What faith alone in Christ alone truly means

Faith alone isn't a commitment to live for Jesus. Nor to do better. Nor dedicate our lives to serve and obey Jesus. Nor let Jesus into our hearts. Nor us giving ourselves for Him.

Faith alone is a passive reception of all that Jesus did for us: Him crucified for our sins, Him resurrected to give us hope.

Faith alone doesn't look to what we will do or commit to do for Jesus. It looks to Jesus giving of Himself for us. It looks to Him living and dying and living again for us. It looks to Him committing and dedicating to be our Savior who as spotless Lamb of God who takes away our sins.

Faith alone looks outside ourselves. Not inwards at ourselves.

Assurance in the truest sense of the word is objectively centered on God Incarnate who did it all for us 2000 years and meet us in objective means God calls us to receive Him in real time, by grace through faith in objective fact that Christ had accomplished redemption and forgiveness of our sins on our behalf.

Here we stand.


Reformed is a Misnomer

It's no secret that the Reformed Church in all of its stripes claims catholicity and claims to be a Reformation of the church catholic. I do not, however, think these claims are valid, for numerous doctrinal reasons.

First, let us say that there are three major ideas in play here. First is the idea of apostolic succession. The Church of Rome banks their entire existence on the succession of the Papacy from St. Peter all the way down to Pope Francis. Other churches base this concept on the laying on of hands traced from the Apostles. Second is the history of the church and the ecumenical councils. All churches that claim catholicity (mainly RCC, Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican) must by default have interest in the councils. Likewise, we have the similar topic of historical church practice and doctrine. Finally, we have the idea of apostolic doctrinal succession via the Scriptures.

I posit that the Reformed Church has none of these. They don't care for apostolic succession. Many churches don't, and nowhere does the Scripture say that the true church is the one who has the Pope or carries on via the laying on of hands, no matter how many other doctrinal errors they have. So, we won't hold that one against them.

The Reformed Church also is not catholic in the sense of church history and the ecumenical councils. Sure, St. Augustine held to a form of double predestination, but the council that the Reformed like the most (Council of Orange, 529) actually sharply rebukes and declares heretical the doctrine of double predestination. And it upholds in very strong wording the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, which is something the Reformed reject, mainly due to their stances on election, atonement, and perseverance. To put it bluntly, the church catholic throughout the years did not hold to limited atonement or perseverance of the saints. Likewise, that same church catholic throughout history has strongly affirmed baptismal regeneration as well as the real bodily presence of Christ in the Eucharist, which are two things the Reformed Church rejects. The church councils and history of doctrine and practice are definitely not in favor of the Reformed Church. In short, when pushed, the Reformed Church must in effect say that the church throughout the years simply did not have it right concerning these things.

Finally, we have the idea of doctrinal succession. This idea ties in directly with the second idea. Does the Reformed Church have correct doctrinal succession all the way back to the Apostles? The answer to this also is no. Historically, the church catholic did not teach the strong distinctives of Reformed Theology. In fact, the church catholic actually taught against some of these things. Nobody taught limited atonement, because it's not in the Scriptures. Everyone taught baptismal regeneration and the Real Presence, because they are in the Scriptures. Nobody taught irresistible grace only for the elect by a secret inward call, because that is not in the Scriptures.

The Reformed like to call us back to Scripture, and this is indeed an excellent thing. Yet, they are calling us back to a Calvinistic Systematic reading of the Scriptures, which end up being interpretations of numerous passages that nobody in church history posited for 1500 years. This is not an excellent thing.

Hence, the term "Reformed" Church is a misnomer. The Reformed did not Reform the church, they started something completely new and have interpretations on core theological issues that were new to the 16th century. Not to mention the offspring of the classical Reformed Church which includes the Arminians, Wesleyans, and all stripes of Baptists, all three of which are far from historical catholic Christianity. The catholicity is simply not there, save for one aberrant doctrine taught by St. Augustine. As much as the Reformed claim that they are the true Reformation of the church catholic, they simply are not. It's unfathomable to think that the church catholic was simply wrong on so many core doctrines for 1500+ years.

The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, errs on the other side of things. By declaring Herself infallible in matters of dogma in 1870, Rome has rendered Herself unreformable altogether and simply cannot call Herself back to the history, catholicity, and Scriptures of the church where She has erred grievously. To do so would be to render Her self-proclaimed infallibility an error in itself. This is not good either. The church catholic must always be brought back to the Word of God as Her infallible truth, being guided by the great Creeds, Confessions, and history of the church. There is hope the Reformed can still do this on core doctrinal topics, but for Rome, that ship has sailed.

