So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)


    April 5, 2018

    Likely not, at least the one to which I point out in the title. Everyone in my Freshman English class feared Mrs. Dean. She required a spelling test every Friday. If you weren’t prepared, well your heart pounded out of your chest. Do you know a Mrs. Dean in your past?

    Mrs. Dean's raised the bar, required hard, difficult and necessary work. I credit Mrs. Dean for my spelling skills to this day.

    Do children need a Mrs. Dean today? Yes. So do you. Laziness, selfishness, lack of discipline, and a me-centered culture all lead to a collapsing country and unhappy children.

    (Please note the pinwheels on Trinity’s church lawn. Thank you, seventh- and eighth-graders from the school and Dr. Barb Harre! They highlight National Child Abuse Prevention Month. As they say, “All children deserve great childhoods…”)

    The Holy Spirit has something to say about the practice of life. Through the Apostle Peter, He writes: “For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue…” (2 Peter 1:5).

    “Virtue” may be translated “excellence.” Christians are to show forth excellent living, that is, moral living. The power is the faith given in Holy Baptism and the ongoing reception of God’s Gospel of the forgiveness of sins. The power of the Gospel compels believers to live resurrected lives.

    Moral living is patterned after the One who visibly walked it, Jesus. Compassion, other-centered, forgiving, praying, and working. This one Savior saves and is also the example.

    Moral living does not add to faith, as if it brings additional help to trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Rather, it displays the generosity of our generous Benefactor, who supplies all that we need.

    William Bennett, in his 1993 “The Book of Virtues,” writes about practicing virtue. He refers to Aristotle as one who emphasized that “habits make all the difference. We learn to order our souls the same way we learn to do math problems or play baseball — through practice,” (p. 22).

    My folks had this habit: Every weekend we went to church, without fail, except for two weekends a year: opening duck and pheasant hunting season. When I went off to college, guess what I did on Sunday mornings, even if I stayed up to 3:00 in the morning? You guessed it.

    Trinity ChurchSchool is God’s place to deliver His unexpected gifts of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit; it’s also a training ground for developing a Christian habit of life, displaying godly virtues.

    Who’s your Mrs. Dean?

    Better, be a Mrs. Dean to the children, with discipline and holy habits. They’re not going to learn it from this American culture. 

    Pastor Golter is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran

  • Stick to the Text: No Free Will

    April 12, 2018

    It’s so hard, so hard to stick to only what God says.  

    This is most certainly true when it comes to the topic of free will.

    Is a person able to choose to believe in Jesus? In all my years of pastoral care, this issue remains a challenge for so many.

    We believe that as we choose to which Whitey’s we travel to get an ice cream cone, so we have the free will to choose Jesus. The Bible does not support this belief; the text does not say this.

    What does the Holy Spirit say? Coming to Jesus is His work, not a person’s will. Christ says:

    “The natural person (unbeliever) does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned,”

    (1 Corinthians 2:14).

    “Natural” may be translated as “unspiritual.” To say that the “unspiritual” person cannot “receive” or “accept” teaches the impossibility to choose Jesus. The Spirit describes the state of the will before conversion as hostility, “enemies” (Rom. 5:10); the human will in spiritual matters is “dead” (Ephesians 2:1). Dead people can’t resurrect themselves. God must do it; that’s the biblical teaching.

    Jesus preaches in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” John uses “draw” later in his Gospel describing Peter’s pulling or “drawing” the full net of fish to the shore—153 of them. The fish did nothing to be drawn; their weight actually resisted Peter’s pulling. The will before conversion actively pushes against the Spirit’s work of conversion.

    Is there a free will in spiritual matters? No.

    Does the person’s will help God convert them? No. The will is dead.

    This is why Lutherans do not have altar calls or ask people to come forward to make a decision for Jesus. The new Small Catechism states:

    “This is why Lutherans do not speak in terms like ‘making a decision to accept Jesus,’ instead emphasizing the Holy Spirit’s work of calling us and bringing us to faith through the Gospel. When Jesus says, ‘Follow Me,’ His Word, by the Holy Spirit, has the power to turn us from our sin and to move us to trust Him and follow after Him. See Matthew 9:9; John 10:27-28),” (p. 197).

    The assumption that people are able to accept Jesus by their choosing is wrong biblically; the Holy Spirit teaches differently according to the text. Coming to Jesus is all God work, for which we gladly give Him thanks and praise.  “I believe in Jesus, because He converted me.”

    What about the role of the will in a believer, once the Holy Spirit has converted them? Wait till next week for that discussion. 

    Pastor Golter is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran

    April 19th, 2018

    I was going to consider a person’s will after conversion this week. This topic of no free will, however, is good for further reflection. Consider this simple truth: The Holy Spirit doesn’t want you to take His work of conversion away from Him to you.

    Why? Is the Holy Spirit jealous? Yes, for He is your Comforter (Ex. 34:14; John 15:26). To take on His role of conversion places some dependence upon you. That’s trouble. How reliable are you? According to God’s Word, not at all. The Bible teaches: “None is righteous…no one understands, no one seeks God,” (Romans 3:10b – 11). No exceptions.

    Here’s a general biblical rule: Any time a demand is placed upon you, you bear the burden of doing it. The result is NO COMFORT, for the burdens rest upon you to come through! Here’s the Good News: Conversion is all God’s work. Relax.

    Hear how the Holy Spirit puts it. “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except but by the Holy Spirit,” (1 Cor. 12:3). “By the Holy Spirit” is very clear; there’s no mention of a decision for Jesus.

    Hear how the Holy Spirit uses the language of birth and re-birth in describing conversion. Jesus preaches to Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God,” (John 3:3, 5). The Spirit also says in 1 John 5:1, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.”

    We have two boys, Jacob and Caleb. What did they do to be born? Nothing. What did you do to be born? Nothing.

    The Holy Spirit calls conversion, believing in Jesus, as a second birth, being “born again.” What did you or I do to be spiritually born again? Nothing. The Holy Spirit through the Word did it. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ,” (Rom. 10:17).

    The Lutheran Confessions comment on this verse, “For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” They state: “This precious verse is very comforting for all pious Christians who feel and perceive a tiny glimmer and longing for God’s grace and eternal salvation in their hearts. For they know that God has ignited this beginning of true godliness in their hearts and, moreover, that He wants to strengthen them in their great weakness and help them, so that they may persevere in true faith to the end,” (Solid Declaration, Article II – Free Will, par. 14).

    Let’s rejoice and be comforted!

    Pastor Golter is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran


    April 27, 2018

    Consider St. Paul’s own words.

    “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate,” (Romans 7:15).

    He describes two desires, two wills and, it is very frustrating.

    Realize, these words come from St. Paul after conversion. Before he was converted, he says unbelievers are “enslaved to sin” (Rom. 6:6), “controlled by sinful passions “(Rom. 7:5),” are “enemies” of God (Rom. 5:10), and “hostile to God,” (Rom. 8:7).

    In the believer, this old sinful will remains, and it hates Jesus. In the believer, there is also the new will created by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, it loves Jesus. The believer has two wills, two opposing wills.

    What is the Bible’s answer to this civil war? Paul says, “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:25). Paul goes to the Gospel, remarkable!

    He doesn’t say, “I’ve got to try harder.” “I need a ten-step spiritual program to get better.” He goes straight to the Gospel, the Good News of Christ. We all need the Champion in whom we believe and trust. He fights for us. “For it is God Who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure,” (Phil. 2:13).

    Thus, God brings a person to faith and keeps a person in the faith by the power of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus. Even in the believer, however, the new man’s will is very weak.

    Our Confessions state: “The converted do good to the extent that God rules, leads, and guides them with His Holy Spirit. If God would withdraw His gracious hand (through the Word) from such people, they could not for one moment remain obedient to God. If this passage [2 Cor. 6:1] were to be understood as if the converted person cooperates alongside the Holy Spirit in the way two horses draw a wagon together, this interpretation could not be tolerated without damaging divine truth,” (Solid Declaration, Art. II, Free Will, par. 66).

    Oh, how weak even the new will!

    Where does this leave us? In good hands, His.

    Thanks be to God that Jesus has already won the battle, defeated all evil, the devil and the sinful flesh. The Father so chooses to see you only in Jesus, forgiven, restored and declared holy.

    Breathe easy…and fight by faith in Him.

    Pastor Golter is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran