Genuine: H.C. Question 88

What is involved in genuine repentance or conversion? 

Romans 6:1-11 – What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Ephesians 4:22-24 – You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3:5-10 – Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Luke 5:1-11; Ephesians 6:10-16 "The Shield of Faith"

Scripture says that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  The Bible also says that “faith, if not accompanied by action, is dead.”  We often talk about faith as a subject, the concept that we are “saved by faith,” but what does that look like?

Biblical faith is more than just a theological concept or a subject to discuss, it is a verb, an action word.  Paul’s language in Ephesians 6 changes as he talks about “taking up” the shield of faith.  For us, it means living out the things that we claim to believe on Sunday in our everyday lives.  It means applying them to the situations we find ourselves in.  When we stand on God’s promises and apply them to our lives, we take up the shield that defends us from the bombardment of doubts and fear that the enemy is sending our way.


Questions to take home:

  1. Have you ever experienced a time in your life where you were bombarded with doubt, fear, or feelings of inadequacy?  What impacts did that have on your life?  How did you respond?  What Scriptural truths do you think you could apply to a situation like that?
  2. Why do you think it is so hard for us to believe God’s promises?  In what ways do we try to place conditions on them or water them down?
  3. What is that thing that God is calling you to right now that you need to step out in faith to actively answer that call?  How are you going to take that first step?

By No Means! H.C. Lord's Day 32

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 32

Q 86. Since we have been delivered from our misery by grace through Christ without any merit of our own, why then should we do good works? 
A 86. Because Christ, having redeemed us by his blood, is also restoring us by his Spirit into his image, so that with our whole lives we may show that we are thankful to God for his benefits, so that he may be praised through us, so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits, and so that by our godly living our neighbors may be won over to Christ.

Q 87. Can those be saved who do not turn to God from their ungrateful and unrepentant ways? 
A 87. By no means. Scripture tells us that no unchaste person, no idolater, adulterer, thief, no covetous person, no drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like will inherit the kingdom of God.

This week’s questions and answers draws us into the third of the three major themes of the Heidelberg Catechism.  We started off with “guilt,” talking about the fact that Scripture reveals to us the reality of our sinfulness and guilty verdict that we carry when left on our own.  There is nothing that we can do to change this, no amount of work or right living can make up for the sin that we commit nor bridge the chasm between us and God.

We then moved on to talking about grace.  We have seen and read that, in the midst of our helplessness, God stepped in to make a way for our relationship with Him to be repaired.  Jesus is The Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one can come to the Father except through Him.  This fundamental truth sets apart Christ followers from every other religion.  Salvation from our sins comes by the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus alone.

Today we move on to the final leg of the journey: gratitude.  This section answers the next question: “how then shall we live in response to this?”  The answers to question 88 and 89 are an introduction to what the “New Life” in Christ looks like and they are characterized by the words of Paul in the book of Romans.

Romans 6:1-4 – What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Romans 6:15-18 – What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

Both of these passage characterizes the transition between the “old self” and the “new creation” that we are in Christ.  The reformed understanding of the change that takes place in this transaction is one of permanence.  Once we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, we are marked as Christ’s own, forever.  In the same way that there is nothing we can do to earn our own salvation, there is nothing that we can do to lose it either.

This particular doctrine, known as “perseverance of the saints” or “once saved always saved,” has encountered much criticism over the years.  Much of that criticism stems from the notion that this is a license to live however one likes because of the security of their salvation.  “Why does one need to change anything about their lives is the only thing needed is faith?”

Biblically, the answer is quite straight forward: faith expresses itself in a transformed life.  We are no longer steeped in sin but instead have the Holy Spirit in us and experience an inner transformation that is expressed in outward deeds.  This isn’t to say that we live a life that is trying to “pay God back” for what He has done for us in Jesus Christ, but instead that we are living a life of thankfulness and celebration for the freedom we are given through faith in Him.  The former falls back into a “works-righteousness” mentality, the latter not only sees God’s work continuing in us which is expressed in and through our lives, but also adorns the Gospel in such a way that others will be attracted to it as well.

