Great Stuff Found on the Web — A Journey to Lutheranism

Found over on Lutheran Forum:

 

by L. Koch — June 25, 2012

When I was sixteen months old, my parents had me baptized at a Presbyterian church. I have my baptismal certificate framed and hanging on my bedroom wall now. Unbeknownst to me, in my baptism, the Lord bound Himself to me and forgave me of my sins, and I was guided by the Holy Spirit. I remember learning the Old Testament Bible stories in elementary school. In my family, we always prayed before meals and at bedtime. I remember going to a few different churches; one we visited was a Unitarian church and I was impressed at that very young age that they did not talk about Jesus but ate pretzels and made masks during Sunday School.

A few years later my parents and I (an only child) moved to California and I attended a Baptist junior high school and church. As I was preparing for high school, my mom wanted to send me to a good school so we joined the Catholic church in order to get a hefty discount at the private Catholic school. I was baptized, again, as a Catholic. Very shortly after that my parents divorced. My mother was a secretary at a Unitarian church so we began going there. They were a caring community of friends who saw us through a difficult time.

In eighth grade, while I was attending the Baptist church, one of my teachers asked me if I had ever invited Christ into my heart. I simply told her, “He’s always been there.” She continued, “Yes, but have you ever prayed the sinners’ prayer?” I told her I had not, and she asked me if I’d like to. I agreed. The Baptist church and school taught me how to memorize Scripture and study the Bible; that I should be a witness and win people for the Lord.

I left home after high school and attended non-denominational churches, where I was baptized yet again. I became very upset that the people sitting in the congregations of these types of churches would just nod their heads at whatever the pastor said in his topical sermons. I remember thinking: “hook, line, and sinker.” I would always go read my Bible to see if what the pastor said was true or not. I noticed that there was not a cross in those churches, something in future years I would understand the negative significance of. I would study the Word on my own, unaware it was the Holy Spirit that was ministering to me and causing spiritual growth. Eventually I joined a charismatic church. When the churches would talk about witnessing to others, going and knocking on the doors in a neighborhood, I knew in my heart that unless the Holy Spirit calls you to do it, you would be casting your pearls before swine, so to speak. Something just did not seem right.

Twenty years later, I was church shopping with my husband after a split in the Baptist church we had been attending. We walked into a Lutheran church, which my husband characterized as “Catholic Lite.” Something resonated within me. I knew I was in the right place. It was not an emotion; it was more like a settling in my heart. Over the years, and the several different types of churches I had attended, I noticed a few things about them. There was the most reverence for God at the Catholic church; the Catholic church had one-on-one confession, a real focus not only my sin but on my forgiveness too—and that had to happen before I could take communion. But as I grew I realized there was a lot of manmade tradition in the Catholic church, a lot of things that were just not true to Scripture.

So here I am at a Lutheran church hearing words I’ve never heard before or remembered hearing: vocation, sacraments, absolution, means of grace, liturgy, law and gospel. There was quite a lot of focus on church history, which was all but absent at the other churches. When I first began attending the Lutheran church, I was disappointed to notice congregants did not come to church with their Bibles in hand. At the Baptist church there were so many people with Bibles that when we were told to look up a Scripture passage there was a great sound of pages rustling, reminding you of the middle of autumn when the wind would stir up all the leaves in the yard and blow them down the street. I then noticed that the Divine Service was taken right out of the Bible: Psalms, Hebrews, John, Philippians, Numbers. I noticed that there was catechism, but it appeared that after catechism, Bible verse memorization was not encouraged. I was wondering why there were no altar calls. The Lutheran church was definitely different. I decided to wait and see. I am glad I did.

After going through adult catechism and reading other books (Preus’s The Fire and the Staff, Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms, Walther’s Law and Gospel), I began to gain a quite different perspective on being a Christian. This new (to me) perspective was very humbling and magnified God like never before. The Bible suddenly became extremely intertwined with itself.

Grace, grace, and more grace: I heard that so much at the Lutheran church. The means of grace—God doing for me what I could not do or even have a desire to do for myself. In the Divine Service I repeat that I am a miserable sinner (which I knew I was), but it does not leave me there. My favorite part of the Divine Service is confession and absolution—every week I am reminded that my sins are forgiven! Every week I am offered the body and blood of Jesus! I remember at one Baptist church, communion was offered quarterly at a Wednesday night service. But at the Lutheran church, communion is the focus of the Divine Service.

