Standing before a sovereign and holy God fully aware of our deepest sinfulness, the Reformers find hope in the power of repentance and the grace that comes through salvation. This creates a solid foundation for the human life before God and a life changing invitation to be part of God’s plan to make all things right again.
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Transcript[00:00:27] Michael Gewecke: Hello friends and welcome back to the Pastor Talk podcast. It is a joy to have you with us as we jump back into the Westminster Catechism, the shorter version here today, as we are going to be continuing on in this series. If you were with us for the last conversation, I think it would be helpful if you weren’t to pause this and go back and at least get an overview of the catechism’s treatment of the 10 Commandments, some of the themes that.
looked at specifically in that I think will come up in some of our conversation today, and that’s certainly true as we make our way towards the first question for our conversation today, which is gonna be question 82 here in the shorter catechism. If you look at the 10 Commandments and you think of them as a rule for Christian life that God expects for us to meet, you’re gonna have a very different interpretation of how we should.
Orient ourselves to the commandment then, if you believe that commandment exists in many ways to be a measure or a tool for us to understand the gap between our ability and between our need for a savior, God’s work on our behalf. And so Clint, I think. As we roll into our conversation today, it’s always helpful in the midst of reflecting upon a reformed creed of the faith to recognize that while the framers of this are giving us language for what we believe, their intention is always not to be about us, but to be about pointing us to the one in whom we believe.
And I think that we see the spirit of that right away at the beginning of our conversation here today.[00:01:58] Clint Loveall: Yeah, I think so. Michael, we cover a lot of ground today that I think would. Called classic reform theology, the, some themes that are very central to our heritage as Presbyterian type Christians. Having said that, I think the tension in the Reformed tradition is this interchange between what we do.
And the reality of grace. So we know the problem of sin. We started the catechism, or at least got it onto the problem very early. We circle back around to it today as we reflect coming out of the 10 Commandments, the idea of following rules, following laws. But our people are very, To make sure we understand that following the rules, while an appropriate way to worship God and while a way that we are called to live does not affect God’s grace in any way, does not affect our status as being saved in any way.
That these are the things we do because God has been good to us, not so that God was good to us. And so right away, maybe not surprising if you. If you understand reform theology, if you are a product of that branch of the faith, probably not shocking that having. Finish the conversation on the commandments.
The first thing the authors say, is anyone able perfectly to keep the commandments of God? And the answer won’t surprise you either. No, no person since the fall is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments. But doth daily, break them. In thought word deed. So here is what God requires. Can we do that?
No, we can’t. We fall short of that every day by what we say, by what we do, by what we think. This is the ongoing struggle that we have with sin and the framers of this catechism want to make sure we understand. That having laws we look to as good does not make us good as we try to pursue them.[00:04:04] Michael Gewecke: You gotta be careful, Clint, to not talk about things that aren’t present. But I do think to illustrate something, I wanna just point something out very quickly. I wanna note here when we look at this question note that it’s no mere human. The framers of this intend all people when they say, man so no mere human.
Notice how this does not include any language about a separation between church. And the world, or the idea of the sacred and the secular for the writers of the Westminster Catechism. This is a total grouping. All humans post, fall, live in this place. And one of our cultural battles in at least America for some time, has been around this idea of the 10 Commandments as it relates to it’s present in our sacred lives and in our secular.
And I wonder what the framers of this would’ve done with that. It would be up to speculation, but what they explicitly have to talk about is the universality of our inability to meet the demands of the 10 Commandments. And so I, I would put that as a, maybe a teaching point is as we as reformed people hear their wisdom as they hand down the 10 Commandments to us, we may want to emphasize less that division that we’ve had in some of our cultural conversations and focus more.
On the demands of the 10 Commandments for everyone. And that is equally demanding upon the faith community, if not more so demanding upon the faith community cuz we are the ones who have received this as gift these 10 commandments, this expectation on how to live in God’s way. And so therefore I think it, this may help us to find a different way in the midst of a larger conversation[00:05:52] Clint Loveall: Yeah, I think there’s a backdrop here, Michael, of kind of what we do with law in general, in the reformed church and in the reformed faith, the Presbyterian heritage. We follow what we believe to be the biblical example, which is a celebration of the law, but an acknowledgement that the law cannot lead us to righteousness.
Now, there were those Christians early on who said it. It’s because the. It’s a failing of the law. We don’t need the law. We follow the idea that we think Paul followed that no, the law is good. The law is righteous, but because of sin, we are unable. To live the way it directs us. We fall short of it over and over again, and then are by the law convicted.
So the main point, the main gift that the law provides us now is not only to show us what a righteous life looks like, but also to serve as a mirror in showing us our inability to live that righteous life apart from the grace of Jesus Christ. And so I think, this is very much in keeping.
With where we’ve been as a tradition and who we’ve been as a people of[00:07:02] Michael Gewecke: faith. Yeah. And it is worth noting that there is real nuance here. So they’re not trying to flatten all sins. And we’re gonna see this as we turn to the next question here. What they’re not trying to do is saying that because we’re all prone to.
our lives live doesn’t matter. And actually, Paul, we would argue in the reformed strand that Paul addresses that directly in a book like Romans, but we’re not talking about Pauline theology. What we are talking about is as we look at the 10 Commandments, we stand judged by them from the very beginning.
And remember how this creed began that. We are called through our lives to to bring glory to God. And because we cannot meet the bar of righteousness, therefore our lives without intervention, which is, we would use the word salvation without someone doing for us what we couldn’t do our for ourselves.
We cannot stand on top of the 10 commandments. They always stand over us. We can never meet the bar of righteousness that they give to us. But that doesn’t go to the next sort of logical step that would say since we can’t meet that bar, therefore what we do doesn’t matter. And that’s absolutely not true.
What we’re going to say is actually, if you look at human action, what we do does matter how we live our life. Is a reflection of our response to the gospel. And that matters in this mysterious relationship between God and the people. But Clint, that doesn’t mean that all sin is somehow equal and that it doesn’t matter what we do.
Yeah.[00:08:36] Clint Loveall: As we move to question 83, I think in some ways this is one of the more interesting questions in the catechism and I would love to know more about the framers, the authors Intention in putting it here. I’m going to treat 3 83 and 84 together so that we can talk about them, because I do think they balance one another.
Question 83 Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous, and the answer some sins in themselves and by reason of several aggravations are more heinous in the sight of God than others. What does every sin deserve? Every sin deserves God’s wrath and curse both in this life and the life, which is to come.
If we could start backwards, 84 makes sense that we’ve talked about this early in the series. This is again, classic reform theology. The result of sin is to separate us from God and it, that could be a large destructive sin. It could be selfishness, whatever that sin is, whatever name you would give it.
Its effect on us is to sever the relationship with us and God, because God demands righteousness. God demands purity and holiness. And in our sin, we don’t bring that to the table. We cannot offer it. So 84, I think is not a surprise to anyone. All sin is deserving of wrath and curse this life and the life to come.
That’s the foundation. Of the Christian understanding of what Grace does for us. However, the question before this is very interesting. Are all sins equal? Some sins by re for several reasons and in themselves. Are more heinous and if we stop there, I think we could agree to that, Michael. We could say yes, murder is a more destructive sin than lying.
Generally speaking that we would understand that there is a kind of impact on others, that some sins. Bring with them that makes them worse. Not in a theological sense. Not to say we are less or more separated from God because we do this sin versus that sin, but it makes sense that some sins are more violent, more destructive, more harmful to others.
And I think generally. We could go along with[00:11:07] Michael Gewecke: that. Yeah. So what you have to remember is that the framers of this confession, this what comes to us in this study as a catechism, were deeply interested and felt very intrinsically and foundationally tied to the scriptures. And so as they go through this catechism, they give us a trail of scriptural.
Foundation for where they’re going. And I think it’s relevant to point out for this question here, Clint that they reference Ezekiel eight. They bring up Matthew 11 and then John 19 and I think, maybe Matthew 11 is the most accessible here. It says about halfway down here, and thou Capernaum, which are exalted into heaven, shall be brought down to hell.
for if the thy mighty Works had been done, the had been done in Sodom, it would’ve remained until this day. Referencing that is this idea that what. was expected in a place that should have known Jesus is even worse when you figure a city like Sodom, which is an Old Testament example of a city that had gone awry, a city that was given an option and that chose the wrong way.
That here there’s this intrinsic sort of one place had a better shot than the other, and you did even worse than Sodom, or it would’ve been worse for you. So biblically they, they felt that they. Referencing these places in which not all sin was spoken of by Jesus, or referenced in the scripture as being the same, but theologically, if you put this in conversation with the larger reform faith, we’ve already made the point that there’s this thing that we call original sin which by that we mean that there’s a sinfulness, which is universal.
It’s ubiquitous to the human experience and to the human heart. It is unavoidable. In that sense, we all stand under judgment. I think that there is a nuance, both a biblical nuance to make the point I was making earlier, but I would also argue, Clint, a communal nuance. And you could make this case from the pastoral letters.
I think that there are some sinfulness when allowed within Christian community that does a kind of damage that, that you could make a biblical case has some version of judgment which. I’m not gonna say unique but certainly is given a different kind of attention and different language, and I think that’s what this is speaking to.[00:13:32] Clint Loveall: Yeah, I think it is the last part of the answer that makes this interesting. Are more heinous in the sight of God than others. And if we think about that biblically, Michael, you gave some examples. The catechism points us to examples. We could also say in the law of the Old Testament Sins that are punished by death, that are sins that are punished by expulsion from the community.
There are others that are punished by the need to give a sacrifice, and even within that you may offer, you may have to offer a larger sacrifice for one sin. So there’s. Clearly in the Old Testament, and I think to some extent maybe in the new, a rank ordering of sins, and again, some of this has to do with destructiveness of the community to the community and the effect it has on other people.
I think what’s interesting is this claim that God also finds some sin more offensive. More heinous that God too shares this perspective that some sin is just worse. It’s just more destructive. It’s more dangerous. It is more offensive and we would want to be very careful with that, which is I think exactly why in the very next question, they temper this.
With all. Deserves God’s wrath because you can easily see how that could lead us to judgment, to kind of legalism. And so I do think rightly they follow up this idea with the idea of reemphasizing that all sin is offensive to God. But I think this idea that there, there are worse sins than others.
I it, to my knowledge, Michael maybe you have better insight than I do. It’s not something our tradition has done a lot with. I think we’ve maybe said, yeah, we can see that, but it. We’ve, it’s been something we’ve left alone. Yeah,[00:15:32] Michael Gewecke: I, I would agree with that. I think things that come to mind for me would be maybe Jesus’s comment about the unpardonable sin the idea about grieving the spirit or afflicting the spirit, and we’re not gonna enter into how we should interpret that text in particular.
I just think Clint that. To their credit is a biblical knowledge and a biblical sensitivity. That even when a thing pushes against, I’m not gonna say disagrees with I, I think that’s too far, but when a thing pushes against the theological, Rails a little bit. This is an unnatural statement in our tradition, in our family and our way of reading Paul and these kind of things we’ve talked about already today.
But to the credit of those who wrote this, they are aware of that. And yet because of this biblical record and ways in which this is written in scripture, my reading of it is they feel that there’s enough scripture to justify that statement that they are gonna. In the catechism, and they’re gonna say that this is important that we recognize.
So to their credit, even when it’s somewhat difficult and tenuous and doesn’t all fit exactly, perfectly together like a puzzle, they want us to know that this is in the scriptures, that this is a part of our confession. This is a part of our faith and we need to have some room for holy mystery. That’s how I read[00:16:52] Clint Loveall: it.
Yeah. And I don’t wanna bog us down in a place where we’ve just said has not been a terribly important part of our tradition, but briefly, I remember in college I was taking a Christian ethics class, a philosophy class tied to the ideas of faith. And the moral question that came up was say, you are living in Nazi Germany.
And you are hiding people in your basement. And the government comes and says, do you have people in your basement? And what do you do? On one hand, you have the sin of lying. On the other hand, you have the idea that you’re handing people over who will likely be killed. And it was interesting the way that Christian people have tried.
Parse a, a question or a dilemma like that, but by and large, and this was a college that was built in the Reformed tradition, by and large, most of us said you lie, if you have to choose between the two sins, lie, because that doesn’t cost anyone their lives. That would be a less offensive. Sin than handing over people to be tortured and killed.
And so I think, there, there are nuances to this that become very interesting. I think the framers, while I’m not exactly sure why they put this in here, there is a wisdom in saying, , Hey, we have to consider not only our sin theologically, but our sin practically, and the damage our sin can do to others.
And some of that sin we do have in each of us. We possess the capability to do terrible things to one another and to take that seriously and to be humbled by it and to be cautioned by it. It seems to me an interesting. addition, but not an[00:18:42] Michael Gewecke: unimportant one. Okay, we’re not gonna get hung up here, but just very quickly, I wanna just throw up here and make sure that we’re all on the same page here, Clint.
They say there are several aggravations are more heinous in the side of God than others. They do not say what those. Are they do not define them. They don’t give us a list. We love that. In fact, I think most of us would love to create a list of things that we think are more heinous. And the fact that they didn’t include that already tips us off even without the next question that we know is already there.
Where. It’s all sin. I think there is a caution. There is, it’s very important that you don’t allow yourself to insert your list of heinous sins there. They have left that open, they’ve left that open to future Christians in the church and discernment to figure that out. So I, once again, even though we may.
We may try to find our way through that idea, Clint, that they don’t lock down what that is. And I think that’s on purpose, right? And[00:19:34] Clint Loveall: I think, we’ve said this, the catechism says it, Michael, I think the scripture says it clearly when we talk about sin. It is easy to think and to perhaps wish we were talking about other people’s sin.
Almost always. We are talking about our own sin. So look at question 85. You can see this by where we go next in the catechism. What does God require of us that we may escape his wrath and his curse do to us for sin? To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin. God requires of us faith in Jesus Christ.
Repentance unto life. With the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption. So having been convicted of sin, having been reminded that God is offended by our sin, that we deserve to be cursed. The next question. What does God ask of us? What, what is required of us to escape that curse, that wrath?
