Three years ago today, Bobby (my hubby) and I became officially Lutheran as we were received into membership with Faith Lutheran Church-LCMS. I mentioned to a sweet sister in Christ last night that it seems as if we've always been Lutheran and yet, it still seems new. I will not forget my past, 20 years in Pentecostalism/Charismatic teachings and then 10 as a Dutch Reformed gal. Though there is much I need to un-learn, still more to re-learn and mostly I need to learn from the Word of God as is plainly taught, but I love my brothers and sisters who remain in those other churches. However, I long for them too, to come into the true joys of assurance which can only be found in God's Word as He works through His Sacraments.
As I reflect upon all that has happened these past three (3) years, I realize the following only touches the surface:
Publishing The Accidental Lutheran
Attending the International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism and Human Rights
Starting this Blog
Becoming a Sunday School teacher
Attending Ladies Bible Study and learning from various hymns the wonderful truths of Scripture
Attending Adult Mid-Week Bible Study and learning about Baptism, the Lord's Supper and the Liturgy
Friends becoming Family...and boy has our Family grown
If you keep up on my blog, you may know that as a Calvinist (Dutch Reformed) gal I lacked assurance of salvation. After all, how can one possibly know that they're among the elect? How can you be sure that you have "true faith" when you're told to look within.
However, when you begin to understand that God works only through external means (Means of Grace) and He said Jesus died for EVERYONE (not just the elect) and therefore, loves you...loves me...then you will begin to realize you are truly in His Hands and can be assured that your sins, even though many, are forgiven in and through Jesus Christ.
Last night, in Bible study, I mentioned that God has used such simple means to bring us the forgiveness of sins, and yet, as a Pentecostal (grew up that way) and even as a Dutch Reformed gal, it was all so complicated. God has chosen to use water with the Word, the Preached Word, Absolution and the True Body and Blood of our Lord in the Bread and Wine to forgive us of all our sins. "How wonderful, How marvelous...and my soul shall ever sing" as the hymn says, "is my Savior's love for me..."
I sit here at my computer and my eyes are welling up with tears. Tears of gratitude. Tears of joy. Tears of wonder. Tears that still marvel at His incredibly gracious kindness towards me. Years of struggle with assurance ended with understanding what God's Word actually says,
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 3:21 ESV)
...and He means what He says. Though an adult convert, I can now look at when I was baptized in water, as the moment God placed His Name on me and gave me all those precious promises of salvation. Isn't it amazing that God does not leave us to look for assurance either in how much we've repented, or in some decision (which we cannot make anyway) or in anything other than the work He does on us through the Preaching of the Word and the Water with the Word? 30 plus years I based my assurance on sand; I repented, I confessed, I believed...I, I, I. These past 3 plus years God straightened that out for me.
All those years reading 1 Peter 3 and never paying attention to what it actually says. The same goes for the text on Baptism found in the Old Testament. Yes. I said Old Testament.
Read this and put in proper order how God saves His People:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26-28 ESV)
God sprinkles clean water on you.
Hmmm. Read it again. Clean water. THAT's BAPTISM my evangelical friends. This is not some analogy. God's Word plainly says that He sprinkles us with water...clean water.
2. We are then made clean. WHAT? Not physically but spiritually. Read it again...from all, not some, not a few, not just the past ones, but ALL your uncleannesses (sins). Wait! What? Yes, my evangelical friends. Baptism "now saves you", to quote the Apostle Peter.
3. New heart. Oh my!?! You mean regeneration happens at baptism? YES! God gives us, NOT we take or make our heart new. God gives us a new heart and a new spirit. Romans 8 reminds us that if we don't have the Spirit we are not his (v9).
God is doing all of this...and He is doing it through the Water with the Word.
Let me ask my evangelical friends this: Where do YOU look for assurance that you are saved from your sins? Are you looking within? Are you "navel gazing"? Are you looking at an experience you had? How do you know you've repented enough? Were you really sincere when you walked down that aisle (as every eye was closed) or signed that "decision card"? Remember, the heart is quite deceitful so I wouldn't put too much weight on relying on what your heart or head is saying.
God has given such a better place for assurance: His work in sprinkling you with clean water cleansing your from ALL your sins.
This is what amazes me, my evangelical friends. This is true assurance of faith; outside of us. (Extra Nos). God works outwardly through various means (hearing, water, bread and wine) the inward work (Intra Nos) of forgiveness of sins.
Some of my Pentecostal and Calvinist (Reformed and Presbyterian) friends struggle with this truth. I would simply say for you to read the Bible for what it is saying without trying to fit God into your box, your theological perspective, your systematic theology. Instead, just believe what He says and leave the miraculous nature of these simple things to Him...after all, as my dear friend Sally S. says, "He's God and we're not."
As I think of all that God has done in these past 3 plus years, I am still amazed at His goodness towards me, His marvelous Grace, His kindness, patience, love and care. Another dear friend shared how she was concerned when I shared I'd become Lutheran and thought...oh no, here we go again. Then, she wrote: you sound so happy and grounded...never seen your feet so firmly planted...and so rooted and sure of your faith...a beauty to behold.
That made me cry with joy. God did this. Not me. Not even me becoming Lutheran. Rather, because Lutheranism teaches the Scriptures plainly, the joy of salvation are drawn out of those blessed waters (Oh wait, could Isaiah being speaking of water and salvation = Baptism in Isaiah 12:3? I think so...). God did this. As my husband would say, "I'm here for the ride..." God did the work. He washed me. He cleansed me. He taught me through the faithful preaching of my Pastor and other Lutheran ministers in books and online, that He means what His Word says. I don't have to figure Him out. It's pretty plain and simple:
Christ died for the world.
God gives us that salvation through Word and Sacrament.
God keeps us through Word and Sacrament.
Still, this echoes in my heart as I think of what God has done for me and for Bobby when He brought us to Lutheranism (aka Biblical Christianity):
I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner condemned, unclean.
How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!
and this Hymn:
The gifts Christ freely gives
He gives to you and me
To be His Church, His bride,
His chosen, saved and free!
Saints blest with these rich gifts
Are children who proclaim
That they were won by Christ
And cling to His strong name.
The gifts flow from the font
Where He calls us His own;
New life He gives that makes
Us His and His alone.
Here He forgives our sins
With water and His Word;
The triune God Himself
Gives pow'r to call Him Lord.
The gifts of grace and peace
From absolution flow;
The pastor's words are Christ's
For us to trust and know.
Forgiveness that we need
Is granted to us there;
The Lord of mercy sends
Us forth in His blest care.
The gifts are there each day
The holy Word is read;
God's children listen, hear,
Receive, and they are fed.
Christ fills them with Himself,
Blest words that give them life,
Restoring and refreshing
Them for this world's strife.
The gifts are in the feast,
Gifts far more than we see;
Beneath the bread and wine
Is food from Calvary.
The body and the blood
Remove our ev'ry sin;
We leave His presence in
His peace, renewed again.
All glory to the One
Who lavishes such love;
The triune God in love
Assures our life above.
His means of grace for us
Are gifts He loves to give;
All thanks and praise for His
Great love by which we live!
Again, I cannot possibly express in its fullest manner, how grateful I am for all that God has done.
If you would like more information on how God brought us to Lutheranism (aka Biblical Christianity), please check out my book, available here: