Forgiveness: H.C. Lord’s Day 51

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 51

Q 126: What does the fifth petition mean? 
A 126: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” means:

Because of Christ’s blood, do not hold against us, poor sinners that we are, any of the sins we do or the evil that constantly clings to us.

Forgive us just as we are fully determined, as evidence of your grace in us, to forgive our neighbors.
 
The theme of forgiveness is arguably one of the strongest themes that run through Scripture.  It isn’t any wonder, then, that this theme also comes up Jesus’ teaching on prayer too.  If God is all about forgiveness of sin and working that out through history, leading up to Jesus Christ, then it is something that we need to be thinking about in our time and relationship with God.  Simply put, neither would really exist without God’s forgiveness extended to us in Jesus Christ.
 
One of the biggest questions that come out of this petition in the Lord’s prayer has to do with our salvation: “haven’t all of our sins been forgiven already?”  The answer, of course, is yes.  When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He took on the sins of the whole world and His righteousness was imputed to us.  This transaction was a once for all event that took place with lasting impacts and implications throughout the entire universe.
 
However, you and I both know that though our sins have been forgiven, we are not ourselves sinless in this life.  We are made righteous by Christ and yet we continue on in our rebellion against God, sinning all the time, every day.  And, while there is no way for us to lose our Salvation once it is granted to us, we are called to better things in our lives and that is part of what we are acknowledging here.
 
A good way to think about it, suggested by Kevin DeYoung, author of the book The Good News We Almost Forgot, a book that has been our guide through this past year, is the parent-child relationship.  If your child has set chores to do each day, the expectation is that those would be done and that you wouldn’t have to do them.  Let’s say that one day your child didn’t do them and you had to do them yourself.  Obviously, your child has broken the agreement, the relationship you have experiences some strain, but it isn’t something you would disown them for nor would you withdraw your love from them.  But disobedience has occurred, and something must be done.
 
When you decide to confront your child about it, he or she could admit their guilt, sorrowfully apologize, and your relationship would be restored.  This is what you would desire as a parent.  If the child blew you off and/or continued in their disobedience, the relationship you have would experience greater amounts of strain and a distance would be created.  You would never stop loving them, even though they were continually pushing away from you.
 
This is how it is with us and God as well.  God desires that our relationship would be restored.  For us, that means a continual confession of our sins and desire to do better next time.  We aren’t condemned, Scripture assures us of this.  God will not withdraw His love, Scripture assures us of this as well.  But restoration needs to take place and, for that to happen both forgiveness (from God) and repentance (from us) are necessary.
 
When we sin, we feel guilty.  This is often called this a “conviction” of the Holy Spirit.  We needn’t carry that guilt around us as an identity.  Rather, we respond to this conviction by repentance and receive/acknowledge anew the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ.
 
Jesus teaching goes beyond the simple fact of sinning and repenting in our relationship with God though.  As is true with many things in the Christian life, we are called to extend the love and grace that we experience beyond ourselves to those around us.  The forgiven heart is a forgiving heart.  When we experience God’s forgiveness, the deep cleansing and washing that takes place inside of us, and the unmerited grace extended to us in our lives, we cannot help but want to share that love with others as well.
 
Does this mean that if we don’t forgive someone that we will lose our salvation?  Certainly not.  There are all sorts of circumstances in which forgiveness can be difficult due to extensive pain, lack of remorse from the other party, and so much more.  However, the Scriptural call is a trajectory toward forgiveness and restoration and the heart that experiences forgiveness longs to be a heart that forgives as well.  It may take a lot of God’s work on our hearts to get us there, but God’s desire for our lives is that we who are forgiven become forgivers, continuing to break the bondage of sin and encountering a deeper understanding of God’s love and forgiveness to us along the way.


Debts and Debtors: H.C. Question 126

What does the fifth petition mean? 

Psalm 51:1-7 – Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
 
Psalm 143:2 – Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.
 
Romans 8:1 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
 
1 John 2:1-2 – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
 
Matthew 6:14-15 – For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 18:21-35 – Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”



Hallowed Name: H.C. Question 122 (Part 2)

What does the first petition [hallowed be your name] mean? 
 
 
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
All your works praise you, Lord;
your faithful people extol you.
They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.
The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.


