October 24, 2017

Miguel Ruiz: How Do You Become a Christian?

call-of-disciples

I feel like sometimes we begin to take the basics of our faith for granted.  Often when we get tunnel visioned on the peripheral responsibilities of our mission, the Gospel itself even gets assumed, confused, or forgotten.  But here is something I have not heard discussed in a good while:  If somebody expressed interest, or potential interest, in transferring from being a non-Christian to being a Christian, what would you tell them?

I grew up in a tradition that honored the sinner’s prayer (or similar) as the sacred initiation rite.  Some church bodies might point to Baptism, though it would seem this could work out differently for adults and children.  Some traditions may require verbal or written assent to a particular set of doctrines.  Some would ask you to take a membership course ranging from 3 hours to 20 weeks.  How much knowledge is necessary?  What rituals or procedures are/must be involved?

In answering this question, I’d like to encourage you to reflect on three things:

1.  How did you become a Christian?

For most of my life, I might have said it was when I said a prayer to ask Jesus into my heart, in response to a Gospel presentation in a revivalist children’s video about cowboys, sheriffs, outlaws, and forgiveness.  At other times in my life I disbelieved in the authenticity of this experience and wondered if other occasions were my true conversion experience, where I was emotionally moved to deeper commitment or opened up to a larger picture of the beauty of God’s grace in Christ.  The pressure to make sure you REALLY believe (which is supposed to be evidenced either by your own faithfulness or at least fervor) never seemed to give me any surety.  After I had decided to move across the country to work for a Lutheran church, my father gave me my baptismal certificate.  This wasn’t for the voluntary immersion I had at age 9 and believed, at the time, to be merely symbolic.  My family had come into the Calvary Chapel tradition out of Roman Catholicism when I was too young to remember, and so I had already been baptized as an infant and didn’t realize it.  Looking back today, I would say that I became a Christian then, in the water, as it was poured over me and the name of God spoken to me.  It was Jesus himself, marking me as his own.  So apparently, I’m “double dipped.”

2.  What would you say to somebody who might want to become a Christian today (i.e., they aren’t asking how to receive the forgiveness of sins through Christ, they just know Christianity is a religion and a potentially beneficial component of their life)?

I think we can do no better than the words of Peter on Pentecost, when he said “Repent and be Baptized for the forgiveness of sins.”  However, this was preceded by quite the substantial sermon.  Dr. Walther Maier has said, in his analysis of the early Apostolic proclamation recorded in the New Testament documents (the “Kerygma”) that the two strands which tie together all of the various sermons and doctrinal speeches are that Jesus is Lord, and He is risen from the dead.  We have encapsulated in these two phrases the essence of the Gospel, the person and work of Christ, and in Peter’s imperative we have the “third leg” of the Gospel, which tells us how the benefits of this two-fold proclamation come to us in the means of grace:  Faith which comes by hearing, and the “washing of regeneration.”

So to an interested inquirer, I would talk about Jesus, who he is, and what he has done for them. If they are interested, if they find this to be believable or would simply like to learn more, I would bring them to my church and introduce them to my pastor.  No magic prayer to transition yourself from being a sinner to a saint.  Simply give the message through which faith is created, and invite him that is convicted thereof to be joined to the body of Christ in Baptism.

At what point does this person actually “become” a Christian?  Upon hearing the message, when they believe it.  And yes, for me, it happened in Baptism.  You see, in my tradition, the “means of grace” include not only the Sacraments, but also the Scriptures and the Gospel.  God works through all of these to make us His children.  The adult who hears and believes is a Christian before he is Baptized, as the Word he believes will draw him to the font where he receives the forgiveness of sins.  The infant who hears the Word in Baptism and does not understand is still “born again” in the water, though continuation in the other means will be essential for the flourishing of his faith.

22.4.2010: Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna3.  How should our answer to #2 impact and shape the way that the church does mission and evangelism?

I propose three simple rules of thumb:  First, conversion and belonging to the church should never be separated.  Baptism is an excellent way to join the two, and insisting that the Pastor performs the rite, though not absolutely required by the text of scripture, helps bridge the connection.

Second, we ought not leave the Gospel at conversion.  We must be intentional to abandon the revivalist “get out of hell free, then move on to sanctification” mindset that has permeated American religious culture, as if once we’ve received God’s free gifts of grace we then spend the rest of our lives trying to repay it.  The road of discipleship is one of lifelong learning, immersing ourselves in the word to encounter the Word and see Him more clearly, which then leads us to fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  We don’t move on to study other things like eschatological bingo, sanctification strategy, the predestination lottery, or charismatic hocus-pocus.  All scripture testifies to Christ, and our lifelong journey of studying them must be about Him, from start to finish.

Therefore, third, the Gospel must pervade and permeate our every activity as a religious organization.  It must not be reduced to the introductory sales pitch given to unbelievers after which we work on other things.  It is the beginning and the end of the Christian’s life, and we should not expect our people to naturally speak the Gospel to non-Christians if we aren’t in the discipline of speaking it to each other.  We ought to consider that perhaps many Christians are reluctant to share the Gospel with their neighbors because they haven’t been drowned in it.  Eat it for breakfast, plunge recklessly into the deep end, and don’t be surprised when whatever is in your heart begins to come out of your mouth.  Our entire spirituality ought to be designed around letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly.  My theory is that if we maintain a strict diet of 200 proof Gospel, we will bleed Jesus when pricked.

I leave you with what I believe to be the best answer to these questions in the history of our faith.  It has also been said that these words are among the most beautiful prose ever penned in the German language:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.  In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church  on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.  In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.  On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.  This is most certainly true.

Comments

  1. senecagriggs yahoo says:

    Does the article suggest that all infants baptized into the church are Christian or become so?

    • Yes. In the Lutheran church, we teach that disciples are made through baptism and teaching the word of Christ, as the great commission says. We also teach that Baptism works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe. But it is also possible for someone who is baptized to become an unbeliever.

      • Should do a whole series based on that idea alone, as it’s utterly foreign to me…

        • OldProphet says:

          I have never seen anything in the Scriptures that supports the idea that infant baptism results in instantaneous salvation due to the reality that the will of that individual is involved.

          • OldProphet says:

            Correction, “not involved”.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

            Yes, exactly. The will of the individual may or may not be involved in salvation, but it is never causal. I believe Scripture to be quite clear on that.

          • “I have never seen anything in the Scriptures that supports the idea that infant baptism results in instantaneous salvation.”

            I do not think that church’s that practice infant baptism teach that it results in instantaneous salvation. From the Catholic perspective baptism makes an infant a child of God, frees the child of original sin, and makes the child a temple of the Holy Spirit. The infant, once he or she is older, is still capable of sin and can still reject the gift that was given. Catholics tend to see baptism as an unearned gift. We are not professing faith so much as receiving the gift from God. When we receive the Eucharist or go to Confession, we are restating and reaffirming our faith.