What is it that we can do to address the situation of our sin? And again, hundred percent standard reform church answer requires of us faith in Jesus. And repentance unto life. Notice there’s no join a church. There’s no give X number of dollars. There’s no check a bunch of boxes. There is faith in Jesus and repent of our sin, and then use diligently the outward means.
Whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption and we will spell those out in the catechism questions to come, but scripture, worship, prayer, mentorship. There, there is the sacraments. There is a broad range of what that would mean, but it starts. With and is rooted in faith in Jesus Christ and turning from our sin.[00:21:38] Michael Gewecke: I do not know if it exists but this is the best definition of a Reformed understanding of salvation. I think that I know of. I, this is an incredible encapsulation of deep thought. Unbelievably lengthy commitments. A biblical understanding, a long historical conversation. What has been summarized before, you may seem elementary, but friends, it is not, this is an entry into the deepest pool the.
The, probably the best gift that has been given and is held by the Reformed family because what you have here is so many things held in tension and we’re gonna get into it. So I don’t wanna, jump ahead. But what you’re gonna find is there’s so many things held together that are hard to hold together.
This idea that it, when asking, what should we do, they say that you can’t do anything. You just have faith. In other words, you just trust God. So you can’t do it, but yet you are doing something. True repentance has called upon here. And then ultimately this diligent use of these things that remind us of that grace are also expected.
These are things that you can do. Then ultimately it’s what God is doing on our behalf cuz it’s faith in God. And that ultimately what do we do with. Our understanding of of learning. Is it head knowledge or is it soul change? Or what mechanic is involved in our salvation? And they’re saying all of it.
It’s held in these beautiful, mysterious tensions and yet it’s simple and easy under, to understand, it sounds elementary, but man this is deep Clint.[00:23:14] Clint Loveall: Yeah. I don’t want to play the pastor card here cuz I know some of our listeners. Every bit is qualified, but if you know some history and some reformed theology, these four lines read like they started off as a page or more, and that they were eventually whittled down to the absolute purest essence of what the authors here are trying to say.
What does God require? Faith in Christ, repentance to. And using all outward means to communicate the benefits of redemption. So it means to come to faith in Jesus. It means to turn the word repentance, literally means to turn away. To turn away from our sin and with everything else. To try and live out the benefits of redemption in the rest of our lives.
And so this is just a wonderful statement. Perfectly, that’s not a word to use lightly, but near perfectly, at least crafted and wonderfully summarizing the best of what we think we understand. In the Reformed tradition, which then brings the next question, what is faith in Jesus Christ? If that’s what is required of us, what is it?
The answer, faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel. And Michael, there, there are a million ways we could approach this, but I want to look first at the language. we receive, we rest as he is offered saving grace.
I, I think chiefly it is important here that we understand there’s not a hint of what we do or what we bring to this equation. This does not rest on us. One of the hallmarks of the Reformed tradition is that faith is a gift. Not a work. Faith itself is a grace by which we access more grace and I think it makes it very clear here in the language that there’s nothing about what we do or what we deserve, what we build, or any sense of our work here.
This is pure. Gift. I[00:25:42] Michael Gewecke: actually think that is a place, Clint, where people sometimes misunderstand the reform tradition because I think it’s putting the emphasis upon the wrong part of the family, understanding the our faith. Because when you look at this, that. We sometimes are criticized as not caring about what people do as if we’re somehow not interested in human action.
But I think that’s emphasizing the wrong part. What we are incredibly interested in, and in fact, I would say we are deathly interested in. Is reminding ourself that everything comes this language here, whereby we receive that language of gift is important. It is a thing that has been given to us and then resting upon him is, once again, it’s not an action that we’re taking.
Resting is merely the process of putting ourself in a position where we are relying upon the work that Jesus has done so from. Vantage. As we look out upon the gospel, what we see is that every single thing, from every breath that we take, to every experience that we have, to every moment that we experience in God’s rightly ordered world is a gift given to us.
So therefore, our lives are nothing but a constant response of thanksgiving and joy. Returning to God, thanks of returning to God. When we make mistakes of finding in God the ultimate source of fulfillment and hope, in other words, in a society that’s obsessed with busyness and accumulation, And finding ways for self advancement.
Clint, what we’re finding here is a completely alternative way of understanding reality. Instead of your life being defined by what you are able to accomplish in your time on earth, your life is defined by your willingness and. Determination to receive a gift that God is giving, which you cannot earn, and then therefore to rest upon the hope and promise of what God will continue to do.
As you rest upon that promise, this is when we say that the gospel requires repentance. We don’t mean that there’s some list that of things that you are now converted into some new form of legalism. No it’s that your life is reoriented at whatever way you were living is going to find itself upended, and you’re going to begin living with new values, new understanding of what reality actually.