Our Father in Heaven: H.C. Lord’s Day 46

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 46

Q 120. Why did Christ command us to call God “our Father”? 
A 120. To awaken in us at the very beginning of our prayer what should be basic to our prayer—a childlike reverence and trust that through Christ God has become our Father, and that just as our parents do not refuse us the things of this life, even less will God our Father refuse to give us what we ask in faith.
 
Q 121. Why the words “in heaven”? 
A 121. These words teach us not to think of God’s heavenly majesty as something earthly and to expect everything needed for body and soul from God’s almighty power.
 
Being a Father has been life-changing for me.  The unquenchable love that I feel day in and day out for this little girl is absolutely mind-blowing.  She hasn’t done anything to earn my love.  As a matter of fact, if left to simple logic, she has done more in her one and a half years to break me of my fondness for her than she has to amplify it.  Yet, my love for her has known no bounds, something I still cannot even fathom within my own mind.
 
One thing that has been a joy to me as a father has been to watch my daughter learn.  It is uncanny what she picks up as she learns to play with toys, to interact with other people, and even to speak.  I’ve had to take a step back and examine my own habit when it comes to such things and here’s why: she copies everything I do.  When she first discovered matchbox cars she would just carry them around.  Then she saw my driving them around on the floor so she started doing that do.  Next, I would run them into each other… suffice to say I am glad she won’t be driving anytime soon.  Later I would crash them and then flip the cars over as if it were a big wreck; she does that as well now.
 
All of Scripture refers to God as the “Heavenly Father.”  This isn’t to say that God is male or female; God is Spirit.  God certainly has many feminine and maternal characteristics.  But Scripture’s revelation of God has Father displays for us an image of who God is to us.  Sadly, today’s culture has twisted that image through both positive and negative movements.
 
As our culture becomes increasingly aware of the equality of gender in the world, a positive movement if ever there was one.  In that, however, there has been considerable pushback against the notion of God as being a masculine reference.  There is some validity to this as God is not a man and men throughout time have used the masculine reference to God as a way of cementing abusive dominance over others.  This is wrong, but it is not itself a reason to abandon the Scriptural witness of God as Father.
 
In a similar, but much more negative way, the breakdown of the family in North America as well as the coming to light of so many destroyed relationships due to abusive fathers & husbands has led to a wholesale questioning of whether “Father” is an appropriate reference to God.  For many who have been hurt in this way, whether by abuse or absence, even the term “Father” can bring up painful, bad memories.  Without being insensitive to this, however, it is important to understand that our pain does not supersede Scripture’s revelation.
 
The reality of God is this: God is our loving Father, the best of what was intended for that position and person in people’s lives.  God created us as His children and loves us in a way that is beyond comprehension to us, despite our disobedience and turning from Him time and time again.  God is overjoyed to see us grow and learn, maturing in our live, our faith, and even in the great gifts and abilities that He has given to us.  God is also the opposite of everything negative that has been infused into the father figure of the 21st century.  He will never abandon us nor is He ever absent; His love is perfect and encourages flourishing within our lives, even healing rather than hurt.
 
More than this, though, is our reaction to this perfect Father figure in our lives.  As we grow from proverbial infants in our faith into more mature individuals, we, like my daughter with me, begin to see how God is working in the world and how He interacts with and loves His children.  The more we see this modeled for us in our lives, the more we begin to follow those patterns, loving others as God loves us.  Our experience with God, when we turn to Him and fully experience His love, molds and shapes us, informing who we become in Christ.
 
Sadly, this too has been soured in the world through the unhealthy actions of people within the church.  God’s people have, often, missed the mark when it comes to modeling this for each other as well.  Because of this, people have blamed God for the actions of His people.  Sadly, parents can experience this too, being blamed as a bad parent for the momentary behavioral lapse of a child.  In any case, we must understand that we must look to Scripture to understand God better, not to the actions of His children which, in some circumstances, are not in line with God’s eternal love and purpose.
 
Additionally, it is vitally important to mention then second part of this week’s question: God’s location.  We are not looking to some local offical, a governmental authority, or even the clergy of a church for help, advice, or anything else.  No, our Divine Father is in Heaven, unconfined by the limits of mortal and material existence, God reigns from His throne, holding the entire universe in the palm of His hand.  Yet, despite God’s infinite magnitude, He concerns Himself with each one of us so much that, as the 1st Question and Answer reminds us: “not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven.”