Naturally, the follow-up question to this would be, “what about sin?”  What about those who have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior, placed their faith in Him, and have then, either fallen back into an old sin or have chosen to walk away from the faith?  I can tell you that there is no easy answer for this.

For those who fall back into sin, we are encouraged to not dispair because God is faithful to us even when we are not faithful to Him.  Paul writes, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  God is not powerless against sin but has indeed defeated it in Jesus Christ, therefore those who have fallen back into sin, say in the instance of addiction, are not lost to God.  There is always hope, always grace, and God relentlessly pursues them all the way to the day Jesus comes again.

As far as those who walk away from the faith, this question can be more difficult to answer.  It seems unfair to us that those who actively walk away from God and don’t affirm their so-called faith with their life would still be saved through the faith they once exhibited.  Our notion of “fairness,” if we think about it, is centered on works.  Works do not save us; it is God’s grace affirmed by our faith that brings about salvation.

Paul writes, in Romans 8, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 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.”  We may be inclined to question a person’s faith, whether it was genuine or not.  That is, however, not for us to determine.  God knows the heart and God calls to Himself whom He will.  The same can be said for the so called “death-bed conversion.”  We cannot know the eternal outcome of such things.  However, what we do know is this: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).

Do I Have To? H.C. Question 87

 Can those be saved who do not turn to God from their ungrateful and unrepentant ways?

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:19-21 – The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 5:1-20 – Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 John 3:14 – We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.

What's Next? H.C. Question 86 (Part 2)

Since we have been delivered from our misery by grace through Christ without any merit of our own, why then should we do good works? 

Matthew 7:17-18 – Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

Galatians 5:22-24 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

2 Peter 1:10-11 – Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Romans 14:17-19 – For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

1 Peter 2:12 – Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

1 Peter 3:1-2 – Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

What's Next? H.C. Question 86 (Part 1)

Since we have been delivered from our misery by grace through Christ without any merit of our own, why then should we do good works? 

Romans 6:13 – Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.

Romans 12:1-2 – Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

1 Peter 2:5-10 – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”
Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

“The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”

“A stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Matthew 5:16 – In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.


Ephesians 6:10-15; John 14:15-28 "Gospel Shoes"

The world around us swirls with chaos. Whether you experience this through your home life, your place of employment, or the constant barrage of updates coming from your smartphone, it seems like peace is something we no longer expect to experience in our day to day living.

Jesus, however, offers peace to His followers, one that transcends even the most uncertain of circumstances. In Him, we have peace with God, peace the assures us of our salvation, the forgiveness of our sins, then the promise that nothing can ever take that from us. This peace gives us a firm footing on which we walk in newness of life even when storms rage around us.

Questions to take home:
Are there places in your life where you are experiencing a lack of peace? How have these things crippled or caused you not to be able to move forward in life?

How would you define peace after hearing from God’s Word today? How does that definition impact the situations in your life in which you aren’t feeling at peace?

What are some Truths in Scripture that give you peace in the midst of difficulty? What would it look like to apply these truths to the situation in question one?

Taking the Keys: H.C. Lord's Day 31

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 31

Q 83. What are the keys of the kingdom? 
A 83. The preaching of the holy gospel and Christian discipline toward repentance. Both of them open the kingdom of heaven to believers and close it to unbelievers.

Q 84. How does preaching the holy gospel open and close the kingdom of heaven? 
A 84. According to the command of Christ, The kingdom of heaven is opened by proclaiming and publicly declaring to all believers, each and every one, that, as often as they accept the gospel promise in true faith, God, because of Christ’s merit, truly forgives all their sins.

The kingdom of heaven is closed, however, by proclaiming and publicly declaring to unbelievers and hypocrites that, as long as they do not repent, the wrath of God and eternal condemnation rest on them. God’s judgment, both in this life and in the life to come, is based on this gospel testimony.

Q 85. How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by Christian discipline? 
A 85. According to the command of Christ: Those who, though called Christians, profess unchristian teachings or live unchristian lives, and who after repeated personal and loving admonitions, refuse to abandon their errors and evil ways, and who after being reported to the church, that is, to those ordained by the church for that purpose, fail to respond also to the church’s admonitions—such persons the church excludes from the Christian community by withholding the sacraments from them, and God also excludes them from the kingdom of Christ.  Such persons, when promising and demonstrating genuine reform, are received again as members of Christ and of his church.

