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.