Face Punch Word of the Week #2:
As in: "The Lord has a plan for your life."
By and large, orthodox Lutherans don't use the word "plan" in this way (and thus don't get punched by me) because we have a proper understanding of free will.
What do I mean by that? It's really quite simple.
When it comes to free will, we Lutherans believe that man is not free in spiritual matters. On account of his sinful nature, he is not able to choose God. The man who is "dead in trespasses" (Ephesians 2:1) cannot come to believe in God until God gives him the gift of faith through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:8-9). To put it quite simply, and to paraphrase John 1:12-13, you don't become a child of God through your will. You become a child of God through His will.
Likewise, we Lutherans also believe that man does have free will when it comes to temporal stuff, what he eats and drinks, whether he gets married or not, whether he works one job or another (Augsburg Confession Article 18.5).
So, in a nutshell, when it comes to your eternal soul, you do not have free will. But when it comes to marriage, for example, you do have free will. You can marry this girl or this girl. Or, speaking more realistically, since the only girl who will actually agree to marry you is probably more along the lines of this girl, then forget about it. Don't get married. Either way you're free and either way God is pleased.
But when it comes to your average Armenian, Decision-Theology, Free Will Espousing American Evangelical, they see things exactly the inverse way that we Lutherans do. (And, I would obviously argue, the inverse of what the Scriptures teach.) When it comes to spiritual things, your will is the only one that matters. But when it comes to temporal things, God's will is all that counts.
Getting these things reversed is bad. And it's not just bad because it eats away at people's souls when they think that their salvation is entirely subject to their sinful, corrupted hearts while also believing that they very well may be living contrary to God's will if they eat Cap'n Crunch instead of Lucky Charms for breakfast. It's also bad because they end up losing sight of what the will of God is really all about in the first place.
"Thy will be done," are pretty important words for Christians. And when Christians are misled into believing that God's will is more dominant in temporal matters than in spiritual ones, it becomes very easy to believe that said temporal stuff is therefore what the Christian faith is really all about. If God has the most say when it comes to your job or your spouse or your kids or your whatever, then God's "plan" for your life will inevitably center around those things and not your salvation.
So instead of God's plan being that you are crushed and restored by His Word, His plan is all about you getting the promotion He selected for you from before the foundation of the world. Instead of God's plan hinging on you being brought to the waters of Holy Baptism, His plan hinges on you not marrying the wrong girl, because, after all, there's only one lady out of three billion on the planet that God wants you to make your bride. (Is it any wonder that evangelicals have higher divorce rates than the heathens?) Instead of God's plan being that you feast upon His body and blood, that you are covered in His eternal forgiveness and that you are preserved by the Holy Spirit in the truth faith unto life everlasting, His plan really has much more to do with the selections you make in the grocery store.
In the end, I'd much rather cling to what the Bible actually teaches and what we Lutherans believe. And I can't imagine that the Osteens or Warrens of this world, that all of McChurch's methods and programs could every offer me anything of greater use and comfort than this:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31).
This is God's plan for my life. God's plan for my life was to redeem me through the blood of His Son, to make me His child in Holy Baptism, and to feed and nourish me with Christ's body and blood. God's plan is that I have faith in His Triune Nature. His plan will be for me to remain in that faith until His return in glory. And this was, is and ever shall be His plan for my life, regardless of whether I chose to attend to Indiana University instead of Valparaiso, whether Katie and I watch a movie or a sitcom tonight and whether I feast upon Cap'n Crunch of Lucky Charms tomorrow morning.
My name is Pastor Hans Fiene. Thanks for reading.