This will transform every other part if we understand it. And I think that rightly understood is what the reformers mean by this reliance upon grace. It’s not to discount human action. Though they’re gonna say it needs to be put in its right place. But it’s rather to say that God has done this great thing and if we understand it, it changes everything else.[00:28:34] Clint Loveall: Yeah. It. Clear that at some point Faith becomes very concerned with what we do, with what we say, with how we live. We’ve just been through the 10 Commandments. We are called in the wake of our faith in Christ to live a certain way. But I think the wisdom of this question is that we don’t start there.
Faith is first and foremost before it is a direction, a map for us. It is a gift. It is a saving gift. Whereby we receive Christ and we rest upon Christ alone. For our salvation and the word alone here is a stunningly important word that we rest upon. Nothing else that we trust, nothing else. We rest upon Jesus alone for our salvation as He is offered to us in the good news.
And yes, faith will ask things of us, but before it asks of us. It gives to us. And I think, again, very reformed understanding and I think a very crafted expression of it here.[00:29:45] Michael Gewecke: Yes. And I think that only continues in the next question. Yeah, a hundred [00:29:49] Clint Loveall: percent. What is repentance unto life?
So if we’re going to say that, what do we have, what does that mean? Repentance unto life? Listen to the language is also a saving grace whereby a. Out of a true sense of sin, an apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ does with grief and hatred of their sin, turn from it unto God with full purpose of an endeavor After.
A new obedience. So what is repentance? Repentance is also a grace. Repentance is an act of God’s spirit by which we see our sin and we develop a hatred of it. We see it for what it is, the thing that keeps us from God. And we, we turn to God because we understand that in our sin we are helpless. So an apprehension.
Of the mercy of God. A taking a welcoming to understand, to apprehend, to arrest, to get the mercy of God, to receive the mercy in Christ with grief and hatred. Our repentance should create in us a sadness a grief of, or a guilt over our own sin. We live in an era in which those kind of negative feelings.
Pretty heavily frowned upon. But CS Lewis famously said The gospel is bad news before it’s good news. And what he meant is that before I come to understand the saving grace of Christ, I need to understand the disturbing reality that I need saved from my own sinfulness. And this is repentance when I am aware of my sin and when I turn from it, putting my trust and faith in God.
And then accessing by God’s grace life in Jesus Christ.[00:31:40] Michael Gewecke: So I’m thinking that there’s maybe a way that this can be illustrated because it all boils down to how you define what the problem is the solution to any. Problem starts with identifying the problem itself and if do any kind of diagnosis, maybe you’re a car person and you identify what’s wrong with your car, or maybe you’re a computer person and you do that with a computer maybe you’re an athlete and you’re doing that as you’re trying to coach another athlete, but.
The solution to the problem all hinges upon correctly identifying what the problem is. And so if you are trying to implement this solution, but this solution is completely. Not connected to the actual problem. It may be good that you’re doing it, but it doesn’t fix the issue at hand. And the issue at hand is the rankness of human sinfulness.
The catechism has told us the problem. We, in fact, we know that very clearly. So the solution to the problem is ultimately, Our ability to trust in the grace of Jesus Christ. That might lead us through the difficult journey to owning that problem, to seeing it for what it is, and if we see it for what is, just bear with me for a second.
If we see that problem, to the extent that the framers of this catechism, the divines, as they were called, if we see the problem the way that they see the problem, then we will be repulsed by it. If you go into an old house and that inside the walls of that house are a whole ton of rats, right?
That will be a repulsive site. That, that would, or maybe you find snakes under the founda. Whatever you would find to be most rep, when you see the problem for what it is, you’re going to be set back by it and that. Experience is not one that we revel in. We don’t, it’s not like fear factor where we’re trying to commoditize your response.
It’s when you see something truly for what it is and you recognize that this is the thing that has been poisoning everything else, you’ll be repulsed by it. And that isn’t for its own sake. It’s to then move us into a. Of gratitude and the reception of this gift of grace that we received. In other words, none of this is about reveling in the darkness or the bad.
That would be to give it too much power. It is rather for that movement that would be inspired to move us further and deeper into the redemptive work that comes when we embrace the gospel that. Gratefully receive the good news of Jesus Christ and then it will inspire us to live lives which are more holistic, that look like those who’ve been called and who seek to respond to the way of being in the world that God calls us to live.[00:34:23] Clint Loveall: I think, Michael, that there’s a sense in which this is beautifully. Relational. And if we think about it through the lens of relationship I suspect any of us that have parented or been married or been in family relationships, if you’ve been in any serious relationship, there’s likely a chance that you have in some moment drop the ball.
You’ve hurt your spouse. , you overreacted to your children. You said something that you, that came out in anger, that did harm, and as you then have to take stock of that, if you reflect on that, there is embarrassment, there’s grief, there’s guilt, and there is a movement a. Recommitment to try and grow past that.
