Faith—The Work of the Holy Spirit

No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3 – EHV)

The last few weeks in our worship services, we’ve been talking about the Holy Spirit and his work. With that in mind, has anyone ever asked you either of the questions, or something similar?

“Have you made the decision for Christ?”

“Have you accepted Jesus into your heart?”

These are questions that are quite common among those in the Evangelical Christian community. They are dead giveaways to a dangerous false teaching we call, “decision theology.” They teach that one must decide to become a believer in Christ, and it is by your choice, then, that one is saved. Google “the sinner’s prayer” and you’ll see a prime example—the prayer has many solid features until the decision theology is brought in toward the end, ruining everything else in the prayer.

First of all, what makes this a false teaching? Because the Bible clearly says that Christ chose us, that faith is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that we cannot believe without the Holy Spirit. Consider the following passages:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will endure, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15:16)

Therefore I am informing you that no one speaking by God’s Spirit says, “A curse be upon Jesus,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3)

An unspiritual person does not accept the truths taught by God’s Spirit, because they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually evaluated. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

These passages clearly teach that an unbeliever, the one without the Spirit, cannot believe in God or his Word. Now if we cannot believe in God and his Word, then how can we make a decision for him? The 1 Corinthians 12 passage teaches us that no one can believe without the work of the Holy Spirit. And John 15 teaches us, as Jesus talks to his disciples, that he is the one who chose us—not the other way around!

Also consider three more passages:

You were dead in your trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1)

We preach Christ crucified—which is offensive to Jews and foolishness to Greeks. (1 Corinthians 1:23)

For the mind-set of the sinful flesh is hostile to God, since it does not submit to God’s law, and in fact, it cannot. (Romans 8:7)

The Ephesians passage tells us that we are spiritually dead by nature. Just as a dead man in unable to do anything, so those who are spiritually dead cannot do anything spiritual by nature. So before we are brought to faith, we are unable to move toward Christ, accept him into our hearts, or make the decision to believe.

But let’s say the decision were up to us. What decision would we make? We would never choose to believe! Remember that to fallen mankind, the gospel is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23, 1 Corinthians 2:14). And God is our enemy by nature (Romans 8:7). So if the decision were up to us (which it is not), we would never choose to believe in a God who is our enemy and whose teaching we consider foolish.

So “Decision Theology” is clearly wrong. But what makes it so dangerous? Decision theology teaches that your salvation depends on a decision you make. If true, then your decision is based, at least in part, on you and what you do. This robs us of the assurance and comfort that our salvation is a complete gift of God’s grace. For we know if it’s grace plus works, then it is no longer by grace (Romans 11:6). We’d always have in the back of our head if we had made the right decision, or if we made the decision often enough and at the right times in order to be saved. This is a dangerous teaching indeed!

But it is so prevalent! That is why it is so important to be careful of what we read and listen to! The devil is not dumb, he often weaves truth with falsehood, purity with poison. We must be on our guard at all times. It is good to cling to what is pure! So take, for example, the third stanza of the final hymn we sang on Sunday, “Alleluia! Let Praises Ring” (CW 241). We sang, in part, “Alleluia! Let praises ring! Unto the Holy Ghost we sing for our regeneration. The saving faith in us he wrought, and us unto the Bridegroom brought; made us his chosen nation.” Or take Luther’s explanation to the third article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing 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.”

Thank the Lord for his love and mercy is working faith into our hearts! If it were not for him, we would certainly perish forever. But through the work of the Holy Spirit, we receive the gift of salvation won for us by Christ. And thank the Lord that we have a Church that teaches the pure Word of God! Help us to cling to this pure Word, dear Lord.

Pastor Andrew Frey


Church News

Returning to Public Worship:

How great and wonderful it was to see people in-person as we worshiped our Lord together these past two weeks! Together with the June Newsletter, you should have received a copy of our plan for returning to public worship. Please look over the document carefully. Please note that for the time being, since only one or two ushers will be needed per service, we will not be in need of Usher Teams. If you have any comments or concerns, please contact one of the Pastors or any of the council members. The document can also be accessed by clicking the link below. https://stjohncenter-my.sharepoint.com/:b:/g/personal/pastor_frey_stjohn-appleton_org/EaBy-IahwepIjjaHxkS5IbMBC7X1SDx1pug80s5jAzCihQ?e=fJjd64

Worship Sign-up:

In order to encourage and practice social distancing, we are trying to limit each Worship service to 75 people. To help with this, we added an extra service on Sunday morning. We are offering 7:30, 9:00 and 10:30 services on Sunday as well as 6:30 pm on Monday. We are also asking everyone to sign up each week for whatever Worship Service you plan on attending. Please note, that we are in need of volunteers to help sanitize the sanctuary between services. When you sign-up you’ll have an opportunity to mark whether or not you are willing to help out—it only takes about 10 minutes, so we pray that you will!

You can find the link to sign-up on the front page of our website at: www.stjohn-appleton.org.

You can also signup by going directly to this link (it will be a different link each week): https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040a4aa9a62ea6fa7-stjohn2

Online Worship:

As we go forward, we will continue to live-stream our services and posting our worship folders online. We will be recording our Sunday 7:30 am service which means you can watch anytime after 7:30 am on Sunday morning. If you need any help accessing these resources, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

You can find our worship services at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCsQs-LDzlHE1NTjOaVaQ2A.

You can find a bulletin for each Worship Service so you can follow along here: https://stjohncenter-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/g/personal/pastor_frey_stjohn-appleton_org/EqetvOMWflhLsfsLRcDkxSgBL2cnYkpiuk8Klh7d-r_XQg?e=07dSma.

Bible Classes:

We recently finished our Online Bible Studies. We are currently trying to figure out the best way forward through the rest of the summer. Stay tuned for more information!

Quarterly Voters Meeting:

Our second quarter Voters’ meeting, originally scheduled for April 28 has been rescheduled to Tuesday, June 16th.  At this meeting you’ll be able to review and discuss our current worship plan.

Confirmation:

The examination of our confirmands and their confirmation has been indefinitely postponed. We plan to have our examination/confirmation whenever we are join together.

LWMS

The WELS Missions office is partnering with the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) to host an online event called Taste and See! This first-of-its-kind event will combine the very best of Taste of Missions and LWMS Convention to provide all WELS members an opportunity to be an important part of gospel outreach occurring in our synod.

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https://wels.net/taste-and-see-christs-love-around-the-globe/

Tune in LIVE to the following opportunities to be together and encourage one another. Join us on the WELS Missions or LWMS Facebook pages or Taste and See website at the following times:


Saturday, June 27, 11 a.m. CT: Opening worship service immediately followed by the LWMS Flag Presentation

Wednesday, July 1, 7 p.m. CT: Home Missions Q&A Panel

Wednesday, July 8, 7 p.m. CT: World Missions Q&A Panel

Saturday, July 11, 6 p.m. CT: Closing worship service featuring the commissioning of three world missionaries and one home missionary, immediately followed by a Q&A panel with newly commissioned missionaries

Free Digital Resources from NPH 

Our Synod's Publishing House, NPH, is offering many great digital resources for free for the time being—including June’s Forward in Christ and the latest edition of Meditations. Please click on the link below for more info.

https://online.nph.net/free-resources?utm_source=general-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=safe-at-home-8