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What Luther Says

'When Heterodoxy Hits Home' Is When Sinners (Like Me) Need To Be Humbled Because I'm 'A Horrible, Religious Fanatic'

I promised myself (and you) that I would take some time to listen to as many of the presentations as I could from The Brothers of John The Steadfast "When Heterodoxy Hits Home" Conference held last week before I got back to writing for this blog full swing again.

Mission accomplished! What an incredible collection of Confessional Lutheran lectures all in one place too! I would love to be able to attend one of these conferences in the future, and have the opportunity to meet many of you face-to-face someday, but for now, all I can do is listen to the food for hungry souls that was served there, and then tell you about it. Thanks to the BJS website, I was able to do that this past weekend.

If I were to tell you that the moment when heterodoxy hits home is precisely the moment when sinners need to be humbled, then you might just assume that I'm talking about everyone else again (a.k.a. pointing my finger at our dear brothers and sisters within the Lutheran Church who are "Lutherans-In-Name-Only" who need to repent for departing from "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" as well as from our public Confessions in the Book of Concord that have been our compass directing us to Christ, to the cross, and to the office of the holy ministry of Word and Sacraments since 1530).

While this is most certainly true, I want to emphasize that I am the one who needed to listen to these lectures for myself, because I am the sinner who needed to be humbled when heterodoxy hit home!

Please allow me to try to explain.

I never realized it before, but I think I had fallen into a cunning trap set by Satan where he got me to believe that I was doing something "great" and "important" and "noble" and even "worthy of God's honor and praise" every single time I engaged in any kind of doctrinal duel with another believer. He even had me convinced that I was doing it for purely "unselfish" reasons too!

Soon, the sins of arrogance and pride set in without me even realizing it. My words and tone never really showed any hint of it, because I learned how to say all the right things, and because they were masked with flowery words all the time (i.e., "I'm only bringing this up with you out of genuine concern and love for the truth and for your spiritual health...").

Yes, I meant what I was saying and believed every single word of it, but what I failed to acknowledge was the pillar of pride that was also growing within my heart each time I thought it was "my duty" and "up to me" to be God's appointed defender of the Christian faith.

As Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller explained in his brilliant presentation, that's not my vocation at all. That's not to say that false teachers and their false doctrine should never concern us. Quite the contrary! If we ever become apathetic about any of it, then we're a part of the problem.

It's just to say that there are those who are better suited to address such things in the church. I can certainly be a watchdog and bark loud enough to alert others to the danger I see, but I also have to obey my Master and know it's not ok for this watchdog to bite back all the time (or in the manner that I have been) when all I'm expected to do is bark (and pray, of course).

Before long, instead of putting Jesus Christ on a pedestal, I was inadvertently putting the mere act of defending His Word and truth on the pedestal instead. In other words, I had tripped and fallen into Satan's trap that led me to a kind of Works-Righteousness system of belief without even realizing it!

How's that for being a hypocrite?

Again, please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that laymen should never speak up or never speak out against false teachers and their false doctrine. Let's not forget the role that the laity played in the Reformation and the establishment of the Lutheran church.

However, I learned quite a bit from the lectures featured from the BJS Conference that is applicable here. With that being said, below is a link to each one. I'm sure this won't be the only time we'll ever discuss the content, but for now I just wanted to provide the link to each presentation.

Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller: The Obligation And Temptation of Dealing With False Teaching

Pastor Clint Poppe: "The Barking Dog Approach"

Pastor Chris Hull: "Confessing In Confidence"

Pastor Larry Beane: "Doctrine And/Or Practice?"

Pastor Hans Fiene: "The Use of Snark In Lutheran Confession"

Pastor Joshua Sheer: "Work To Be Done, Work That Is Done"

Pastor Todd Wilken: "Despite What You've Heard, The LCMS Is Not A Lost Cause"

If you listened to only a few minutes of any of those sermons, then you can understand why they had such an impact on me.

The best part of the past week? Just in case all those truths were somehow lost on me without taking root, my devotional reading from yesterday morning provided the exclamation point I needed.

Listen, daughter! Look closely! Turn you ear [toward me]. Forget your people, and forget your father's house. Psalm 45:10.

