As I was reading through the Confession Mirror this morning, considering my station in life according to the Ten Commandments, the words “Not as well as I ought” kept sounding in my head as I read each question. “Do I fear God so that I shun sin, even such sins as men cannot see?” Not as much as I ought. “Do I fear God more than I do the opinion and ridicule of men?” Not as much as I ought. “Do I also love Him when He visits me with afflictions?” Not as much as I ought.
I didn’t quite get through the questions under the first commandment before one of the kids said, “Could you get me some breakfast?” But it was enough. It was enough to remind me that I am not nearly the Christian that I could or ought to be. I believe in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And I do trust in Him. But not nearly as much as I should. I do pray–but not nearly as devoutly and fervently as I should. I read His Word, but again, I don’t devour it and cherish as much as I ought. I am a Christian. I am baptized. God’s Spirit dwells in me. But my Old Man is there too.
There is something wrong, I think, when a person looks into the mirror of God’s Law, and comes away thinking that he has truly succeeded in keeping it. Of course a Christian begins to keep God’s Law in this life. Our Confessions say as much. But it is done only in great weakness. Even the most pious person in the congregation, even the one who never misses a church service, who is always kind and generous to his neighbor, cannot boast that he has done everything as well as he should. We can always be better Christians than we are.
We can be more giving, more generous, more devout in our prayers, more forgiving of our neighbor’s faults, more attentive to the Word of God, more trusting in our heavenly Father to care for us and provide for us. We should never try to invent sins, but we really shouldn’t ever have to. God’s Law is there to reveal to us our inborn sin. It is there to remind us of our slowness and our reluctance to do everything that is required of us. It is there to prepare our hearts to receive the grace and forgiveness of our Savior.
My conscience was at work this morning, by means of the Holy Commandments, reminding me that although I am a baptized, believing child of God, there is still much that I lack when it comes to sanctification, that I am indeed “weak on sanctification.” But the Holy Spirit was also at work through the Gospel, declaring in the Word that Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, one in which I am cleansed from an evil conscience by the blood of Christ. And as a confirmation of that, as a seal and pledge of that new covenant I received the holy body and the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. I received it with joy because in it Christ gives the forgiveness of sins–forgiveness even for not being the Christian that I ought to be. God be praised!