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What Luther Says

Hermann Sasse: 'The Great Danger Which Threatens Our Spiritual Life'

The truth conveyed by 1 Timothy 1:19 will always resonate with me for as long as I live, because I was one who almost "suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith" during my Evangelical days (what I would've identified as the first 11 of my 14 years as a Christian...until I came to find out that I've been a Christian since I was baptized as a baby!).

I was your average, typical Christian alive today. I meant well. I loved the Lord. I was sincere. What I didn't realize was that a Christian can be the most sincere person on the face of the planet and still be sincerely wrong about some of the most basic truths we proclaim.

It took a handful of complete strangers who cared enough about me who were willing to reach out to me repeatedly with the truth over a period of time, cautioning me all the while to stop committing the sin of believing, teaching, and confessing clear false teaching, and they did so while also pointing out my errors and backing it up with Scripture.

Thank God for those complete strangers, because they were willing to do what close family members and friends weren't willing to do -- tell me the truth regardless of the risks and personal costs to themselves.

It's a shame really since God's Word is crystal clear on this issue as well. Proverbs 27:5-6 says quite plainly, "Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy."

Like I said, thank God for the strangers He brought into my life when He did.

What I didn't realize when the Lord finally opened my eyes, ears, heart and mind to the problems with American Evangelicalism is that I had initially traded one set of un-Biblical beliefs for another except I never knew it since the new one was much more deceptive and subtle indeed.

Yes, it's true that I had gone from a Non-Denominational "spiritual island" of sorts thinking I was finally saved from the "Works Righteousness Waters of American Evangelicalism" to becoming a member of a local Lutheran church only to painfully discover in due time that it was actually way more Evangelical than Lutheran!

Again, it's not that any of this was necessarily being down "intentionally" per se, but little by little I began to discover that there was so much more to what we Lutherans believed, taught, and confessed that was being ignored for some strange reason.

It wasn't until I began to ask myself "Why am I a Lutheran?" that I began to discover that the Lutheran church definitely is the one denomination out of all the others that faithfully proclaims "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).

That's not to say that I somehow think that only Lutherans are "real" Christians! How absurd and un-Biblical! However, if you're gonna say that you're a Lutheran than be a Lutheran for crying out loud!

Furthermore, if you're a Lutheran Church and/or Day School with a 150+ year history in your local community, then cherish it and don't try to hide from that fact or run from it.

We have a rich history and tradition that has value merely due to the fact that it has its roots in "the apostles' teaching" (Acts 2:42).

Confessional Lutherans don't experiment with changing God's Word to be relevant to the times we live in, because we understand that the pure, unadulterated Gospel transcends all cultures, times and places.

Why am I a Lutheran, you ask? Why am I unashamed to admit it?

"I am a Lutheran for the same reason I am a Christian. It is not by choice but by grace. The teachings of the Lutheran Church place Jesus at the center because the teachings of the Scriptures place Jesus at the center. No other confession demonstrates such fidelity to the truths of God's Word. No other confession so glorifies Christ by placing Him at the center of all it confesses and teaches. Being a Lutheran is truly all about Jesus." 
*- Daniel Preus from Why I Am A Lutheran

It's really that simple, my dear friends.

So simple, and yet, we Lutherans seem to be suffering from a serious case of spiritual amnesia. I mean, how else do you explain how we can claim to be one thing (that is, claim to be "Lutheran"), but then have our doctrine and practices not match what it actually means to be Lutheran?

Sadly, it's not just the churches in this area either. This is a current and widespread problem that threatens the entire LCMS worldwide actually. Parishioners don't hear about all the controversial things going on in our Synod because no one's willing to talk about them.

Instead, we sweep them under the rug, keep ourselves in our own little congregational bubble, and hope it will all go away, or worse, that it's really not that big a deal.

Yet, for all the "pro-Lutheran" talking points in this piece, I don't want to give the impression that I'm trying to "Save The Synod!" or that this is all about "Preserving The Lutheran Church!" because it's most certainly not.

What I mean by that is that it is Christ's Church that we need to be faithful to. We know that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18) and so even if the LCMS falls apart and out of existence one day that does not mean that Christianity is doomed.

What I'm getting at here is this hypocritical notion that we can "Make More And Better Disciples of Jesus Christ!" all while never being willing to be discipled ourselves.

We want to be the ones to correct others, but we don't want anyone to correct us. We want to be the ones ministering to others, but we don't want anyone to minister to us. We claim to know the truth and tell others that "the truth will set you free" (John 8:32), but we don't want anyone to point out when our "truth" is more like a "half-truth" if not an "outright lie" instead. We want to be Christians to other people, but don't want Christians to be Christians toward us.

So what do we do as a result? We make excuses for our brothers, our sisters, and ourselves who are living unrepentant sinful lives, and we make excuses for the false teachers within our midst. Some who should know better even invite the wolves in sheep's clothing into the church and invite every one of God's sheep to come pet and play with the wolves. Some even do this after they've been warned about the clear and present dangers too!

We do this despite the constant warning throughout the New Testament to be on guard against false teachers and false doctrine. Why are we warned often and repeatedly about such things? Because Galatians 5:9 says that "A little leaven leavens the whole lump." 

That brings me back to 1 Timothy 1:19 and the explicit warning given to us to be on guard.

That's also why I can also truly appreciate these words from Hermann Sasse along the same lines...

It is a most remarkable fact that Christians today seem to have forgotten the great danger which threatens our spiritual life; the danger that we lose our faith. We take our Christianity so for granted that we no longer see the devices of the devil who tries to destroy our faith. This must not necessarily lead to complete apostasy. It may be that our living faith is slowly transformed into a sort of Christian philosophy which for so many people is the substitute for faith. Here evangelistic preaching has its great task; to preach Christ Crucified so powerfully that, by the help of the Holy Ghost, the love for the Saviour is revived and a new personal relationship between the soul and its Redeemer is re-established. Here we have to remember what conversion in the sense of the Lutheran Church is. You were converted to the Lord on the day of your baptism. But as baptism is more than an act performed at one moment of our life, conversion is something which goes on through our lifetime. For baptizing with water, as our children know, “signifies that the old Adam in us is to be drowned and destroyed by daily sorrow and repentance, together with all sins and evil lusts; and that again the new man should daily come forth and rise, that shall live in the presence of God in righteousness and purity for ever”. Sometimes it seems that the Lutheran Church, since Pietism destroyed the Lutheran understanding of justification and sanctification, has lost the deep truths of our catechism about daily repentance and daily forgiveness of sins. Small wonder if we have lost and are still losing members to Methodism. Our people fail to see the difference between Lutheran and Methodist understandings of the Christian faith. This is a development to be observed in all Lutheran Churches, in Germany as well as in the Scandinavian countries, in America as in Australia. Here we have to learn again from Luther and our confessions what it means to be an evangelical Christian who lives literally by daily repentance and by daily and abundant forgiveness of sins, peccator simul et justus. To stir up that faith again is the great task of Lutheran evangelism. Christians who live in that faith will know how weak they are, they will know that only by the grace of God, only by a real miracle of the Holy Ghost they can be preserved in the true faith. This knowledge will make us cautious against the attempts of the devil who wants to take away our faith or at least to corrupt it. And it will make us humble. It will give us that real humility which belongs to the Lutheran faith, not that caricature of Christian humility which could be expressed with the words: “God, I thank thee that I am a Lutheran and not a Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, or Baptist. I am not a Pharisee, but a justified sinner. I believe in the correct doctrine of the Lutheran Church and am proud to support her”. Their secret pride it is, what we have to fight, dear brethren, in our congregations, in our young and old people’s societies. Here we meet a secularisation which is far more dangerous than all temptations to open unbelief. For this secularisation destroys the church by corrupting its innermost life. 
When fighting this great danger of our spiritual life we must not forget that it is not only the individual Christian who is threatened by it. Whole churches can be destroyed by a slow and unnoticed process of secularisation. This is true not only of large and powerful churches which were tempted by the world, but it applies also to small churches which began as faithful, confessing churches of Christ. As parents never can warrant the faith of their children, no single generation of the Church can guarantee the faith of the next generation. It is not faith, but superstition, if I assume that because we have Christian schools, colleges, faculties, parishes, catechism, confessions, a ministry for the administration of the means of grace, the next generation will be Christian. We must not misinterpret the 5th Article of the Augsburg Confession. “That we may obtain this faith, the Office of teaching the gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted. For through the word and the sacraments as through instruments the Holy Ghost is given, who worketh faith where and when it pleaseth God….” This “ubi et quando visum est Deo” must not be overlooked. It does not justify the Calvinistic doctrine on predestination. But it reminds us of the fact that also the Lutheran Church knows of the mystery of Predestination. Of course we know that the word of God is never preached in vain. But how many or how few may be brought to real, living faith, that is solely in the freedom of God. How cautious should we be when speaking of the future of our church. The “United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Australia” or the “Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod” has not the promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. The fathers of our church know that. Therefore they taught their people to pray for the church: “Erhalt uns Herr, bei deinem Wort!”, “Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ, weil es nun…bend worden ist, Dein göttlich Wort, das helle Licht, lasz ja bei uns auslöschen nicht”, “In dieser schwern betrübten Zeit, verleih uns, Herr, Beständigkeit, dass wir dein Wort und Sakrament rein behalten bis an unser End”, “Du aber selbst Dein Kirch erhalt, wir sind gar sicher, faul und kalt …” Sometimes it seems as if we had forgotten, that only the most serious prayer can keep the church in the right faith and in the confession of the truth. 
SOURCE: Problems Of Lutheran Evangelism

Boy, the more I read the things that Hermann Sasse wrote, the more I become grateful to our Lord for blessing us with such a faithful servant of His Word who wasn't shy about telling us what we needed to hear.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, "the great danger which threatens our spiritual life" is that we can certainly lose our salvation.

This is what we Lutherans have always believed, taught, and confessed because this is what the Bible tells us Christians to believe, teach, and confess.

It is possible for a true believer to fall from faith, as Scripture itself soberly and repeatedly warns us (1 Corinthians 10:12; 1 Peter 5:8; 2 Peter 3:17; Hebrews 2:1-3; Hebrews 3:12-19; Hebrews 6:4-8).

Such warnings are intended for Christians who appear to be lacking a right understanding of the seriousness of their sin and of God's judgment against sin, and who, therefore, are in danger of developing a false and proud "security" based not on God's grace, but on their own works, self-righteousness, or freedom to "do as they please" (where "freedom to do as they please" can mean their assumed "freedom to believe, teach, and confess things that are not Biblical at all").

Taking a carefree attitude toward doctrine and practice is playing with fire since it can most certainly lead a person to suffer "shipwreck with regard to the faith" (1 Timothy 1:19).

That's why I do what I do here in this forum. If I didn't care about my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, then I'd keep my mouth shut and never utter a single word about any of this to them.

How "loving" would that be of me?

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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