          • OldProphet says:

            Rick, 1:53 post. So baptism makes an infant a child of God? What does “child of God” mean? Baptism makes an infant free of original sin? That takes repentence and nothing else. When Paul wrote, “Know ye not that you are a temple of the Holy Spirit”, that was to Christians alone, not unbelievers. Of course, every church and denomination has the right to their own doctrines.

          • “..that was to Christians alone, not unbelievers…”

            You are assuming the default state of everyone is to be an unbeliever, a status that can only be reversed by full, conscious repentance.

            I appreciate this position; it was the first theology I was taught.

            On reflection, however, I’m glad to leave it behind. On reflection, it describes very little in human experience. A child who grows up in a community, especially if she’s actually inducted into its life (praying, and so on, from early days), then she grows into that community’s beliefs. They’re an element of her, although she may think more critically about them later and may even reject them outright. There has to be some manner of describing the operation of grace and the growth of faith with reference to this (common) experience. It seems to me that having the parents and other adults believe on the child’s behalf – with the implicit obligation to impart that belief as the baby grows up – actually describes what does, in fact, go on for several years.

            To not argue in the vein I just did also means you need to posit a point at which full, conscious decisions are possible for a person. Of course, just where this magic line appears has always been deeply mysterious. At what moment in my childhood did it arise? At what point, as my mind wears down, does it evaporate? Do I, in my prime, with my list of degrees and credentials, truly have it now as much as I might believe? All of these impossible to answer with satisfaction, much less certainty. It would seem that our powers ebb and flow, rise and diminish.

          • “It seems to me that having the parents and other adults believe on the child’s behalf…”

            I tend to think that the sponsors do not believe on the child’s behalf, but represent the faith of the community to the child. That is, they believe on the community’s behalf; the child already trusts and believes aplenty: Jesus said as much.

          • OldProphet, you are assuming non-biblical definitions of Baptism and repentance. If you look at what the New Testament actually says about these two topics, you will find a different story from the popular revivalist understanding in America today.

            There is no such thing as “instantaneous salvation.” Until the resurrection, we have not ultimately been freed from death. But free will has nothing to do with it: The man dead in his tresspasses can no more choose Christ than Lazarus could choose his resurrection. Lazarus was able to choose to obey the voice of Christ and exist the tomb only after the voice of Christ had given him back his life. Thus it is with us. The voice of Christ calls to us in the Gospel, and in Baptism.

          • OldProphet says:

            I’ll restate simply. I’m. Not from a liturgical theology at all I was focused on your first pos, that infant baptism makes them Christian and original sins are washed away. I’ll never believe that. I think its a unbiblical tradition But, I don’t want to haggle over it. If I was led to attend a church that believed Lt, it would be one if those issues that I would just agree to disagree about. Major in the majors and minor in the minors kind of thing for me

          • Robert, I think you are right. Also, your statement echoes more closely what is usually taught.

            I was thinking in terms of whom in the room is doing the kind of formal, conscious professing that some people associated with belief – that would be the congregation and sponsors. That is, I think, a different matter from faith or trust–which I think can predate (and postdate) any ability to articulate faith in terms of understanding and affirming particular statements.

            One topic I muse over from time to time is how belief is corporate and not just individual. People learn from their communities; but more than that, people also identify with and are made part of a community that has a collective life, in Christ. The body together does more than any single part of it can do by itself; perhaps ‘the church’ also believes and does things individuals may not be able to do at any given moment. I’m not sure precisely what I mean by this: I developed a habit at one point of dealing with doubt or deficiency by acknowledging it and then looking past it, and permitting myself merely to identify with the larger group, and to let that carry me for the moment. At times it seems to me that baptism, being inducted into the community, perhaps prior to a full development of a knowledge about ‘the faith,’ also touches on that topic. I’m not sure I should be linking the two. But I have, when musing.

            They’re perhaps related at least insofar as in both cases ‘personal’ faith turns out to be intimately related to ‘our faith.’ ‘Our faith’ is, in turn, grounded in something surer than merely ‘us.’

        • Stuart, I’ve really got nothing to add to the subject of Baptism beyond what Luther teaches in the Small Catechism, but I’d be happy to help work through the document for those who find it perplexing. I certainly did not get it for a few years. Even though it is written simply and for children, it is nonetheless very theologically dense.

  2. I was never going to comment again as I have started a new season and moving on.
    He came to me and said to me”I am not the One who did this to you I am the One who saved you from it And I love you.” I was fifteen involved in so many things you could not realize.

    I never understood the sinners prayer and I have asked the Lord how do I lead someone to You. When I have, I say do you want that I should lead and one young man said “no I can do it”. Others I simply say ask Jesus into your heart and invite Him. After I heard Him I thought all people had experiences like me but I soon found out it wasn’t true. I said the sinners prayer having been manipulated by sermons and thinking I wasn’t saved. Nothing happened by it. I was baptized again with my young daughter in the river by our house again as an adult. I feel no need to ever do it again even though I did not fully understand it then.

    All of my life has led me to where I am. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Almost seven years ago I was broken by the things that have plagued me all my life so much so I almost succeeded in taking my own life. I cried out and he met me there in that garbage dump. I am one of the most grateful people in my heart that walks this earth and with good reason. I am forgiven much and I am learning how to forgive much even myself.

    Everything that once held me prisoner has fallen off. I used tobacco for 33 years and when He took it from me He said he would be there to tell me He loved me when I thought about it and He did every time. He said He did not want me prisoner to it no more and from that night on I have not touched it. Only on occasion does it pull to me and that is seldom. Many other things like sex and lust and alcohol took a lot more work than that and that is continuing even as I speak but it is falling off and I am being made free.

    The biggest thing for me is learning how to love like HIm. It is what I ask all the time. Teach me I cannot live here anymore without You. If this is sanctification then count me in but I really don’t care for big words or their definitions only that I might be more like HIm. He has shown me so much these last years. I won’t be tied to whatever it is except Him in which I have been bound to the rest of my life by my own choice having been set free out of love and by love as a bondservant I am committed. I am not and type in any denomination you want but I am all of them. I am free and will stay free and I will learn this love that includes all because it is what I am seeking and I cannot live without it. It is what I want to express in my actions and I have a ways to go.

    So thank you all here who have contributed to me and even those that have not. It is written that he would be my teacher in everything. Doesn’t say He won’t use those around me because how could it be otherwise. You are what I have to deal with and learn from. How to love. If you think about me I am trying to love like Him for whatever time I have left here. May your day be in rest and peace. I love you all

    • Bless you, w. May the God of love lead you into all truth.

    • W, you must keep commenting, for there are people like me who benefit from reading read what you write. Thank you for this post.

    • Don’t go, w; stay.

