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Don't Eat At The Buffet of American Evangelicalism!

Do you regularly eat at The Buffet of American Evangelicalism?

Don't! I used to. I don't anymore though, thanks be to God! Why? Well, because it's spiritual poison and we all know that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" (Galatians 5:9).

For the better part of the last 2 years, I've attended services each week with my family at the local LCMS church where we are members (and still do although my preference is to attend the earlier "Traditional Worship" service as opposed to the ever-so-popular and later "Contemporary Worship" service).

Would you believe that during that entire time I never once researched what Lutherans believe and teach or why I was choosing to place my family under it all. How irresponsible was I? And yet, I prided myself on being the "discerning" Christian within my circle of family members and friends.

It's strange looking back at that period of time from where I am today though with my feet firmly planted on the Rock, because I can clearly see that even if I had known more about Lutheran doctrine, there was absolutely nothing that I could quickly and easily identify and point to as being distinctly different about being a Lutheran and a member of that church body when compared to the rest of Evangelical Christianity as it exists in America today.

Not so good, my dear friends. Not good at all.

So, naturally, as I made my escape from American Evangelicalism (as noted in the previous posts) while God left a trail of bread crumbs for me to follow that led back to the Lutheran Church, His one true Church (John 6:44; Romans 3:11), I began to ask myself some very important questions.

"What do we Lutherans actually believe?"

"How is any of that different from what the Evangelicals believe?"

"Why does it matter?"

"Why haven't I been taught any of this at all over the past 2 years?"

"Why am I a Confessional Lutheran in the LCMS?"

As I began reading the Book of Concord and the Catechism with my Holy Bible open and in hand every step of the way (Acts 17:11), and as I've listened to other Lutheran Pastors and their ministries from around the country more than any of the other non-Lutheran voices competing for my attention on a weekly basis like I used to (particularly Issues, Etc., Steadfast Lutherans, Worldview Everlasting, and Table Talk Radio to name a few), the Holy Spirit helped me to discern the truth about everything for the first time.


I mean, it all just seemed to "click" and it all made perfect sense to me for the first time ever even though I thought I intellectually understood the truth up to this point in my life.

Thankfully, I now knew the Biblical distinction between being a Confessional Lutheran and being an American Evangelical Christian. Evangelicalism has many different packaging labels itself, depending on the "key ingredients" and "flavor" you want your version of Christianity to have, but don't be fooled, because the Manufacturer/Distributor is always the same "American Evangelicalism" and they treat our cherished Christian faith like an accessory, a brand, or a commodity.




Back to our Buffet of American Evangelicalism analogy here today.

Sadly, even after learning (and continuing to learn) about Lutheran doctrine and how its confession of faith preserves the pure Word of God more so than any other good-intentioned, sincere, well-meaning alternative out there today that's calling itself "Christian" and that's even using Christian concepts, words, passages, and phrases (albeit with different definitions of those concepts, words, passages, and phrases), I was disheartened to learn that my own LCMS church has left her confessions, her foundation, her First Love (Jesus Christ and His doctrine as found in His Word and Sacraments) despite her claims to the contrary...and all because their bellies are hungry for something better, something fresh, something more, something new.

I didn't realize this until recently, because I was ignorant of the truth. It wasn't until I took the time to discover for myself what it is that we Confessional Lutherans actually believe (and why) that I then came face-to-face with the harsh reality that even the church's own leaders don't really know what we believe or why. The trickle down effect has been disastrous!

So, while I finally feel as though I am "home" in a theological sense with a true "peace of God, which surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7), I still feel "lost" in the sense that my local church family is living with "Spiritual Amnesia," and this Spiritual Amnesia is causing them all to forget the sheer simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Doctrine of Justification, and it's a main reason why they are all willing to get together on a weekly basis and feed themselves from The Buffet of American Evangelicalism instead of from the Lord's holy Word and holy Sacraments.

The Buffet of American Evangelicalism cannot deliver what it promises. The Buffet of American Evangelicalism cannot offer what it doesn't have. The Buffet of Evangelicalism cannot provide what God can through His Word and Sacraments. The Buffet of American Evangelicalism cannot offer what God can through His Word, through His Sacraments, and through being a Confessional Lutheran.

It just can't. And if anyone should know, then it should be me, because I have fed myself with that All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet long enough. Then one day I discovered that for some strange reason I have been given exclusive V.I.P. Access to the hottest 5-Star Fine Dining Restaurant in town even though I look like a dirty, poor, sick, wretched customer who shouldn't even think of setting foot in that establishment!

John 10:27 (ESV) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Galatians 2:16 (ESV) yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

American Evangelical Christianity is good at one thing -- it approaches faith with a consumer mentality and gives people whatever it is they want. They know their target audience who  just relocated here from a place called Laodicea.


Perhaps a better way to describe it is to say that if you're a Christian here in this country and in this day and age, then you can most certainly find a "brand" and a "style" that is "just right" for you, when you should be trying to find the one that is accurate and faithful to the Lord and His Word; the one you need as opposed to the one you want.