I hate that I did that. I wish I hadn’t said that. I’m sorry. And it is that sense of, sorry, to repent without having felt that is cheap and easy. True repentance takes stock of the failure. that it’s confessing. And I think, it’s nobody’s favorite part of the faith, right?
Nor should we stay there. We one should not I wish the framers had been a little stronger on this one. Should not beat themselves up with it. Once we understand the grace of Christ, we should no longer stay in the deep myre pit. We should. Except with joy and gratitude, the gift that’s offered to us. But we have to start at some point with the very heavy confession that I am a sinner.
I’m not just a guy who made a mistake. I’m, I wasn’t just confused, I wasn’t just distracted. I stand before God in the weight of my own sin without. A and deserving God’s displeasure is the language of the old book of common worship. And yet God and grace has offered me life. And if I can’t come with the realization of my sin, I can’t really understand what it means that I have received that gift.
And this is heavy and I think it’s heavy on purpose, but it’s not. It’s meant to be the place we start in order that we understand the place that we go.[00:36:46] Michael Gewecke: I wanna just very briefly put a little note in here. . We live in a time in which there are many accusations of people saying things with lip service.
You know that this idea that they’re apologizing, but that they don’t mean it, or it’s all PR speak. That is so far from what the framers of this catechism are talking about when they talk about confession, when they talk about repentance, they have to end this with full purpose of an endeavor after.
In other words, you intend to and you work on. A new obedience, a new alignment of your life and its values with God. So when we talk about repentance from a Christian perspective, we do not mean, I am saying, I’m sorry. And then living life the exact same way that you lived it. Before you said that thing, if anything, those words must be a reflection of both the intent and the practice of living now in new ways.
A new obedience is the language here, and we don’t have time to unpack. All of what is in that idea of obedience. But I, the point I wanna make succinctly is that there’s no lip service in this. This is all about a true and authentic turning. And that’s a really tricky thing in our own sort of time and culture, but that’s what’s intended.
And nothing less than that would be allowed. Yeah.[00:38:09] Clint Loveall: And I think it’s a sense of honesty. It’s coming to. With the true sense of our need to be saved, and then an acceptance of that and a commitment to move forward in it. Then we get, as we continue to unpack these statements, what are the outward means by which Christ.
Communicates to us the benefits of redemption, the outward and ordinary means by which Christ communicates to us. The benefits of redemption are his ordinances, especially the word capital W, sacraments, and prayer, all of which are made effectual to the elect. For salvation. So how does Christ communicate what it means to be redeemed?
Again, sorry to keep saying this, but classic Reformed theology, the word that is the scripture and preaching the sacraments and prayer. These are the anchors that solidify our. And by which we communicate and receive the guidance of God through God’s spirit. These are the mechanisms by which we understand what Christ did and what Christ compels us to do.
Th these are the tools of our faith, and there are more than these tools, of course, but the tradition we are in has always celebrated word sacrament and prayer as the. Primary or most[00:39:38] Michael Gewecke: foundational. Yeah. And there are gonna be some who would like to dig deeper in that. And if that’s put that in the comments or send us an email and we can certainly connect you with some materials.
But this is example par excellance of saying something with few words that has a substantial amount of thought and background to it. I just wanna. Very briefly point out this idea of Word. We have this real sense of proclamation in our community, the idea of sacraments, the thing that we do together as a church body, that it needs to be done well, and it needs to include the whole Christian community.
And then there’s this idea of prayer, that there’s an ongoing conversation that’s expected in our life of faith, both as individuals and as a community, that when God invites us to pray, that a form of obedience is to return to God. Real relational communication that, that we trust God, that we listen for God.
And in the midst of this, what I think is so beautiful is each one of these are gifts given to us that we’re stewards of all of these. None of these are things on a to-do list that we need to check off if we’re gonna be good Christians. And that is this unfortunate impression that Christians have been given Clint, but in our own tradition, if we’ve learned it and we understand if we know it, if we.
Authentically. There’s really no room for tacking on the to-do list. In our tradition. These are things we’ve been given and we participate in them joyfully because when we do it, it draws us closer to God and closer to God’s community.[00:41:07] Clint Loveall: It’s always a temptation to treat the things as having a power in and of themselves.
And we have done that many times in the Christian Church. We could have lots of conversations about what that’s looked like, the ins and outs of who was right, who was. Having said all that, notice the language here. Words, sacraments and prayer, all of which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.
So the fact that they are made effectual means that’s the work that God does in us. The fact that they are to the elect means to those who are believers, to those who have been called by God, who have received that call, who have received that grace, but they are made effectual for those who come to Christ.
for salvation. The living out of what it means to be saved, meaning they’re not magical. They’re not mystical, though They’re mysterious. , they’re not. They’re not, they don’t have a power in their own. And if, again, I think in the backdrop of some of the historic conflict here with the Catholic Church, you could see a little bit of the back and forth here.