Concerning Prayer: H.C. Lord’s Day 45

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 45

 Q 116. Why do Christians need to pray? 
A 116. Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.  And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking God for them.
 
Q 117. What is the kind of prayer that pleases God and that he listens to? 
A 117. First, we must pray from the heart to no other than the one true God, revealed to us in his Word, asking for everything God has commanded us to ask for.
Second, we must fully recognize our need and misery, so that we humble ourselves in God’s majestic presence.
Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation: even though we do not deserve it, God will surely listen to our prayer because of Christ our Lord. That is what God promised us in his Word.
 
Q 118. What did God command us to pray for? 
A 118. Everything we need, spiritually and physically, as embraced in the prayer Christ our Lord himself taught us.
 
Q 119. What is this prayer? 
A 119. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.* For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen.
 
This Lord’s day begins the final section of the Heidelberg Catechism which focuses specifically in on the Lord’s Prayer.  It is fitting, I think, to end the teaching about how we are called to live here.  We have talked about our sin, our Savior, and our response to that.  First, the gratitude that comes from us for our salvation, then the specifics of what we believe.  Next we talked about the Law, a guide for our lives that ultimately points us back to our need for a Savior and the reason for our faith.  Finally, now, we will talk about our connection to God which is prayer.
 
The first Lord’s day that talks about prayer starts off, rightly, by showing us some of the whys and whats of prayer.  Given the recent events in Texas, and the subsequent negative reactions about prayer that have taken place, these teachings are now, more important than ever.
 
So why pray?  I think, at least for those who are believers, the appropriate counter question is “why not?”  We believe that God is the creator of the universe, that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift including our lives, and that God loves us so much the He has saved us from our sins through His Son, Jesus.  He also invites us into a relationship with Him, one that is connected to Him through prayer and the Holy Spirit.  Through prayer, we bring praise, worship, gratitude, and all sorts of requests.
 
It isn’t, however, so much about what we bring in prayer as it is what God brings in those moments too.  When we approach God, we are shown His love and grace, His welcoming arms are open and He is present there more than any person in our lives ever is to us.  In these moments, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are also built up in our trust of God, humility of ourselves, and in our identity before Him in Jesus Christ.
 
God also invites us to bring anything and everything to Him in prayer.  In a close relationship, you would talk to your friend about the happenings of your day.  You would most likely also share some of your concerns and frustrations.  Our Heavenly Father desires this with us as well.  He wants to hear about our struggles at work, the joy we get from our children, our frustration in not being able to find our keys.  More than that, though, He wants to be a part of those things in our lives.
 
What this doesn’t mean, however, is that whatever we ask God for we will get.  God is not some sort of cosmic vending machine.  That is why the “How” of this teaching is so important.  Jesus teaches us how to pray and in following this teaching, we begin to get a sense of what is most important.  While God certainly cares about the things that you want, what He has promised you is the things that you need.  He is the ever-present, always providing Father who gives us everything we stand in need of.  The teaching of the Lord’s Prayer reveals to us what those needs actually are.
 
As we look to this, and the teaching that will follow, we will begin to see unfolded before us, God’s deep desire for intimacy in our lives, and also His unending love for us, and His unfailing provision and presence in our lives.


Prayer: H.C. Question 116

Why do Christians need to pray? 
 
Psalm 32:5 – Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”  And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
 
Romans 3:19-26 – Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
 
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his
righteousness,
because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
 
Romans 7:7 – What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

Romans 7:24-25 – What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
 
1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
 
1 Corinthians 9:24 – Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
 
Philippians 3:12-14 – Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
 
1 John 3:1-3 – See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.


Contentment: H.C. Lord’s Day 44

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 44

Q 113. What is the aim of the tenth commandment?
A 113. That not even the slightest desire or thought contrary to any one of God’s commandments should ever arise in our hearts.

Rather, with all our hearts we should always hate sin and take pleasure in whatever is right.
 

Q 114. But can those converted to God obey these commandments perfectly? 
A 114. No. In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience.

Nevertheless, with all seriousness of purpose, they do begin to live according to all, not only some, of God’s commandments.
 

