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* We are saved by the Grace of God-not by our works
* Our salvation is through faith alone, which is a gift
* The Bible is the norm for faith and life
Beliefs: The Lutheran Basics
We are saved by faith, not by works.
God saves us through the love of Jesus Christ because God wants to. We have not done anything to earn this saving grace..
God chooses us, we do not choose God.
God chose us because God wanted us to be God's children. We do not choose God..
Faith is a gift.
The faith we have is a gift from God. The Holy Spirit gave us this faith. We did not figure out how to trust God on our own.
God encounters us through the scriptures.
There are probably many ways that God shapes us, but the one we trust to be God’s work is when God encounters us through the scriptures (when we read the bible, hear it preached, or experience the faith community as they become living illustrations of the scriptures).
God shapes us through both Law (rules and expectations) and Gospel (words of promise and mercy).
The Law both guides us and reveals what we have done wrong so that we might be driven into the arms of our forgiving God. The Gospel is God’s promise of forgiveness and grace filled love. We do not confuse the Law and the Gospel.
We are both sinners and saints at the same time.
We are claimed by Christ and made clean through forgiveness. This makes us saints. Though we may display Christ-like love throughout our lives, we will never cease to do sinful things. We will always be sinners and need Christ's grace.
All believers are priests.
Everyone has been given gifts by God allowing us to share the love and grace of Christ through the things we do and the things we say in our daily lives.
We pick up the cross and follow Christ.
Just as Christ served and loved us by sacrificing his life, we too are free to sacrifice our lives for others. We were not set free so that we might continue lives guided by sin and self-absorption.
Community is essential to faith.
The Holy Spirit encounters us through very real bread, wine, scriptures, and people. Relationship with God is made real through our relationship with others. A life of love and service requires people whom we can love and serve and like-wise requires others to love and serve us.
Beliefs: God Always Comes Down, We Do Not Climb Up to God
God always comes down.
If there is anything to understand about the Lutheran flavor of the Christian faith it is this: God always comes down.
At no time does anyone have to climb their way up to find God. God always comes down.
Even with this truth ringing through the air, many people are convinced that there is something they must do in order to gain God’s favor, making deals with God.
“God, if you give me a little money, I will go to church more, and even help out my next door neighbor.”
Such a deal presumes that something must be done in order to gain God’s attention and help.
Certain people work hard doing good things for other people, trying to work their way up into God’s good graces. They believe that their good deeds will “pay off” in the end.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with helping other people. God smiles every time, out of compassion, you help a neighbor in need. However, the completion of these good deeds do not dictate God’s opinion of you.
The phrase, “God helps those who help themselves” is a non-biblical phrase by which many people live. The phrase implies that a person must work their way up to God a little before God will come to the rescue. Some people live their entire lives believing this statement to be true.
But, what happens when you find that life has dumped you down a hole out of which you cannot climb?
Perhaps, alcohol has taken hold of your life and you cannot stop drinking, no matter how much you try to force yourself.
Perhaps, you have become so accustomed to lying that it has become second nature. Unable to catch yourself, you find no way to train yourself out of it.
Maybe the world has just become so hectic and chaotic that the darkness has overcome your soul. Unable to motivate your mind and body pull itself out of the dark hole, you stare up, trying to see if there is any light beyond the darkness.
“God helps those who help themselves" is a statement that is found to be very dry..."
“God helps those who help themselves” is a statement that is found to be very dry when searching for thirst quenching words of hope from the bottom of the hole.
Working your way up to God’s level is an impossible task. It is unfortunate that so many people believe that is the goal of life.
Some arrogantly proclaim that they have made it to the top with God. These people tend to act very religious and seem on the outside to have everything together.
The truth is: they do not.
How could a person possibly claim that they have made themselves worthy enough to stand toe to toe with God?
An honest look at anyone’s life will reveal wrongs committed, people hurt, and individuals who were not given the attention that they deserved.
No one can climb their way up to God’s level.
Contrary to what many people believe, people do not worship Jesus because they are great people with great lives. We do not have faith in ourselves. All of us will let ourselves and others down sooner or later. Instead, we have faith in God, and God will not let us down.
“We do not have faith in ourselves…we have faith in God and God will not let us down.”
God does not forget us.
That promise is what inspires faith in people. Christians hold onto the promise that since they cannot climb up to God, God chooses to come down to us.
This is great news to those of us stuck in the bottom of the hole.
This is not a feel good message that the faithful just made up. We read this good news repeatedly throughout the Bible.
In Genesis we see that God intentionally came down to create us. You were intended to be. You were given life purely as a gift. You did not have to prove anything in order to have life.
