please don’t trade it off for something else designed to appeal to human emotions, intellect and feelings!
A church body’s doctrine is reflected in its worship and music. Yeah ~ it is… think about it. Pick up a hymnal ~ any hymnal. Then pick up a Lutheran hymnal. Compare the songs. What are they about? Who are they about? Is it full of “I, me, my, mine” or is it full of Christ?
Before my husband’s application to the seminary could be accepted we had to go through an interview with our District President and a couple of other pastors. That is the process. During that interview one of the pastors, knowing my background, asked me, “was becoming Lutheran hard for you?” My answer was, “YES ~ Absolutely! It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done because it required me to examine my entire belief system: what do I believe and why do I believe it?”
I had been an unchurched Baptist for several years. But a Baptist, none the less, so I considered myself. I knew the Bible very well. And knowing the Bible I knew where to look in order to defend my Baptist beliefs.
Many years before that pre-seminary interview, before I met my husband, I had visited several different types of churches. Afterall, we were all worshiping the same God, weren’t we? So what does it matter if we do it in our own unique way?
The Pentecostals had very loud services with lots of praise music and wave offerings, both of which reflects their theology of glory. There were always people standing or sitting as they pleased throughout the service. And sporatically, during the service, there were people loudly raising their arms speaking in some unknown ‘language’. Sometimes there were two or three people doing it at the same time! “Woah now ~ wait just a minute! What the heck is going on here?”, I thought to myself. It really freaked me out… “This is really different… but I suppose it’s okay, as long as they’re sincere… after all, who am I to judge a person’s heart or the way they choose to worship?” I used to say that I was going to church there to get my ‘battery’ recharged. I was a ’seeker’, so I attended those services until I left feeling just as empty inside as I had when I began.
Baptist from the age of 10, I felt more comfortable in a church where there was singing from the Baptist Hymnal, no one disrupting the service. There was more order and there were no surprises from the choir. Every congregational song was led by a paid Director of Music. Then the pastor would deliver a wholloping sermon as he beat the pulpit with his fist. His job was to make people feel so guilty, so evil, so wretched and unworthy that they’d come forward during altar call at the end of the service. And he did a good job of it too! During altar call the pastor stood in the pulpit or at the front of the church urging people to come forward and ‘accept’ Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. ”The first step is the hardest,” he would say. “… once you step into that aisle you’re on your way home.” So I treked down that aisle. And I did it again and again and again. But I couldn’t get that peace that they said comes from ‘knowing’ Christ. There I often heard the word “grace” but the Gospel was used to beat people into submission to God. It wasn’t presented rightly. The idea is this: Jesus Died for You ~ you should live for Him. Like I *owed* him something in exchange for my salvation. His love was not unconditional. I lived in a perpetual state of doubting my salvation and I was constantly asking myself if I really meant it when I went forward and prayed the ’sinner’s prayer’. I was never sure of my sincerity. So I profaned the blood of Christ by believing that if I tried hard enough, I might be able to earn this ‘grace’. I was even Baptized twice ~~ because I wasn’t sure that I really understood what I was doing in my Baptism. What I was doing?? What WAS I doing??? What a mess I was.
Many years later, I sat in on an adult “information” class at a Lutheran church (LCMS). It was extrememly uncomfortable but I stuck it out for 3 weeks. And I let that pastor and everyone else in that class know how horribly wrong they were about baptism and communion. Oh Yeah ….. I let them have it. The pastor just wasn’t looking at the scriptures rightly, and I was going to show him. But I couldn’t out argue him. “This guy’s tough,” I thought. And it was aggravating, so I quit going. (As it turned out, that very pastor was one of the men attending the pre-seminary interview! Scary? You bet, but it made his day.)
After that, I didn’t visit any church for a long time, but I still considered myself Baptist.
Then I met my husband…. And this could turn into a really really long story so I will spare you the details, which you can read in some of my previous posts here.
Let’s get back to that pre-seminary interview now… I was sitting at a round table with some ‘big-wig’ Lutherans who would determine my husband’s future so my knees were knocking. Like I said earlier, becoming Lutheran was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – even harder than childbirth. In childbirth you know what you’re working toward. But examining your entire belief system requires some brutal honesty.
It was at that Baptismal font the day our baby was baptized. On that day I tried to resist what the Holy Spirit was working in me, but He was stronger than all my Baptist beliefs. For it was at that Baptismal font that I saw close up for the first time what the true meaning of grace is. I saw the pure and unconditional grace of God’s love for my little three week old son, who was helpless to do anything for himself, being poured out on his little head. And as the tears streamed uncontrollably down my cheeks, I knew that this was a work of God.
Not long after that I began adult Catechism with the pastor. I was fortunate enough to be the only person in the class. So I could ask him anything I wanted to. And I could argue fiercly as I wanted to. This pastor, God bless him, was kind and patient but firm in his explanations. He showed me what the scripture says about Baptism and Communion and salvation. It was all there – plain and simple. So how could I continue believing anything different than exactly what scripture said? I couldn’t, and I didn’t.
And here I am.
Having wandered far off the topic I expected to write about, I will say this:
YOU Lutherans who want to worship in a Baptist or Pentecostal way don’t know what a treasure you possess in Lutheran Worship. The Liturgy = scripture set to music.
Simply stated, the evangelical protestant worship service is about going to church, giving to God, and doing for God because He is ‘worthy’ of honor, praise, and glory and it misses the mark – completely.
Don’t throw out the Liturgy in exchange for “feel good” stuff. We Lutheran Lutherans go to church to receive. Yes, we give back too. But the primary thing we receive are forgiveness of sins, salvation from death and the devil, and God’s pure, unconditional grace distributed to us in the two sacraments Christ established for us for His purpose.. and the Liturgy points us to Christ and Christ alone. The Liturgy shifts the focus of worship from “I, me, my, and mine” to Christ and what He has done for us.
One difference in musical text that has particularly struck me is this: The Baptist hymnal says “my salvation” while the Liturgy says “thy salvation”. Whose salvation is it anyway? Yours or His?
So, if you ever consider surprising your pastor with some happy clappy feel good music, think about the text and what it is saying. Is it full of “shine Jesus shine” or “I, me, my, and mine”? Or is it about Jesus Christ alone and what He does and has done?
Just a post-script: I know there are true believers in other Christian denominations. And this is true. However, we must be able to recognize the error in their beliefs and practices. And we must not try to be like them in worship. We must continue to defend and protect the purity of Lutheran Doctrine and Lutheran Worship.
This was in response (polished up a bit) to something one of my new blogger friends, Liz said. And since all of our paths don’t cross, I’m posting it here as well.
“One of the hardest things for evangelicals who convert to Lutheran theology, or at least for me, is getting away from “decision” mentality.”
Hi Liz ~ I understand where you’re coming from. When you’ve spent so much of your life under the bondage of your own will it is hard to grasp the concept that we cannot make a decision ‘for’ or ‘to follow’ Christ.Let me explain .
Decision theology is rooted in the idea that a man’s ‘free will’ determines where he will spend eternity; that if a man is to receive God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, he must exercise his ‘free will’ in the way that would please God by ‘deciding’ to become a Christian. There are so many errors with this theology.
First, I will say that if a man is able to bring himself into God’s salvation through ‘accepting’ or ‘deciding’ to ‘follow’ Jesus ~ that man is making himself greater than God. Here is why: When Adam & Eve sinned in the garden, that was the beginning of Original Sin, the sin that we are born with since the fall of man. Because of original sin, man is corrupt to the soul. Everything about man is corrupted from the moment he is conceived. We are not only sinners, we are sin in the flesh - to the core. Thus, everything about mankind is contrary (against) what God wills for us. Therefore, our ‘free’ will is contrary to God.
Our free will is so contrary to God that we are **UNABLE** to exercise our will to do anything good, including being ’saved’. We have absolutely nothing to do with our salvation. It is soley and 100% God’s work, none of ours. It is through hearing of the Word (Romans 10:17) that the Holy Spirit begins working faith in our hearts. SO ~ BY THE TIME A PERSON IS ABLE TO MAKE A “decision” FOR CHRIST ~ The Holy Spirit has ALREADY worked faith in his heart. It is not a work of man, but of the Holy Spirit on hearing the Word. Jesus established Baptism for us. At Baptism, a child receives the Holy Spirit, who in turn works faith in that Child’s heart. In the adult convert, faith is often worked in their heart before they are Baptized.
Because our will is so corrupted by original sin, we could not come to Christ if we WANTED to ~ that’s how sinful we are. The bottom line is that if a person believes that they can bring themself into God’s salvation by the exercising of their own free will, they do not believe in original sin. This is what decision theology is rooted in.
I’ll give you several scripture passages that explains how it is God who does everything in our salvation, and that we are not saved by the exercising of our own [corrupted] free will.