Q 115. Since no one in this life can obey the Ten Commandments perfectly, why does God want them preached so pointedly? 
A 115. First, so that the longer we live the more we may come to know our sinfulness and the more eagerly look to Christ for forgiveness of sins and righteousness.

Second, so that we may never stop striving, and never stop praying to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, to be renewed more and more after God’s image, until after this life we reach our goal: perfection.
 
 Of all the commandments we’ve just worked through, the 10th one is more than likely the one that everyone looks at and can say they need some work on it.  Coveting, a word that is not used much at all these days, is something we likely do on a daily basis.  In fact, advertisers have picked up on that idea and now seek to touch on those unhealthy desires so as to sell you their product.  They know in part what God is fully aware of: our hearts are not content.  More than that, though, is the fact that we will look everywhere and anywhere to find that contentment… and most of the time we don’t look to God for it.
 
Whether we are looking at our neighbor’s possessions, another person’s spouse, or the things that they get to do (like grandiose vacations every year), wanting them as a pursuit of happiness and fulfillment is both coveting and a sign of discontentment.  Augustine, one of the great church Fathers, once wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”  He recognized the reality that we are indeed made to desire, but the ultimate end of that our desires must be God.  True fulfillment cannot be found anywhere else.
 
This truth, however antiquated it might be, is part and parcel to how this section on the 10 Commandments ends.  Realistically, there is no way that we can keep these commands perfectly… or at all.  But the point here is not to shame us or to show us how bad we are, but rather to point our hearts in the right direction.  For us, that requires the revelation of the sin in our lives and its effects on both our hearts and our minds.  More than that, however, is that in doing so, it also points us to our need for a Savior and the ultimate source of all our provision and therefore our contentment as well.
 
It is abundantly true that we will search for things in our lives to make us happy.  On the surface, this is a good thing.  In fact, if we didn’t have this desire, we probably wouldn’t search for God or salvation in the first place.  But sin, and
it deleterious effects,
have twisted this good desire into a selfish want for more things in an effort to satisfy our hearts.  Unfortunately, this leads to a good number of the sins which are revealed in these commandments, all of which fall under the umbrella of idolatry, putting something ahead of God in our lives.
 
Our reality is simply this: we need a Savior.  If we’ve learned anything in the past 10 weeks it is that.  Yes, we covet, we murder, we steal, and we do many other things.  Yet, even in the midst of our wretched actions, we are introduced to the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  When we realize how broken we are, that by rights we should be left in our own misery, but that in our time of greatest need God has turned His face toward us and lifted us up, we can shout and rejoice!  God’s salvation is for us and, there is nothing that can take it away from us once we’ve accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
 
Paul’s words in Romans 7 sum up this section so beautifully:

Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment,deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.



Need for a Savior: H.C. Question 115

Since no one in this life can obey the Ten Commandments perfectly, why does God want them preached so pointedly? 
 
Psalm 32:5 – Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”  And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
 
Romans 3:19-26 – Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
 
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
 
Romans 7:7 – What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

Romans 7:24-25 – What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
 
1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
 
1 Corinthians 9:24 – Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
 
Philippians 3:12-14 – Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

1 John 3:1-3 – See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.



Obedience to the Law: H.C. Question 114

But can those converted to God obey these commandments perfectly? 
 
Romans 7:14-15 – We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
 
1 Corinthians 13:9 – For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
 
1 John 1:8-10 – If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
 
Psalm 1:1-2 – Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

Romans 7:22-25 – For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Philippians 3:12-16 – Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.



Sin, Sex, Lust, and Adultery: H.C. Lord’s Day 41

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 41

Q 108. What does the seventh commandment teach us?
A 108. That God condemns all unchastity, and that therefore we should thoroughly detest it and live decent and chaste lives, within or outside of the holy state of marriage.

Q 109. Does God, in this commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?
A 108. We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul, and God wants both to be kept clean and holy. That is why God forbids all unchaste actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires, and whatever may incite someone to them.
 
 
Reflecting once again on the events and news stories of this week, I am at the same time both surprised and disgusted at how timely this Lord’s Day is. To be clear: it is a horrible tragedy that anyone would have to be the victim of sexual violence of any sort for a point about the sin and evil in our hearts to be made. I am incredibly saddened for the many women who were victims of Harvey Weinstein’s many years of preying on young actresses.
 