Further, we read in the Bible that the Israelite people were rescued from slavery in Egypt, not because they had somehow proven themselves, but because God could not stand by any longer as they cried out for help. Hearing the cries of the people, God came down and raised up Moses who would lead them out of slavery in Egypt.
The disciples and apostles desperately wanted us to know that God is a God who comes down because of what they experienced in Jesus the Christ. Jesus was not just a great teacher and prophet. Jesus was God come down as a human to minister, serve, and save the people of the earth.
We do not have to climb up to God to touch the almighty. In Jesus, God came down to us. He became fully human so that we might have a teacher, friend, and savior.
Jesus served those who could not serve themselves, healed those who could not heal themselves, defended sinners who could not defend themselves, and died to rescue a creation that could not be perfect enough to climb up to God.
In the person of Jesus, we see the possibility of being raised from the lowest of places; even death. If Jesus could break free of death and burial, then we can trust his promise that we too will be raised up with him from death.
Whether we are dead to God because our lives are not even close to being full of love and life, or we have actually died a bodily death, Jesus the Christ came down that we might have the gift of hope that all things can be made new. Yes, new life is possible, even for us.
Our old lives need not define us. In Jesus the Christ, there is forgiveness. Our lives can begin over again after we have fallen into ways of sin.
When we look at Jesus the Christ, we see that darkness and death will not have the final word. Light and new life will prevail.
God will not forget us. God will come down when we cry out. These promises are what inspire faith in people worldwide.
God still comes down to us today through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes to us and works in us, giving us faith and courage in a world that can feel chaotic and uncertain.
God will continue to come down to us, to walk with us by the Spirit, no matter the hardships that lie ahead.
In joy over all that God has done for us, we respond by worshiping God and following in the loving footsteps of Christ, who loved all people. We strive to bend down and serve others in need because Christ first bent down to serve us.
We do not do it to prove anything to God, or even to others. We do it because we are God’s people and God’s people strive to do what God did for us.
This article was written by Pastor Jira Albers and inspired by Kelly A. Fryer from her book, Reclaiming the '' L'' Word: Renewing the Church from Its Lutheran Core.
Beliefs: Questions and Answers
Who is Jesus Christ?
Jesus is God's son, sent by God to become human like us. In his life and being he broke through the prison of sinfulness and thus restored the relationship of love and trust that God intended to exist between himself and his children. Though he is eternal, with God at the beginning of time, he was born on earth of a virgin, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was at once truly God and truly human.
The man, Jesus of Nazareth, lived and died in Palestine during the governorship of the Roman administrator Pontius Pilate; we believe him to be the Messiah chosen by God to show his love for the world. He is God, yet with all the limitations of being human. His relationship to God, however, was not one of sin but rather of perfect obedience to the Father's will. For the sake of a sinful world, Jesus was condemned to death on the cross.
But death could not contain him. On the third day after his execution, the day Christians observe as Easter, Jesus appeared among his followers as the risen, living Lord. By this great victory God has declared the Good News of reconciliation. The gap between all that separates us from our Creator has been bridged. Thus, Christ lives today wherever there are people who faithfully believe in him and wherever the Good News of reconciliation is preached and the Sacraments administered.
What is the Church?
The Christian church is made up of those who have been baptized and thus have received Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world. Sometimes it is referred to as "the Body of Christ." Lutherans believe that they are a part of a community of faith that began with the gift of the Holy Spirit, God's presence with his people, on the day of Pentecost. The church, regardless of the external form it takes, is the fellowship of those who have been restored to God by Christ. Indeed, to be called into fellowship with Christ is also to be called into community with other believers.
The church is essential to Christian life and growth. Its members are all sinners in need of God's grace. It has no claim on human perfection. The church exists solely for the hearing and doing of God's Word. It can justify its existence only when it proclaims the living Word of Christ, administers the Sacraments and gives itself to the world in deeds of service and love. Most Lutherans recognize a wider fellowship of churches and are eager to work alongside them in ecumenical ministries and projects.
Why a Lutheran church?
Martin Luther (b. November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, d. February 18, 1546 in Eisleben) is known as the Father of Protestantism. He had studied to become a lawyer before becoming an Augustinian monk in 1505, and was ordained a priest in 1507. While continuing his studies in pursuit of a Doctor of Theology degree, he discovered significant differences between what he read in the Bible and the theology and practices of the church. On October 31, 1517, he posted a challenge on the church door at Wittenberg University to debate 95 theological issues. Luther's hope was that the church would reform its practice and preaching to be more consistent with the Word of God as contained in the Bible.
What started as an academic debate escalated to a religious war, fueled by fiery temperaments and violent language on both sides. As a result, there was not a reformation of the church but a separation. "Lutheran" was a name applied to Luther and his followers as an insult but adopted as a badge of honor by them instead.
