The following is a written preview of our new Q&A style podcast where Pastor Foley takes questions related to the Whole Life Offering discipleship training model. Subscribe now!
Q: You blogged recently about healing and comforting and its relation to confession. How would you tie the Ten Commandments and self-examination together as the prelude to the public confession we do during our liturgy at .W church?
A: As Protestants it is sometimes implied that we “don’t do confession, i.e., “The Catholics are the folks who confess.” But that’s just historically and theologically wrong. Of course we confess our sins. The difference is that as Protestants, we believe the mediator for our sins is Christ Jesus, not an earthly cleric like a priest or pastor. But we confess our sins in the presence of others in order to be held accountable and to be encouraged by the Gospel.
So, what’s the connection, then in our .W order of worship where we hold ourselves up to the Ten Commandments before entering into confession? Well, the Ten Commandments aren’t designed to make us say, “Wow! Have I messed all this up! It’s hopeless.” No, the Ten Commandments describe how God runs his household. They are given to the Israelites as an act of grace. God brings the Israelites out of Egypt not because of anything they’ve done to deserve that, but because as their God, he is full of grace. And then he says, “Now let me tell you how we live by grace in my household.”
We go into the Ten Commandments always knowing that we are going to fall short because ultimately they are about us surrendering to God and learning how to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us to be able to live according to the way that things work in God’s household.
Our response to these rules of God’s household is to say, “Yeah, I see where it is I’m not living according to the rules of God’s house, I’m living according to the rules of the world.” So when we confess it’s specific. It’s not just a general, “Wow, I really messed up, I’m no good, I’m a sinner, I’ve fallen short.” Those things are all true, but they’re not helpful. The most helpful thing is to say, “When I listen to the Ten Commandments, what it reminds me of this week is that I treated my house as if it were my own possession.” That’s the kind of response we’re after and that, as Protestants, is what we do. We confess those things in the company of the congregation so that they can hold us accountable and, as a response to that confession, to share with us the Gospel.
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Q: Why is it that in a lot of evangelical churches they teach the summary of the Ten Commandments – love God and love others – as if that’s an easier thing to do?
A: Keep in mind that the Ten Commandments are not only given in grace, they can only be kept through grace, too. When God delivers the Israelites from Egypt, it’s clear that this deliverance doesn’t come from the Israelites’ own action or as a reward for their own behavior. The story of God’s people is the same all the way through the Old Testament and New Testament; in God’s household, what do we do? We rely on God. We rely on the living Christ who comes to make his home in us. We rely upon the Holy Spirit who is counselor and comforter. We rely upon the grace and goodness of the Father.
It’s not about God saying, “Now that you’re in, this is what you have to do to stay in.” He is saying, “This is the life that you were born for. This is the way that human beings are intended to relate to each other.”
Those Ten Commandments we ought to treat the same way we do the rules of our own households. Anyone with kids would say of their own household rules, “These rules aren’t supposed to be punitive or impossible, or to define who is acceptable in the family and who’s not. They’re supposed to lead you in the way you are designed to live.” Of course our kids rely on us completely to be the kind of parents that enable them to thrive in that house. The same is true with God and we are eternally his children. We never grow to a point where we’re able to do these things on our own without him.
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