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What Luther Says

A God-Given Childlike Faith Introduced Amelia To Athanasius Who Helped Her Find 'Godly Grief'

For me, one of the pure joys of being a parent is watching how God grants and then grows faith in Him and His Word when it comes to your own children He entrusts to your care (John 6:44; Ephesians 2:8-9).

No, I cannot create faith in my kids, but I am called in my vocation as their father to teach them "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) and to nurture it as often as I can.

However, I'll admit that this is the vocation I have the most trouble with and, consequently, it's the most neglected part of the Small Catechism for me as well.

“As the head of the family should teach it.”  
Boom. That hit me like a ton of bricks. 
If you thumb through your 1986 Small Catechism (the actual catechism: Commandments, Creed, Our Father, Baptism, Confession/Keys, Lord’s Supper, Daily Prayers, Table of Duties, and Christian Questions with Their Answers), this phrase (or a form of it) appears seven times by my quick count. 
“As the head of the family should teach it...” It appears at the beginning of five of the six Chief Parts and in two other places. If a man considers himself to be a confessional Lutheran, this phrase really ought to shape the way he practices his Christian faith. In the words of the Small Catechism, what does this mean? 
First and foremost, this means that the Small Catechism is a book for the home. If the first time a young man sees the Small Catechism is at his congregation’s confirmation class informational meeting or at the first session of said class, this part of the Small Catechism has already been neglected. In this example, the head of the household has abdicated his God-given vocation of the bishop of the home and abdicated it to the bishop of his parish. Now, we certainly pray that all our Lutheran pastors are capable teachers of the faith as contained in the Small Catechism, especially since bishops are supposed to be “apt to teach (II Tim. 2:24).” But if the first time this young man see the catechism, he’s already behind. Our young children need these texts, just as much as 12, 13, and 14 year olds need them (just as much as heads of households need these texts). 
*- Pastor Jordan McKinley

Given how the last 24 hours went, again, I hate to admit it, but the very last thing I wanted to do when I came home tonight after work was fulfill my duty "as the head of the family" and teach anyone, much less my 8 and 9-year-old, anything having to do with Christian doctrine.

So, bed time finally rolls around (how awful is that?), and I proceed to go through the motions just like every night, except tonight I decide we're just going to say an Evening Prayer instead of reading a portion of the Small Catechism together.

What happened next was comforting, hopeful, humbling, and inspiring -- and it had absolutely nothing to do with me or my kids! Even so, it was precisely what I needed and I'm grateful to God for such an unexpected gift that reminded me of His Son, our dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who said,

Matthew 11:25-30 (ESV) 25 At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

While I was tucking in my 8-year-old daughter Amelia, I was asking her about her day at school like I always do. She told me that she had a question about something she was told in her Religion class that she thinks is wrong.

Naturally, my heart skipped a beat before plummeting down into my stomach as I began thinking about all the possibilities given my concerns with the preaching and teaching at both the church and school lately.

"What now!?! What's next!?!" I thought to myself.

Amelia proceeded to tell me how they were taught about the Holy Trinity in class, but that she thinks her teacher is wrong. When I asked her why, she explained that it was because she knows there is only one God and not three, and that even though she knows there's God The Father, Jesus Christ The Son, and the Holy Spirit, she doesn't think there's any way that they're all equal.

At this point, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that it wasn't false teaching that I had to help her unlearn, but the mystery of the Holy Trinity that I had to try to help her to better understand. Not an easy task for anyone (both children and adults alike).

What happened next is something that should be quite familiar to each and every one of us. Without warning, the "Old Adam" within her rose up, refused to be drowned in the waters of her Baptism, and tried to drown her in in a complete rejection of the truth instead!

Seeing a golden opportunity to catechize my baby girl served to me on a silver platter (am I allowed to mix gold and silver like that?), I wanted to take full advantage.

I immediately grabbed my Lutheran Book of Prayer (you know, the one that I was willing cast aside so easily and to neglect when our bedtime routine began?) and quickly turned to the Athanasian Creed.

The Athanasian Creed (the longest of the Ecumenical Creeds) is named after Athanasius of Alexandria and Christians around the world confess the ancient Athanasian Creed usually only once each year when the Church celebrates Trinity Sunday. We do this because we believe, teach, and confess that the doctrine of the Trinity is essential to the Christian faith.