GOD alone is responsible for the right exercising of our will in any matter, especially in our salvation:”For it is GOD who works in you, BOTH to WILL and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13 (ESV)
It is GOD alone who works belief in Christ in our hearts:”Jesus answered them, ‘this is the work of God, that you believe in him who has sent me.” John 6:29 (ESV)
We cannot come to Christ without the Holy Spirit. God alone draws us to him: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me DRAWS HIM.” John 6:44 (ESV)
We are not ABLE to say that Jesus is our Lord, we are too corrupted by original sin: “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and NO ONE CAN SAY THAT JESUS IS LORD EXCEPT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.” I Corinthians 12:3 (NKJV)
Can you imagine a dead person raising himself from the dead? That is impossible! Isn’t it…. Lazurus could not raise himself from the dead ~ it was Jesus who raised Lasurus from the dead. In the same way God works faith in our hearts raising us from spiritual death to salvation in Jesus Christ: “You were DEAD in the tresspasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by NATURE children of WRATH, like the rest of mankind. BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, EVEN WHEN WE WERE DEAD IN OUR TRESPASSES, MADE US ALIVE together with Christ – by GRACE you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:1-5 (ESV)
Grace is not something WE decide to receive, GRACE is not something WE DO – if it were, it would not be grace. If we have to decide to recieve God’s grace then it becomes a WORK that we must do: “For by GRACE you have been saved THROUGH FAITH. AND THIS IS NOT YOUR OWN DOING: it is the GIFT OF GOD, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
GOD CHOSE US, we did not choose him: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit…” John 15:16 (NKJV)
Finally, we cannot exert our own will to attain salvation through Christ: “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ So then it depends NOT ON HUMAN WILL or exertion, but on GOD, who has mercy.” Romans 9:15-16
When Jesus was baptized by John, the Holy Spirit came upon him in the form of a dove. IN THE SAME WAY ~ the Holy Spirit comes to US in baptism. Jesus ordained Baptism FOR US. BAPTISM is God’s way of distributing the salvation that Christ won for us on the Cross [as is communion].
Baptism is not merely an “appropriate initiation” into Christianity. By virtue of what Jesus established for us in his OWN Baptism, it is a means by which we receive the Holy Spirit. Yes ~ it is just the beginning!
I hope this helped you somewhat. As a former Baptist, I too struggled with letting go of the notion that I can bring myself into God’s salvation by the exercising of my own “free” [CORRUPTED BY SIN TO THE CORE] will. Remember ~ our will is CONTRARY to God and it is CONTRARY to everything good therefore our will is not CAPABLE of choosing Christ ~ it is the Holy Spirit who first works faith in our hearts ~ before we are able to confess it with our mouths. If we must “choose” Christ ~ then that choosing is a work toward righteousness. And we are not capable of desiring anything righteous unless the Holy Spirit has FIRST worked it in our hearts.
When someone asks you when you were saved you can always say, “two thousand years ago when Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins.” That always blows their minds.The Protestant Evangelical’s “testimony” is only an account of how they believe they have used their own corrupted free will to choose Christ. The drama that often comes in sharing of testimonies is only an account of the sins that person has committed, the same sins that all of us are capable of committing. He has received no more or no less forgiveness for the depth of his sin than you and I have. So why is an account of all that sin even necessary. Testimonials are all about the person who is “testifying”. Think on that… What do you hear in a testimony? An awful lot of “I, ME, MY, MINE” and very little of Christ until the very end when they take credit for GODS work.
RE: Barbara Walters’ recent television special on Heaven.
It is more and more apparent that the mainstream liberal media’s agenda is dedicated to the promotion of syncretism in Christianity and humanistic existentialist unionism in religion. They continue to present Christianity as the biggoted, intolerant, politically incorrect religious expression of a bunch of fanatical kooks. Why don’t any of these people seek to interview LCMS Pastors? Maybe it’s because our Pastors hold to the truths of the Bible without compromise. Maybe it’s because they have the courage to address, from the pulpit, issues that aren’t even spoken of in other denominations for fear of being called intolerant biggots. OR could it be because some of these other denominations embrace the lifestyles and behaviors that God condemns as sin (even ELCA). Where is OUR freedom to speak the truths of Scripture, on our own turf no less, without the threat of being arrested for “hate speech”. Not that fear of threat is a factor ~ it can’t be, else we have denied God’s Word, compromised Pastoral responsiblity, and endangered souls.