    • W~ I am so glad that you chose to share your life and journey with us. It can get pretty stuffy here at times and sometime real people seem few and far between. It isn’t that you have the answers, but that you are genuinely searching and committed to Truth wherever it takes you. We probably all would give lip service to that, but you seem to take it to a level that helps me set my sights a bit higher and a bit firmer. I know that whether your path takes you somewhere else or wends its way back here, you are going to grow and learn and do your best to follow the Will of God our Father, as did Jesus.

      God bless you in your travels. If you come back I will be glad to see you. If not, I will see you on the other side. God bless your sister for her part in your education. I hope you always remember that Jesus was essentially a blue collar guy, and some of his closest followers were blue collar thru and thru, tho he took on whosoever could make a difference in this world. You make a big difference. Take care, my friend.

  3. Dear W.,
    Sometimes ‘commenting’ can feed an obsession of sorts. I used to comment daily. Hi I’m Chris and I’m a commentaholic. I had to give it a rest. There’s life on the other side.
    Chris

  4. Yesterday I was speaking with a man in my congregation (a baptist church in New England) with whom I have been meeting, preparatory to baptism. He is in his 30s, having been in church all his life, he recently has experienced an awakening of faith. He describes it as “now I want to make it personal, not just relying on my family.”

    I was speaking to him about an assignment I had given him, to briefly answer three questions in writing, in only 2-3 sentences each. What is a christian? What is baptism? Why do you wish to be baptized now?

    It was funny, because yesterday he said something like, “I don’t remember John the Baptist asking people to write anything. He just said come on down and then he dunked them.” He was laughing about it, but as with so many comments like that, he was also making a point. And one with some validity. And yet, as a pastor of a Baptist church, I am charged with making sure that we baptize believers, not just anyone who wants to get wet.

    So I find myself needing to answer exactly the question posed here today.

    This weekend, I performed a funeral for a woman who would have not had the capacity to express her faith with any of the standard evangelical vocabulary. Nor would she have been capable of reciting a catechism. Yet in my words at the service I expressed my trust that Jesus holds her in his hands, because in her own very simple way, she knew that she was in need of a savior, and that savior was Jesus. I’m not the only one who saw that in her. And so we commended her into the hands of Jesus.

    I like this post because it sets a bar that must be crossed, but the crossing is a step, not a leap. In fact, it allows for those of us who trip over the gospel to find ourselves landed on the right side as if by accident.

    Hear the gospel. Believe it. Join the community.

    I reject the need to achieve a defined level of sanctity before being allowed to cross the threshold. I see my job less as protecting the doorway, and more as recognizing those to whom Christ’s Spirit has already handed the ticket. Sometime he uses me to distribute the ticket. Sometimes, they come to me with it already in hand and Lord knows where they found it.

    Trust in Jesus and then live continuing to trust that His Spirit will continue his work in you. I think that’s the ticket.

    • I reject the need to achieve a defined level of sanctity before being allowed to cross the threshold.

      Indeed! I would even go as far as to say we don’t reach a defined level of sanctity ever, prior to death. We never cease being a “work in progress,” and anyone who claims otherwise worries me.

      I see my job less as protecting the doorway, and more as recognizing those to whom Christ’s Spirit has already handed the ticket.

      That would be the correct job of a Baptist minister. 😛 You are very right again: The Spirit gives the ticket. Us Lutherans believe that the ticked his handed out through the means of grace: the hearing which creates faith, or the Baptism which forgives sins. As Steve Martin has said, we don’t get so hung up on the sequence, so long as the Spirit is doing his work through these things.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      ‘He is in his 30s, having been in church all his life, he recently has experienced an awakening of faith. He describes it as “now I want to make it personal, not just relying on my family.” ‘

      This is essentially what happened to me. I was a pastor’s kid. In high school I privately considered myself agnostic, and my church attendance the social necessity of a pastor’s kid in a small town. I went off to college with no expectation of participating in church. I was quite surprised when I found myself a regular down at Lutheran Campus Ministry.

      This is a process that everyone raised in the church goes through, with one result or another. Being Lutheran, coming through it as I did did not entail rebaptism.

  5. “Believe and be baptized.”

    (the order there is not important)

    Can God work apart from Baptism? Sure.

    But He can also work IN Baptism.

    And since He commanded it, we do it…and bring others to the font.

    God is the One who Baptizes. It’s not just water only (as Luther said). But His Word attached to the water.

    We Lutherans don’t have to ‘feel’ saved, or have an ‘experience’ of being saved…to know that we are saved.

    We trust in His promises. Made in Baptism, in preaching, and in the Bible.

  6. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    Honestly? The single biggest factor, or cause, is for 2 people, one or both of which are Christian in some fashion and live in a Christian culture, to sleep together. Doubt it? If you calculate the probabilities, it drops drastically if the parents are say Muslims in an Islamic country, or Hindus, etc etc.

    And there it is.

  7. In my nearly 45 years of “being” a Christian my theology and understanding of what it actually takes to “become” one have changed. Early in my Christian life it was “The Prayer” that, supposedly, made a difference. Then, after “The Prayer” one followed up with living in a community and being exposed to “Christian” speech and custom that completed the task. But for the longest time I wondered why certain people, having been submitted to this formula, just never “got it”, never exhibited the hallmarks of Christian life, never displayed any of the fruit of a changed heart, mind and life.

    This led me to re-examine my OWN experience. From the day I was baptized in the RCC at the age of 6 I had a profound sense of the eternal, the Holy, something above the world of flesh. I can’t say that I was officially “Christian” but that sense never left me for very long as a child. Later, in my teen years, after listening to RCC doctrine of sin/death/damnation and works, I became acutely aware that I WAS bound for hell and that, even though I would go to confession, I was powerless to stop from committing those sins that would damn me. I KNEW that I was lost.

    This did not keep me from seeking relief from guilt and damnation, and after graduating from 12 years of Catholic school I was cast adrift without any spiritual support. It was at this time that I was exposed to the Protestant version of The Gospel and the message of grace, unqualified, unlooked for, and un-earnable grace. I was led in “The Prayer” and felt no different, but I DID have a “sense” that something was beginning, something new and wonderful. What finally pulled the last nail from the coffin, so to speak, was my introduction to other “believers” gathered together and expressing praise in a Pentecostal manner.

    As I stepped into that room, as my foot fell on the floor, something inside DID change, something exhilarating and liberating. My arms spontaneously raised in praise and my lips began to utter praise in tongues. Many of you here have had that same experience in the Pentecostal tradition, and some of you do not believe that it is either for today OR a genuine gift of the Spirit. Never the less, it is MY experience. For ME it was REAL, and it set the tone for the next 45 years of my life.

    So, when I ask myself “When did I first become a Christian, and how did it happen” I cannot really answer. From an early age I sought God. Where did THAT come from? Was it a genetic predisposition? Was it cultural artifice? Was if reinforced by culture? Or did God place it in my heart, as determined from the foundation of the world, as scripture indicates? And. if THAT is the case, what role did I play in it ongoing completion?

