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.”



May Your Name be Holy: H.C. Lord’s Day 47

 Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 47

Q 122: What does the first petition mean? 
A 122: “Hallowed be your name” means: Help us to truly know you, to honor, glorify, and praise you for all your works and for all that shines forth from them: your almighty power, wisdom, kindness, justice, mercy, and truth.

And it means, Help us to direct all our living—what we think, say, and do—so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us but always honored and praised.
 
The “petitions” of the Lord’s prayer begin with a phrase: “Hallowed be Your Name.”  This has typically been seen as a declaration that God’s Name is Holy, and that is not necessarily wrong.  God’s Name is Holy, far and above every other name that has ever been or ever will be.
 
However, as we think about the Lord’s prayer, we always should keep in front of us that this isn’t a set of magic words that God gave us to repeat mindlessly so as to earn His favor.  No, in the moment that Jesus speaks these words, He is teaching His disciples to pray.  Like everything else, Jesus doesn’t impose a sort of “law” on them, but instead, it is a lesson on the direction, content, and purpose of our prayers.
 
So, while a statement that God’s name is Holy certainly stands on its own, what this phrase is teaching us flows much deeper.  Beginning here reminds us not just of who we are talking to, our Holy Father in heaven, but it also speaks the purpose of the moment of prayer into our thoughts and minds.  What is that purpose?  To glorify God.
 
It is very easy to come to the Lord in prayer with our requests, our worries, our fears, and our need for forgiveness.  In fact, far too often we treat God as a sort of “cosmic vending machine” that will give us what we think we need when we ask.  The reality, for us, however, is much deeper and much more important than this.  When we come to God in prayer, it should be our desire and ultimate purpose that God’s name is glorified and honored through our words and actions. 
 
Prayer is a worshipful experience.  In all worship, our desire is that the object of our worship is the one person/thing that is receiving all of our attention.  For believers, that one person is always God; there is nothing and no one else.  Anything being worshipped apart from God is an idol.
 
Traditionally, we teach our children that they should “fold their hands” and “close their eyes” when we pray.  There is nothing Scripturally sound about this teaching as far as I know.  God doesn’t listen to us more when we intertwine our fingers or close our eyes.  It is possible, however, that we might listen to Him more when we do.
 
Current trends in Christianity are moving toward a sort of “me and Jesus” mentality, where church and other ‘religious’ things don’t necessarily matter so much.  There are some great things that have come from this, like the idea of prayer as a conversation and relationship builder.  Others have not been so great, like Christian individualism… but we’ll talk about that another time.
 
Prayer as a conversation is a wonderful image.  We aren’t just going to God with our lists, but instead, we are to Him to hear from Him and talk to Him.  In a conversation, the person we are talking to has our full attention; when we are distracted by phones, people, or objects, we both lose focus and dishonor the relationship.  Sadly, this has become normal for us in human-human interaction and these bad habits have crept into our prayer life as well.  Perhaps there is something to a sort of devotional prayer that involves silence, eyes closed and hands folded.
 
In any case, the purpose of the first declaration is both to declare to God our intentions in the moment and to remind ourselves of its purpose as well.
 
We have a tendency to do things out of habit; sometimes we even call it “tradition.”  Have you ever thought about the holidays?  There are so many things that we do during the Thanksgiving & Christmas seasons, but why?  We put lights on our houses and on trees… we buy loads of gifts of things that will probably be discarded within months… but why?  We run from house to house, family to family, worried about seeing all the people but not actually being present with them or our own families… but why?
 
Does all of that honor the coming of our Savior?  Or do we just do it because we’ve always done it that way?  When we come to our Lord in prayer, do we honor Him with that time, worshipping Him and giving our full attention?  In the same way that we need to “remember the reason for the season,” we need to remember the reason we come before our heavenly Father in prayer.  We don’t just come to Him because His Name is Holy, we come before Him to glorify the Holiness of His Name.


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.



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.



The Root of the Problem: H.C. Lord’s Day 40

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 40

Q 105: What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment? 
A 105: I am not to belittle, hate, insult, or kill my neighbor—not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds—and I am not to be party to this in others; rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge.

I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either.

Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword.

