Not only have I already seen such things in my kids' yearbooks that they came home with this week from the Lutheran Day School they attend, but now I've received word that the Guest Speaker personally invited to speak to the graduates at tonight's Graduation Ceremony is a former Teacher who is unashamedly non-Lutheran and quite AoG/NAR/Pentecostal in his beliefs, teachings, and confessions.
So yeah, I'm a little concerned given previous history let alone the fact that he will have a captive audience and an open forum to say whatever he wants to say to impressionable and unsuspecting hearts and minds who already look up to him, and who will likely take everything he says as "gospel truth" due to his past popularity there.
If you think I'm being incredibly "unfair" or "unloving" and am simply "blowing things way out of proportion" even, then I strongly encourage you to listen to any of the many so-called "sermons" he's preached over the past year at his "church" and then let me know if you still think I'm being unreasonable here. What you'll hear and see is a lot of style, but sadly, very little substance, more jokes and stories than Bible passages, hardly any mention of sin, no mention of the Sacraments whatsoever, and absolutely nothing that's distinctly Lutheran either. Yes, this is who our school invited to be the featured Guest Speaker at this year's Graduation Ceremony.
That's why I felt it was necessary to dust off this very brief commentary to help explain the simple (and Biblical) reasons why it's extremely important for all of us to fight these common urges, especially for those influential men and women who truly mean well, who I know have very sincere intentions and who love God, but who would be doing more spiritual harm than good if they choose to go down these all-too-common paths (see the list of "4 Likely Outcomes" from the excerpt below, because it's incredibly sobering and we should all prayerfully consider those potential realities for our youth as well as ourselves).
Here’s how this plays out. For those who seek such immediate, personal divine revelation, there are four likely outcomes:
1. They will listen and listen for this affirming, comforting voice from God that was promised them. And then, when nothing happens, they will begin to wonder… “Does God hate me?” “Is it because of some sin in my life that he won’t speak to me?” …and their view of God gradually becomes very sadistic and warped, as His silence causes them to question their status as His children. Surely His children should receive assuring communication from their heavenly Father just like the preacher, right? The despair this leads to will result in giving up on the faith. “It isn’t worth the heartache, and even if it is true, it isn’t possible, so it’s definitely irrelevant.”
2. Despite hearing nothing, they will pretend to have heard something anyway to fit in. When they get tired of lying to themselves and to everyone else, they will leave the church for the sake of their intellectual integrity. “Pastor says that God speaks to us, and if this doesn’t happen, it’s probably because God isn’t real.”
3. Being psychologically unequipped to confront the despair of divine rejection and too afraid to leave the faith, they will begin to manufacture the voice of God in their heads. They will begin to imagine things He said to them out of desperation for some tangible manifestation of the presence of God, to assure them of their acceptance in His sight. Intuitions, epiphanies, and coincidences start to be twisted into a web of personal revelation that is more superstitious than Christian. Desperation to hear the voice of God leads to guessing games such as “I feel like God is leading me to…” The focus of their faith is continually directed towards subjective phenomena and away from the cross of Christ until they find themselves wondering why they even bother getting up on Sunday morning. “I can commune with God just fine wherever I am, the church gathering is just for the weak and un-spiritual.”
4. At some point, they will cease to care whether or not they’ve actually heard anything, but the lack of actual spiritual experience isn’t about to prevent them from demonstrating it. So they fake it till they make it, putting on a public show of false piety in order to show their righteousness before men. “Of course I’m not one of those people who can’t hear God.” At this point, reality cease to matter, because perception is influence. And thus we’ve fostered a spirituality of Pharisaism.
This is where enthusiasm leads. Of course there are always other possibilities, but for those who take this teaching to heart, these are very common outcomes.
There's a reason why I highlighted that section from that commentary.
Hopefully, that account clearly demonstrates why each and every one of us (myself definitely included) need to take James 3:1 much more seriously than I think we do at the present time.
If you're giving a Graduation Day speech or giving a special graduation gift to a Christian graduate this time of year, please keep it Christ-centered and cross-focused (John 3:6; John 14:6; Romans 5; 1 John 2:2)!
Please keep it about JESUS FOR YOU and not YOU FOR JESUS as though any of our "good works" done in His name in this life ever earn us God's love, forgiveness, righteousness, and salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Isaiah 64:6; Matthew 6:3-4)!
Yes, it's very tempting to want to share with them a message overflowing with command after command to "Love, Love, Love!" and to "Do, Do, Do!" and to talk about what you perceive to be their need to have to always "Do More!" and "Be Better!" in order for them to obtain a so-called "victorious/successful" Christian life.
However, it's far better to share with them a message that they are forgiven, that they are loved, and that they have hope even when they might not always "be" and "do" what they're supposed to, and especially when they might not "feel" particularly forgiven, loved, or hopeful, and that they have this glorious gift from God because of what His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has already done and continues to do FOR THEM and FOR ALL MANKIND despite our/their sins.
That's the Gospel, my friends, and yes, even Christians need to hear it repeatedly! In fact, our young graduates and the future of the world (the future of Christ's Church) need to hear it even more often in this post-modern day-and-age.
Besides, there are some pretty BIG DIFFERENCES between popular Graduation Day messages and this life-saving, life-changing Gospel, are there not?
One is a message full of sweet sounding platitudes, half-truths, and outright lies that tickle the ears (2 Timothy 4:3), while the other reminds them of our common enemy, what this world is really like, who they truly are, and why all of it means they will always need Jesus in this life (John 16:33).
One is always somehow fixated on personal pride and self-glory, while the other is always fixated on our humility and upon Christ's glory.
One always seems to awaken the "Old Adam" within, while the other merely drowns Him with the waters of our Baptism into Christ.
One is all Law all the time, while the other is a proper distinction between Law and Gospel.
So, let's try to be about substance and not style this year.
Sure, a person might be the "popular" choice to speak on Graduation Day, but is he/she going to reinforce all the things we claim to believe, teach, and confess as Lutherans, or will his/her words cast doubt upon much of it if not present his/her hearers with another alternative?
Sure, the message accompanying a graduation card or gift might be the "common" and "popular" choice, but is it actually Biblical and does it reinforce all the things we claim to believe, teach, and confess as Lutherans, or will such words cast doubt upon much of it if not present the recipient with another alternative?
Doctrine matters. Our confession of faith matters. Doctrine and our confession about that doctrine also informs our practices.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, please stick to the Gospel, remember the Sacraments, and encourage graduates (and their families who will be in attendance) in their current Vocations.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. 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 repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) 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!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, 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 they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I 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 footnotes 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 both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). 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 "Christian 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. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!