The language “keys to the Kingdom” is very foreign to us.  We don’t often use it.  Rarely do we talk about the Kingdom “being opened” or “being closed” to people, especially in a culture where we don’t want to offend or turn people off to “church” or the Gospel.  However, in practice, we see this happen in our worship services all of the time.

Scripture says that the “Kingdom” is opened when the preaching of the Gospel is present.  In fact, this is part of the Great Commission of Christ’s followers, to “preach the Gospel to every creature.”  We are called to be heralds of the “Good News,” ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.  When we “preach” this Good News, whether it be in church on Sundays, or in conversations or actions throughout our daily lives, we are opening the gates of the Kingdom and welcoming others in.

Sadly, the preaching of the Gospel, the very thing that makes us distinct as Christians in the world, is not something that is always happening in churches anymore.  The very news that Christ came to this earth, died in the place of sinners, and offers salvation by grace through faith has been obstructed by moralistic teachings and alternative theologies.  The “good news” has been transformed into a social agenda, even a political movement that has very little to do with the Gospel message.

Granted, some of these things are quite Biblical.  God does call His people to stand against oppression.  He also calls us to serve others, feeding the hungry and caring for the poor.  Scripture encourages us to turn away from things like racism, sexism, and any other manner of judgmentalism that divides people and excludes them from God’s love and knowing their true identity in Christ.  However, these are the effects of lives transformed by the Holy Spirit in response to the Gospel message; they are not themselves the Gospel.

While they are important things for Christians to talk about, they do not necessarily “open up” the Kingdom.  Without the Gospel at their center, and the understanding (and acceptance) of Salvation in Jesus Christ by God’s grace through faith, these calls to action become nothing more than works righteousness and self-motivated pursuits.  Even the best of works, without the cleansing of Jesus Christ, is nothing more than ashes and filthy rags in the eyes of God.  We NEED the Gospel; we NEED a Savior.  We NEED JESUS.

Similarly, the Catechism talks about discipline.  This too has become an unpopular subject in churches and is rarely practiced anymore.  Again, the pushback has come because of a wrong focus on things and a desire not to offend or elicit controversy.  Yet discipline, in all its awkwardness, if done in the right context and with the right heart, under the authority of Christ, is not meant to be mean spirited or harsh.  Rather, its intention is also restoration, repentance, and a deeper understanding of grace.

We like grace.  We’d rather be shone it than “the rod.”  However, Scripture is very clear about discipline when it comes to parenting and when it comes to the people of God: corrections need to be made.  We don’t make them out of our own moral authority or because of some sort of self-righteous, “holier-than-thou” attitude.  Rather, we do it to teach the Gospel and thereby once again “open the Kingdom.”

“Teach the Gospel?” You might be thinking, “How does that even make sense?”

In fact, it quite simply brings us back to the beginning of the Catechism.  The section on guilt reminds us all too clearly that we are indeed guilty through sin.  We have offended God, turned our back on Him; we are His enemies through sin.  And the Gospel doesn’t sweep sin under the rug and forget about it.  The Gospel also doesn’t worry about offending people when they are wrong.  Instead, the Gospel teaches that the punishment for sin, that being death, was put on Christ rather than on us and that because Jesus bore that punishment for us, we no longer have to.

So how does discipline teach the Gospel?  When discipline is done correctly, with an emphasis on repentance and forgiveness, we are reminded of what Christ has done for us and the great love that God shows us through Him.  We, as His children, still need to be corrected, just like our own children need correction from time to time.  But this correction is done with an eye on the cross, reminding us that, even though we sin, we always find forgiveness and grace in Jesus Christ when we turn from our sin.  No matter what we’ve done, you will always find a loving Father waiting for you, His child, to run back into His arms again.

Opened and Closed Discipline: H.C. Question 85

How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by Christian discipline? 