Q 106: Does this commandment refer only to murder? 
A 106: By forbidding murder God teaches us that he hates the root of murder: envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness.  In God’s sight, all such are disguised forms of murder.

Q 107: Is it enough then that we do not murder our neighbor in any such way? 
A 107: No. By condemning envy, hatred, and anger God wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly toward them, to protect them from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies.
 
I often have, in the back of my head, a compilation of partial thoughts and ideas about what to write about when it comes to these Friday posts.  After doing some reading and reflecting, I usually write up something in a sort of “stream-of-consciousness” sort of fashion that becomes the post for the week.  After that, I create the question posts for the next week, with all of their Scripture passages and the associated links, tags, etc.  Last week, when I was prepping those posts, I couldn’t have even fathomed the horrors that would unfold as they would be posted.  Nor could I have seen the absolute perfection in the timing of the topic we address this week.  And, while there is nothing convenient or good about murder, I do think that the relevance of a document as old as the Heidelberg Catechism and the associated Scripture that is cited here could not be more clear in a time like this.
 
All of America and a good portion of the world has watched in horror, time and time again as the news of mass shootings, suicide bombings, and a myriad of other murderous attacks have been carried out in places all over the world.  Whether it is workplace violence, terrorism, or mental illness is certainly a topic for discussion, but in the end, the same result is seen, the murder of human beings and the same culprit is to blame: sin.
 
The Heidelberg Catechism’s discussion, as well as the Bible’s teaching on murder, does not address the problem at the surface.  Far too often in times like this, we see media, politicians, and celebrities do just this.  We need to address gun control, they say, or mental illness.  Conservatives and Liberals alike have and will respond in ways that tout their own agenda or stance on an issue, calling out the other for their supposed support or lack thereof for gun control, response to terrorism, etc.  Many will post things about “praying for” or “thinking of” the victims.
 
Yet in the midst of the political crossfire, something that we all are sadly involved in these days with social media and the like, we seem to have missed the true depth of the problem: sin.  Mass killings in the United States or any other part of the world for that matter are not just a gun control issue.  If it were, places like Chicago and even Paris should be practically utopian by comparison.  Yet Chicago loses more people in a month to gun violence than died in Las Vegas in those few, horrific moments.  Are timing, location, and magnitude reasons for the lack of mention of one and the wall-to-wall coverage of another?  Should they be?
 
Sadly, this is also why some media outlets will highlight certain styles of attacks, those done with guns, while others highlight killings that involve other non-projectile weapons.  In either case, we are reminded that, for them, it is more about the message they want to convey and less about the lives that are lost.  This only further highlights, in my opinion, the depth of the depravity that we are faced with.
 
Mass killings are not just a terrorism issue, though many seem to be perpetuated by this twisted ideology.  Statistically speaking, mass killings are carried out more by white men with zero connection to the religion of Islam than by those who practice the religion, much less those who are immigrants to the United States (or those who are here illegally).
 
Mass killings in the U.S. are not just a mental illness problem either.  Despite the fact that, arguably, most who commit such heinous crimes have some sort of mental illness, and the fact that we definitely need to do more in the way of creating greater access to care for those who struggle with such diseases, simply blaming one event after the other on the political party in power for their lack of working to fix this problem is not, in fact, the solution to it.  Even if mental health care was free for anyone at any time, we would still see these sad events happen as is evidenced by other countries with superior medical and mental health care systems which are vastly more available than our own.  Yes, the number may be lessened, but it is not all altogether absent.
 
Why? Because the issue of murder, isn’t a political, ideological, national, or cultural issue, it’s a sin issue.
 
Scripture’s teaching about murder goes far deeper than a simple law that says we should not kill other people.  In fact, the word that is used in the Exodus passage is specific in its reference to the wanton taking of another life.  But, looking deeper into the reasoning behind it we can see, through the Scripture passages we’ve read this week, that Scripture is really going for the heart of the issue which is our heart, tainted by sin.
 
Q 106. Does this commandment refer only to murder? 
A 106. By forbidding murder God teaches us that he hates the root of murder: envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness.  In God’s sight, all such are disguised forms of murder.
 
