5 Signs You’re An Immature Christian

blog - immature christian Yeah, that title maybe sounds a little harsh. But, for this post at least, I’m less concerned with what someone might think is “harsh” and more concerned with what is true. After all, the Apostle Peter said, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Pet. 2:1-3) He literally encouraged people to “grow up.”  Sometimes the biggest seasons of growth in my Christian faith have come after an acute revelation of something in my life that was simply incompatible with the truth I’d learned from the gospel.

So, I jotted down a bunch of thoughts and narrowed the list to the five that I think are the biggest signs that someone is in need of upshifting gears in their Christian maturity.

By the way, if you think I’m under the delusion that I haven’t struggled with these myself or have somehow reached the pinnacle of Christian maturity, rest assured, I’ve struggled with each of these at various points. But I can confidently say that such struggles were the product of me not believing certain aspects of the promises & will of God, i.e. immaturity.

1) You think the Bible and Church are boring

The Bible is many things. Boring is not one of them. If that’s your assessment of the best-selling, most printed, most quoted, most mimicked, most died-for modern or ancient book in history, step back and perhaps allow for the fact that you’ve maybe missed something.

Similarly, “church” or “worship” is many things. Inherently boring is not one. Anytime humans are blatantly, voluntarily, publicly bowing down to something in acknowledgment that it is more important to them than they are, this is pretty fascinating. Granted, the music of worship can be drab or sluggish or difficult to understand. Granted, the minister could be a not particularly skilled communicator, we all have different gifts – by the way, while communication is a variable, Spirit-given gift, if ANY minister gives the insinuation that the message of Scripture is something less than enormously life-changing, this would be one of the bigger mistakes he can make in his ministry. Granted, it’s possible that the people whom you worship with could be stuffy, self-righteous, non risk-taking, boring people. But PLEASE don’t make the mistake of assuming this all means that the Bible or Church are necessarily boring themselves. That’s like seeing a divorce and saying something is wrong with God’s design for marriage. The problem is NOT the design, but in the failed execution on behalf of imperfect humans.

There was a time when I thought the Bible was sort of boring. Attending a private Christian school, I deduced that Bible Study was the least interesting, least life applicable class that I took. I drew that profound conclusion when I was 12 years old.

Two decades later, Bible Study is not only what I do for a living, it’s also the most interesting, relevant, eminent thing going on in my life. I grew up spiritually. It wasn’t just a “getting older” thing. Technically, how it happened was a combination of humbling life experience and increased biblical familiarity.

Imagine an archaeological dig where you carefully shovel and dust for hours with little satisfaction. Eventually you uncover a minuscule bone. It’s enough to keep you pressing on. In time, you discover that this little bone is connected to a fully intact tyrannosaurus rex. The first couple hours you felt like an idiot standing in the blazing sun in cargo pants with a tiny brush. Now you’ve encountered the most exciting discovery of your life. It took….time, patience. There’s no shortcut with studying the Word of God. Stick with it, I promise you’ll find something better than a dead dinosaur.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Rom. 11:33)

2) You don’t understand the depravity of mankind

One of the biggest lies that Americans believe is that humans are basically good. Again, maybe that sounds depressing to you, but a positive reality is more important to me than a pleasant, misinformed dream.

Now, don’t mistake what I’m saying. Humanity was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27; 9:6; Jam. 3:9), imprinted with the ethical will of God (Rom. 2:14-15). Consequently, every one of us has the blueprint for a moral life printed on our hearts. This explains how we see so much good in the world coming from those who don’t know the very God who created them.

Nonetheless, humans are capable of homicide, genocide, suicide, rape, torture, theft, slander, selfishness, arrogance, condescension, lies, disrespect, annoyance, selfies and hashtags…i.e. criminal behavior of varying degrees. Furthermore, according to the Bible, we were ALL responsible for the single greatest travesty in history – the murder of the one fully innocent human, Jesus Christ.

Consequently, one of the most difficult things for me to hear as a pastor is when a fellow Christian says, “____________ would never do ________________.” Nonsense. Do you think Hitler’s mom thought he’d be pushing millions into a furnace?