Vocation was another word that gave my anxious soul overwhelming peace. Previously I felt I was under pressure to convert everyone I could, to witness to everyone I could. I had a desperation about me that people were going to go to hell because I couldn’t get to them; was I doing all I could taking advantage of every opportunity? Then I learned about vocation. God working through me and where I am in my station in life to accomplish His perfect will. Whatever I am—a wife, a secretary, a friend—God will use me perfectly, exactly where I am, because He put me there. What a relief!

Studying about the Old Testament tabernacle has shown me how Lutheranism has preserved real worship: we all enter by one gate (Jesus), next is the bronze altar of sacrifice (the cross), following the laver (baptism), the lit candles (the candles on the altar continue with this tradition), the showbread (Holy Communion), the altar of incense (our prayers), and finally access to God the Father. Lutherans remember to approach God on His terms, not on man’s terms. Lutherans do not remove an element because it is unpopular with today’s culture, like a cross or talk about sin. There is a wonderful balance of law and gospel.

The most paradigm-shifting thing I have learned in the Lutheran church is that God serves us. He gives us the Word, He gives us baptism, He gives us His body and blood. We merely receive. In a world that is works-based world, this receiving is not only countercultural but very humbling.

I finally had formed a picture of the difference between being Baptist and being Lutheran. Baptists walk up to God and take salvation from Him. God holds salvation out to Lutherans and they accept it. Baptists sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus,” whereas Lutherans sing, “Lord, ’Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee,” penned in the nineteenth century by Josiah Conder. More than once this hymn has brought tears of joy to my eyes. I have noticed there is a definite difference between the spirit of the hymns of the Baptist church and Lutheran church. Precht writes of pietism in Lutheran Worship: History and Practice, “Hymns based on the objective facts of God’s redemptive love in Jesus Christ were discarded for hymns of human experience. The subjective and emotional held sway in corporate worship.”

What peace I have. He has already done it all. I simply confess and believe. Luke 23:43: “Peace be with you.”

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Great Stuff Found on the Web — A Journey to Lutheranism — 16 Comments

  1. First, and foremost, I’m not here to argue religion or scripture. I’m here to simply state that i’m a sinner saved by grace. Oh, what a wonderful thing salvation is! My bible tells me that salvation is a gift. A gift freely given through god’s precious son’s blood. “For god so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 God gave his son, just as he gives salvation. Given not taken! And let us not forget that even though we’re saved by grace, we’re also living in a sinful body. And we sin daily. So therefore, we need to ask for god’s forgiveness daily also. I too have peace that I’m a child of god, that we can agree on. I’m Baptist by denomination, and a Christian because god dealt with my heart and offered me his son. And my name is written in the lamb’s book of life. Salvation, a plan so simple that god says that even a small child can understand. Amen!

  2. Oh. My. Goodness.

    Dear Sister in Christ,

    Your words are deeply humbling to me, and I thank and praise God for using you to teach us all a wonderful lesson.

    May God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our dear and blessed Most Holy Trinity, continue to bless and keep and to make His face shine upon you.

    I was born and raised in the Heart of Dixie and had many friends who were sincere and true Christians, but Southern Baptists who brought all the issues you mention in your post to every conversation. Being a Lutheran in the context of the Deep South was quite a remarkable, faith forming and soul-strengthening experience, because it was such an odd thing, to so many who simply were puzzled by us, the Lutherans.

    I had many people tell me, “Oh, you Lutherans are just like the “Catholics” except your priests can be married and you have two, instead of seven, sacraments.” Seriously, I heard that from the time I was a young child to the time I was married and preparing for the Office of the Holy Ministry and to this day, living in a heavily Roman Catholic area here in St. Louis county.

    I am deeply grateful for your words.

    God bless. God bless always.

    Pastor McCain
    St. Louis, Missouri

    PS – Can we possibly clone this person to the tune of about one million more confessors like her?

