A Letter To The Church I Love

Jan 9, 2015

So I did this sermon on the Ten Commandments once and everyone loved it…  :-)

Before I give finality to this issue (it’s time to move on) I want to address a few things first. 

#1 – I am imperfect. I make mistakes and fall way short of who I should be each and every day. 

#2 – I fully understand and feel the weight of James 3:1 that clearly says that people who teach God’s Word will be judged more strictly. 

#3 – I take teaching the Bible very seriously and desperately want to always put forth my best effort as I really do believe that when God says “don’t” in Scripture it is more like Him saying, “don’t hurt yourself,” because, as a friend of mine often says, “choose to sin, choose to suffer.” 

That being said I want to go back for a minute, try to shed some light on a couple of things and then make two apologies. 

On Christmas Eve I really did feel The Lord pressing into me to do a different message than we had previously done in the days before. I wrestled with this for several hours before finally saying “yes.” 

As I began writing down what I felt like He wanted me to say, I began to reflect on the teaching I have received while in Israel and how I had been told there was no Hebrew word for “command,” but that the 10 commandments were actually then ten sayings or the promises of God. 

This set my heart on fire and I put the message together, believing it was from the Lord, and we saw over 200 people come to Christ as a result. 

And then it hit the fan! 

I had no idea that I had stepped into a debate in which godly people are on both sides of the issue. I have been on the phone, on the internet and on my face this week trying my hardest to see if what I preached in that message was true, as well as seeing if I made mistakes in that teaching. 

Which leads to my two apologies. 

#1 – I apologize for saying there was not an actual Hebrew word for command. 

In way more research than I have ever done I realized that statement was not correct. (The original Hebrew is “metzaveh”.) In no way was I deliberately trying to mislead or deceive anyone. I simply recalled a conversation I had (which I now see I did not fully understand), looked back at my notes and taught the message. I now realize I should have put way more time into doing research before making that statement. 

However, what I am not apologizing for is saying that the Hebrew word for “command” is not used when the 10 commandments were given. It literally means “sayings” – and, according to Exodus 34:28, can also be interpreted as promises.   

As a friend from Israel shared with me…
"The word command, as well as commandment, is used to translate the Hebrew word mits'vah but does not properly convey the meaning of mits'vah. The word command implies words of force or power as a General commands his troops. The word mits'vah is better understood as a directive. To see the picture painted by this word it is helpful to look at a related word, tsiyon meaning a desert or a landmark. The Ancient Hebrews were a nomadic people who traveled the deserts in search of green pastures for their flocks. A nomad uses the various rivers, mountains, rock outcroppings, etc as landmarks to give them their direction. The verb form of mits'vah is tsavah meaning to direct one on a journey. The mits'vah of the Bible are not commands, or rules and regulations, they are directives or landmarks that we look for to guide us."

However, regardless of what Bible scholars and Hebrew speaking Christians in Israel believe the list of God’s 10 points in Exodus should be called (I have heard conflicting positions), the points themselves are clearly written as imperatives—“You shall…you shall not….” I did not, and would never deny that!

The reality of it all is that all of us have broken all ten commands. 

The Old Testament was not given to us to show us how awesome we are, but how sinful we are and how much we all need a Savior. 

None of us are perfect. 

All of us fall short of God’s standards for our lives. 

All of us need Jesus. 

My desire in sharing this message was to point people to Christ. And, it’s so awesome as I reflect back on this and know that even though I said an inaccurate statement to know what Paul said in I Corinthians 1:21 is true. 

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe."

#2 – I apologize for tweeting and putting on FB on yesterday (Thursday) “If those who are angry at what I said about "The 10 Commandments" were actually following all 10 the world would be such a better place!”

The pressure of this situation has been intense. I have had to endure people making assessments about my life and ministry based upon one message I preached. The pressure had built up and I put that statement out on social media because I was frustrated and wanted to take a swipe back and those who were coming after me. 

It was wrong. I am supposed to try my best to model how to follow Jesus and making that statement did way more harm than it did good as it caused a divisive issue to divide even deeper. I have no excuse for issuing that tweet and I ask for your forgiveness. 

If either of the things I apologized for have caused you to have some uncomfortable conversations with people this week, then I apologize for that as well.

One more thing, if you still cannot wrap your mind around what I taught and disagree with it, I do not consider you to be a “hater.” There are really godly people on both sides of incredibly difficult theological arguments. One of the things I pray for our church is unity, but I understand that unity does not equal uniformity. And, I am fully aware that not everyone in our church agrees with everything I teach every week. 

However, what I am hoping for is that we can all agree that our state, nation and world is more desperate for Jesus than it has ever been. And while we might not all agree on the specifics, that we can all agree that there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. 

I hope we can agree that everything really does get better when Jesus is at the center of someone’s life. 

And, from this point, we are moving on from this issue because we are getting ready to experience the best year of ministry we are EVER going to have!! 

I love you all! 

I love my church! 

The best is yet to come!