There is much more to say about this topic, but from where I stand, these are some of the core issues. More reasons to be Lutheran.



Running Away from Church

It's quite common for people to abandon the church. We've all seen it; a seemingly well-meaning Christian who simply up and walks away. Sometimes it takes a long period of time for this to happen and sometimes it happens strikingly quickly. It's common for Christians to face doubts. We all have. Sometimes those doubts cross over into a full-blown crisis of faith. It's not abnormal and it doesn't mean that your faith sucks or that you're somehow less of a person. Far from it. It makes you a human.

This post is not going to delve into defenses for the Christian faith, although there are some excellent ones out there. Rather, it's going to focus on something that the Christian church at-large has done a really poor job at, and I think that it contributes to driving people away from the church.

This is going to sound so simple it's almost foolish. The Christian Church at-large has abandoned Christ and the things He did to save us as the central teaching of the church. In other words, the Gospel is not the center of Christian teaching in most churches. Or at the very least, the Gospel is treated as something we already know, but now we're going to move on to bigger and better things.

This guy happens to think that this directly contributes to people leaving the church. It just makes sense that if you relegate the central teaching of Christianity to a sort of secondary status, something else rushes in to replace it and take the place of that central teaching.

Surprisingly, from what I can see, this thing that comes rushing in is almost always the same thing. When the Church abandons Christ the Savior as the central teaching of their Church and does not preach Christ crucified every time they gather, the thing that almost always rushes in to fill the void is me, myself, and I. It always comes back to that. Sure, the pastor or priest probably is using the Scriptures to deliver their message, but if they are not grounding it in the Gospel and not culminating their message in Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins, the message will ultimately drive people from the church or put them on the road to works righteousness.

Messages centered on victorious Christian living or helping others miss the point. Don't get me wrong, the Scriptures talk about helping others a lot. Yet, it is never the central focus of Christianity. Christ crucified for you is the focus. Messages like this ultimately give the listeners the wrong idea. The idea is that Jesus has died and risen, but that is old news. Now it is up to you to do, do, do. The doctrine of justification extra nos is swallowed up by the doctrine of sanctification, growing in grace, or living victoriously. In short, these sorts of messages put people on a treadmill that never ends.

These sorts of messages drive Christians to continual introspection, navel-gazing, and fruit checking. They do not point to the crucified and risen Lord. And in that regard, they severely miss the point.

How does this drive people away form the Church? Well, all it takes is for something to put their thinking cap on for a minute. When someone thinks about this, questions begin to arise. Am I doing enough to love my neighbor? Am I living victoriously? Am I doing what God wants me to? Am I getting the blessings God has for me? Am I meeting God's requirements and honoring Him in my life?

If the thinking person answers these questions honestly, they must answer them as follows: No, No, No, No, and finally, No.

And herein lies the problem. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. And for that we must repent. We do not live a life of constant victory. Christ did that for us. We can never do exactly what God wants of us, because we are sinful. If we're looking for special blessings outside of Christ and the forgiveness of sins, we're out in left field anyways. And we can never meet God's standards and requirements because He is God and He is perfect and we can never be.

In other words, when churches put people on this spiritual treadmill and the people think about this a little bit, they end up in one of two directions. The first and honest direction is to realize that you cannot do enough. The second direction ends up denying the sinfulness still inherent in all of us, even Christians, and ends up denying things like original sin and is ultimately a direct assault on Christ and the Gospel itself.

We end up judging each other by our outward holiness and actions. We refer to people as good Christians, nominal Christians, or bad Christians. All of this is bullcrap. The only thing you're good at is sinning. This is why we confess, as Lutherans, at the beginning of the service;

Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your Holy Name. Amen. (LSB - Divine Service Setting 1)

And the pastor responds: 

Almighty God has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (LSB - Divine Service Setting 1)

In other words, continual repentance and forgiveness is the Christian life. Not victorious living and perfect obedience to Christ. Obedience is good and obedience is important. But even our best obedience falls short. We need forgiveness, and for that, we need the work of Christ on our behalf, given to us objectively via Word and Sacrament.

We must anchor everything in our worship and practice in Christ crucified for the forgiveness of all of our sins. Once we get off of that sure footing, we end up on the never-ending treadmill. People realize this and end up running away from church. They're not dumb. There are a lot of ex-Christians out there who have left the church for this very reason. They get put on the treadmill and they realize they can't do it. Others have left for other reasons, but that is not what this post is about. People think and reason, and that is a good thing used within its proper context and setting. But if we're honest, we just can't stay on that treadmill that well.

Once you get away from Jesus, who He is, what He has done for us, and how we are made right with God completely apart from our insufficient works, you get away from Christianity altogether into a counterfeit of the real thing.