Matthew 18:15-20 – “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

1 Corinthians 5:3-5 – For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 5:11-13 – But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 – Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.

Luke 15:20-24 – So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

2 Corinthians 2:6-11 – The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

Open and Closed Preaching: H.C. Question 84

How does preaching the holy gospel open and close the kingdom of heaven? 

Matthew 16:19 – I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

John 3:31-36 – The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

John 20:21-23 – Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Keys to the Kingdom: H.C. Question 83

What are the keys of the kingdom? 

Matthew 16:19 – I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

John 20:22-23 – And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Ephesians 6:10-15; Romans 3:21-26; 6:15-18 "The Breastplate of Righteousness"

Having put on the Belt of Truth, affirming God’s standards and opinions as they are revealed through Scripture, we now seek to align our lives with that Truth. This is the meaning of the breastplate of righteousness. For us, it isn’t enough to simply know the Truth, we are called to put it into action in our lives.

Discussions about righteousness, however, can quickly lead to legalism. For those in Christ, however, righteousness is not an outer change that leads to inner salvation. The Truth of this righteousness is that is comes from Christ’s sacrifice, imputed to us by grace through faith, and begins the transformation with in our hearts that leads to a transformed life.

Questions to take home:
Do you think that “right living” can act as a guard against the enemy’s attacks? Have you seen wrong choices and behavior become an invitation for the enemy’s work in your own life or in the life of someone you love? How?

Righteousness often times gets confused with perfectionism, our own attempts at making ourselves right with God. What do our Scripture passages on Sunday say to this? How can you use this Truth to combat the lie of perfectionism?

In Christ, we are made righteous. This transformation occurs from the inside out and is led by the Holy Spirit’s work, with our cooperation. How does knowing that the Holy Spirit is the One doing much of the work encourage you to cooperate with Him?

Where is one place in your life that you know you are making wrong decisions that you will start cooperating with the Holy Spirit’s work? How will you do this?

Regarding the Mass: H.C. Lord's Day 30

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 30

Q 80. How does the Lord’s Supper differ from the Roman Catholic Mass? 
A 80. The Lord’s Supper declares to us that all our sins are completely forgiven through the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which he himself accomplished on the cross once for all.  It also declares to us that the Holy Spirit grafts us into Christ, who with his true body is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father where he wants us to worship him.

But the Mass teaches that the living and the dead do not have their sins forgiven through the suffering of Christ unless Christ is still offered for them daily by the priests. It also teaches that Christ is bodily present under the form of bread and wine where Christ is therefore to be worshiped. Thus the Mass is basically nothing but a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ and a condemnable idolatry.

Q 81. Who should come to the Lord’s table? 
A 81. Those who are displeased with themselves because of their sins, but who nevertheless trust that their sins are pardoned and that their remaining weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ, and who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to lead a better life.

Hypocrites and those who are unrepentant, however, eat and drink judgment on themselves.

Q 82. Should those be admitted to the Lord’s Supper who show by what they profess and how they live that they are unbelieving and ungodly? 
A 82. No, that would dishonor God’s covenant and bring down God’s wrath upon the entire congregation. Therefore, according to the instruction of Christ and his apostles, the Christian church is duty-bound to exclude such people, by the official use of the keys of the kingdom, until they reform their lives.

On the whole, the Heidelberg Catechism does a good job of teaching and explaining the Christian faith, particularly a reformed understanding of it.  Unlike some documents and movements of that time (16th century A.D.), there is little in the way of condemnation of other modes of belief or what we would consider denominations.  In that day, there was considerable contempt and condemnation that was going around between the Reformed Protestants, the Lutheran Protestants, the Anabaptists, and the Catholic church.  None really had good things to say about the other.  Yet, in the midst of this, the Heidelberg Catechism offered nothing more than a teaching tool for why the Reformers believed what they did, largely staying away from pointed remarks against other Christians.

…That is… until now…

Lord’s Day 30 addresses specifically the Catholic practice of the Mass, something that has been the worship structure of the Roman Catholic church since its modern inception sometime in the early part of the last millennium.