Like I said, The Buffet of American Evangelicalism has a lot to offer -- and I mean, a lot -- that can surely satisfy you for a season, but before long your stomach starts to cramp up and hurt, and you eventually realize that you have come down with an awful case of food poisoning.

The problem for most self-professing Christians today is that they just write that off as some "random" and "unfortunate" incident, rather than recognizing that it's a problem that is not just a "one time thing" since it's never going away. Everything about that Buffet is unsanitary from the building to the employees and the food and utensils they use!

And so what do we do? Well, what did I do? I kept feeding on that food instead of feeding on the true Word and Sacraments. We keep feeding on the same spiritual food, because we keep hearing our family members and friends talking about how "good" it is, and how we should "try it" once, because it's "really good" and it will not only taste good, but make us feel good, and maybe even make us be good (be healthier spiritually speaking, right?), and then we visit The Buffet of American Evangelicalism hopeful that it will do something good for us (even if it's only a harmless and mindless distraction from the cares of this world for an hour or two), and we instantly conclude they must be right.

Why? Because look at all that food! It's looks sooooooo good, doesn't it? And it tastes sooooooo good too! Plus, we can have as little or as much as we want whenever we want! Even better, if we don't feel like eating a certain kind of food today, then we can choose the kind that we want for that specific day.

Never mind that we were just puking our guts out and sitting on the toilet all night long just 24-48 hours earlier from the food poisoning we got from eating here last time we were hungry. Never mind about the kind of food we need either. We're here because we know what's best for us, and we know what we want, and we're gonna give ourselves what we want! Now, please pass me the Pharisee Salt of Spiritual Pride and the Pep-Error so we can sprinkle them both on today's meal and feel good about ourselves.

Oh, I almost forgot! While we think that all of that is "very, very good" indeed, there's actually one thing that's even better that makes our whole time spent at The Buffet of American Evangelicalism time well spent and worth every single minute.

It's the "true Christian fellowship" we get to enjoy with others who are there with us who won't judge us for the types of food, or even the amount of food, that we put on our plate. It's nice to know that you can enjoy the type of meal you want with others who are just like you who will never criticize you for your selections, who will never challenge you to try something else, and who will never ever have the audacity to tell you that "you shouldn't eat that because it's dangerous for your health and will make you sick!"

Those people are the worst, aren't they? Buzz kill! Come to think of it, the worst are the people who go with you the The Buffet of American Evangelicalism for the first time (because you invited them) who absolutely refuse to try anything that's available -- even though you have been eating there for weeks, perhaps even years, and have graciously offered to pay for their meal since you're only trying to help them get the kind of food you know they really need -- all because they keep on nagging you (like a parrot on your shoulder yapping in your ear over and over again) about how they're not going to eat anything, and you shouldn't either, because you were sick from the Buffet's food just the other day.

Seriously? They act like their words are some kind of a Fork-In-The-Road (pun intended), and that you have to make a choice (no doubt a choice to do what they want you to do!) when really they're just being a Stick-In-The-Mud and need to lighten up a bit without being so negative and narrow-minded all the time. Geesh! Who wants to hear that anyway, especially after a long, hard, stressful week when all you want to do is sit down, put your feet up, relax, and enjoy good food that will make you feel good with good friends who will make you feel even better?

Ok, I'm sure you get the point by now (at least, I sincerely hope you do). I'm also sure I'm starting to sound a little redundant here, and like a broken record this week, but I just can't stop help myself.

How can I stop sharing the good news about the "Good News" since it's like I've discovered it for what God always intended it to be for the very first time in my life? I mean, it's almost like it's (He's) FINALLY become alive and real to me, and I get it, even though I thought I got it before (if that makes any sense whatsoever). Simply put, I was the one who was dead and fake.

I highly recommend that if your history with The Buffet of American Evangelicalism is anything even remotely like mine, then I'm here to tell you that Lutheran doctrine has what the Buffet doesn't. No, it's not about placing your faith in an institution, but about placing your faith in Jesus Christ who died on the cross as punishment for your sins, died and was buried, only to be resurrected from the grave so that you could be forgiven for your sins, and could spend eternity with God.

Lutheran doctrine (a.k.a Biblical doctrine) can satisfy what The Buffet of American Evangelicalism hasn't been able to satisfy, and will never be able to satisfy -- your God-given craving for Christ (John 6:44).

How can I say something like that? Merely because I have been feeding myself with a "Generic Jesus" and a "Generic Gospel" from The Buffet of American Evangelicalism for the past several years, rather than realizing that, for starters, I can't feed myself, but need to be fed the "Genuine Gospel" from the "Genuine Jesus" Himself, which cannot be found at the Buffet, but only in the Bible, as it is preached from the Pulpit and through the Sacraments at the Divine Altar.

The former leads to self-reliance, self-righteousness, and spiritual pride, and perhaps even rebuke and condemnation from Christ one day (Revelation 3:14-22; Matthew 7:13-27) if I were to continue in that sin without repenting and turning back to surrender to Him. The latter leads to forgiveness, grace, justification, salvation, and life everlasting!