If I’ve learned anything from working at my desk while my wife was watching seven seasons of House M.D. on Netflix in the background, it’s that you can only treat a sickness successfully once you’ve properly diagnosed it. The biblical diagnosis is that “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” (Gen. 8:21)

3) You misuse/abuse the grace of Christ

Martin Luther once said that we’re saved by faith alone, but not by faith that remains alone. It’s a great summary of what living, active, healthy faith looks like. In other words, he’s suggesting that our salvation only comes through the merits of Christ. And we receive the blessing of Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross through faith. But, if we sincerely have faith that trusts in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the best indicator of that is what the Bible calls “fruit of faith.” (Gal. 5:22-23) These are the natural responses to understanding God’s goodness to us.

If fruit of faith is nonexistent in our lives, while we may have a knowledge of who Jesus is and what he did for us, we have legitimate cause to question whether or not we possess saving faith in him. Lots of characters in the Bible understood the objective truth of who Jesus was, but nonetheless lacked faith in him as their Lord and Savior.

One of the evidences that you have knowledge of Jesus, but lack faith in Jesus (at least to some extent), is that you’re using the forgiveness Jesus won for the world on the cross as a “get out of hell free” card to excuse your sin.

For instance, I’ve known a number of weak-faithed Christians who will acknowledge that their sexual relationship with their boyfriend/girlfriend clearly violates God’s design for sex – i.e. that it is exclusively designed for marriage. And yet they justify their behavior by saying, “Well, thank goodness Jesus died for all of my sins.” I’m sorry, that’s not the response of healthy faith. Repentance is a turning away from sin and embracing the mercy of Christ’s forgiveness. If you don’t have desire to turn from the sin, that’s called impenitence. Impenitence is a fruit of unbelief, not belief. The writer to the Hebrews put it like this: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Heb. 10:26-27)

4) You think you’re right with God on the basis of your “better” lifestyle

There was a time in my life when I was very bitter with God because I felt the level of blessings he’d been giving me weren’t compatible with the amount of faithfulness I was showing him. Yes, that’s twisted, I know.

Let me give you just one example. I remember a day in my teen years where I gave an offering in church that was significantly more than I normally gave. Realistically, the offering was more the process of poor planning than anything. Nonetheless, I felt pretty good about it. Doing okay so far. Later that day I’d go on to play my best game of basketball that year. I drew a line from point A to point B, and the following week, when it was once again a chance for me to give an offering in worship, I gave the same “higher” amount that I’d given the previous week. Well, guess what? I actually played quite poorly in my basketball game that evening. I was so disenchanted. Here I had once again gone above and beyond to show God I was thinking about him, even dropping A. Jackson’s in the plate, and yet God had forgotten me. Furthermore, not only was I behaving so well and not being rewarded, but there were others I played with who, in my own perception, were significantly less godly in their lifestyle, and they were doing better than I was.

I was ticked. And it was because I had no concept of grace.

Many Christians, when pressed on issues of the afterlife, will say something along the lines that they’re confident they’re going to heaven “because I’m Christian, or at least I’m trying to be.” But either we’re saved by grace, or we’re not. Saying you’re “trying to be a Christian” is categorically moving your salvation into the arena of personal performance and merit, i.e. not grace.

If you believe you’re saved by grace, you never logically have the right to look down on anyone else as inferior or assume that you deserve better than what God is giving you. If you’re leveraging your “good lifestyle” to earn favor from God, not simply to thank God, then you are pursuing God not for him, but for his blessings. That’s like a woman marrying a dude for his millions of dollars, not for who he is. In other words, that’s not love.

“If by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Rom. 11:6)

5) You’re afraid that Jesus can’t forgive you for your sins

Perhaps the most dangerous immaturity for a Christian, the one that is closest to pushing us outside the kingdom of God, is the failure to trust that Jesus’ atonement on the cross was powerful enough to cover even the biggest and ugliest of your sins.