    My answer is “I don’t know”. Can others become a Christian by hearing the Gospel and attaching themselves to a body of believers? My observation of 40 years of church life say “NO!”. It can HELP, but only if that person is already on that road to belief.

    In short, belief, and “becoming” a Christian is a mystery. There is no formula, no doctrine, no teaching that can adequately explain of facilitate it. We can TRY, but our attempts will fall short. All we can do is share our own experiences and help others along the path.

    • Thank you for this.

    • Oscar, I can SO resonate with what you’ve written. I said the Sinner’s Prayer way back in 1986, which is when I consider myself “Saved,” but my view of what a healthy walk with Jesus and God has changed significantly since then.

      For instance, I almost want to answer Miguel’s question “How do you become a Christian” with another question “Does being a Christian mean you’re saved?” or “What’s so important about being labeled a ‘Christian’?”
      I became a “Christian” back in 1986, but as I look back on my early Christian walk (“on fire for the Lord”, by the way) I clearly had no idea what “being a Christian” meant. So I may have been “saved” and “on fire,” but my walk with Christ wasn’t nearly as deep as it is today.

      Did the thief dying next to Jesus on the cross “become a Christian”? Or was he “just saved”? What was important to him, AND TO JESUS, during those last moments?

      Also, will Jesus save some folks who don’t have the “Christian” label?

      My mind is spinning with more questions than answers today. I love the Lord for His great mystery!

      • To clarify, my moment of born-again conversion in 1986 WAS a clear God moment, so I don’t want to belittle the fact that saying the Sinner’s Prayer didn’t put me on the path of following the One who called me. It’s just that I was quite immature during the first years of my walk with Him, probably up until the moment I entered my 5-7 year spiritual desert.

    • I spent years chasing that dragon that others told me about…never found it. Jury is out on whether it exists or not, but I’m done seeking it. If it comes, it will come.

    • This: “In short, belief, and ‘becoming’ a Christian is a mystery. There is no formula, no doctrine, no teaching that can adequately explain or facilitate it.”

      If baptism makes someone Christian, it does not necessarily keep them Christian, even for five minutes. Neither does the sinner’s prayer, or any other formula, or signing onto a confessional statement, or etc. In my experience and understanding, God will not be reduced to, or captured by, formulas, however carefully worked into a systematic theology. And no systematic theology, whether dealing with the nature of Christian initiation or any other subject, is co-extensive with the living God, or can explain his ways adequately or exhaustively, or account for his habit of burning through theological certainties as if they were so much fog.

      God makes a Christian; I became a Christian because God made me one. Neither I nor anyone else could have made me what God has made me. I pray that he will sustain and hold me and those I love, and those I love not, come what may.

  8. Some great moments in this post, but here’s my favorite:

    “We ought to consider that perhaps many Christians are reluctant to share the Gospel with their neighbors because they haven’t been drowned in it.”

    • I loved that line, too. We are happy to let the Gospel change our “souls,” but very resistant to let it change our lives: the practices and (unconscious) habits we engage in all the time. We are happy even to have it change our “minds” or “hearts” but our strength is a difficult matter. We like to be able to believe we are strong even when our strength is in fact weakness. Lord, have mercy.

  9. How do you become a Christian?

    The Gospel is not if sinners will do something, then God will forgive them. The Gospel is God has forgiven your sins, therefore sinners must do something. If we need to have some objective, verifiable proof that a particular person or group is in fact one of God’s elect before we can say “God loves you” or “Christ died to take away your sins” then we cannot say these things to anyone. Who is such a searcher of hearts to say a person is one of God’s elect? We are called upon to make our election sure, but can never make such a determination concerning anyone else. Who is a Christian? Who is saved? I say ALL ARE, BUT SOME ARE NOT. What I get told when I say that most often is that I’m a universalist. But it isn’t true. I’m an inclusivist, and that is good company if you look at people of that ilk historically. And the difference between universalists, inclusivists, and exclusivists is not understood by most.
    To view everyone as children of God for whom Christ died engenders an attitude of oneness that is profound. The particular words we use are not nearly as important as the attitude we have. He gave His life for you and me. For me also? Our answer really should be Yes, also for you. Any number of extended answers would be equally valid…..but are actually outgrowth or fruit of God’s saving faith working in our hearts….
    Yes, also for you, if you deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him.
    Yes, also for you, if you keep Jesus’ word.
    Yes, also for you, if you walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.
    Yes, also for you, if you believe in Him.
    Yes, also for you, if you present your body…………
    you get the drift….for so long we seem to have this attitude that most are lost and few are saved. I believe those who have that attitude will be shocked at the wedding feast of the Lamb and his Bride. Love is….kind. It keeps no records of wrongs. That is a very strong statement found in 1Cor13….It keeps no records of wrongs. The only record keeping is a book of life.
    So who is in? is actually a pretty poor question. The answer is really …..all are.
    But some are not……that is not who deserves to be finally lost?, because all are. From the fact that all are worthy of death we should not draw the conclusion that some are “outside of Christ”. Only remaining indifferent or rejection of God’s revelation to each person is the wage death.

    • Nice thoughts. I tend to agree that many will be shocked as the attendees begin arriving at the wedding feast, and I hope and pray I am not one who is shocked.

    • I think Robert Capon would put it this way: “Nobody is ever left out who wasn’t already in from the beginning.”

    • Yes, Jesus redeemed the entire human race. That’s why its perfectly okay to initiate infants into the Christian community by baptism, because they belong in the community called out by God to repent and believe. And for that reason, I reject the idea that regeneration occurs at baptism; rather, at baptism, we are tattooed and branded as one with our brother and sisters who recognize Christ as Lord and redeemer.

  10. David Cornwell says:

    I agree with much of what you are saying. However it seems to me to leave huge vacuum for areas that need evangelism and mission outreach. Lutheran churches with Lutheran families using the methods you have outlined would have remained just that. They would sit in the middle of a kaleidoscopic culture speaking German (admitted exaggeration)to each other. They would be respected, upright, hardworking, and Christian. However the culture around them would remain exactly as it is, unmoved, unchanged, and unconverted.

    For ever how much we dislike revivalism, it would seem to me to have worked in that era. Countless lives were changed by Christ. In all of its loudness, crudeness, and mistaken theology, God used it in the American frontier. As a result thousands of churches were started, thrived, and dot the American landscape. Colleges found their beginnings. Sunday Schools, prayer meetings, class meetings, study groups, women’s, men’s, and youth groups thrived. God uses strange methods.

    A Lutheran pastor, commenting on “Why Lutherans Can’t Evangelize,” (Google the title) says “the Lutheran Church is beautiful, in a Volvo/Ikea sort of way. We tend to be understated and solid, with terminal dependability and not much foolishness.”

    The Confessions are defensive in nature. A working theology of mission can never be defensive.

    • “,,,terminal dependability…”

      GREAT description! It’s like the opposite of the Evangelical world, which is more like “terminal adaptability.”

      Ah…poor Jesus must be doing a lot of face-palming over what’s become of His church.

      • I don’t think so. I certainly don’t do a ton of face-palming over the foibles of my children. I laugh and enjoy watching them try to figure stuff out. In the end, I know my son is looking at me and trying to imitate whatever I do. I don’t think God’s waiting for us to get it right. He loves us to much to really even care if we ever do.

    • David, such a brilliant and fair comment. I’m sticking the theology of mission line in my back pocket.

      Rick, agreed. Great contrast.

    • There’s a reason God used revivalism: Along with all it’s cultural and theological baggage, it also carried the name of Christ, told who He is and what He has done to save sinners. THIS is what converts sinners, even if the revivalist thinks it was his presentation that sealed the deal.

      The Confessions are defensive in nature. A working theology of mission can never be defensive.

      No, and yes. The confessions are most certainly NOT defensive. They state what we believe and why we believe it, articulating the Gospel and our understanding of Scripture with precision and clarity (as much as a 16th century document can have for readers today). If anything, it is rather quite OFFENSIVE, as it ruthlessly and mercilessly assaults the doctrinal errs of Rome. It can be quite apologetic at points (see the Apology to the Augsburg Confession), but that is not the same as defensive. Yes, a theology of mission, though, is by definition not defensive.

      The article you cite (which I’ve seen before) is written by a Pentecostal who clearly understands very little of Lutheran teaching (even if he thinks he’s Lutheran by genetics). Seriously, the article is glaringly ignorant of the Confessions. See here for a better explanation: http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=9353

      You can only say Lutherans do not have a proactive theology of evangelism if you define evangelism in revivalist terms. Otherwise, we have a quite robust, apostolic and eschatological even, understanding of what it means to bring the Gospel to the nations. And it has nothing to do with moving and changing the culture; it is far more concerned with the individual from whom culture proceeds.

      I get the stereotype that Lutherans are reserved Norwegian immigrants who just want their Gospel droned to them in an ethnically conditioned half-English ritual they would never hope to encounter their Latino neighbor at. It simply is not true (good luck finding anything even closely resembling that these days), and it isn’t the theology of our church, no matter how hard Prairie Home Companion works to recreate that caricature. …you do know those are fictional stories, right? 😛

      • David Cornwell says:

        “I get the stereotype that Lutherans are reserved Norwegian immigrants ”

        Where I live they are mostly German immigrants that came to the city as technocratic engineers to work for a large American company. I understand about stereotypes, but some of them still hold to this very day.

        When I first moved to Indiana to become the pastor of two small Methodist Churches I met my first cultural Lutherans. Some had married Methodists, and ended up attending my church, at least part of the time. The Lutheran Church was down the road about a mile. It had a school attached which had closed by that time. The Lutherans had continued to worship in German until the mid 1970’s.

        By-the-way, the city I’m referring to has a huge German Fest every year. It is wonderful, beer tents and all. Maybe something like that would have won hearts and minds of frontier America? (kidding about this, but…)

        If what you say about Lutheran theology/evangelism is true, then please explain to me how this would have impacted the American frontier, if given a fair chance?

        The man who writes the grating article is a Lutheran, at least he says he is. He admits his Pentecostal tendencies. I fail to understand why this is a problem. Some of his comments seem very valid to me.

        • Wow. You’re experience with “bronze age” Lutheranism is so foreign to mine. There really is a drastically different culture in Lutheranism between the heartland and the “salt water districts.” I believe you that the stereotype is far more often true in your neck of the woods, but in our synod right now, too many churches are trying to be the next Saddleback.

          But you can take this to the bank: the cultural phenomenon you have experienced with old Lutherans is not a direct result of our doctrine, though for a while Lutherans were reluctant to translate into English because they felt the language was not capable of delivering as strong a theological punch. Every tradition develops cultural members, for better and for worse. When we did transition to English (around WWII for the LCMS) we pretty much stole all our worship texts from the Anglicans. No, this stereotype is a dying breed and has no future as a tradition, but have no fear, there are many of us much more culturally savvy who are rising up to cary the torch, even if we forget the German cultural stuff. Stereotypes certainly do come from somewhere, but they usually persist long after their original cause.

          The Lutherans were very active on the American frontier. Their story goes largely unsung because they worked in the shadow of the great revivalists and Methodist circuit riders, and did not often welcome revivalism with open arms (thought sometimes they did and these churches rarely remained Lutheran long after). My pastor was the biographer of an early-mid LCMS leader who did much to spread the Gospel across the expanding frontier. Many of our preachers at this time did have to ride horseback between multiple congregations to get all the work done. Much of our activity was concentrated in colder areas and northern states, too. The fact that we like to drink too probably also kept us on the fringe of a movement spearheaded by abolitionists.

          The man who wrote the article claims to be Lutheran, was born into a Lutheran church, and even attended a “Lutheran” seminary. From what he says, though, even in that article, it demonstrates very clearly to anybody who understands Lutheranism just a little that he clearly does not. He believes Pentecostal doctrine, which aside from the common core of Trinitarian orthodoxy, has many beliefs which are exclusively contradictory to the Lutheran confessions. You might be surprised by how many “Lutheran” pastors have never even read the confessions.

          • David Cornwell says:

            Miguel, thanks for your reply. The cultural type of Lutheranism is not the only show around here. Things are changing and some of it has been changing for a very long time. I just wanted to point out that the “old ways” still have some life in them. In fact the church I attend is just a block away from a large church called Trinity English Lutheran Church. It is downtown. It was formed in 1885 by a group of men who had been instrumental in the founding of another Lutheran congregation. They left the original church because of its turn toward a “stricter German orthodoxy” and “doctrine and a desire for a more American Lutheranism that reached out to all Christians were also at the heart of its formation.”

            It is now a congregation that draws from the entire urban area, with a beautiful building, and progressive congregation. We are part of an informal consortium of downtown group of churches, along with Trinity.

            I also agree with much of what you say about how a person becomes a Christian, and how others are impacted by the Christ message. We live in a different age and it is not one that revivalism or its church grown predecessor will have relevance. David Fitch has a series of posts where he speaks about the “evangelism of presence” for our era. In some ways it reminds me of what you are saying. One thing we do need is clear thinking and discussion.

      • “You can only say Lutherans do not have a proactive theology of evangelism if you define evangelism in revivalist terms. Otherwise, we have a quite robust, apostolic and eschatological even, understanding of what it means to bring the Gospel to the nations.”

        “I get the stereotype that Lutherans are reserved Norwegian immigrants. . . ”

        The theological architecture exists; it is often underutilized by Norwegian and German immigrants.

        There is a Lutheran theology of mission. There is also a reasonably vibrant history of Lutheran missions and ministry. However, it is true that US Lutherans are habitually (but not universally) insular. There are many reasons for the fact. First, Lutherans largely arrived in the US as immigrants, and the churches they founded were receiving new people in large numbers for very long periods of time. Finding and receiving the new waves of immigrants from Germany and elsewhere was not a small task. Neither was getting enough German churches established over the vast US territory to service them. Second, these big pockets of Lutherans were often just that, pockets; there was, for a very long time, German speaking towns in the US. Third, Lutherans found themselves building communities on a frontier awash in Methodists and other evangelical groups, and thus tended to emphasize Lutheran identity and practice amid and against the theological and methodical currents of the larger American religious tempest. Finally, Lutherans have a theology with concepts and vocabulary different from, say, the Baptists or from Calvinists, who have influenced almost everybody not Catholic or Lutheran, with the result that Lutherans spend a lot of time talking to one another or trying to explain the distinctives of Lutheran theology. That can be evangelistic, but its often more about self-definition. I don’t think this always catches the attention, or even makes much sense, to outsiders who aren’t already motivated or theologically astute. And Lutherans have the problem that any historic community with a liturgy and an an accent has compared to revival tent evangelicalism: it doesn’t quite speak the default American vernacular.

        I’m convinced that in healthy Lutheran communities, this heritage may have cultivated a some important strengths. Among them may be knowing how to ‘do’ community well, and how to do formation well – something that now has to be done far more zealously and intentionally, and perhaps with a few new tricks, because people don’t automatically turn to churches to be centers of community any more (or even to institutions that aren’t churches…). It is also true that Lutheran churches may have to be intentional about being visible and having permeable community boundaries, so that the church’s proclamation is understood and the community is actively inviting people to join with it in a common life.

        Being new to Lutheranism, and belonging to a very old (bilingual) city church, I’m fascinated by this question. How to understand and hold fast to the heritage but with a robust sense of mission? Any Lutheran or non-Lutheran reflections on the topic have my full attention.

        My kid is 2, so I’ve got about 16 years to figure this out, or else. Come to think of it, this is probably also the approximate length of time until the cadre of older folks in our congregation, who do the work of an army 2 or 3 times their size, begin to retire from their duties. There’s no way this will happen by natural increase among the younger group. Nor should it . . . .

        • “My kid is 2, so I’ve got about 16 years to figure this out…”

          Hmm, if your kid is anything like my kid, you have more like 8 years to figure it out. The “pre-teen” years are…challenging….LOL.

        • Excellent thoughts, as always, Danielle. Indeed, this challenge is the daily battle we fight in our congregation, and not incredibly well, I might add. I’m open to new ideas on how to “be intentional about being visible and having permeable community boundaries,” so long as it doesn’t involve a “new worship plan.”

        • Danielle, some of what you’re saying about immigration and Lutherans is dependent on location.

          I am from one of the mid-Atlantic states, and my ancestors were here by the mid-1700s, along with a lot of Ulster Protestsnts who wanted to make a go of things further west than, um… Philadelphia. I don’t think the Lutheran congregations in this area were exclusively German-speaking for very long at all – it just wasn’t practical. While i am definitely PA Dutch, i am also the product of many, many generations of assimilation and American identity. The only people who do services in German around here are the Amish and some Old Order Mennonites, although PA German dialect was still being spoken by many in the general population up until 1950-something. The ladt generation who tended to know and use more than a handful of dialect words was born somewhere around 1890-1910, so at this point, the only people who use the language on a daily basis are the Amish, Old Order Mennonites and some folklorists, sociologists and historians. (It is a Swiss dialect here, and very unlike the German taught in public schools – even the orthography and spelling are radically different.)

      • Miguel, have you ever know any Scandinavians from the upper Midwest? What Keillor says is more on-target than you might guess, which is one reason that a lot of folks descended from early (1700s) German Lutherans get such a kick out of his Lake Woebegone stories. Change a few details and it could be us, almost to the letter! 🙂

        Also, on another topic entirely, what is your take on the pro-complimentarian articles on steadfadtlutheran.org? I realize this is an off-topic question and if you want to discuss off-list, i am more than happy to do so.

        • Yikes – meant to say “descended from early Getman Lutheran immigrants.” Which is the case for many of us here in the Mid-Atlantic states.

        • I honestly haven’t read most of them. When the topic has come up, I’ve jumped in to caution against planting our flag with the legalistic Calvinists who mangle the third use of the law to turn Scripture into an all encompassing, micro-managing Sharia check list. We do endorse “male headship” and the order of creation argument for Pastoral ministry, and Christologically hold that the gender of our Savior is not incidental, but Lutherans must be VERY cautious moving beyond that to start telling women what they can and can’t do, because the Bible doesn’t. As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one thing not given to women: Ordination. Unless your WELS. Then they can’t vote in the congregational assembly either. But the WELS won’t even pray with us ungodly heathen in the LCMS, so who cares what they think? 😛

          • Hmm… i have known people who were in no way Calvinist who subscribe to the whole complementarian thing. It’s certainly been around in its current form since before the YRR crowd even came into being. 😉 (seriously – i heard most of it in the early 70s. There is nothing new under the sun.)

          • You mean the LCMS endorses “male headship,” don’t you? We ELCA “heretics” don’t go for it, and i strongly suspect most European Lutherans don’t, either.

          • Right, “complementarianism” isn’t an exclusively Calvinist doctrine, as many more Arminian Southern Baptists are heavy handed pushers of it as well. However, it is most certainly an un-Lutheran doctrine. It is completely contrary to our confessions, and an example of the third use of the law run amok. This third use of the law is a Reformed teaching, in the sense that it extends from a non-sacramental soteriology. When you see Lutherans mistakenly promoting this, you can bet that they’re approaching sanctification on Reformed terms. There is a sadly a strong tendency towards this in many theologically and politically conservative Lutherans. It’s like when Lutherans begin teaching the mandatory 10% tithe as if the Bible clearly required this of New Testament believers.

            But yes, of course, by “we” I meant the confessional tribe, not you “heretics.” 😛

  11. Did baptism save Judas Iscariot? Or the theif? The take on American evengalism is good. But this whole Christian thing isn’t an exact science. But it does give Christisns something to talk about obsessively.

    • But wasn’t it raining at the time Jesus and the thief were talking…? 😉

      • We need to find out. I’m sure the thief had just the right amount of “enthusiasm” to get “really” saved, though.

        • “…a dying Word to dying men” is all he, or any of us, ever have, to quote my favorite Spencer line.

          • That is a brilliant line!!!

            The thief on the cross is currently my favorite Biblical figure. To put his trust in a man who was hanging on a cross next to him, to trust in a man who was bleeding out and dying just like he was…well, the ability to reach the point of believing a dying loser might just be a savior is simply amazing!!!

          • We wouldn’t put the impetus on the dying thief, as if he rationally chose to trust: As you say, that doesn’t seem like a very rational thing under the circumstances. Seeing the Gospel like he did can be a very faith-creating experience. Some have argued that he was moved by watching Jesus meekly extend forgiveness to his tormentors and express more concern for his family and friends than his own plight. But what they cannot explain is why one thief was moved and the other was not. It’s the perfect picture of the Lutheran understanding of predestination!

