Raised as a very outspoken, dress-wearing independent Baptist,
I grew up believing that what determined how it is between God and me, depended on me. As long as I didn’t “drink, smoke, chew or run with boys that do” and as long as I really focused on MY spirituality, MY quiet time with the Lord, MY sanctification, then I was pretty much okay. Of course, the official teaching of the church is that you are saved by grace through faith alone, but everything else you see around you screams something else. The huge pitfall to this way of believing is that it turns you so inward…..you become obsessed with your own spiritual life and walk and at least in my case, second guess yourself all the time:
“Am I spiritual enough?
Am I sincere enough?
Maybe I wasn’t even REALLY saved back when I was 8?
Why else would I continue to sin?
Am I becoming more Christlike?”
You see where this is going. Pretty soon, this pietistic, self-focused form of religion leads you into a tailspin and in the end, you fall into either despair or pride. I fell into despair knowing that I was not ‘pulling’ this off. And I saw so many people around who seemed to be ‘managing it’ , somehow. So, what was wrong with me?
I nearly lost my way. Others fall into the pride pitfall. They really think they are ‘pulling it off’. They are living the ‘sanctified’ life, becoming more and more spiritual, almost not sinning any more, saying to themselves a familiar saying, “I thank God that I’m not like those people”.
So, what’s different about Lutheranism? It’s intensely cross-centered and Christ focused. No pietists allowed. Lutherans believe like Saint Paul who said he was the chief of sinners. They REALLY believe in the ‘solas’ of the reformation:
GRACE ALONE THROUGH FAITH ALONE IN CHRIST ALONE.
My salvation and my sancification are not my work. I don’t have to worry about MY sincerity, MY spirituality, or MY anything. It is through the vicarious atonement of Christ on the cross that provides everything I will ever need. This marvelous plan for my redemption leaves me free: free from self-obsession, free from the shackles of works righteousness, and most of all free to serve my neighbor. Now, all my energies can be focused on my neighbor and what my neighbors’ need is. This focus on the cross is rampant in the conservative form of Lutheranism that we are apart of (Missouri-Synod) and I would never subject myself again to the heresy of any denomination that is always focused on the christian rather than Christ.
Check this out in your own church for the next few weeks. Just listen to the sermon. Who is it about? 7 ways to be a better wife?, 10 steps to a better marriage? Becoming a better you? Almost every church marquis I pass tells me everything I need to know. It was an eye-opener to me when I looked at my own bookshelf. You probably have all the same ones: The Purpose Driven Life, Your Best Life Now, The Power of a Positive Mom, Promise Keepers, etc, ad nauseum. Our society and our churches are obsessed with self.
I only know one Man who lived the purpose driven life and who kept His promises.
We should trust in HIM alone.
Gina Williams says
Amen, sister…When is the next sermon? You are so on it…our motto at Blount Community is Love God, Love Others!!!!That’s what it is about. Not us.
My ‘sermon’ series will likely be sporadic like most things in my life but thank you so much for the amen! Love ya.
The Newbie says
Interesting, thanks for sharing. As an member of the LDS Church we believe in being saved by grace after all we can do. In other words, we believe it’s not enough to just say you have faith but you also have to live a good upstanding life, doing your best. Having said that, there is a lot of pressure put on us to do SO many things and with my guilt ridden personality I rarely feel good enough. I have noticed in the past when I’m having problems and I just keep thinking about myself, if I just go and serve someone as Christ would, I forget myself and things get so much better. I probably focus on myself to much and not on Him. BTW, how was it for you to leave a church you were brought up in? How did your family and friends react?
Thanks for the thoughtful remarks. Posting religious or political musings is fraught with danger, I know. My family has been so gracious about it. “Gina”, above, is my sister! The Lutheran church baptizes all ages, including infants, so that may have been the biggest hurdle. But they were all there at the baptism of my girls, very supportive. I am so thankful for that. And as for leaving my childhood denomination: not really that hard at all. There were inconsistencies that I never could truly grasp that the Lutheran teaching has made sense of for me. I listen to “Issues, Etc” everyday-great internet radio program BTW, and that has helped alot.
Just found your blog last night and have been reading instead of working, catching up on your older posts. Love it, and will be here faithfully looking for updates.
I am very unfamiliar with the Lutheran church and interested to learn more. You have raised some interesting points which had not occurred to me before, but resonate with my spirit.
I love this post Edie! A big THANK YOU 🙂
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I can from a similar church background as you (baptis, then bible church and then non-denominational. When we moved about 4 months ago our family started attending our first Lutheran church. We have loved it! With no experience with church calender we have experienced the wisdom of it.
Have you ever written about infant baptism? This is such a different teaching for me and a bit of a confusing hang up?