Most of the other people in the churches I’ve attended grew up going to a Lutheran Church. It has seemed pretty rare to find people who do not have a background of belonging to the church. So when I found out that Author Molly Lackey also converted to the Lutheran Church in high school, I knew that we shared something unique.
In her book Confessing Jesus: The Heart of Being a Lutheran, Molly shares a story of a graduate school classmate asking her why she became Lutheran. This is a question I have also been asked multiple times by different people. On the spot, it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly what happened in my journey that led to the Lutheran faith. Between Molly’s story and my own, I’ve identified what we share as to why.
Before we start, I want to point out that the only reason we have faith is because of the Holy Spirit. Our intellects don’t do the work of creating faith, but the Holy Spirit moves and guides our faith through the Word of God and the Sacraments. The Spirit assures us of this gift of faith when we remember our Baptism. Even so, it can also be helpful to process why and how He led us to this view.
Coming to Lutheranism
While Molly and I share an identity as folks who didn’t grow up in the Lutheran faith, our stories are different. I’ll give the short versions before we delve into the aspects that drew us to confess the Lutheran teaching of who Jesus is. Molly grew up regularly attending a nondenominational megachurch and I grew up counting on one hand the number of times I attended a Christian church. For Molly, her father studying Lutheranism and her own salvation doubts led her to theological transformation. For me, an invitation to attend church from my then boyfriend (now husband) led me to the cross and the Lutheran faith.
Jesus Answers Questions
When it comes to faith in Christ, many people ask and wonder, “How do I know I am saved?” Molly explains that although she professed faith, was baptized, and was highly involved at her former church, she worried that she wasn’t actually saved. Because of how much emphasis her church had on individual choice, she was very worried that she hadn’t truly accepted Jesus. For me, I always felt like there was something missing in my life. I questioned what that thing was; was it experiences, things, or achievements? I tried to fill this hole for myself to no avail. For Molly and me, Jesus answered these questions.
In John 3:5, Jesus answers Nicodemus’ questions about salvation with
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
The question “How do I know I am really saved?” is answered quickly by remembering your Baptism, where Jesus worked a miracle in you. In her book, Molly says,
Baptism is a free gift from Jesus Himself—not an act of obedience on your part. It is an outpouring of God’s love, bound to the waters through His Word, to free you from sin and bring you into eternal life.
Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Later in John, Jesus calls Himself “the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6). In the Word of God, I could see that, apart from Jesus in this broken world, I could never fill that void.
Jesus Is Near
Growing up, whenever I attended church, it always felt like God wasn’t really there or that He was distant from me. I saw the parts of the service and went through the motions, but it never felt like Jesus was present or there for me. When I learned about the Lutheran Church’s teachings on Communion, my perspective changed.
A lot of people who aren’t familiar with the Lutheran practice and teachings on Communion struggle with our understanding of this meal. But neither Molly nor I did during our conversions. After all, Jesus tells us plainly that this is His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 26:26–28). In Confessing Jesus, Molly says,
Jesus comes to where you can find Him. He isn’t locked up in heaven. He isn’t hiding in secret, waiting for you to work out the mystery for yourself. Jesus wants to speak to you, lay His hands on you, feed you His very own body and blood.
This means that we can know that Jesus is truly near. His very body and blood are here with us.
Jesus Brings Comfort
God gives us tactile ways of experiencing our salvation. As Molly describes in Confessing Jesus, God has decided that we can touch forgiveness through Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. This is incredibly comforting, as we can have moments when the Word makes ordinary things extraordinarily important. In the Lutheran faith, we don’t try to explain away the bewildering nature of how this works, but we call it what it is—a mystery. Even so, the forgiveness found in these places is solid and firm. We do not have to question whether we’re really forgiven because we’ve experienced an act that Jesus promises offers forgiveness.
This comfort of having an answer to our questions of forgiveness, salvation, and purpose is everything. Knowing that Jesus is really present with us quiets fears and doubts, making room for peace that passes understanding.
Many people wonder how and why Molly and I stumbled into the Lutheran faith. It’s not about what the Lutheran faith doesn’t confess or do like other church denominations. It’s about the faithfulness to the Word of God and what that offers for our souls.
Identify who Jesus is and who you are with these answers to five common questions about Christ.