My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him. Whoever is not against us is for us.”
Entrance to The Lighthouse Church in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The building once served as a Jewish synagogue in the town.
When I was in college I decided to join the Lutheran church. That process involved taking a 12 week Bible study in which I learned some things that impressed me greatly. Key to my desire to identify with those who call themselves Lutherans are these two pillars:
- the grace of God in Jesus Christ is central to Lutheran teaching; and
- the Bible is grounding of all that we believe, teach, and confess.
The clarity and emphasis with which these were taught, and the fact that all that was embraced and taught in the Lutheran Church is held up by these two pillars made a strong impression on me.
There are those who stand for nothing and fall for anything. They have no true center, no clear confession, their watchword is tolerance. There are also those who draw their lines so sharply, and make the walls so confining that I wonder sometimes whether more than one person can live within those constraints. It distresses me that sometimes I find myself in one or the other of those camps.
Thankfully God does not operate under such constraints nor, however, does he opt for a no-matter-what-you-believe-as-long-as-you-believe-it-sincerely kind of orthodoxy. God has clearly expressed his identity as the Father who sent his Son, who gave his life for the sins of the world, and sent the Holy Spirit, who brings us to faith and compels us to share God’s love. Jesus reminds us here, that we are his people, along with whomever he embraces with his love, and that we need to worry less about who’s in the club, and more about whether we are following Jesus.
I appreciate how my wife recently identified herself as “a follower of Jesus Christ who worships in a Lutheran community.” I am happy to identify myself with the Lutheran Church in which I serve. Moreover, however, I am deeply thankful for the grace of God and the truth of the Scripture, and I rejoice whenever anyone embraces Jesus, who is the embodiment of grace and truth.
A Max Lucado story comes to mind…
Some time ago I came upon a fellow on a trip who was carrying a Bible.
“Are you a believer?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he said excitedly.
I’ve learned you can’t be too careful.
“Virgin birth?” I asked.
“I accept it.”
“Deity of Jesus?”
“Death of Christ on the cross?”
“He died for all people.”
Could it be that I was face to face with a Christian? Perhaps. Nonetheless, I continued my checklist.
“Status of man.”
“Sinner in need of grace.”
“Definition of grace.”
“God doing for man what man can’t do.”
“Return of Christ?”
“The Body of Christ.”
I started getting excited. “Conservative or liberal?”
He was getting interested too. “Conservative.”
My heart began to beat faster.
“Southern Congregationalist Holy Son of God Dispensationalist Triune Convention.”
That was mine!
“Pre-millennial, post-trib, noncharismatic, King James, one-cup communion.”
My eyes misted. I had only one other question.
“Is your pulpit wooden or fiberglass?”
“Fiberglass,” he responded.
I withdrew my hand and stiffened my neck. “Heretic!” I said and walked away.
[A GENTLE THUNDER, Max Lucado p. 139, 140]