Lutherans still celebrate the Reformation on October 31 and still hold to the basic principles of theology and practice espoused by Luther, such as Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura:
o We are saved by the grace of God alone -- not by anything we do;
o Our salvation is through faith alone -- we only need to believe that our sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who died to redeem us;
o The Bible is the only norm of doctrine and life -- the only true standard by which teachings and doctrines are to be judged.
Another of Luther's principles was that Scriptures and worship need to be in the language of the people.
Many Lutherans still consider themselves as a reforming movement within the Church catholic, rather than a separatist movement, and Lutherans have engaged in ecumenical dialogue with other church bodies for decades. In fact, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has entered into cooperative "full communion" agreements with several other Protestant denominations.
Luther's Small Catechism, which contains teachings on the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution, Holy Communion and Morning and Evening Prayers, is still used to introduce people to the Lutheran faith, as is the Augsburg Confession. These and other Lutheran confessional documents included in the Book of Concord may be ordered from the ELCA Publishing House at 800/328-4648 or www.augsburgfortress.org.
Is Lutheranism the Only True Religion?
"Do Lutherans believe theirs is the only true religion?" This question was once put to the late Dr. Elson Ruff, editor of The Lutheran. His answer was, "Yes, but Lutherans don't believe they are the only ones who have it. There are true Christian believers in a vast majority of the churches, perhaps in all." The ELCA Confession of Faith says "This church confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the Gospel as the power of God for the salvation of all who believe ..."
How Do Lutherans Look upon the Bible?
To borrow a phrase from Luther, the Bible is "the manger in which the Word of God is laid." While Lutherans recognize differences in the way the Bible should be studied and interpreted, it is accepted as the primary and authoritative witness to the church's faith. Written and transcribed by many authors over a period of many centuries, the Bible bears remarkable testimony to the mighty acts of God in the lives of people and nations. In the Old Testament is found the vivid account of God's covenant relationship to Israel. In the New Testament is found the story of God's new covenant with all of creation in Jesus.
The New Testament is the first-hand proclamation of those who lived through the events of Jesus' life, death, and Resurrection. As such, it is the authority for Christian faith and practice. The Bible is thus not a definitive record of history or science. Rather, it is the record of the drama of God's saving care for creation throughout the course of history.
What Do Lutherans Believe About Creation?
Lutherans believe that God is Creator of the universe. Its dimensions of space and time are not something God made once and then left alone. God is, rather, continually creating, calling into being each moment of each day.
Human beings have a unique position in the order of creation. As males and females created in God's image, we are given the capacity and freedom to know and respond to our creator. Freedom implies that we can choose to respond to God either positively or negatively.
"Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice," an ELCA Statement on caring for God's creation, is available from the ELCA Distribution Service (800/328-4648) free (+ postage and handling). Order Code: 67-1185.
Where Do Lutherans Stand on the Question of Sin?
Lutherans believe that all people live in a condition which is the result of misused freedom. "Sin" describes not so much individual acts of wrongdoing as fractured relationships between the people of creation and God. Our every attempt to please God falls short of the mark. By the standard of the Law, of which the Ten Commandments are a classic summary, God expresses his just and loving expectations for creation, and our failure to live up to those expectations reveals only our need for God's mercy and forgiveness.
What Sacraments Do Lutherans Accept?
Lutherans accept two Sacraments as God-given means for penetrating the lives of people with his grace. Although they are not the only means of God's self-revelation, Baptism and Holy Communion are visible acts of God's love.
In Baptism, and it can be seen more clearly in infant Baptism, God freely offers his grace and lovingly establishes a new community. It is in Baptism that people become members of Christ's Body on earth, the Church. In Holy Communion -- often called the Lord's Supper or the Eucharist -- those who come to the table receive in bread and wine the body and blood of their Lord. This gift is itself the real presence of God's forgiveness and mercy, nourishing believers in union with their Lord and with each other.
Do Lutherans Believe in Life After Death?
While there is much we do not and cannot know about life beyond the grave, Lutherans do believe that life with God persists even after death. Judgment is both a present and future reality, and history moves steadily towards God's ultimate fulfillment.
This of course is a great mystery, and no description of what life may be like in any dimension beyond history is possible. Anxiety for the future is not a mark of faith. Christians should go about their daily tasks, trusting in God's grace and living a life of service in his name.
What Must a Person Do to Become a Christian?
Jesus said, " Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." (John 11:25-26)
What Must a Person Do to Become a Lutheran?
To become a Lutheran, only Baptism and instruction in the Christian faith is required. If you are already baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it will be necessary only to attend a membership class in a Lutheran congregation and thus signify your desire to become a part of its community. Active members of other Lutheran congregations usually need only to transfer their membership.