Faith is very fragile and needs to hear the command: "Forget your father's house." Something inside of us strongly compels us to keep trying to earn God's approval. We look for good works, in which we can place our trust and which will bring us praise. We want to show God what we have done and say, "See, I have done this or that. Therefore, you must give your approval." 
None of us should be overconfident when it comes to forgetting our own good works. Each one of us carries in our heart a horrible, religious fanatic. We would all like to be able to do something so spectacular that we could brag, "Look what I've done! With all my prayers and good works, I've done enough for God today that I can feel at peace." This happens to me, too, after I have accomplished something in my ministry. I'm much happier than if I hadn't done it. Being happy isn't wrong in itself. But this joy is impure because it isn't based on faith. It's the kind of happiness that can make your conscience confused. Consciences are delicate. We need to guard them against the sin of arrogance. So, we can't be overconfident. We who confess Christ should always walk in fear and grow in faith. We should realize that we all carry in our heart a horrible, religious fanatic, who will destroy our faith with foolish delusions of good works. 
The Holy Spirit provides us with a way to counter this godless delusion. We need to hold tightly to what we have received through the undeserved kindness of God. God's approval doesn't come to us by what we do. Rather, it comes through the holiness of Christ, who suffered for us and rose again from the dead. 
By Faith Alone: 365 Devotional Readings In Today's Language - Martin Luther

Like I said, THAT was the exclamation point for me!

Without even realizing it, I was thinking I was somehow earning God's approval each and every time I went out of my way to carry the mantle of doctrinal purity without wavering ("Look what I've done! With all my prayers and good works, I've done enough for God today that I can feel at peace!") even though I intellectually knew that my good works were nothing but "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6).

Where in the world did this arrogance and pride come from (Proverbs 16:18)!?! That bastard, the "Old Adam," was still up to his old tricks toying with my sinful nature and he did so without me even noticing it!

The Bible describes "humility" as meekness, lowliness and absence of self. The Greek word translated "humility" in Colossians 3:12 and elsewhere literally means "lowliness of mind," so we see that humility is a heart attitude, not merely an outward demeanor. One may put on an outward show of humility and still have a heart full of pride and arrogance.

It was far too easy for me to fall into that trap, especially when debating and discussing doctrine with other Christians. I know that now. Thank you, Lord!

It's important for me to clarify what I'm saying and what I'm not saying at this point. I don't want to somehow give the impression that these are virtues for us to somehow learn to accomplish -- they're not! Virtues, like those mentioned in Colossians 3:12 that caught my eye and convicted me, are actually gifts provided by God. So, they are Christ's virtues. We need to remember that or we'll continue to fall into the same Works-Righteousness sin cycle as before only this time we'll have a thicker veneer of piety to mask it.

For me, Colossians 3:13 was the key though. The words "bearing with one another" convey the reality that as we each struggle with our own temptations, we come to understand the struggles of others. The very next words are "you must also forgive" reminded me that forgiving others shows that we truly believe God has forgiven us (this resonates with the Fifth Petition of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:12).

That's fitting too, because the content of these particular lectures coupled with the truths conveyed by this passage from Colossians 3 came at a time when I was letting the devil steal my joy and replace it with anger, bitterness, impatience, jealousy, and resentment.

The ridiculous thing is that I thought I was perfectly justified in indulging myself in those emotions and feelings since "I am the one who is concerned about the truth and they aren't!"
I think I was even slipping into a mode of thinking much like Jonah had toward the Ninevites where I started to believe that when it comes to false teachers and their false doctrine (especially when it comes from other clergy and Pastors), they don't deserve my forgiveness, much less God's, even if they did truly repent.

Wow! That was a disgusting revelation when it fell on me like a ton of bricks.

How could I claim to be this "Arbiter of Biblical Truth" insisting that others fall in line and repent, and yet, there was a part of me (however small that it was it was still there) that didn't really want them to repent because then I would be completely justified in unleashing my "righteous anger" upon them so that I would feel better about things (and myself)?

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's not how Jesus responded to me when I was God's enemy.

Do yourself a favor and listen to all those presentations from that Conference. Then, listen to them again. There's so much that was said that I learned for the first time and I'm eternally grateful for those who organized the conference, those who took time out of their busy schedules to preach there, and those who made it possible for people like me to hear what was proclaimed when we couldn't be there in person.

I might just have to do a post on each lecture just to make sure I never forget what I heard that convicted me unto repentance for His glory, honor, and praise.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, we should never, ever ignore false teachers and false doctrine, but when heterodoxy hits home, our proper response should be to let God's Word have its way with all of us, because all of us are sinners who need to be humbled due to the fact that we are horrible, religious fanatics who often forget that we were once false teachers ourselves who believed, taught, and confessed false doctrine at one time in our lives too.

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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