On a recent Sunday I heard a man from the pulpit admit that he had blown off his wife's interruption because he was busy. This, I would say, is normally a good and commendable and godly thing to happen in a pulpit, and quite edifying for the congregation, especially if you have come from a church where the pastor never admits to sin at all.
But confession can become a shtick. It's very hard to say this, and I know it must make me sound curmudgeonly and impossible to please. After all, you would think that when we have confessing pastors, we have attained the ultimate in piety and church life. But somewhere along the line I realized, to my horror, that it is possible to get trapped in a routine of forever confessing and never changing. One almost gets the feeling, after a while, that all there is to the Christian life is the moribund recital of botched examples of moral failure. Such recitations have a semblance of humility and godliness---the first thousand times. But if that's all there is, if that's the most progress we ever see in our leaders, then we settle into an unconscious melancholia. We develop very low expectations of the Christian life. Our constant parroting of words about the "already" and "not yet" provisions of Christ's atonement become a convenient theology for explaining and excusing our powerlessness.
I would like to hear a preacher stand up and, rather than reap approving feedback from the Amen section for his forthcoming confessions of daily lacks of courage and love and obedience, tell us how he had a great week of victory and liberty in serving the Lord and walking in His ways---of finally overcoming a besetting sin, of finding power in prayer and fasting against a longstanding temptation, of learning the secret to contentment, of discovering the power of God in the midst of severe weakness. I will not think such a man proud or arrogant. I will take notes, and I will walk out of church slightly elevated from the ground as my soul is transported by a testimony of the living God.
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