I Just Want To Be In The Company Of Those With A Common Confession (At Least Part Of The Time)

Wow. What a week! Last week, for me personally, was one I'll never forget for many different reasons (some good, most bad).

The year that was quickly dubbed the #YOHBT only a few days into 2015 has certainly proved to be true and has become an appropriate description of this new year that's not even three months old yet.

Unfortunately, last week's contribution to such a Confessional Christian label left me hopeless, praying, rolling my eyes, sad, shaking my head, and shrugging my shoulders in disbelief and frustration. Worse, in some cases, it even caused me to sin against some of my brothers and sisters...and, therefore, caused me to sin against God.


Psalm 51:12 (ESV) Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.


I take full responsibility for my actions, my tone...my sins. Regardless of who and/or what it is I'm responding to, there's gotta be a better way to do it without getting myself so worked up all the time to the point where I'm literally angry and depressed by it all for hours on end.

What in the world is wrong with me!?! Seriously.

Part of me thinks I'm the way that I am because I understand what's at stake having almost made shipwreck of my own faith only a couple of years ago (1 Timothy 1:19). The other part of me thinks I'm the way that I am because I'm just a sinful jerk sometimes and tend take everything way too personally for some reason too (1 John 1:8; Matthew 7:3-5; Luke 6:41-42). The truth of the matter is probably somewhere in the middle between both realities.

That's why I loved the unexpected advice I received yesterday from a new acquaintance thanks to Twitter. She gave it to me straight and I greatly appreciated it.


 
"If you have not listened to Pr. Todd Wilken's lecture at the BJS conference, do not delay! I think this is one you, in particular, need to listen to and maybe more than once. For those of us coming into the LC-MS, it is important that we listen carefully to what the men who have been in the struggle (some for decades) have to say, as they share their perspective on this point in the history of a synod that has had to contend for the faith from day one and will until the last day. Same is true across Christendom throughout history." LINK: http://t.co/Q5RnO8MQQh


It's funny to have received that message from her, because I did bookmark that page and made a mental note to check it out as soon as possible. It's also funny that a Christian Conference called "When Heterodoxy Hits Home" was taking place in the background of all that transpired last week.

Given her comments, I'm thinking it may be a continuation of what he said back in 2013 (in the "What's So Special About Being Lutheran?" piece we published recently) that really caught me off guard at the time when I heard Pastor Wilken say that we shouldn't assume that things will change so dramatically for the better in our own lifetimes. I just never thought of it like that before.

Here's what I wrote after listening to that lecture of a similar nature...


Such a pastoral, sober-minded presentation for us to prayerfully consider. 
What really surprised me was his point that while we should never become apathetic about false doctrine, we also shouldn't assume that things will change so dramatically for the better in our own lifetimes. Wow! 
That was a shock when I first heard it, but he's right, isn't he? I mean, much like the "Missionalists" are always making things sound so "urgent" all the time, "Confessionalists" like me have been guilty of the same thing in some respects. 
I've been focused on the immediate, short-term rather than the delayed, long-term. 
To put it another way, any time I've tried to make a bold confession of faith in the church and public arena, I've treated the whole cause as though it were a sprint instead of a marathon. 
I suppose it's similar to the type of thing that Pastors go through when they are called to serve a new congregation only to find that it takes several years (maybe even decades!) of God-given faithfulness, patience, and perseverance to truly change that congregation's doctrine and practice to where it needs to be. 
We find that Rev. Wilken's statements echo Rev. Harrison's when he wrote, "To act pastorally means that change takes time and teaching."  
That's why I think that the better approach, from now on, is to be much more realistic about things like Pastor Wilken said and like my new acquaintance encouraged me to be (Matthew 5:11; John 13:16; John 15:20).



Maybe then I won't get so hung up on "hurt feelings" all the time, which can lead to a pity party of self-loathing and, if I'm not careful, self-righteousness too. 
Even so, for me, being Lutheran means something.


