It's been interesting for me to go back and reread one of the first distinctly Lutheran pieces of writing that I had ever put my hands on (even before getting my own copy of the Book of Concord, Small/Large Catechism, and Lutheran Study Bible) back when I fully embraced becoming a Confessional Lutheran.
I had forgotten just how life-altering and radical it was for me at the time to go from a sort of "American-Evangelical-Though-Self-Identifying-As-A-Non-Denominational-Spiritual-Island-Unto-Himself-Because-All-Denominations-Are-Bad" type of Christian to a Confessional Lutheran who was just starting to adhere to "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3), which is always Christ-centered and cross-focused, because it constantly proclaims Christ crucified for the sins of all mankind and nothing else.
For that reason, I've fallen in love with this book all over again and I hope that these meager Chapter Reviews will help to explain all the reasons why while also enticing you to pick up a copy for yourself as soon as possible.
Before we get to our next Chapter Review, however, let's quickly review Pastor Fisk's main purpose in writing this book.
"In this book, I will dissect this tactic of the thief. We will look at how the devil uses such good gifts from God as your heart, your mind, and your hands to try to trick you into placing your trust not in God but in yourself. We will explore the seven counterfeit 'Christian' rules he tries to play off as if they were authentic Christianity. We will expose these rules as patterns of thinking that try to break your faith in Christianity by creating doubt. We will call these philosophical systems what they are: lies. And then we will challenge those lies with the truth given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. The crow comes cawing, promising you freedom, but telling you that YOU must earn it. He promises you supernatural wisdom, but tells you that YOU must figure it out. He promises you comfort, but insists that YOU find it inside yourself. He tells you that you're just on the other side of glory, if only YOU can create it. He offers you the world, but he leaves you hanging on a cross all by yourself, fed up with it all and wondering in anger and frustration where Jesus is. He was supposed to make it all better. He does this the only way he can: he steals Jesus' words, and he uses YOU to do it. I am not going to let that happen." pp. 21-22
Like I said once before, that's quite refreshing. It was incredibly refreshing when I first read it and it's incredibly refreshing to read it again now almost 4 years later.
Ok, but what about Chapter 6? What is the next lie that Satan uses against us so often?
"Never follow a rule that doesn't like rules."
So Chapter 6 introduces us to the sixth rule that every Christian ought to break as often as possible -- Freedom, or the incorrect belief that God's will for you is that you choose your will for yourself, that His strongest presence is found in His absence, that His only law is that you become a law unto yourself.
Freedom, then is nothing more than the worship of lawlessness.
To put it another way,
This is the true final fantasy of sin, the belief that if you can gain enough control of enough of the right things, then you can force everything else in life to go the way you want it to. So, what really matters is not what you call "sin," whether it is a giant monster or all the things you think other people shouldn't be allowed to do. What really matters is that by nature you believe it is up to you to drive the things you think are evil out of your life by any means possible. According to the wisdom of our age, there are no holds barred in this quest. There is only you and your need to make everything just fine or to convince yourself that it will be soon.
This is the highest possible good, that you be able to live your life in anyway that you see fit. It is also the real definition of sin and the sixth rule every Christian ought to break as often as humanly possible. The belief that it is God's deepest wish for you to live your life however you want is the lie that "You can find God in freedom." It is the arrogance of thinking that the purest religion is no religion, that the truest spirituality is to be a law all unto yourself.
-- pp. 193-194
To sum things up, Pastor Fisk later adds, "We worship anything promising to give us the momentary high of happiness" (p. 195).
Hammering the point home, and clearly defining how this spiritual poison can be dangerous to believers, he writes this about the false teachers that are all too common in contemporary Christianity...
