Practical Witness

Jesus, do you really love me? (My Return to the Lutheran Church)

Sinclair Ferguson is a Scottish theologian from the Reformed Presbyterian tradition. That is not normally the sort of person a Lutheran would look to for insight into the Lord’s super. Yet he once gave a sermon that ought to be heard by everyone regarding the sacrament.

During his sermon he offered a challenge to the married men who were present. The challenge consisted of two parts. First, each man must tell his wife every day, without fail, that he loves her. He should strive to tell her twice a day as a minimum. The second part of the challenge was to never touch her. No kissing, no holding hands, no hugs, no high fives. He then posed the question,

“How long do you think it would take before your wives began to wonder ‘Does he really love me?’”

It was this very question that I wrestled with for many years about Christ.

After leaving the Lutheran church in my college years I fell into Reformed Baptist circles where the true body and blood are denied in the Lord’s supper. They teach that it is nothing more than an ordinance (or act of obedience) to be kept by the church for the profession of the faith. For a while I had come to believe this. As the years went by, I began to wonder if Jesus truly love me. I began to wonder if I could objectively know that He truly loved me and that I was not vainly attending church and reading my Bible. I knew what the Bible said about Jesus, and I heard His words, but how did I know His words were meant for me? On the outside I maintained a façade of confidence, but in my heart I was torn. With all the backsliding I had experienced over the years how could I be certain that I was a member of the elect?

Anyone who is or has been married knows the importance of physical touch in marriage. The holding of hands or the wrapping of an arm around a shoulder speaks volumes to a significant other. Telling your wife that you love her while neglecting the need for physical intimacy is akin to James’ warning against faith without works. (James 2:16) If you tell someone you love them but never show it through your actions would they not be justified in questioning your words?

It was after my return to Lutheranism that I found the comfort I needed. I remember the moment vividly. I was sitting in the congregation of a Baptist church. The deacons were distributing the bread and wine to the congregation while the teaching pastor stood upfront to begin the meal. He did not cite the scriptures or recite any liturgy. He simply stated, “This bread/cup represents Jesus’ body/blood.” It was at that moment I remembered the liturgy of my youth, how the Lutheran pastor would recite the words of institution and cite the scriptures. “This is my body; this is my blood.” I had already been questioning Baptist theology, but that moment was the final straw. I placed the cup and bread into the fitted holes in the pew and declined to commune. I heard a child behind me cry “He didn’t drink it!” I never saw who it was. It didn’t matter. I knew something was wrong and I could no longer participate in it. I never returned to that church.

I now have a new church family where we profess the true body and blood of Jesus Christ present in the Lord’s supper. I now feel the comfort of intimacy with my savior every Sunday as often as I am able. There is no longer a struggle with the question of “Does Jesus love me?” I know He does because I hear and believe in the words “for you.”  I receive His body, which was broken for me as an atonement for my sin. The giving of someone’s body is a great act of love. This is how I know that Jesus loves me. He gave His life for my sake, and together with my fellow Lutherans we receive His body and blood, strengthening our spirits and professing together the kingdom of God.

If you have ever wondered if God truly died for you and not just everybody else take my advice. Read the words “for you.” Believe it with all your heart. His body has been given for you as a perfect sacrifice. Receive it with your brothers and sisters with joy in your heart. You can know that Jesus loves you, and you can be assured of it when you receive His body and blood which was given for you according to His love and mercy.

See you on Sunday.

About the author

James Herbert Helms, Jr.

James Helms is a budget analyst who lives with his wife and two daughters in Maryland near the border of Washington, D.C. He holds a Master of Divinity from Liberty University. His intention is to eventually become a pastor within the LCMS. His local congregation is Redeemer Lutheran (LCMS) in Hyattsville, MD.

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