Syncretism attempts to unite all faiths claiming to be “Christian” into one “can’t-we-all-just-get-along” ecumenical lump. And so many of our congregations and lay leaders do not recognize or understand what this is and how dangerous an error it is. But when we agree to participate in and embrace ecumenical worship services, pulpit exchange, and participate together with them in the sacraments, we are denying Lutheran Theology and the confessions of the One True Faith as directed by Scripture and Scripture alone. That is not to say that there are not true believers in other Christian denominations ~ of course, there are. But we need to be aware of the theological differences between denominations and beware of being sucked into this mindset. The whole ecumenical movement is based on ignorance of one’s own beliefs and other denominational doctrines.
Unionism is the attempt to meld all religions into *one* by claiming that all gods are one in the same and that there are many different paths that all lead to the same god. This is nothing short of idolatry. But people are hungry to hear this because to the flesh, it is “affirming” and makes rebellious souls “feel” better about the way they live although it is contrary to what Scripture teaches and what God requires. It is humanist, existentialist, and doesn’t define or address sin. Forbid we say the “s” word. The rebellious soul does not want to take responsibility for admitting its inborn sin as defined by God himself, nor does it want to accept the consequences of sin: condemnation and eternal death and separation from God in Hell.
A good example of unionism, which still remains a great controversy within the LCMS because so many lay people don’t know what syncretism and unionism is, and how dangerous it is, is what happened at Yankee Stadium after Sept. 11 when Rev. David Benke prayed to Our Lord, The One True God, invoking (inviting or calling) His presence into a unionistic worship and prayer service with leaders and teachers of false relgions. The rebellious human nature has it’s own plan for salvation which is based on human rationale and feelings, but this is blatantly contrary to God’s plan. Fallen man’s plan is so much more complicated than God’s plan, and it doesn’t work salvation; it works damnation. Such people want to believe that all paths lead to the same place and the same god rather than to believe what God has laid out so simply for us already in the Bible. But believing the Bible means that you have to believe it is the inerrant inspired Word of God, unlike those intellectuals who like to call themselves “Biblical Scholars” but treat the Bible as if it were just another piece of literature. The first of the ten commandments is “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3 ~ *Before ME* ~ that means *above me* and/or *in my presence*. Remember how the temple was desecrated with a statue of Zeus? An act of abomination and desolation declared by God himself. And that is exactly what Rev. Benke did at Yankee stadium. He invoked the presence of our God into the presence of false gods and religions in the guise of unity. An abominable damnable unity. And this act has been pooh-poohed by some of the finest lay people in our congregations as a wonderful act of tolerance, a way to “reach out” to unbelievers. I say no.
II Corinthians 6:14 – 16 says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God…”
As Lutheran Christians, we are here to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people, not to befriend and embrace their false religions in the name of “outreach” or whatever else you might want to call it.
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for thier perversion.
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.”
Romans 1:24-27 NIV
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The other day someone emailed me a photo of a sign that said “My boss told me to change the sign, so I did”. Okay… Too funny.
While driving around town, I like to read signs. Church signs especially catch my attention. But some of the things I’ve seen on church signs amazingly look like they may have been taken directly from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. I know ~ I shouldn’t really be surprised now, should I? Although January is nearly over, the sign I saw on a Baptist church today said, “Is your priority to be more like Jesus in 2006?”
What kind of question is that? Is my priority….. to be more like Jesus….. ? That sounds like quite a feat! Is that possible? Something to aspire to, I suppose. Do I really need to be like Jesus? Why? Yeah, a sign like that might look good to someone driving by about 50 miles an hour in casual passing on their way to work . But what does it really mean? And why do churches put messages on their signs anyway? Is it for the people inside the building, or those outside on the street just driving by, like me? Either way, it sounds like I need to walk the straight and narrow, maybe even try to be perfect. And what do I get for being more like Jesus?
The real problem with a sign like this is that it suggests that by merely making it my priority, I can achieve being like Jesus. Secondly, there is no grace in it ~ it’s all law. It’s just like asking, “Is it your priority to keep the ten commandments in 2006?“ We call this way of thinking “decision theology“. The driving force behind decision theology is the idea that man can bring himself into God’s plan of salvation through the right and good exercising of his own free will. But there is an error in this way of thinking. Mankind’s free will has been corrupted from the moment Satan seduced Adam and Eve to use their “free will” to sin against God by eating of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. They believed the devil’s lie that their “choice” (disobedience) would make them equal to God. The first time mankind exercised the use of his own free will sin entered into the world and the human race for all eternity. The consequence for all of us is physical death and spiritual death by separation from God in hell, a place of punishment created for the devil and his angels. And it cannot be undone by the human will. Likewise, mankind cannot bring himself into salvation by his own free will. We cannot be any more like Jesus than we can keep the ten commandments. Jesus is the perfect Lamb without spot or blemish; he is True Man and True God. He is without sin.