Written against the Arians. 
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. 
And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal. As there are not three Uncreated nor three Incomprehensibles, but one Uncreated and one Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords. 
The Father is made of none: neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son: neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before or after other; none is greater or less than another; But the whole three Persons are coeternal together, and coequal: so that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped. He, therefore, that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity. 
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood; Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but one Christ: One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead; He ascended into heaven; He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give an account of their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. 
This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Would you believe that she actually sat there and let me read the whole thing?

Ok, but how did my precious, sweet little Amelia respond after I read that to her?

"Well, I don't believe that at all! It's not true! You're both wrong and I'm right! That's what I believe and I'm just gonna keep believing what I believe! I don't care if you keep telling me I'm wrong!"

Amelia didn't just say those words -- she shouted them at me before burying her face in her pillow while lying face down in her bed! Before I could say anything, I realized that she was crying her eyes out too.

I know she's an 8-year-old girl, but I was very confused by this sudden and extreme range of emotions that was truly uncharacteristic for her, which is why I tried my best to get her to open up to me about why she was so upset and encouraged her to please tell me what was really going on (like what she wasn't telling me).

Would you believe that Amelia was granted a childlike faith that actually made her feel bad to the point where she was seriously worried that Jesus was going to hate her and be mad at her for believing something that was wrong this whole time?

Then, in the midst of all those tears that were now streaming down her cute squishy cheeks, she sat up and grabbed the journal that is next to her bed for when her and her cousin comes over and they play store.

She began writing and I just sat there and rubbed her back for a moment (not wanting to interrupt her). Below is a picture of what she wrote.

Instantly, I thought of a specific passage from 2 Corinthians 7.

2 Corinthians 7:9-13 (ESV) 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. 13 Therefore we are comforted.

As my Lutheran Study Bible explains...

The Law changes the heart, making it open to God's mercy. Guilt over sin is part of repentance. The preaching of the Gospel must be added so that the repentance may lead to salvation and not to the Law's contrition or terrors. Repentance has "fruits" (Luke 3:8), one of which is to try to clear up what was wrong. God has loved us with an everlasting love through Jesus Christ. To open up our hearts to others, to let them know of Christ's love, is to experience again the joy of that great love of God for all. Lord, teach us daily how great, how long, how wide and how deep is Your love for us and for every person in this world. And teach us the joy of seeing others come to faith. Amen.

Being a parent, yes, I have definitely been blessed with the joy of seeing others -- my own beloved children -- come to faith.

My dear friends, I can't remember the last time the Lord gave me an opportunity like that to proclaim the Gospel to Amelia at a specific moment in time and in such a profound way where offering her Christ's mercy and forgiveness in response to her genuine repentance would be all the comfort in the world that she could ever want or need! Talk about the Gospel being "Good News" to her, huh?

As I held her in my arms, I marveled that He gave her the ability to repent, and that He gave me the chance to give my little girl the grace that she needed to hear. What a precious gift! I got to give Jesus Christ to my little girl so He could heal her heart and ease her mind (Matthew 11:30)!

1 John 1:9 (ESV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Such a stark contrast when compared to that dear brother in Christ who was hesitant to go elephant hunting with me the other night, and yet, I patiently pray that the Holy Spirit working through God's means of grace will also lead him to a "godly grief" as well.

Jude 1:17-23 (ESV) 17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

What does this mean?

All Christians might have questions (i.e., David asked questions in the Psalms). They should be treated with patience so that faith might overcome their doubts. At the same time, we need to also be on guard against false teaching that leads away from the love of God in our Savior. All who commit sin are urged to repent so that they might receive forgiveness, lest they remain in the fire and lose their faith. Correcting one another must be done with fear, because all Christians are sinners, attracted to sin. Sin is not to be toyed with or dallied in. Unrepented sin is like a stain on our robe of righteousness, which we have from Christ. Only His blood can make it white again with His forgiveness. Christians who have the full salvation already delivered to them in Scripture, need not fall into deceptions. We have been warned about false teaching and the deception of sin that leads to death. Likewise, the Lord has taught us the path of righteousness by which His Spirit leads us in the Gospel of grace and peace. Only God can keep us in the one true faith by the power of His Word. 
*- The Lutheran Study Bible

In a Lutheran layman's terms, I'll never forget the night that a God-given childlike faith introduced Amelia to Athanasius who, in turn, helped her find a "godly grief" leading to repentance for her sin of unbelief.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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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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