  3. My only concern is this. Is L. Koch a member of an ELCA congregation, or LCMS?

  4. Thank you for sharing L. Koch’s story with us Norm. As an adult convert and coming from a Pentecostal/Baptist background, much of what Koch writes is quite familiar to me. I thank the Lord daily for rescuing me.

  5. I don’t see much difference in the comments by Mrs Koch and Mr Pauley.  They both shine like stars in the universe.

  6. We certainly rejoice that the Holy Spirit has given Mr. Pauley the gift of salvation by grace, through faith, on account of Christ alone, but this is in spite of, not because of, the unique doctrine of the Baptist Church.

  7. @BRUCE PAULEY #1
    Lifelong Lutheran here (baptized as an infant). Bruce, your post made me smile. For the past several months, as my schedule allows, I’ve attended a monthly men’s prayer breakfast at a church with an interesting name: Grace Baptist. Really appreciate the brotherhood and fellowship.

  8. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #8
    Not one person has ever been saved by any doctrine or denomination. I and my family attend a small Baptist church in WV. We are a group of bible believing people who believe that Jesus Christ is savior and lord. We are convinced that life can’t be lived without his love, forgiveness and presence in our lives. We also believe that all can have a relationship with God. A relationship made possible because of his son’s, precious blood shed on the cross for us all. We believe that nothing is to be added or taken from God’s word. We pray only the best for you and your church and may God bless! P.s. some of our favorite hymns are Amazing Grace, He Whispers Sweet Peace To Me and Because He Lives : )

  9. @BRUCE PAULEY #11
    “Not one person has ever been saved by any doctrine or denomination.”

    On the contrary, since we are saved by grace through faith, it certainly matters what faith it is that we believe. Those teachings that we cling to are our doctrine. If we cling to the doctrines of men, God help us! But it is the doctrine of Jesus Christ alone that saves.

    I was saved by doctrine — by God’s grace through the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith in the right doctrine, the doctrine of Jesus Christ. After a lifetime of attending various Christian churches every Sunday, the best I had to cling to was that I hoped I got to heaven, because I hoped I was trying hard enough to be good. This “hoping” was no more than wishful thinking, because I knew deep down that I was not good enough. That was the doctrine of man that left me hopeless.

    Then I discovered the pure doctrine revealed in God’s Word and exhibited in the Confessions. It was revealed to me by the Holy Spirit through the doctrine of justification that it was not that I did choose Him, it was not that I was living for Jesus. It was through the Lutheran doctrine that I finally understood and believed salvation unto us had come by God’s free grace and favor through his Son who died on the cross for me. Because of the Lutheran doctrine, on Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

    The false doctrines of men were contradicting the pure, sweet doctrine of Jesus Christ, confusing and even blinding me. Because I was taught the right doctrine of the Confessions (which is nothing other than saying the same thing as what the Word of God says), I am now able to sing with gusto:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W84-59pc7Tc

  10. @BRUCE PAULEY #11
    You are indeed saved by a doctrine, my friend: sola fide is the doctrine claimed by Protestants in salvation. Yes, knowing the doctrine intellectually is not enough to save, but you must have knowledge of a doctrine in order to apply faith to that doctrine.

  11. @J. Dean #13
    You say you were saved by doctrine,I am sorry ,I was saved soley on my faith in the teaching of God’s holy word, and the fact that He sent His Son to die for my sins. It’s nothing I have done.

  12. @BRUCE PAULEY #14
    Bruce,
    Thank you for commenting on the site. You are speaking past somethings here. If you look at the words “doctrine” and “teaching”, I can say that Lutherans view those words as synonyms. In fact, if you look at various translations of Acts 2:42, some say “teaching” (ESV), some will say “doctrine” (NKJV). They are both appropriate translations of the Greek word didache. I hope that clarifies things.

  13. From the article: “I then noticed that the Divine Service was taken right out of the Bible: Psalms, Hebrews, John, Philippians, Numbers.”

    Even more fascinating was the fact that L. Koch was attracted to the divine service. It was not the praise band nor an expensive district-sponsored “Church Growth” program that led her to Lutheranism.

    Sadly, this is truly the kind of conversion story that LCMS district presidents would hope that no one would see.

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