Rather than telling a different story, many versions of Christianity have joined the fray as just one more way to feed the addiction. With the Bible open in his hand, one preacher or another tells you Christianity is God's way for you to get control of your life. After all, "For freedom Christ has set [you] free" (Galatians 5:1). Ripping a few verses like these out of their context, good-looking men and women who are obviously in total control of their own lives cheer on your discontent with the present. Desperately addicted sinners that we are, we latch on to their proffered lies like a junkie starving for a fix. We don't care what the lie is cut with. We just need to believe something. "God would never want you to be unhappy!" That one will justify all sorts of selfish decisions, hands down. "God is moving you from glory into glory!" That one will get you through a few hard times, so long as there is a chance of still winning in the end. "Christianity is all about love, and love means enjoying life and living it to the full!" Anybody with an itch can scratch it with that one.
-- pp. 195-196
I liked his comparing "the Christian idol worshiper" with an addict and how both learn to forget. I've written a ton about the spiritual amnesia I see in Christ's Church today and so that helped to validate my own observations over the years.
What's the tragic end result in each and every case?
Then, without even knowing it, too busy chasing escape to have seen the last chance pass, it is no longer only the traditions of men that go missing from our personal versions of Christianity. Hungry for a new fix and unable to find it from all the same old experiences, we are ready to listen when someone says, "You don't need to go to Church to worship God. You need to find God in a way that's right for you." That's right! we think. I'll give that a try.
-- pp. 196-197
I could've kept going, and the opening paragraphs to this chapter are stunning in how accurately he captures the process of how a falling away from the faith typically unfolds with most people.
When all is said and done, we're left believing, teaching, and confessing the most ridiculous so-called "truths" like...
Because God would never want you to do anything against your will. Because God is not a tyrant. Because God is love! That means God wants you to be free. He wants you to find yourself, to express yourself. He made you just the way you are! And anyone who stands in the way of that, well, that person stands in the way of God. -- p.198
From there, Rev. Fisk spends some time talking about "praise songs" in a section that any fan of Table Talk Radio's "Praise Song Cruncher" will definitely appreciate.
He even tackles those who preach anything but the Gospel only to tack on an "in Jesus' name" at the very end thinking that it's some kind of automatic stamp of approval or something.
The whole point is that Freedom lies to us by telling us that we can't really find God anywhere in this life. and so the danger is that we ironically cite our "Christian freedom" whenever we drift so far away from the basic tenets of Christianity.
This is precisely how Christianity is destroyed from within and is often the fuel lighting the fire of the "I Hate Tradition On Principle" types of Christians too.
At this point the chapter, I like how he addressed the "spiritualized immaturity" and how there's this dominant thinking right now that you don't really need to go to church at all to be a Christian. I used to be that way for a very long time.
It reminds me of a tweet I sent out around Christmas this past year when there was talk of many Christian churches that were actually planning to cancel services because Christmas fell on a Sunday this year.
We now refer to churches as "campuses" and we're surprised when they are closed for Christmas? "Students" prefer to skip school, don't they?— LutheranLayman (@LutheranLayman) December 23, 2016
The rest of the chapter deals with audacity of many (particularly those from the pulpit) who claim that "Doctrine divides!" and so we should be about "Deeds Not Creeds!" too, which is why we shouldn't worry ourselves over it (or so they constantly claim).
This constant redefinition of Christianity and Christ's Church has created the "Werechurch" that relies on Freedom as our preferred lord and savior while preaching another Gospel entirely.
To say, "we all believe in Jesus so the other things do not matter" does not lift Jesus up. It casts Him down because it casts His teaching down. It replaces Him with a man-made tradition of hating tradition, under which no single word of His is safe. -- p. 219
Eventually, Pastor Fisk builds an ironclad case that the sixth rule that every Christian ought to break as often as possible is that "You find God in Freedom." Why?
As a rule, it is an assault against the very existence of truth. It strikes at the foundation of Christianity by undermining the power of Jesus Christ to speak to us with any real meaning in anything He says. -- p. 220
This is why we must reject any, "Yes, I believe in Jesus, but He didn't really mean THAT!" type of mentality among us.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, please stick around for our final installment on this exceptional Christian book; a book that you need to add to your own personal library right away if you haven't already.
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 4 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 the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (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 not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the truth myself. 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 will 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!