Christ is Sufficient

Christ is sufficient. This is most certainly true. If there is anything humanity needs to do in order to be saved, two things are also true. First, Christ would be insufficient, in Himself, as a Savior. Second, nobody would be saved.

Christ did it all. There is nothing more that needs to be done in order to be saved. Works will not get you there, for there is one who died and rose on your behalf and made satisfaction for all of your sins. Not just some, and certainly not just your sins before you became a Christian. No. All of them. Not only so, but Christ Himself established a Church and He delivers this free grace to us through Word and Sacrament. He washes us clean in our Holy Baptism. He pronounces us forgiven in absolution. He delivers us His Word in the preaching of the Gospel. He feeds us His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. It's all a one-sided deliverance of gifts. This is Gospel. This is THE Gospel. To turn around and say that we have to add to that is to effectively deny the Gospel. To say that there is something more to add is to claim that Christ did not do enough. May it never be so!

If Christ is not sufficient by Himself, nobody would be saved. Not one. If you think that Christ saved you, but now it's up to you to make good of grace to finish your salvation, then it's safe to say that you probably don't understand grace or your sinfulness. Different churches sometimes teach exactly this idea in different ways. Some churches flatly say that we are justified by faith plus works. Hey, 10 points for honesty and clarity. Others give you Christ and then take Him right back once you've made a decision - putting you on the treadmill of living out the life in a victorious way.

The truth is, even for the Christian, you can never move beyond the Gospel. You can never move beyond Christ. He is the center of everything for us. And Christ has done it all.

But Christ had to do it all, didn't He? I mean, just look at what the Holy Scriptures say about who we are and what we have done.

Jeremiah 17:9: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Romans 3:10-12: as it is written, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Then go ahead and read verses 13-18. Not to mention, keep in mind that it's impossible to totally stop sinning, and God still has a standard of absolute perfection. Of course, that is why Christ does it all. The epistles of St. Paul point this out quite nicely. He writes numerous letters to first century churches addressing sin problems. 1 Corinthians is a great example. And he never hesitates to call these people brothers. They're simultaneously sinner and saint. Thus says St. Paul.

And to further the good news, Christ directly delivers His grace and good gifts to us directly and objectively through means. He does not grace us secretly in a Gnostic manner so then we can turn around and show Him how obedient we are by getting baptized and eating crackers and Welch's grape juice. That's not what the Scriptures say. The Bible does not talk about these sacraments in an ornamental fashion. It talks about them in a Sacramental fashion. They are God's objective means to save us.

That completely sufficient Christ gives us Himself in completely sufficient means of grace. Pretty nice, huh?

Hence, it's quite important that your theology and worship majors on the majors, so to speak. Who is Christ? What do we believe? How is man made right before God? To put it simply, if worship and theology is not Christocentric, it's missing the point and ends up majoring on the minors, so to speak.

The completely and perfectly sufficient Jesus at the center. All the time. For you.




I did not come to Lutheranism because I "figured things out" by reading articles, although studying can be a good thing.

I did not come to Lutheranism for the beauty of the liturgy of the Divine Service, although the liturgy is indeed beautiful.

I did not come to Lutheranism because of a desire to be connected to the past and to the historic catholicity of the Church, although it is a valid desire to wish to be connected to the catholicity of the Church.

No indeed.

I came to Lutheranism for the pure and clear and unadulterated Gospel given to sinners like me in Word and Sacrament. God coming down to me. The gracious God Who loves everyone and died for everyone on the Cross. The God Who desires everyone to be saved. The God Who gave His only Son for the world, and continues to send His Son down to us in His Word and in His Sacraments.

I came to Lutheranism because of the "for *you*."

I came to Lutheranism because of "*Josh*, this is the True Body of Christ, given for *you* for the forgiveness of sins. *Josh*, this is the True Blood of Christ shed for *you* for the forgiveness of all of your sins."

I came to Lutheranism because of "*Josh*, upon this your confession, as Christ's minister and in the stead of Christ I forgive you of all of your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son†, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

I came to Lutheranism because a "striving" mindset and a "sanctification" mindset always fails.

I came to Lutheranism because free justification for the sake of Christ is always central, as my soul needs.

I came to Lutheranism because I was burnt out on my "efforts."

I came to Lutheranism because of "just give me Jesus in Word and Sacrament."

I came to Lutheranism because I needed a gracious God.

"Let it be enough for you that you have a gracious God," Luther rightly says.

We are all beggars. This is most certainly true.

We never get past the need of forgiveness.

God loves you.

Jesus died for you.


Your sins are forgiven.