      • Should point out that the thief was the last OT convert, so can’t hardly use him against a NT/post-Jesus theology…

    • There are those Baptized who will not be saved, and there are those not Baptized who will. This doesn’t mean that Baptism doesn’t save. The Bible never says that all the Baptized are guaranteed unceasing faith, nor that all the unbaptized shall be condemned to hell. It does, however, say that Baptism saves (1 Peter 3:21), it unites us with Christ in his death and resurrection (Romans 6:4), and that anybody who is Baptized and has faith will most certainly be saved (Mark 16:16). Sure, it isn’t an exact science. It is, however, pretty simple.

      • There’s no argument against what you say. Appreciate you pointing this out here and other articles/comments.

      • 1 Peter 3: 21 – and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.[a] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

        1 Peter 3:21 works very well from an evangelical perspective – Not the water that saves but the pledge of a clear consciense, only possible through the resurrection of Christ.

        • If you diagram that sentence, subject-verb-object are “Baptism saves you (now).”
          Of course the water doesn’t save. Baptism isn’t just water, else you’d be saved every time you take a bath. If you define what (Christian) Baptism is from the text of Scripture, you will find that it is water in combination with the word: The Triune name of God placed on you with water. The verse says that Baptism IS the pledge of a clear conscience, because it unites us to Christ in his death and resurrection (Romans 6:4). Most Evangelical exposition of this verse I’ve heard turns what it actually says on its head.

          • Actually if you diagram that verse you will see that it is not the water that is important, but the pledge of a conscience dependent upon the resurrection. That is how the thief on the cross was saved, a pledge of a conscience dependent upon the Christ.

          • Indeed: The water, in combination with the Triune Name of God (which is what Baptism is) IS the pledge. The verse doesn’t say “water saves,” it says “Baptism saves.” The thief on the cross received a word directly from Christ himself: it is actually the perfect picture of Baptism! In Baptism, the water marks you, specifically, as the one to whom Christ is giving His name.

          • I think what you are saying is true, Mike. The water is not important, but is merely a symbol that expresses baptism, which is in no way dependent on the water. Baptism is absolutely essential to Christian initiation, and to redemption, but baptism is performed invisibly by the Holy Spirit, and subsequently expressed in the rite using water. The water is a symbol, as the verse says, of an already existing reality and transaction.

            In the case of baptized infants, the water is a symbol of the salvation already wrought by Jesus for the entire human race, including the infant being baptized, and a means of inducting the infant into the community of repentance and resurrection that exists in the Church. When the infant is initiated into this community, she is initiated into a community that already has a history as one who will share in that history, and so the confession of the community is spoken to and for her, is put in her mouth, in hopeful and faithful anticipation of her continuing in that confession, and not falling away from that trust.

          • but baptism is performed invisibly by the Holy Spirit, and subsequently expressed in the rite using water.

            I’m sorry, but having once believed this, it sounds to me like a very silly, made up idea with an aftertaste of Gnosticism. Most importantly, it is certainly not found in the New Testament, at all. If water is not so important, why are we commanded to use it? …and in what way are WE suppose to Baptize in fulfillment of the great commission if it is something the Spirit only does invisibly?

            The verse most certainly does not SAY that the water is a symbol of existing transaction. In this translation, the water (of the flood) symbolizes Baptism, which saves you.

            Are you seriously saying that water has nothing to do with Baptism? Or are there two Baptisms? Can you answer from the New Testament the question “What is Baptism?”

          • Water is important, as an apt symbol, which the above quoted text implies. That water baptism expresses an already existing spiritual reality can be found in this text from Acts 10:

            ” While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, ‘Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.”

          • Michael Green, the Anglican evangelist had something interesting to say about this in his book “I believe in Baptism” – I am doing a rough paraphrase because I read the book a LONG time ago.
            “There are three important steps that need to take place. 1. Belief. 2. Indwelling Holy Spirit (which he called Baptism of the Spirit) and 3. Baptism by water. They don’t need to take place necessarily in that order, but all three need to happen.”

          • Robert, if you start taking every occurrence (as opposed to the direct teaching) in the book of Acts as a mandatory norm, it will lead you straight into Pentecostalism. According to your passage, if the Spirit comes like that apart from Baptism, shouldn’t we all ALSO be speaking in tongues, if we’ve really been filled? Because that was the traditional stance of mainstream Pentecostalism for the majority of its history: No tongues, no Spirit.

            The argument is faulty anyways: Since the Holy Spirit and salvation can come to people apart from Baptism, therefore Baptism can not give these things? You’re using one passage (and a wrong understanding of it) to prove many other passages wrong. Besides, the reality that Baptism “expresses and symbolizes” is not the filling of the Holy Spirit, but the giving of forgiveness of sins and being united with Christ in his death and resurrection. The text you cite does not show that happening, only the empowerment for tongues.

          • You make good points, Miguel. I’m still a work in progress, and I’ll have to think about it.

          • Michael Bell, I like the quote from Michael Green. This makes sense to me. I would add that, just as the order may differ, so the proximity in time between the three may vary.

      • turnsalso says:

        Wasn’t it Luther who said that the example of the thief on the cross and baptismal regeneration is like the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? We say “fire burns,” even though the Bible shows us three people who passed through it unscathed; so also we say (with Peter!) “baptism saves” even though the Bible shows us one man who was saved without it.

        • If you look at my previous comment, it explains how Baptism saves, which then explains how salvation is possible without Baptism.

          • Christiane says:

            would this help?

            ““See where you are baptized, see where Baptism comes from,
            if not from the cross of Christ, from His death.
            There is the whole mystery:
            He died for you. In Him you are redeemed, in Him you are saved “

            ( St. Ambrose )

        • That sounds very Luther. The way I would put it is that Jesus saves, and he does it through Baptism primarily, though he is capable of doing it any way he pleases.

  12. Dana Ames says:

    Miguel, what would you say “the Gospel” is? Alternatively, what exactly is the good news? This is not a trick question. Thanks.

    Dana

    • “The Gospel” is the “good news.” – The person and work of Christ: How God became man, suffered, died, and rose for us to rescue from sin, death, and the devil, giving us His free gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Or see the second article of the creed. The third article gives the “third leg,” which is also where most disagreements in Christianity seem to happen.

  13. Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

    This is a pretty good article, and a reminder of how some of our contemporary understandings aren’t always faithful to historic Christian understandings. I used to be more skeptical of the binary “who’s in and who’s out” paradigm, but I have softened in response to two things: First, it seems like a perfectly normal sort of question to ask. Of course we want to know who is in and who is out. Second, Acts does record, at Pentecost, that “about 3,000 souls were added”, so Luke at least seems to have had some idea of membership. Of course, these souls were added by faith and baptism, and there is nothing to tell us that they all continued in the faith (alternatively, if you are a Calvinist, there is nothing that says 5,000 didn’t make a profession of faith, but only 3,000 were elect). But I do think that the initial decision point was less of a factor for the first Christians than a continued walking by faith, something we might do well to resurrect.

    • While i agree that it’s an understandable question, i don’t think anyone on this earth is qualified to make a judgement call on sheep/goats, etc.

      • Right. We can never know. But we are called to express love for our neighbor by trusting what they say. From those who give the pure confession of faith, we are to take them at their word. Those to profess to not have any faith we are also to believe, even if we hope they are lying.

  14. “Dr. Walther Maier has said, in his analysis of the early Apostolic proclamation recorded in the New Testament documents (the “Kerygma”) that the two strands which tie together all of the various sermons and doctrinal speeches are that Jesus is Lord, and He is risen from the dead.”

    Excellent point. I became Christian 40 years ago this December when I first believed. My best recollection of my conversion is when I read Romans 10.9-10 in the New American Standard Bible someone lent me,

    “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

    Baptism (or “double dipping” since I was baptized as an infant in RC) followed for me a few weeks later.

    And if someone were to ask me, as the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas and they in turn responded, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? … Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16.30-31), I would respond the same but may also quote Mark 1.15, “repent and believe the gospel.”

    Does s/he need to pray to “seal the deal”? I don’t think that anymore. I would, however, follow-up over time with some further instruction and dialogue in preparation for baptism. And although I do not believe that baptism (i.e., the act itself) saves you, I believe that it is necessary for salvation in the sense that those who refuse to be baptized are not responding to God’s sovereign grace in faith, and I must therefore assume, until they have a change of heart, that they are not justified as there is no fruit in keeping with their faith and repentance.

  15. Christiane says:

    well, how did ‘Christians’ from a thousand years ago follow Him? From their prayers, it looks like they did it with humility (and a lot less smugness than we see among today’s ‘saved’). An example:

    “O Lord, make haste and illumine the night.
    Say to my soul
    that nothing happens without Your permitting it,
    and that nothing of what You permit is without comfort.
    O Jesus, Son of God,
    You Who were silent in the presence of Your accusers,
    restrain my tongue
    until I find what should say and how to say it.
    Show me the way and make me ready to follow it.
    It is dangerous to delay, yet perilous to go forward.
    Answer my petition and show me the way.
    I come to You as the wounded go to the physician in search of aid.
    Give peace, O Lord, to my heart.”

    St. Birgitta

  16. In my mind in spite of baptism as a child and confirmation as a young teen, I did not become a Christian until I said “Yes” to Jesus at the age of 35. There was no prayer, no sense of sins forgiven, no bells or whistles. I think of it much like getting married. If you say “I do”, you are committed and you are married. If you don’t, you aren’t. When Jesus called the fishermen to follow him, those who dropped their nets and joined him were committed followers, which is all I think that Christian means. It took me longer. I really didn’t want someone telling me what to do.

    It seems to me that the waters get muddied when we think of becoming a Christian as “being saved”. It becomes near solid mud when we think of being saved as going to heaven when we die. Jesus never spoke of becoming a Christian and his proclamation of good news was about the opening of the Kingdom on Earth, not of salvation. The point was to enter the Kingdom as it opened, here and now. He made the Way open. You entered by following the Way he taught and established, by acknowledging his Kingship.

    Jesus was the one made King, not Peter, not Paul, not John, nor any other. You either accept his Kingship or you don’t. I consider all this doctrine to be mostly irrelevant and distracting and even counterproductive. If you are following Jesus, it is expected that you will be transformed over time, tho this varies from person to person. The point is that the transformation takes place as we follow the Way here on Earth, not something that magically happens when we die. I don’t mean to say that growth cannot happen on the other side. In my view it never stops, or at least the potential for it never stops. We can refuse to grow but that is another matter.

    • The decision…the acceptance was made on the Cross for sinners.

      God isn’t waiting for us to decide, with His hat in His hand, “please believe in me…please…make a decision for me.”

      Oh no. He is a REAL God who acts for sinners.

      • turnsalso says:

        “I stand at the door and knock.”

        This is the phrase that the little revivalistic voice in my head (haven’t determined if it belongs to a little man in red tights on my shoulder or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised) keeps repeating against this idea, and yet, it doesn’t really prove what it’s claiming, because Christ has already done all the work necessary. He came to our door; we didn’t call him and ask him to stop by. He knocked, because how would we open the door to him if we didn’t know he was there? And the knocking itself isn’t necessarily the beggarly act it’s described as by satirists (never actually heard one of these invitations myself, so I can’t attest to it IRL); it could just as easily be like the policeman summoning the resident to the door, compelling you to answer by his authority, or perhaps in a more cheerful way, that of the dear friend coming to stay, drawing you to the door out of joyful anticipation rather than compassion, pity, or guilt.

        Thoughts?

  17. Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” I believe He was interceding for us as well as those who drove the spikes through His flesh. Our sin kept Him nailed to that tree until the wrath of God was satisfied. And then what did Jesus claim? “It is finished!” And it was – so why do we try to tack things on to it? God declares, “My grace is sufficient for you.” The good news is this: Jesus has paid ALL our sin-debt; we have been forgiven. I pretend to see everyone with a “paid for” stamp across their forehead! Sadly, there are many who reject the grace of God. I like to think, “They just don’t know Jesus, yet.” (Is the arm of the LORD too short to save?)

    We all live in this ocean of grace . . . there is water, water everywhere; but apart from Jesus, not a drop to drink. He who has the Son has the life and he who does not have the Son does not have the life. And how does one receive the Son? Simply believe Jesus is who He says He is – YOUR Savior.

    Whenever we focus on what we “do” apart from what Jesus has done, I believe we muddy the waters of God’s amazing grace.

  18. Its about love and grace. If a person is going to follow its about love and grace. That’s hard for many evangelicals because many lack patience. But in the end love should be the motivation when we interact with the world. So many here have taught me love, and my heart is in debt to so many.

    • Amen, Eagle. I owe much to this community as well. It’s all about the love and grace of Jesus for impatient people like me, which he often expresses through the people around here that are patient.

  19. “We all live in this ocean of water”.

    There were two young fishes moving along side by side. An older fish approaches and as he passes asks. “How’s the water?”. The two younger go on a while and one asks the other, “What’s water?”.

    And I hasten to add that the man who brought this up in a commencement speech, in that speech talked about suicide. And that many of those happen by shooting to the head. And I believe he meant that head knowledge will goof you up. Now that very man( and may I add people like Robin Williams) hung himself. It makes me know it wasn’t head knowledge. It makes me think about alienation. Talked about, but politely neglected. Being alienated from this world…… I’m older but just beginning to understand. You can explain it to me, but you can’t make me understand. The gap between our head and heart is quite a leap.