 The search for a motive in the Las Vegas shootings will continue for some time.  Ultimately, it will be tied to some ideological or cultural problem that needs legislation to fix it.  There will be bickering and blustering about it and no doubt some politicizing of the issues in next year’s elections.  It’s happened with almost every event since these things become “commonplace” in our culture.
 
But the real issue, the issue of sin, seems to never be addressed.  Whether it’s because of a Western Church that is more focused on a “feel-good” message, or a culture that is actively trying to separate itself from its religious roots, we simply don’t want to address the issue of sin as a cause.  Simply put, I think it is because we want to be our own savior.  If it is ideological, cultural, or even political, we can fix it with the right party in power or the right push from this or that group.  However, if it is a sin issue, then we are forced to acknowledge something we don’t want to face: we cannot defeat sin on our own… WE NEED A SAVIOR!
 
Yes, there are common sense things that we can (and should) do as a nation, culture, and government to curb some of these things.  Some of them fit a liberal agenda, others a conservative agenda (though neither need be used or mentioned in reference to a tragedy in order to further their political career).  Whether it is immigration reform, gun control, or access to affordable health care, these are not political issues, they are human issues.
 
But, true transformation, whether it be personal or cultural, will not happen without the acceptance of a Savior and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people.  We are so wholly broken that we cannot help but do these things.  Few would care to acknowledge that Scripture places on the same level the Las Vegas shooter and me, who has been and still is hateful, envious, and vindictive.  That is, in light of recent events, perhaps hard to swallow; but it is true nonetheless.
 
The issue that has been placed before us, displayed in almost unwatchable images of people running scared amid the barrage of automatic gun-fire, is the issue of sin and evil that is present in the world and in our hearts.  For this to be truly addressed, we need to acknowledge that without a Savior, without Jesus, we are wholly incapable of overcoming it, not just in the culture, but in our own selves.  Then, and only then, will we begin to see the effects of sin unravel as our old, murderous selves are put to death, and the New Creation that God has called us and created us to, emerge and effect change in this dark and broken world.


Anointed: H.C. Question 31

Why is he called “Christ,” meaning “anointed”?

Luke 3:21-22 – When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 4:14-19 – Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Isaiah 61:1 – The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

Hebrews 1:9 – You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

Psalm 45:7 – You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.

Acts 3:22 – For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.

Deuteronomy 18:15 – The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.

John 1:18 – No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

John 15:15 – I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Hebrews 7:17 – For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

Psalm 110:4 – The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

Hebrews 9:12, 24 – He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption…

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.

Hebrews 10:11-14 – Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

Romans 8:34 – Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Matthew 21:5 – “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

Zechariah 9:9 – Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!  Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Matthew 28:18-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

John 10:28 – I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Revelation 12:10-11 – Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:  “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah.  For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.  They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.



Jesus the Savior: H.C. Lord's Day 11

Q 29. Why is the Son of God called “Jesus,” meaning “savior”?
A 29. Because he saves us from our sins, and because salvation should not be sought and cannot be found in anyone else.

Q. Do those who look for their salvation in saints, in themselves, or elsewhere really believe in the only savior Jesus?
A. No. Although they boast of being his, by their actions they deny the only savior, Jesus.

The Apostles’ Creed is divided up into three parts: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Within those divisions, the lion’s share of the Heidelberg Catechism’s emphasis and work is placed on Jesus.  Two Lord’s days are given to God the Father, one is given specifically to the Holy Spirit, though it’s actually three if you count the whole ending section, eight are given to Jesus, the first three of which will be spent simply unpacking what His name means and why it is important.

First, we will look specifically at the name “Jesus” which means, when translated from its Hebrew form, “savior,” or “God saves.”  In the time of the New Testament, when Jesus was born, lived, and died, there is much evidence that points to the fact that the name “Jesus” was a rather popular name.  It was, perhaps, the 4th most popular name for boys at that time.  Everyone probably knew a “Jesus” of some sort; it would have been the name where you had one or two in every classroom.

So why did God pick such a common name for His incarnate Son?  When I think back to how we came to choose the name we did for our daughter, the impact of the name was not necessarily found in its popularity, though we wanted something unique, but in the meaning that was behind the name.  Her name means “God has answered” and her middle name means “hope.”  Our prayer is that she will always know that God not only answers us when we call, but He has given us the ultimate answer in Jesus Christ, in whom all our hope is found.

As I said a moment ago, the name Jesus comes from the Hebrew name Yeshua (or Joshua) which means “Yahweh saves.”  In fact, Moses renamed Hoshea (which means “salvation”) to Joshua; this was the man that would lead the Israelite campaign to conquer Canaan.  It was an important distinction to make at that time that it was not Joshua, aka. Hoshea, who brought about the fulfillment of God’s covenant, but God Himself working through Joshua.

“Although Jesus,” writes Kevin Deyoung, “was a common name, with Jesus of Nazareth the name took on added significance.  It didn’t just mean that His God saves; it meant that He was the God who saves.  Jesus of Nazareth is the only one who can save us from our sins.”  Salvation can be found nowhere else.

There are a couple of important points that are made here, some explicitly and others implicitly:

First, Jesus saves us from our sins.  The Bible doesn’t cast Jesus as a self-help guru who comes to make us feel better about ourselves, make it possible to find a mate through His supernatural online dating site, or get us the dream job we want but won’t work for.  The work of Jesus Christ, through His life, death, and resurrection, does all that we cannot do ourselves in wiping away our sins and making us right with God once again.  Understanding our identity in Christ can lead to such things as a better self-image and confidence in who we are, yes, but it is not the sole purpose of His work.

Second, this is work that He alone can do and His continued work as the mediator between us and God is also solely His.  We do not pray to saints or other spiritual figureheads.  The Bible does not affirm religious greats that have come before us as those who are able to dispense spiritual brownie points for God if we remember them, give money toward them, or light a candle in their honor.

Finally, the Heidelberg Catechism also uses a rather convicting phrase in its talk about Jesus as the sole source of salvation stating that we should not look for our salvation in ourselves either.  I often hear very well-intentioned people tell others they just need to “push through” or “buck up” when the going gets tough.  Christians give the impression to others that you have to “look within” or “summon the strength inside” to not only get through hard times but also when it come to deal with addiction, pain, abuse, disease, and any number of maladies in this life.  We do not look to ourselves for our salvation and, while the premise of encouragement may indeed be well-intentioned, it may also accidentally be suggesting that the “strength within” is greater than that of the loving, providing, sustaining, creator God who never leaves us or forsakes us.

When it all comes down to it, we need to think back to the beginning of this journey.  What is our only comfort in life and in death?  “That I belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful savior Jesus Christ.”  This Lord’s Day is a direct application of this and it, once again, involves trust.  It is hard to say that we trust someone because it means that we are no longer trusting ourselves with that thing.  The reality, though, for salvation, is that there is no “both-and,” it is an “either-or.”  As Kevin DeYoung concludes, “Either Jesus is the only Savior, the perfect Savior, and your only comfort in life and in death, or Jesus is, for you,” just another feel good religious item in your life.

Thanks be to God that He is patient with us, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  Though we are often untrusting and unfaithful, He is always faithful to us.



His Name will be Jesus: H.C. Question 29

Why is the Son of God called “Jesus,” meaning “savior”?

Matthew 1:21 – She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Hebrews 7:25 – Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Isaiah 43:11 – I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior.

John 15:5 – “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Acts 4:11-12 – Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

1 Timothy 2:5 – For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,



The Bible Tells Me So: H.C. Question 19

How do you come to know [Jesus Christ is the mediator]?

Genesis 3:15 – And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 22:18 – and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Genesis 49:10 – The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.

Isaiah 53 – Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.  Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away.  Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.  He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.  After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.  Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Jeremiah 23:5-6 – “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.  This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.

Micah 7:18-20 – Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?  You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.  You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.  You will be faithful to Jacob, and show love to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago.

Acts 10:43 – All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Hebrews 1:1-2 – In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

Leviticus 1-7 (Lot’s of reading, but certainly worthwhile!  Use this link to bring you to it: Biblegateway.com – Leviticus 1-7)

John 5:46 – If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.

Hebrews 10:1-10 – The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’”

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Romans 10:4 – Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Galatians 4:4-5 – But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

Colossians 2:17 – These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.