Our free will, which is part of our inborn human nature, is contrary to (against) God in every way. We see it from birth. Yes, little babies are born with a sinful rebellious spirit that is against God. We might not find the sins of infants as blatantly rebellious as that of a convicted murderer, but it is there nonetheless. We tend to see infants as innocent and pure. Untainted by the ways of the world, maybe, but not innocent, pure, or sinless by any means. Anyone who has raised a child can testify to that. Why do you think they call it “the terrible two’s”? Because at about two years of age a child realizes that he is his own person, so he exercises his own free will to be contrary by saying “no”. If babies are not sinful, why do they hear “no” so much from their parents? “No, no, no!” And why do they throw temper tantrums when they don’t get what they immediately want? Because they are rebellious against the God-given authority of their parents, which by the way is a breach of the 4th Commandment, and rebellion against God. So what does an infant who is not able to “prioritize” anything do for salvation? Children are not granted a lesser degree of guilt from sin just because they lack the ability to rationalize or verbalize it. This is why infant baptism is so important. For in Baptism an infant is brought into salvation through God’s grace and receives the Holy Spirit who works faith in him. Contrary to what mainstream Protestantism teaches, the Holy Spirit can work faith in infants. The work of the Holy Spirit in an infant’s life is not invalidated by the child’s inability to speak of it. God has the same set of rules for all mankind, infants and adults alike. He would not be a just God if he did not. Rather, he would be a God of double standards. So you see why infants need Baptism just as much, even more, than anyone. Believing in an “age of accountability” in essence is saying that mankind is not born with sin, but rather has no sin until he is old enough to know it. It’s like having a cancerous mole between your eyes. You can’t see it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Psalms 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” We were sinful from the moment of conception. I John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Likewise, I John 1:10 says, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” All have sinned ~ even infants. Romans 3:23 & 24 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
So where does this faith in Jesus come from? As Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” And again, in Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So faith comes through hearing, hearing through the word of Christ, and it is nothing that we can do for ourselves. God creates faith in us through his grace. But how? By the work of the Holy Spirit through the word of Christ. Not unlike what the Holy Spirit worked in Mary at the conception of Christ. Mary had nothing to do with it. We don’t know how Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit, but she did. Likewise, we cannot rely upon our own human understanding in this because it is beyond our earthly comprehension. Further, Galatians 3:2 says, “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” Our will has no part in our salvation. We do not receive the Holy Spirit by our own doing, by our own invitation, or by our own will. If we believe we must will ourselves into God’s grace then is it really grace? If we believe our salvation depends upon our own decisions then aren’t we making ourselves greater than God? If we are able to save ourselves by our own choice, then why did Christ die? The Holy Spirit alone works faith in our hearts. He descends upon us like he did on Jesus at his Baptism, on Mary at her conception, and on Elizabeth and her unborn baby, John. And we cannot trust our will to do anything good.
Just as we do, the apostle Paul struggled with human will, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:18 & 19). So desiring to do what is right does not work because we do not possess the ability to carry it out! This is a hard thing for some people to accept. Human nature wants to feel in control of things. But the truth is that when we are in control, everything goes wrong because we are filled with sin – and that’s the best we can do! Romans 8:7 & 8 says, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Thank God for his free gift of grace that has nothing to do with our choice-making: “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3 & 4).
The belief that our salvation depends on what choices we make puts us in a perpetual state of uncertainty about our salvation. This is because the choices we make are based on human feelings, reason, and logic. None of these things are reliable or trustworthy.
I think some churches use their signs as fish hooks. Maybe they think some “catchy” little phrase might draw in visitors or lure seekers. Anyone can make it their priority to be like Jesus. Some people might think Buddha or the Dalai Lama are like Jesus. But thankfully, our salvation has nothing to do with our being like Jesus. Faith does not follow works – rather works are a natural byproduct of faith. An apple tree doesn’t groan to bear banannas, but naturally produces apples. Prioritize as you will, it is not enough. We can look only to God for our salvation. What a relief, huh?