Dearly beloved, the Lutheran Church presents the pure, true, unadulterated Gospel, and the pure, true, unadulterated Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in all His precious glory, Who offers Himself to us through the Holy Scriptures as the Living Water and the Bread of Life (John 4; John 6:35-51; Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4), and Who comes to us through the divine service, or the preaching of His Word and the distribution of the Sacraments.

In a Lutheran Layman's terms, there's just this great assurance I have now in the simplicity of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:3) that being a Confessional Lutheran has taught me (reminded me of), and I pray that for you and yours as well (Philippians 4:7).

Why would I want to continue to eat from The Buffet of American Evangelicalism when I can eat from the Lord's Table?

[NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if any of my "old beliefs" seem to have found there way into any of the material published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with being a Confessional Lutheran -- in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word -- so that I can correct those errors immediately so as to not lead any of His little ones astray. Thank you in advance for your time and help. Grace and peace to you and yours!]

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About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

4 comments

  1. It sure sounds like you've placed your faith in an institution. You sound more excited about the Lutheran church than Jesus Christ.
    You use the buffet analogy, but isn't that exactly what you did when you switched to the Lutheran church? And isn't that what you'll be doing if you decide to change churches because you don't like how this current Lutheran church operates?
    Can you define "American evangelicalism" and what is "generic Jesus"? I'd assume you consider Southern Baptists to be American Evangelicals? Yup, I outed myself as a shallow, worldly "evangelical". Trust me, I've seen plenty wrong in my denomination. But what I've also seen is how amazingly faithful God is in building up his church. The false teaching is being exposed and people are becoming more discerning. I see it in my own congregation.
    Apologies if my tone seems unfriendly. This topic of being the "most Biblical" church strikes a nerve with me. I have family members that are "church of Christ" and it can really cause tension. The thing is there is no such thing as a perfect Christian, so there is no such thing as a perfect church. I would encourage you to pray about whether or not discernment is your spiritual gift. If it is perhaps it would be better if you were more specific in your criticisms of false teaching. Perhaps re-study Galatians 5:9. Read all of Galatians several times, find out who the Galatians were how they would have heard and understood what Paul was saying to them. Who is the leaven in this specific case? Who/what is the dough? Do you still think this verse applies to your blog post? I would also encourage you to study ALL of church history.
    You seem like a genuine, kind person who has a real love for the Lord. Blessings.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I can understand how you might think that -- I certainly thought that and was "anti-denomination" for several years myself. Plus, it's important to know that I'm NOT SAYING that ONLY Lutherans are Christians and that ONLY Lutherans will get into heaven one day. That would be absurd. I'm simply saying that I believe the Lutheran denomination is the closest to what the Bible actually says when compared to all the others.

    Perfect Christian, no, but a perfect confession? Absolutely. Otherwise, we wouldn't have passages of Scripture like...

    Jude 1:3 "Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."

    Galatians 1:6-7 "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ."

    2 Corinthians 11:4 "For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough."

    Just to name a few verses.

    To put it another way, for me, I knew that God is not a "God of Confusion" at all, and I knew what the Bible says REPEATEDLY about being on guard against false teachers/false teaching, so there is only one Christian faith and God's Word ALWAYS informs what that is (i.e., has the final say, of course). At the end of the day, I found the Lutheran Church to be the most faithful when it comes to being Christ-centered and Cross-focused if that makes any sense. In my studies, I found them to be consistent with what Scripture ACTUALLY SAYS over and over again so that was more than enough for me.

    Like I have at the bottom of this website from Martin Luther himself: "The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians. What is Luther? The teaching is not mine. Nor was I crucified for anyone. How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name?"

    Hope that helps some.

    Grace And Peace,
    Jeff

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm not the Anonymous above but am curious on your comments about the LCMS church. Could you elaborate on how the LCMS church has gone off the tracks? I am considering joining a LCMS church mainly because I have come to the same conclusion as you have on being a Confessional Lutheran. I have fed for many of years on many of the Evangelical American Church's with even a taste of ELCA. I know the LCMS had some issues a few years ago with the past President but do not know of anything that has changed or going in the wrong direction with the current President. Your input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks be to God!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous @ 9/28/15,

    As a whole, it hasn't. I wrote this piece when I was still a member of an unfaithful LCMS church and now I'm happy to say that God has brought us to a new church in the area with a much more faithful Pastor (they actually do a Sunday morning class on the Book of Concord too!).

    Please keep in mind that I wrote this back in 2013 and a lot has changed since then. It might be helpful for you to check out these lectures from last year at an LCMS Conference starting with this...

    "VIDEO: 'Despite What You’ve Heard, The LCMS Is Not A Lost Cause'"
    http://www.lutheranlayman.com/2015/03/video-despite-what-youve-heard-lcms-is.html

    I think that will help to clarify where I was coming from and where I find myself at this time, thanks be to God.

    Bottom line? While we may have to leave an apostate/heterodox church, the truth is that there's no "perfect" church, but we should be able to find one that is faithful in it's preaching and faithful in administering the Sacraments. An LCMS church should not be ashamed of what we Lutherans have historically believed, taught, and confessed.

    I hope that helps. Thanks for reading and for commenting. Hope to hear from you again really soon!

    Grace And Peace,
    JKR

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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