Lamplighter & Letters: The Pastor's Pen

Pastor's Letter September 2020
Pastoral Letter July 26, 2020
Letter from Pastor Squire
June 26, 2020
Letter May 26, 2020
Letter from Pastor Squire May 1, 2020
Message from Pastor Squire April 28, 2020
Letter from Pastor Squire
April 27
Letter from Pastor Squire April 17

Holy Week letter from Pastor April 7, 2020
Lent 5 Letter from Pastor Squire April 2, 2020
Letter from Pastor Squire March 18, 2020
Message from Pastor Squire, March 17, 2020

Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free... (John 8:31-32)

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard: "We all believe the same thing." Sure, it’s not always the same words, but it’s the same idea: "The specifics of what you believe don’t matter." By now, we’re used to hearing this in 21st century America. One lady, presumably not a Christian, once told me, when she was speaking about the world’s many religions, "What we believe is that as long as you believe, that’s all you need." In other words, "Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists...we all believe the same thing."

We might expect that coming from someone who isn’t a Christian. Unfortunately, I’ve come to hear it more and more even within the Christian Church—from both lay people and pastors. Granted, when I hear it, it’s usually regarding denominations and not world religions, but that doesn’t mean the statement isn’t any longer problematic. I’ve been told that, despite my Lutheran confession, I essentially believe the same thing as every other denomination regarding anything from Sacraments to salvation. I’ve been told that the only important thing is, in the end, that we believe in Jesus. Doctrine, creeds, beliefs, and specific teachings don’t matter so much in the end. "We all believe the same thing."

To be sure, members of Missouri Synod Lutheran congregations will not be the only Christians who are saved (praise God!). The question, though, is this: Does that make the truth of God’s Word any less important? If I can borrow a phrase from the Apostle Paul, by no means! From our earliest days, Lutherans have been clear about our desire for "sound doctrine." Why? What’s all the fuss if faith in Christ is what saves? The answer isn’t that we revel in being "right" or "pure" in our belief – pretending that we are ‘better’ than everyone else – as many sometimes accuse us. Rather, the answer has to do with a holy God whose Word is truth life.

Lutherans are hardly the first to strive to uphold the truth of God’s Word. The idea that God’s Word is central to our lives of faith is all over the Scriptures. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! (Psalm 119:10) The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7) Sanctify them in your truth; your Word is truth. (John 17:17) If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed! (Galatians 1:9).

We also find many places where the function of God’s Word is made clear. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Paul makes it a point that all pastors must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that [they] may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). He even goes so far as to say watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them (Romans 16:7).

"Well," we might think, "that’s not very nice!" Maybe not according to the world. But consider what Jesus himself says: Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46). The Word of God matters. And because the Word of God matters, what we believe, teach, and confess matters. If God’s Word is life, then his Word should be our longing and our desire. And if his Word is our longing and desire, we will not only want to know what God’s Word says, but we will want to live it out!

-Pastor Squire