Am I Not Merciful? H.C. Question 11

Heidelberg Catechism Question 11

But isn’t God also merciful?

Exodus 34:6-7 – And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

Psalm 103:8-9 – The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;

Deuteronomy 7:9-11 – Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him.  Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today.

Psalm 5:4-6 – For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome.  The arrogant cannot stand in your presence.  You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies.  The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, Lord, detest.

Hebrews 10:30-31 – For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Matthew 25:35-46 – For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”



Punishment: H.C. Question 10

Heidelberg Catechism Question 10

Does God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?

Exodus 34:7 – maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

Psalm 5:4-6 – For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome.  The arrogant cannot stand in your presence.  You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies.  The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, Lord, detest.

Nahum 1:2 – The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.  The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.

Romans 1:18 – The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

Ephesians 5:6 – Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

Hebrews 9:27 – Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,

Galatians 3:10 – For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

Deuteronomy 27:26 – “Cursed is anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.”  Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”



Inability? H.C. Question 9

Heidelberg Catechism Question 9

But doesn’t God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?

Genesis 1:31 – God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Ephesians 4:24 – and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Genesis 3:6, 13 – When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it…

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”  The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

John 8:44 – You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Romans 5:12, 18-19 – Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned…

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.



As Bad as We Could Be? H.C. Lord's Day 3

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 3

Q6. Did God create people so wicked and perverse?
A6. No. God created them good and in his own image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that they might truly know God their creator, love him with all their heart, and live with God in eternal happiness, to praise and glorify him.

Q7. Then where does this corrupt human nature come from?
A7. The fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise. This fall has so poisoned our nature that we are all conceived and born in a sinful condition.

Q8. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?
A8. Yes, unless we are born again by the Spirit of God.

Are we really that bad?  This question is asked a lot by optimists and non-believers who desire to make a case for themselves and their perceived “inherent goodness.”  All people, culture would tell us, are inherently good; Scripture says otherwise.  Our reality is, as humans, we are born in sin and it infects us to our very core from the moment that we are conceived.

Does this mean that God created us this way?  That would seem to be a convenient out for us, but the answer to that question is also a resounding “NO.”  God created humankind perfectly in His image with the what we know as free will.  We have the ability to follow God’s will and God’s Law but, because of the Fall, we are infected by sin, a terminal infection that taints every aspect of our being.  In theological terms, this is called “total depravity.”

This does not mean that we are as bad as we could possibly be.  It does, however, mean that we are totally incapable of doing good on our own.  Ever aspect of who we are is bent toward evil; we desire rebellion against God.

Some have taken this theological tenant and called it “total inability;” that certainly has aspects of truth to it but perhaps slightly misses the mark.  As we will see next week, we are created with the ability to follow God’s Law, yet the sin that is in us causes us to turn away.  If we did not have the ability to keep the law it would put the fault back on God where it does not belong.

There is good news at the end of this week, though, and that is the Good News of the Gospel.  In Jesus Christ we are born again, our old sinful self is put to death and we are washed clean in Jesus’ blood.  In this moment, something changes.  Even though we are still sinful, those sins are washed away and we are made righteous in the sight of God.  More that this, though, as we experience this New Life, having Jesus enthroned in the very center of our heart, we also experience a new desire to follow God, to live in grateful response to the grace that He has shown us.  Through the Holy Spirit in us, our direction changes and we find ourselves desiring to live for God, not ourselves.



Total Depravity: H.C. Question 8

Heidelberg Catechism Question 8

But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?

Genesis 6:5 – The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

Genesis 8:21 – The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

Job 14:4 – Who can bring what is pure from the impure?  No one!

Isaiah 53:6 – 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.

John 3:3-5 – Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.



How Did We Get Here? H.C. Question 7

Heidelberg Catechism Question 7

Then where does this corrupt human nature come from?

Genesis 3 – Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
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.”
To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Romans 5:12 – Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned

Romans 5:18-19 – Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Psalm 51:5 – Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.



Did God Do This? H.C. Question 6

Heidelberg Catechism Question 6

Did God create people so wicked and perverse?

Genesis 1:26-27, 31 – Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them…

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Ephesians 4:24 – and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3:10 – and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Psalm 8Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!