I also recognize that, throughout the world, this is just a minor blip on the radar of the incredible perverse things that happen day in and day out. Whether it be the prevalence of pornography in the lives of everyday people, the use of sexually suggestive imagery in order to sell products, the sexual abuse of females of all ages by friends and family alike, or the stark reality of human sex trafficking which is abundantly prevalent in societies all over the world (even if we don’t want to see it), all highlight the depravity of our world and our desperate need for a Savior. I can only imagine that the Lord looks down on His creation and weeps bitterly at the absolutely horrid things we do to those who bear His image.
 
For me, all of this points out the relevance of the Heidelberg Catechism and its teaching once again. Many of those who experienced church as a child, especially in
protestant circles, had to go to a catechism class. It was more than likely boring, something that made you wish you never encountered it again. Yet here we are, staring down another national “wall-to-wall” news story of a great person mired in the scandal of sexual sin and we see that, despite social movements to promote equality and rights, the sin described here is still very much alive in the hearts and minds of many.
 
The point that this Lord’s Day is after, is the complete teaching of the seventh commandment. “Do not commit Adultery” is just the tip of the iceberg as it were. Moses elaborates on this, and all of the other commandments throughout the first 5 books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, and Jesus teaches about it in His earthly ministry as well. It isn’t just about cheating on your spouse, it is once again about the heart of the matter: sin.

Matthew 5:27-30

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
It isn’t enough to just not divorce your spouse, though if we look at our culture today we seem to have forgotten about that as well, it’s about the sin of lust and selfishness that is involved in all of this.
 
Sin is disordered love.  All of the commandments in the Bible are summed up in properly placed love:  Love God and love your neighbor.  When the love in our life is aligned well, we see flourishing in our relationship with God and those around us.  Yet when our love is misplaced, whether it be loving yourself and our desires, loving something else more than God, our spouse, our neighbors, etc., we see sin take hold of our lives.  Scripture teaches us how to have rightly ordered love.  It is important for us to heed these teachings.  For us, this is less about rules and more about the results of a life transformed by God’s love.
 
There are two things that I think need to be said in addition to this.
 
First, this commandment has long been used to keep people in relationships that are abusive and toxic.  While I am certainly not an expert on Scriptural interpretation, I know enough about the intent of God for His people and their lives that I can say with a high degree of confidence that this commandment was never designed to victimize or in any other way trap people in abusive or dangerous relationships.  The Bible describes a God that is very near to those who are low, downtrodden, and cast out; I believe this would include those who are trapped in cycles of abuse, neglect, and any other form of danger in relationships.  Those who have interpreted this commandment in such a way as to empower the abuser and blame the victim have completely missed the point, the intent, and the deep meaning of this commandment.
 
Second, at the 2017 Reformed Church in America General Synod, a motion was made and passed to clarify the meaning of this Lord’s Day teaching to also include same-sex sexual activity and marriage between persons of the same gender/sex.  While I believe that the Bible labels such activity as sinful, and clearly defines marriage in the Christian sense as being between a biological man and a biological woman (as those determinations were made at birth), it was the spirit of the debate which was of great disappointment to many.  It would seem that Homosexuality has become just the latest sin that some are using as the test of “good Christians” vs. “bad Christians.”  This is not right or at all in the spirit of unity that the Bible calls for in God’s people.
 
A proper and full understanding of the meaning and intent of the 7th commandment is certainly a good thing.  But elevating one sin above all the rest is certainly not.  Sin is sin.  Like we talked about last week, it is important that we understand that the core of the issue isn’t sex, or guns, or wealth, or anything else, the core of the issue is sin.  The Law is designed to point out sin and in doing so also point us to the need of a Savior: Jesus Christ.  When we turn to Him and put our faith and trust in Him, we find, as Scripture says, no condemnation… only grace.  It is the Holy Spirit’s job, then, to do the work of transformation through the testimony of God’s Word in the hearts and minds if His people.  Rightly ordered love does not look like us going to each person and pointing out their sins and condemning them.  Rightly ordered love looks to those created in God’s image and calls us to love them as God loves them, recognizing that God isn’t finished with them, or with us, and won’t be until we stand together in His presence on that great and glorious day when Jesus returns and makes all things right.