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What Luther Says

The Gospel According To You? No! Nothing About You Is The Gospel!

I was absolutely thrilled to read this powerful piece by Tullian Tchividjian yesterday.

Here's a snapshot...

Nothing About You Is The Gospel...And That's Good News 
If the narrative we’ve adopted says that in order for our relationship with God to be legitimate, our life has to get better, we twist the gospel into a moral improvement scheme. The Gospel is not “you must become like Jesus”; the Gospel is “Jesus became like you” (2 Corinthians 5:21). That’s not to say that “Jesus becoming like you” doesn’t change you. It does. But the Gospel is NOT our transformation. The Gospel is Christ’s substitution. 
There’s a difference between “the Gospel” and our response to the Gospel. It’s an important distinction. Nothing about you or your life or the way you live is “the Gospel.” Which, by the way, is very good news. My life will exhibit the fruit of believing the Gospel, but the fruit is not the Gospel itself. And when we fail to make this distinction, we rob the good news of “Jesus for you” from it’s purity and power. In theological terms, it’s a mixing of Law and Gospel. 
As I’ve said before, the failure to distinguish the Law and the Gospel always means the abandonment of the Gospel because the Law gets softened into “helpful tips for practical living” instead of God’s unwavering demand for absolute perfection, while the Gospel gets hardened into a set of moral and social demands we “must live out” instead of God’s unconditional declaration that “God justifies the ungodly.” As my friend and New Testament scholar Jono Linebaugh says, “God doesn’t serve mixed drinks. The divine cocktail is not Law mixed with Gospel. God serves two separate shots: Law then Gospel.”

I hope you took a moment to read the whole thing.

It's short, but it packs the kind of Law-Gospel punch that we all need.

Frankly, this is the kind of message that earned me the "divisive" and "unloving" labels at the LCMS church that I've been attending for the past 3-4 years now.

I shared it on my Facebook page PRAYING that some of the eyes from that place will see it, but I'm not expecting to receive any indication that anyone there actually agrees with me (and agrees with what Mr. Tchividjian wrote).

Instead, and if past history is any indication, I'm likely to receive argumentative replies, criticism, and open rebuke (although I hope not). Worse, it may serve as "proof" to my old chums why they were "right" to tell me that me and my family should just find a new local church to call home (definitely hope that's not the case either).

What is there not to love about this piece though? I mean, it has it all: a proper assessment and diagnosis of the all-too-common problem with preaching and teaching a "YOU For Christ"-centered message rather than a "CHRIST For You"-centered message as well as the the proper distinction between Law and Gospel.

Oh, and did I mention that it was written by a non-Lutheran too?

If you think the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) doesn't have the kind of problem he identifies, then think again!

Back in September 2014, I came across this quote...

"You are not the Gospel. Proclaiming the Gospel of Christ in your vocation and claiming to be it are not the same. Demonic to think that we are the Gospel."

I forgot who wrote that, and where I saw it, but I wrote it down at the time (I think it may have been in response to the FiveTwo/Wiki14 folks when the news was just breaking about them and their controversial conference).

That prompted me to reply to it with...

Now I don't feel so bad for objecting to my church's multi-week Small Group Series recently that's titled "The Gospel According To YOU" that espoused this same kind of nonsense in an attempt to encourage evangelism and missions by making "Relationships" the most important "sacrament" while proclaiming "Every Member A Minister" more loudly than "Christ Crucified For The Sins of All Mankind." Sadly, this is the only kind of "Lutheran Catechesis" we're regularly fed here. In fact, the LCMS Pastor of 50+ years wrote this mind-boggling statement in the Church Newsletter about this very series that he authored himself: "He's given each of us a different life story...and that is what you share. This is not teaching, not preaching, but making God real to others. It is 'The Gospel According To You!' Live and be more like Jesus! The more you/we all do, the more the Holy Spirit will bless each and all of us at Trinity to serve Him." Truly heartbreaking indeed to see this type of teaching becoming more prevalent not only in the church that I've called "home" for the past few years, but also around the country. Lord, have mercy!

Feeling alone and lost among the wolves in sheep's clothing and those who want to keep wolves as house pets, I took to a Confessional Lutheran Group on Facebook to share the above sentiments.

Thankfully, I received this quick reply from Pastor Matt Richard at the time...

Jeffrey, that is most unfortunate, for in Christ we are crucified -- thus we no longer live. In other words, Christ doesn't become fragmented into our autonomous individualistic stories, but we are Crucified into Christ and given the Lord's story. The Scriptures are our story of salvation -- the one in which we are grafted into.

My gosh, why is it so difficult to find faithful, solid, Christ-centered preaching and teaching like that these days? Trying to find a "Confessional Lutheran Pastor" let alone one or two "Confessional Lutheran Parishioners" (at least, here in the LCMS-Eastern District) is like hunting for the legendary "Purple Squirrel" I'm sure you've heard of before.

Please join me in praying that Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike will be convicted unto repentance by this important message.

In a Lutheran layman's, it's just as Mr. Tchividjian said, "nothing about you or your life or the way you live is 'the Gospel.'"

I really can't emphasize that enough, especially as an ex-Evangelical turned Confessional Lutheran who was masquerading as a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" in a church where the only thing distinctly "Lutheran" about it was the church sign out front.

If you can relate in any way, then please heed this message so that you don't inadvertently cause "shipwreck with regard to the faith" like I almost did (1 Timothy 1:19).

NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. 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 inconsistent 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 Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. 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). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). 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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