As it should for you too if you're a Lutheran who's reading this, but that's not what this is about today. Instead, I can't help but think that, yes, while we are the "Church Militant" right now, there has to be a better and more Biblical way for me to process what I'm going through if not also a better and more Biblical way to respond to it all.

I know that our faith should never be defined by our feelings since feelings change and are highly subjective, but I'm just getting awfully tired of being on guard all the time when I think I'm in the company of those who share a common confession of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).

No, I'm not saying that you and I have absolutely nothing to talk about if you're a non-Lutheran or that I'm some kind of "Denominational Snob" (as I was called a few days ago) who will only associate with others from the same denomination that I belong to. Quite the contrary, my dear friends! Quite the contrary.

I just want to be in the company of those with a common confession (at least part of the time). Is that too much to ask? Is that too much to expect?  
Thankfully, my family and I seem to have found a new church with a truly Confessional Lutheran Pastor so at least I know I won't be starving as much. "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them" (Matthew 18:20), right? I'm still hungry for more though and I pray that this hunger for consistency in confession and unity in doctrine, practice, and truth -- as well as a hunger to be around other Christians who feel the same way -- never goes away as challenging and painful as it might be for me.

I should probably stop writing at this point. See, while this is a personal blog where the format allows me to share some rather intimate and personal things like this from time-to-time, the truth of the matter is that it's not about me, and it shouldn't be. It's about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

For me, it's simple really. If Jesus is "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14), and He is, then I don't see how any of us could attempt to downplay or minimize any doctrine at all, which is always derived from that very same Word of God.

We should be striving toward unity with one another by discussing our differences in doctrine and working them out based on what the Scriptures clearly say, shouldn't we?

Better yet, if we claim to share the very same confession, then we should easily agree on what it is that that particular church/denomination believes, teaches, and confesses, shouldn't we?

If we can't do that, if we don't do that, if we won't do that, then one of us (hint: the one who disagrees with those beliefs, teachings, and confessions or the one who simply ignores them completely) should leave so as not to cause any further division, which is also a sin, right?

Of course, the danger here (and the spiritual landmine that I personally need to watch out for myself) is that doctrine can be lorded over others "unlovingly" under the guise of speaking "the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).

Sure, some might try to assert and warn us that "doctrine can become an idol" too even though the truth tells us another story.


Ultimately we must remember what is important, though. It’s not about being right. It’s about confessing Christ clearly and purely to the glory of God and the comfort of sinners. It’s about Him being right. If we elevate our confessions above scripture, rather than having them point us to scripture, we taint them with our own self-righteousness and conceit. 
As long as we hold fast to His Word and continue to test everything against scripture alone, we shouldn’t worry about our doctrine — our confessions, our beliefs — becoming an idol, because it will be solely focused and centered on His Truth. For we can no more turn Christ’s pure teaching into an idol, than we can turn Christ Himself into an idol.  
Doing so is not idolatry at all, but is instead Holy Worship.


All that being said, I want to listen to Pastor Wilken's presentation tonight first and think about these issues a little more before I say (write) anything else here in this space even though I'm bursting at the seams with so much on my mind that I want to get off my chest.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, I still have so much to say, but I'm willing to keep my mouth shut and my fingers from marching across this keyboard like dutiful soldiers for doctrinal truth until I've at least had a chance to prayerfully consider the content from the BJS Conference (and even then I might still refrain from writing anything for awhile).

Then again, for all I know, listening to it might only inspire me to become even more passionate about things, and I'll be back tomorrow with something new to say!

Either way, while I know with complete certainty that there's no need for me to put my foot in my mouth or to eat crow following all the things I've published/tweeted/written in the past week (since all of it was merely quoting the Bible and our Confessions), I'm definitely not opposed to eating a huge slice of humble pie so I can learn how to better communicate the truth to those who disagree with me on so much -- even those who say they're Confessional Lutherans like me (Jude 1:20-23; Matthew 5:11; John 13:16; John 15:20).

Perspective. Patience. Perseverance.



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!

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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 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 sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction 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 mature spiritually (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!