While walking through the mall (if you like that sort of thing ~ personally, I hate mall shopping), it’s not unusual or uncommon to be approached by proselytizing anabaptists-in-training who like to ask, “Have you been saved?” The next question is, “When?”. The answer I always give is, “Yes, 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ bowed his head on the cross and said ‘It is finished’.” It gets them every time! Not one single person has ever asked what I meant by that or better yet, even try to argue with it (whoosh ~ the deed done, they’re gone as quietly as they snuck up)!A former S.B., I’ve done my share of door-knocking in my youth, always accompanied by an older experienced, and “wiser” Visitor, of course (they call it “visitation”). Visitation ~ it sounds like the last thing they do with a body before the funeral (actually, that is called a “calling” ~ I used to sell funerals & cemetery).
Unlike most confessional Lutherans I know, I was not Baptized as an infant. Rather, I was required to reach what anabaptists call “the age of accountability” before receiving the gift of Baptism. My dad was not always a pastor, and my parents were unchurched for many years so I don’t remember hearing the words of the Gospel until I was at least ten years old. Well ~ contrary to what anabaptists teach, it was when the Gospel first fell on my ears that I received salvation. But I was denied Baptism until I was eleven years old. It was only after I had secretly and shamefully said “the sinner’s prayer” and confessed it to my mom, followed by a meeting with the pastor of the Baptist church (in which I was asked to give my “testimony”), in order to determine whether or not I was indeed qualified, that I received Baptism. Confessing my sin in that way was like telling someone a dirty little secret about myself. And they attached that guilt to the Baptism. Thankfully, there is no requirement or prerequsite for Baptism.
So on May 31, 1979 I was received into the family of God through Baptism. It was not a date that was written down anywhere in my parent’s records, so I had to do some persistent digging to find it. Still, the date of my Baptism was important. As much as we had moved over the course of my childhood (my dad was in the Navy), I managed to remember the name of the church and what city it was in. So I “googled” them and emailed the pastor to ask if he had any record of my Baptism. He did not respond for months. Still, I persisted. He must have finally tired of my emails because he then referred me to his secretary who was eager to help. She mailed a copy of my Baptism record. It was like finding my birthday!
When anabaptists Baptize in the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost, who are truly present in Baptism, it remains a valid, scriptural Baptism. But sadly, the error is in their belief that God works nothing in Baptism. Because to the anabaptist, Baptism is only symbolic; a work of one’s own doing that is only a testimony of salvation; something that is done to prove to witnesses that you are indeed “saved”. My question to this is, “then why bother to do it at all? I mean, works don’t save you, do they?” But this is what Baptism becomes for them, a work of righetousness. As in Communion, they don’t even claim to reach up to God, they only claim to proclaim the faith they believe they have worked in their own hearts.
But for Baptists, there is no sense of urgency to Baptize. They refer to Baptism as an “ordinance” ~ something that offers no grace, salvation, or forgiveness of sins, but is done only because Christ ordained it. Inspite of their disbelief in the gift of grace, forgiveness of sins, salvation from eternal death in Hell, and the devil, they indeed receive the same. Anabaptists do not recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in Baptism. And they despise infant Baptism. But Acts 2:38 & 39 says, “And Peter said to them, repent and be Baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Aren’t babies included in the phrase “every one of you”? And this promise is for you and your children. Both adults and babies (your children) also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism just as the Holy Spirit ascended upon Jesus in the form of a dove in his own Baptism. We know that babies and infants can have faith. Luke 1:41 says, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Even Elizabeth’s unborn child recognized the unborn Christ child. Again, Matthew 21:16 says, “and they said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes, have you never read, out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise?’”. Further, Matthew 18:2 says, “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” Likewise, Matthew 19:14 says, “but Jesus said, Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” So why would a loving parent not want to bring their child to God through Baptism?
True believers cannot continue to doubt or argue with Scripture. We receive salvation, forgiveness of sins, and the Holy Spirit in Baptism. And it is the Holy Spirit who works faith in our hearts. We do not work faith in our own hearts, we are not capable. I Peter 3:21 says, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Galatians 3:2 says, “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?”
We all know the story of the thief on the cross. Truthfully, we don’t know whether or not he had been afforded Baptism prior to his crucifixion. It is probably safe to assume that he had not, and yet Jesus promised that he would be in paradise with him that very day. The thief recieved salvation through Jesus Christ alone, The Word made flesh who dwelt among us. And although the theif probably had not received Baptism, he recognized Jesus as the Son of God, True Man and True God, The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Salvation is not of our own doing. God works faith in our hearts and lives through the Word and the Water. So we receive the Holy Spirit, who works faith in our hearts and lives. We are helpless to save ourselves by choice or decision. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” And again, John 6:44 says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” It is the Father who draws us to him, not anything we as human beings might do.