Different than the worship structure of Protestant churches in general, the focal point of the Mass is the celebration of the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper, whereas Protestant churches see the focal point in the opening of God’s Word.  While there may be a short homily in a Catholic Mass, the main emphasis of worship is placed on the ritual celebration of communion.

While this is not necessarily a wrong emphasis, and many would argue the importance of celebrating the Lord’s Supper, the danger (and reasoning for the Heidelberger’s speaking out on this point) comes largely from the reasoning of this emphasis.  As we talked about last week, the Roman Catholic church believes in the transubstantiation of the elements, the bread and the wine.  This means that bread (wafers) and cup (wine) are physically transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ.  So when they are taking communion, those attending the Catholic Mass are literally feasting on the body and blood of Christ.

There are a number of dangers here:

First, the Catholic theology suggests that the Mass and the celebration of the Eucharist participate in the “ongoing sacrifice” of Jesus on the cross.  By participating in it, we are taking part in this sacrifice that is drawn forward from the original moment to now.  Catholics do not believe that the Mass is a “re-sacrifice,” but the wording comes close to that.  1 Peter 3:18 says that “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”  Apart from the general verb tense that is used here, which is very clearly the past tense, it also points to the same language as is used in Hebrews 10, that Christ died once for all.  His sacrifice is not repeated nor is it ongoing, it happened and, as Jesus said, “It is finished.”  We don’t want to continue this work through the Eucharist or any other acts.  By thinking that we do, we add an element of “works righteousness” into the mix which, essentially, nullifies or minimizes Christ’s work on the cross.

Second, if the emphasis of worship is on the celebration of communion, and on the literal feasting on Christ’s body and blood, there may be an inadvertent teaching that this act is in itself a saving act.  There is nothing salvific about the sacraments; receiving them does not save us.  They are visible signs of God’s grace and through our participation in them we are proclaiming the Gospel of God’s love in Jesus Christ.  Again, this can cause us to stray into a false belief in “works righteousness” or a belief that we are saved by the “work worked.”  That means that, through our participation in the sacrament and the receiving of Jesus literal body and blood, we too are saved despite where our hearts may be.  Clearly, this flies in the face of Scripture’s revelation of justification by faith.

Finally, there is a danger that comes in thinking that Christ’s literal body and blood are present in the celebration of the Eucharist.  If they were, it would be right that we would worship the elements as they appear, being that their presence would mean the incarnated presence of God’s Son, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, among us.  If this were the case, it would be right to worship them.  However, this literal reading of Scripture does not necessarily make sense as Jesus said he was many different physical things and we take none of them literal.  He is not a literal gate, a literal shepherd, or even a literal well of living water inside of us.  Instead, these are analogies of the impact of Jesus’ life, ministry, and presence in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.  If then, we wrongly worship the bread and the wine as Jesus’ literal body and blood when they are not, we are committing a horrible idolatry at one of the most significant moments in worship.

I think it is important to note that, even here in the Heidelberg Catechism, and in our discussion today, we are asking important questions so that we can better understand the nature of our beliefs and worship.  This discussion is not meant to be a condemnation of our brothers and sisters in Christ, but rather a clarification of why those who are “reformed” believe the way that they do.  Scripture is very clear that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” and that the only one who is in the position to judge us is Christ, He who went to the cross to die for our sins.  Let us remember that as we consider our hearts and that of others when we participate in the sacraments.  God the Father invites us to His table to commune with Him, despite our sinful selves, because we have been washed in the bloood of Jesus.  Let us, therefore, endevor to understand in the best possible way, the event we are participating in, and revel in the glorious mystery and beautiful grace that is present there as we encounter God anew at His Table.

Walk the Talk: H.C. Question 82

Should those be admitted to the Lord’s Supper who show by what they profess and how they live that they are unbelieving and ungodly? 

1 Corinthians 11:17-32 – In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.

Psalm 50:14-16 – “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

But to the wicked person, God says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips?

Isaiah 1:11-17 – “The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord.

“I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being.

They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Who Should Come? H.C. Question 81

Who should come to the Lord’s table? 

1 Corinthians 10:19-22 – Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

1 Corinthians 11:26-32 – For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.