The Miserable Problem: H.C. Lord's Day 2

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 2

Q3. How do you come to know your misery?
A3. The law of God tells me.

Q4. What does God’s law require of us?
A4. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22:37-40:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’1 This is the greatest and first commandment.

“And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Q5. Can you live up to all this perfectly?
A5. No. I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.

The Heidelberg Catechism is broken in a number of different ways.  It is broken up into 52 weekly sections, meant for preaching and teaching in the church.  It is also broken into three sub-sections dealing with salvation and the Christian life.  These sections are often referred to as “Guilt, Grace, Gratitude.”  This week we’ve begun the guilt section.  If the first week was comforting to you, it may seem like this week is exactly the opposite.

Why the focus on sin?  Because sin is, unfortunately, a very real part of our existence as humans.  We are steeped in sin.  You cannot go very far in Scripture without seeing the marks of sin in the world and in human life.  Simply put, we cannot truly know the comfort that is attested to in the first week without recognizing the discomfort of sin here and now.

Yet far too often this had digressed into a lot of doom and gloom, hellfire and damnation language.  This is not necessarily healthy either.  It might be easy to think here that, because the Heidelberger starts off with discussions on sin it is a document that is going to focus on it and, as such, is not worth reading.  Please, let me encourage you not to think in this way.  The Catechism is meant to be a teaching tool and a comfort to all who read it, not an instrument of condemnation.  Of the three sub-sections, this is by far the shortest, and that is intentional.

The brevity of the section on sin is not to discount the importance of this topic, neither is it meant to be an amplification of sin.  As author Kevin DeYoung says in his book The Good News We Almost Forgot,

[The authors] realized that true, lasting consolation con only come to those who know of their need to be consoled.  The first thing we need in order to experience the comfort of the gospel is to be made uncomfortable with our sin.  The comfort of the Gospel doesn’t skirt around the issue of sin, or ignore it like positive thinking preachers and self-help gurus.  It looks at sin square in the eye, acknowledges it, and deals with it.  While many people will tell us to stop focusing on sin and to lighten up because we aren’t “bad” people, the Catechism tells us just the opposite.  In order to have comfort, we must first see our sin-induced misery.

We see this through the Law.  Scripture itself says that the Law is good which means the problem cannot be with the law, it must be with us.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we know this to be true.  The problem is us, our sin… our rebellion… or naturally tendency to “hate” God.

The solution, however, is not more law.  The solution is not more rules… it is not to try harder.  Christianity is not a set of moral codes that we are called to obey.  In fact, when we act in this way, preach moralism, or any such way of thinking, we are effectively denying the power of the cross of Christ.  The solution, friends, is Jesus, in the grace that we are shown by God through His death on the cross and the good news of the Gospel that we don’t have to try (and ultimately fail) to earn our own salvation… that is where our comfort comes from, our salvation comes from, and our hope in the midst of this misery that we find ourselves in.  Again, Christianity doesn’t begin with a big “DO,” it begins with an eternal “DONE!”  Praise God!



Striving: H.C. Question 5

Heidelberg Catechism Question 5

Can you live up to all [God’s Law] perfectly?

Romans 3:9-20 – What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
    there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.”
“Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
    “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
    ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know.”
    “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

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.

Romans 3:23 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

1 John 1:8 – If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

1 John 1:10 – If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

Genesis 6:5 – The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?

Romans 7:23-24 – 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?

Romans 8:7 – The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

Ephesians 2:1-3 – As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

Titus 3:3 – At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

 



Law: H.C. Question 4

Heidelberg Catechism Question 4

What does God’s law require of us?

Deuteronomy 6:5 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Leviticus 19:18 – “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Matthew 22:36-40 – “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”



Sin: H.C. Question 3

Heidelberg Catechism Question 3

How do you come to know your misery?

Romans 3:20 – 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.

Romans 7:7-25 – 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. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

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.

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. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 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. 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. 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.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 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.



Guilt, Grace, Gratitude: H.C. Question 2

Heidelberg Catechism Question 2

What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

Romans 3:9-10 – What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;

1 John 1:10 – If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

John 17:3 – Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Acts 4:12 – Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

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

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.

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.

Ephesians 5:8-10 – 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.

2 Timothy 2:15 – Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

1 Peter 2:9-10 – 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.

Romans 12 – 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.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.