You could see a little bit of the arguments on both sides. But our ancestors are quick to point out that those things are used by God. But what they do, Is the result of God’s work, not of the things itself. And I think that’s important, Michael, that does that. There is a nuance there that I think in light of the reformation is important and, but I think it continues to be helpful for us as we think these things[00:42:53] Michael Gewecke: through.
I wanna call up that idea that you just shared, that temptation that we have to make the things themselves. The subject and then to miss the thing that those things were intended to point us to. And that I think is, One of the clear points that’s getting addressed in this next question. So hold that idea in your mind and let’s jump into the next question here, Clint.[00:43:13] Clint Loveall: How is the word made effectual to salvation? The spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the word in effectual means of convincing and converting sinners and building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation. [00:43:30] Michael Gewecke: Yeah, that I think makes the. That you were making that says that ultimately though the encounter with the word, which we had our worst identify with the sermon itself or a particular translation of the Bible or a particular argument we’re having about how to interpret.
This way of living in the world. Ethically, what we do is we distill the encounter with the living word, capital W, which we have very clearly listed here, the encounter with something external to us that transforms us. That’s why we have this language of convincing and converting. It does something to you when you encounter the living word, and then there’s this building up in holiness and comfort.
Through faith once again, this isn’t you, right? That this calling up a faith language reminds us of ultimately everything is a gift, but that is unto salvation. It’s going in the direction. It has a purpose. So I think this just illustrates that point that you were making that we should not allow the means, the work that God is doing in our life to become unto themselves.
The faith. The faith is this encounter with the living God. It is something external to us. It is relational in the biggest sense of that word. And maybe the only other thing I wanna point out is it should inspire something in our hearts. And I am compelled by this language. We could have an entire study on holiness and comfort, holiness, what it requires of us our, the cleansing of our hearts.
But then also, , make it clear it should give us comfort. If you’re a Christian who lives in a constant state of anxiety by the state of your faith about the direction that God is leading you, I. Our, our fore bearers here are making it clear when you are in the hands of Jesus the word, when you’re encountering the God outside of you.
Yes, it is one that demands that we recognize our lack of holiness, but simultaneously the promise of Jesus Christ. salvific work for you, the hope of grace, the work of faith in your life. This should inspire a kind of hope that brings comfort, that makes you a person. Who’s deeply grateful and centered in the promise.
So if you don’t sense that comfort, then you may not have yet heard the fullness of what Christ has done for you, because when you have, I don’t know that we could exist without that comfort.[00:45:56] Clint Loveall: Yeah, agreed. And it’s a little bit of change direction, Michael, but I think as we come to that question, how is the word made effectual to salvation, the most important words.
Or the beginning, the spirit of God dot. In other words, we’ll flesh all of that out and the catechism seeks to do that. But what it says first is that the word is made effectual by the spirit of God. I can read scripture all day. . Without God’s gift of enlightenment, I won’t know what it means, right?
won’t understand it. I can throw Bible verses at other people all day and say, it says this, it says that. But without the spirit of God to act in their life and open their eyes, they may not. They may not understand it, or worse, I may not be using it properly if I haven’t done that under the guidance of God’s spirit.
And so there is a wonderful insistence here that whatever we do as recipients of what God does first and we tie that to the next question. How is the word to be read and heard that it may become effectual in other words, what does it require? Here we get it, that the word may become effectual to salvation.
We must attend with diligence, preparation, and prayer. Receiving it with faith and love, laying it up in our hearts and practicing it. In our lives. So we sometimes as Presbyterians and others may do it too. We call ourselves people of the book, and this is what we mean at our best. And we don’t always mean this cuz we’re not always at our best, but at our best we mean that.
When we turn to this, not just the scripture, but the capital W, the living word of Jesus Christ. We must do it with diligence, with preparation. With prayer. We receive it with faith and love. We put it in our hearts and we practice it in our lives. There’s no way you read the answer to this question and think that our.
Use of the Bible means memorizing some verses or putting them on the wall. Yes, those are good things. Yes, those are great things, but the interaction with the God’s word, the living word of Jesus Christ is always to the end. That it does something in us. It brings us faith, it brings us love, and it spills out in the way that we live our life.
And that must be under. Taken seriously diligently, prayerfully with preparation. You don’t just simply shake the Bible and some life verse falls out of it, that you then magically understand that there’s an effort that’s called for here. We’ve said over and over again, our people aren’t insisting on works in order to get to grace.
But once you have received grace, there is work to do and it is rooted. The living word of Jesus Christ.[00:49:01] Michael Gewecke: So if you are not familiar with the reformed understanding of Word Capital W, this conversation may seem to you to be a little difficult to put in conversation with other things. If, for you, your history of the faith has been one in which the word is always the Bible as a book, then you may be hearing in this conversation a little bit of a different emphasis where we of course are talking about the scriptures cuz the scriptures are what speak to.