We might call this the Judas Sin. Now there is a difference between being convinced that the grace of Jesus cannot pay for your sin (as Judas felt) and the fear that God might not still love you when you’ve committed a terrible mistake, or perhaps made the same mistake more than once. We all struggle with this to some degree. But underestimating Jesus is the biggest mistake any human can make.

Underestimating the depth of Jesus’ loving forgiveness is probably the most immature thing a Christian can do. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the most powerful force behind our sinfulness is our failure to comprehend the depth of God’s love for us. For instance, as you analyze the first sin – that of Adam and Eve – you notice that while their action was disobediently eating the fruit, the motive, the attitude, the thought that led to the action was their failure to believe that the command God had given to them actually sprang forth out of his love for them. They underestimated God’s love.

If we dare suggest that Jesus did not completely pay for our sins on the cross, it’s a naïve, immature, blatant underestimation of Jesus as God. His cross proves he loves us enough to remove our sins. His resurrection proves his power to remove our sins.

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1)

 

Think these 5 points are fair? Others? Would love to hear your comments below.

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16 thoughts on “5 Signs You’re An Immature Christian

  1. Rik Krahn says:

    Pr. Hein,

    I think these are very fair and valid points, and I thank you for pointing them out. As a fan of House, MD, I agree that proper diagnosis is crucial to prescribing a workable cure.

    I especially am intrigued by your #1. I agree wholeheartedly, and went through a similar phase in my youth as you describe – as I suspect many of us do. In light of this, I’m curious how you’d answer this question: What does this have to say to those in our midst who design their worship to cater to those who are “bored?” When people talk about those who “aren’t being reached,” or who traditional Lutheran worship “doesn’t speak to,” what they’re really saying is that those people are bored by Lutheran worship. As a result, many in our midst offer them Evangelical worship, because that’s more exciting. They try to maintain a Lutheran message, but they still offer Evangelical worship, because Lutheran forms of worship are just too boring. Some of the “celebrities” of our Synod will even use similar terminology in describing Lutheran forms of worship.

    If it is true that it is a sign of immaturity to think that Lutheran worship is boring, then shouldn’t we be trying to mature people, rather than catering to their immaturity?

    Thanks again for your thoughts in this post!
    Rik

  2. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Other than being able to handle more than “milk”, “maturity” is at best two edged. We know we need to enter the kingdom of God “as little children” for example, so “maturity” is far from an unalloyed positive.

    Wisdom, of the sort of wise in the things of God is pure good however. Even the “immature” can often be wise beyond those of us with many more years — often true in both actual children and young Christians. Then there is joy, excitement, flexibility … so much goodness to the process of “growing mature” ,,, but hopefully avoiding the idea of being “fully mature” or doing “maturity comparisons”.

    I’m pushing 60, so I’m around a lot of folks of that age and older as well as parents at the end of life. SET IN OUR WAYS … like concrete, is another of the severe downsides of “mature” that is part of the nature of the beast, but needs to be battled to keep growing in wisdom.

    I think a focus on wisdom is less divisive and a more worthy goal.

    • April says:

      Well said. Particularly love the last line…. a focus on wisdom is less divisive. A fellow friend/church member & I met for coffee the other day. She had to go because she had a church leadership meeting. I made the comment while standing in the parking lot that “Yeah… we have missed Wed night church because of swim lessons and other summer activities…” Her response was “I noticed you haven’t been coming, Don’t push God away”. -Huh? Don’t push God away? I wished in that moment she had been able to peek into our home each Wed night after swim lessons when we got home we gathered around the table and read God’s word together and prayed. I think all of it comes down to one thing- Am I being led by the holy spirit in all situations? Was she convicted to confront me in love? Or going on an assumption? Let’s be careful. In our words to give so much room for God’s grace that love is the biggest goal.

  3. Eileen says:

    I have been so blessed by reading this today! I had been in a sort of spiritual funk before spending a week ministering to Mormons in Utah a couple of weeks ago. I came away from there with faith strengthened and joy restored. Your message has helped continue the faith-rejuvenation I am now enjoying. I am discovering that making life all about Him me (and not all about me) and sharing what He’s done for me leads to true contentment and peace. Thank you for hitting me with the right words at the right time!

  4. Matt says:

    In response to Rik, I think that comment comes with an underlying assumption that traditional Lutheran worship is the most recommended form of Biblical exultation.

    Now, I always try to not sound like a bitter Ex-WELS guy, but I also think it’s healthy for WELS folks to be challenged to think in ways that they are honestly never compelled to do. Of course, my assumption here is that Rik is a WELS guy. But even if that is a false assumption, I think the remainder of this post will provide some meaningful thought fodder nonetheless.

    To say that those who fail to connect with WELS worship should be sheparded into the maturity of connecting with that form is a dicey statement. While I agree that those who don’t see the admiration of God in liturgy should seek to find it in that form, I see in Rik’s post an unwritten assumption that Lutheran worship is the only God-honoring, theologically correct way to go about it. It is my experience that this happens quite often among WELS churchgoers. There is an understanding that the WELS way is the only way.

    As one who was educated in a WELS school from kindergarten through a completed bachelors degree, I can say this is by design. I grew up being taught that other Christian traditions were to be thought of more as enemies than as friends. In catechism I was thought that WELS was a glass of pure, clean water and that other Christian traditions may be described as a glass of water with drops of poison in them. Drinking a little wouldn’t kill you, but over time it might. This understanding has been confirm, at least in my personal circle of friends. After “coming out” to them as a Calvinist, you would have thought I told I worship the devil himself.

    I digress, however. I’m not concerned with what the WELS way is. I’m concerned about what Biblical worship looks like. While I think that trafitional WELS worship is not unBiblical, I think there are areas in which the form fosters boredom, or at least fails to treat the Word with the power that the context deserves. Take the Psalms for example. The text of the Psalms is some of the most emotively beautiful description of the Christian life ever written. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, there are heart-emptying expressions of truth in the Psalms. But the typical WELS reading cadence does not do justice to the extent of those truths in the slightest. There’s an example of the form manufacturing boredom for its congregants by speaking the form into the text instead of letting the text speak for itself.

    Finally, since the relationship between practice and theology is hot in WELS, quickly consider how the church’s theology might be manufacturing boredom (especially in youth) as well. Cross reference points two and three in Pastor Hein’s list. Consider how you would come to terms with your own depravity when you’ve been taught that you have been a Christian your entire life by means of baptismal regeneration. Could that with the doctrine of objective justification. A doctrine that says unbelieving people are already really forgiven. (Any one who wants to disagree with that summary should listen close to their pastor on an evangelism Sunday as he tells the entire congregation that all sins are already forgiven in Christ.) I digress again. Growing up, sin was never something I felt inclined to mortify because I had been given faith since my earliest hours and there’s an objective storehouse if forgiveness that runs the whole world deep. This made worship uninteresting. Because the message of the Gospel is one of unimaginable grace for the unimaginably unworthy, it was of no interest to me because the communication of WELS doctrine never challenged me to think of myself as incredibly unworthy.

    Bonhoeffer described cheap grace as grace that did not require repentance. I was never inclined to repent of anything as a WELS youth. I look at the sermons of the apostles in the New Testament and there message was not “believe in Jesus and you’ll be square.” If course, they were in no way synergists, but the message was always “Repent and believe.”

    At its most basic level, a church should be identified by two things. A love for the Word and a lifestyle of repentance that flows from it. When you lose repentance, stuff gets boring real fast. Because then there’s only cheap grace to be preached and not the type of grace that tells the story of God’s glory is his sovereign choice to reach down from heaven and save depraved sinners.

    • Eileen says:

      So well said, Matt (typos and all:). I grew up Catholic so there was a time when I didn’t know the truth of God’s incredible, free (but costly to Him) gift of eternal life. I will always be grateful to WELS for sharing that precious truth with me but, like you, think many WELS congregations feel (dare I say self-righteously so) that the WELS traditional way of worship is the only God-pleasing (correct) way to honor our Lord.

      Moreover, it seems many WELS members view other Christians as more of a threat to their faith than they do unbelievers. We have a common enemy, folks; it’s Sin and Satan – not other Christians! Satan loves this devisiveness, I’m sure. I have a lot of wonderful nondenominational Christian friends who are on fire for Christ! They have so much heartfelt joy about what Jesus has done for them. Could it be because they really take to heart how depraved they are, therefore they are so much more grateful to God for rescuing them? Could this repentant “attitude of gratitude” be the reason for Evangelicals’ serious devotion to The Great Commission; why they are so much more active in sharing their faith with the lost than many WELS Lutherans?

      I fear many WELS members have become complacent, nobly hiding behind “Doctrine Protection” as an excuse for not associating with other Christians and reaching out to the world. Without a heartfelt self-examination and search of Scripture to see what is truly important in Christian worship and living followed by changes in how we live our faith, I fear the ongoing loss of WELS members, especially among the young, will only continue. Are we content to let that happen so we can remain in our comfort zones?

      I have heard it said about the WELS that “They have the truth but don’t know what to do with it.” The more important question is what is Jesus going to say to us when he returns?

    • Matt,

      Growing up in an evangelical church, I was definitely one who didn’t see the admiration of God in liturgical worship. I thought it was oh so boring and, because I had grown up in a church body that places more emphasis on personal feelings, very emotionless. It took time, education, maturity, humility, and familiarity for me to appreciate and enjoy liturgical worship. However, I think your example of the what we do to the Psalms is right on. I couldn’t have said it better or agree more. Something so beautiful is taken and set to a cadence that sounds like it should be sung by Will Ferrell impersonating Robert Goulet. At our church, we have almost done away with incorporating the Psalms into the liturgy for this very reason. It’s a shame because they are raw and profess so many aspects of our Creator, I wish we could incorporate them another way. I don’t know what the answer is to facilitating “unboring” worship while maintaining order and reverence. Thanks for your perspective and great examples.

      • I just saw a typo in my response. I’m not even on my phone so I have no excuse. I’m just a poor typist I guess. I know it’s there so please, no one point it out to me. 🙂

    • Rik Krahn says:

      Matt,

      You say that I’m making the “assumption that traditional Lutheran worship is the most recommended form of Biblical exultation.” I’m not sure that I would disagree with that, as long as we properly define “traditional Lutheran worship.” You repeatedly used a phrase that I never used – “WELS worship.” I did not, and would not, equate those two terms. Going back to its roots, WELS was not a liturgical church, and had no interest in the historic worship of the Christian church. WELS has come a long way, but we’re not there yet. My “assumption” about traditional Lutheran worship is built on Luther’s own worship principles (and since I directed my original reply to Pr. Hein, I know that he knows them):

      1. Let the Gospel predominate.
      2. Let the people participate.
      3. Let the experience of the church be honored.
      4. Let all of God’s artistic gifts be used.

      Following those principles, “traditional Lutheran worship” is nothing but historic Christian worship. It follows the pattern of worship that has been developed over the past 2 millenia, and even longer than that. It honors the experience of the saints who have gone before us, and acknowledges we we are no better or smarter than they were. With that established, I would say that traditional Lutheran worship is the best form of Biblical [corporate] exultation. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say that it is the “only God-honored way” but since it follows the pattern developed over the entire life of the New Testament Church, I would say that it is the best way. Other ways of worship (like the American Evangelical model that so many are running to today, to appease the “bored”) ignore one or more of those principles. It often (though not always) becomes law-centered and moralizing, more focused on me than on my Savior. It often becomes an exercise in observation (even entertainment) rather than participation. It often assumes that anything old is automatically out of date and irrelevant – therefore bad. So yes, without saying that other choices are sinful, I would maintain that “traditional Lutheran worship,” properly defined, is the best way.

      But as I said, that is not to say that WELS has always done that, or always does that well today (hey, look, I can acknowledge that “WELS way is not the best way” even if, as a life-long WELSer, I’ve apparently never been challenged to think this way – quite an over-reaching accusation…). Your example of the Psalms is a good example of that. But your criticism is not with “traditional Lutheran worship,” but with WELS worship. And it is a criticism with which I would agree! Because we are still coming out of our Pietistic roots, there are still too many who shriek in terror over anything that they think is “too Catholic,” like singing the Psalms. So you’ve identified one area where I would agree that WELS has a ways to go. But again, that’s not an issue with “traditional Lutheran worship,” but with “WELS worship.” “Traditional Lutheran worship” can still be — and should be — a joyful proclamation of God’s grace and our response, using various styles of music and various instruments within the historic pattern of Christian worship.

      As to your heresy regarding infant baptism, and your seeming espousal of a limited atonement (neither of which would be surprising, considering your confession as a Calvinist), I won’t debate those here. I’ll just say that theology influences worship, and vice-versa. Many of your problems with WELS worship flow from your problems with WELS theology. This is only logical, but further highlights my question: why would we in the WELS want to follow the worship of heretics (like American Evangelicalism), when that worship is an outgrowth of their theology?

      Rik

      • Matt says:

        Rik,

        Minus the “h” word, thanks for the reply. I am in no way a church historian, so I appreciate the term distinctions that you brought out in your response.

        A few things here: I think Augustine spoke truth when he said “All truth is God’s truth.” This means the baby doesn’t necessarily have to be thrown out with the bath water (which happens all too often among WELS folks, I would suggest).

        So, do Lutherans identify poor theology in forms of American Evangelical worship? Indeed. Does this mean there isn’t a way to proclaim God’s truth in a corporate setting with congregational participation as led by a group of men with modern instruments? I’m certainly not willing to go that far.

        In the same way–and I would welcome Pastor Hein’s take on this–to use your terminology: Why would we in the WELS want to follow the discipleship materials of “heretics” when those discipleship materials are an outgrowth of their theology?

        Pastor Hein has referenced Tim Keller and his writings on this blog. At the core of Keller’s theology is a historically Reformed understanding of God’s sovereignty, particularly in soteriological matters. In other words, he’s a TULIP guy. Has Pastor Hein erred by gleaning Biblical truths from Keller with which Lutherans would agree simply because you would identify the man with the aforementioned “h” word? By no means. Because all truth is God’s truth, regardless of who speaks it.

        I hope I am not coming off as antagonistic. I really appreciate good discussion. This leads to my final request: Rik, I would enjoy hearing your analysis of the current WELS church with respect to Bonhoeffer’s understanding of cheap grace.

        Thanks again,

        Matt

      • Rik Krahn says:

        Matt,

        I also appreciate a good discussion, and do not read you as being antagonistic.

        You ask, “Does this mean there isn’t a way to proclaim God’s truth in a corporate setting with congregational participation as led by a group of men with modern instruments?” I would say that there is a way. Modern music does not have to equate to Evangelical worship. Traditional Lutheran worship, historic Christian worship, doesn’t necessarily exclude modern instruments. We need to exercise some Christian judgement, but those things are not automatically wrong. For example, a central and elevated drum kit calls attention to itself, and almost always distracts from Christ crucified, rather than pointing to Christ crucified. Many have an association with heavy rock music that also interferes with Gospel proclamation. But that does not make it wrong or sinful, just unwise in most cases of corporate worship (note I said “most,” there may be possible exceptions). Traditional Lutheran worship, historic Christian worship, strives to use the best of the old and the best of the new, as part of the pattern of Christain worship developed over centuries. It doesn’t keep the old just because it’s old, or grab the new just because it’s new. It seeks the best of both. Again, we haven’t always done that well in the WELS, but that’s what good traditional Lutheran worship does.

        You ask,”Why would we in the WELS want to follow the discipleship materials of ‘heretics’ when those discipleship materials are an outgrowth of their theology?” And you answered your own question: because there is truth there. Error as well, but there is truth. So it can be used in a careful and discerning way. When Pastor Hein reads and references writings of the heterodox, I trust that he is reading and referencing with discernment. He is gleaning what can be gleaned, and discarding the rest. He can do that in the privacy of his office, and share the carefully-filtered results on this blog, because he has the training and wisdom to do so. But if he were advocating a “40 days of purpose,” I’d feel very differently. I’m sure there is a thing or two we can pick up from Rick Warren, but even a WELS-ified “40 days of purpose” would seem questionable. Worship falls more into the latter category. A mature Christian privately, carefully separating the wheat from the chaff of Evangelical writings is one thing; publicly mimicking their forms of worship in a corporate setting is something else. Do you see the difference?

        Finally, you request, “I would enjoy hearing your analysis of the current WELS church with respect to Bonhoeffer’s understanding of cheap grace.” While I’ve read a little on Bonhoeffer, I have not read a whole lot of his writings, so I can’t speak in detail about what he said, or the context in which he said it, or whether I agree or disagree with it. But going off your reference, I’m a little uncomfortable with the word “require,” but I can understand it correctly. God’s grace does not require anything on our part, but it is only through Spirit-worked repentance that the Gospel becomes good news to us. If I don’t acknowledge my sin, my depravity, and what that deserves, then for what do I need a Savior? If I don’t think I’m lost, then why should I care if I’m found?

        But I don’t think the cause of that is in good Biblical theology. It’s not because we properly tell people that Baptism gave them forgiveness and salvation even when they were only a few days old. And it’s not because of a weakness in historic Christian worship. It is a further expression of the depths of my own sin. My sinfulness and selfishness runs so deep that I often fail to even recognize it. I’m so blind that I deny my blindness. It’s part of my sinful nature to deny that my sin even exists, or at least to minimize its severity.

        The solution to that is a clear proclamation of specific law. And again, I’m not sure that we’ve always done that well in the WELS, although I have seen it done very well. Too often, we have tended to preach about the law, rather than actually preaching the law. But that’s not what we strive for. When I preach, my first goal is to make my hearers (and myself) uncomfortable. Only then can I comfort with the Gospel. Only then can I truly appreciate what Christ has done for me. Isn’t that the solution Paul advocates in Romans, when people were essentially accusing him of preaching “cheap grace”?

        Thanks again for the discussion!

        Rik

      • Thanks, everyone! I’m enjoying the discussion very much. In fact, I think I come as much for that as for the original posts, and never come away without learning something — often about myself. Rik, I was thinking exactly one thing you just posted. Take what you want or can use and leave the rest. Just because I believe in the Triune God does not mean I cannot derive any benefit from a 12-step meeting in which they refer to “Higher Power”, for another example.

      • Matt says:

        Rik,

        You are spot on in reference to preaching specific law. It was my experience growing up in WELS churches that law consisted of admonition primarily directed toward Christians doing good things with improper motivations. So the law was not preached in such a way that it’s sharp edge would convict folks of their deepest failures to glorify God (oblige me by allowing these to exist on spectrum) but rather as a hand slap for not giving cheerfully.

        I think this is a product of the church’s culture though, too. I have no problem saying that the churches I grew up in were not places where struggling with temptation was “allowed.” Everyone wore their best face on Sunday, and to have struggled with some sort of sin the previous week would be an admission that my status in the church was not on par with the person I would potentially confess that to. The culture was defined by a game to appear to have it all together.

        I pray that such a thing could not be said about the majority of WELS churches. I have my suspicions, however. Back to specific law, the roots of my leaving WELS are anchored in that exact thing. When I heard good, expositional, Reformed preaching, the law was preached in such a way that prompted the congregation to identify the idols that plague their hearts. When a preacher was finally able to explain why I personally struggled with lust, why people personally struggle with pursuing success, and why others withdraw into passivity through the lens of a law-informed Biblical world view, the Gospel was never sweeter to my soul.

        Now, I say the roots of my leaving because I did come to recognize the doctrines of grace in all their Biblical glory *wink* — but as we have said, that is not the thrust of our conversation here.

  5. Michelle says:

    Sign #6 that you are an immature Christian: Believing in God but being afraid to share your faith with others. I struggle with that immaturity the most.

    There’s a book called “Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as If He Doesn’t Exist” and it has 12 chapters on how you can be an immature Christian. I highly recommend it!

    • JannaG says:

      It took some maturity to admit that fear! I’ll be honest. I struggle with the same thing. Thank you for the book recommendation.

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