The word that they point us to the revelation of Jesus Christ. But what the reformers have in mind here is the scriptures, as they embody the reality of the incarnation revelation of Jesus Christ. And so when we’re talking about the word, we’re talking about the proclamation of the word, as in the sermon, we’re talking about the reading of scripture as in worship, we’re talking.
The moments in which human speech are mysteriously by God’s providence taken up by the power of the Holy Spirit and may God’s speech. We’re talking about the moments in which our own lives are grounded in the reality outside of ourselves. There is a lot of historical. Understanding of Revelation here that we’re not going to be able to jump all the way into I merely wanted to point out, if you’re hearing that there’s maybe something more than what you had heard before, that is likely to be the case because the reformers have something that they are really trying to point us to here.
What I wanna maybe just summarize this with is, I think the good word you’ve already said, Clint, is when it comes to encountering the word, They are very clear. This will demand something of us, a and we should never miss the kind of work of diligence, preparation and prayer that they anticipate here.
There is no autopilot Christian. For the reformers there, there is no person who’s in the practice of showing up an hour a week in worship in some church. And that is the extent of their faith. That would be a misunderstanding of what they believe the Christians’ response to God is. Sometimes in American Christianity, we talk about this relationship with God and whether we should use that language.
We could have another conversation. But when they think of our relationship with they with God, they believe that there are some things that are required of us because of the gift given to us. Not out of a sense of obligation or duty, which has no life or joy in it, but there’s work to do. And if we are not finding that work calling us forward, or if we don’t find our faith demanding something from us, we’ve not understood what they mean by word[00:51:44] Clint Loveall: here.
Yeah. I. I would say on both fronts, Michael, a Christian life that is not anchored in an openness and familiarity with the scripture. as well as a longing and openness to the word of Christ, to what the scripture says in us. Because the words on the page and the word to us in our tradition are not always synonymous.
The word, the capital w word is what comes to us as we see Christ. In the scriptures as we hear Christ in preaching, as we experience Christ in worship, and so the capital W, the living word is the goal of our faith to encounter and embody Christ. Not simply to know the Bible. Knowing the Bible is wonderful.
All Christians should know their Bible, but knowing the Bible is not enough because the Bible’s task is to point us to something bigger than itself to show us Jesus. And it does that in a variety of ways and in order to. Let it do that in order to allow it to do that work in us, we have to spend some time with it.
We have to spend some time under it and its authority. And that is not something that simply happens overnight. So it is a long and diligent process by which Christians grow in regard to the Bible in regard to that endeavor to be like Jesus. To be Christ like and. And it is one that all Christians share.
And we do so with faith and love by seeking to put those words in our hearts and practice it in our life. And I love the connection this makes, Michael, with what’s inside of us versus what’s outside of us. As we grow in faith, as Christ fills us internally, that should be seen in us. Externally. And and I think that that is exceptionally well stated and so grateful to the authors for making sure that they connect those two things because I think they should never be separated,[00:54:01] Michael Gewecke: A discerning A viewer might see that The last two questions we dealt with today are how questions, and it shouldn’t surprise you at this point in the study that the answer is always God.
God is always the answer to the question, how that God is at work. And I think that there’s something beautiful in this invitation that says, we looked at the 10 Commandments and now today we’ve very much looked at rubber meets the road kind of things. When you get to the end of the conversation and you.
Ultimately, how’s this working? You say it’s working because God’s making it work. And so it takes us out of the driver’s seat. You know that song, Jesus, take the wheel. The reformers would say, Jesus has always been at the wheel, and if you ever thought that you were driving you, you were making a mistake.
That, that fundamentally what we see is the. Good news is Jesus is at the wheel. And so whatever things hold us down and whatever places we found the faith to be difficult or places of doubt in our life, or moments where we have made choices that go far outside the boundaries of the 10 Commandments, those places where we have real confession and the awareness of our brokenness, Clint.
These are opportunities for us to be reminded of the gift that’s Calvin that that’s been given that Jesus Christ, the word is doing a work in us that we couldn’t have done for ourselves. And if we hear that man, I it’s a little bit like leaving the courtroom being reminded of all the things that you actually did that were wrong and the judge.
all of that is acquitted. That, that you will not be held accountable. There’s no way to live outside that courtroom, but with gratitude and with joy, with Thanksgiving and with celebration and I think that’s the spirit that we end our conversation today.[00:55:43] Clint Loveall: Yeah, I would agree. Next time we get together, we’ll be looking at the next sort of means of.
Salvation according to the language of the catechism, that specifically being sacraments, sacrament of baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. Hope you can join us. Grateful that you were with us today. We appreciate it.