Prayer: H.C. Question 116

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

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

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


Contentment: H.C. Lord’s Day 44

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 44

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Need for a Savior: H.C. Question 115

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

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

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

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



Obedience to the Law: H.C. Question 114

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

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

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

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

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



The 10th Commandment: H.C. Question 113

What is the aim of the tenth commandment? 
 
The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
 
Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Romans 7:7-8 – 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.



Liar Liar Pants on Fire: H.C. Lord’s Day 43

 Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 43

Q 112. What is the aim of the ninth commandment? 
A 112. That I never give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor join in condemning anyone rashly or without a hearing.

Rather, in court and everywhere else, I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind; these are the very devices the devil uses, and they would call down on me God’s intense wrath.  I should love the truth, speak it candidly, and openly acknowledge it.  And I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.
 
Yikes!  That’s all I can say after reading the commentary on this commandment.  While I know that I’ve lied here and there in my life, the number of things that are covered under this doesn’t just render me kind of guilty, I’ve apparently blown this commandment out of the water.  It’s hard to read this commandment and the explanation that the catechism gives without feeling a bit convicted.
 
How often have we embellished a story or changed a small fact here or there to make it better?  Maybe the facts have changed to cast your role in a much better light, making everyone else look rather pathetic.  Gossip is one of those things that can suck us in without our even knowing.  Whether we are sharing untrue things about people maliciously or sharing true things about people unnecessarily, we are participating in gossip, and it is something that runs rampant in church circles as well.
 
Sadly, though, when we participate in the giving of “false testimonies,” we are only feeding the arsenal of the enemy.  Satan is the “father of lies” and deceit is the primary tool that he uses against the people of God.  We’ve all experienced lies in our lives that are placed in our hearts by the enemy.  They often have to do with our self-worth and identity.  Satan also uses other people to put lies into our lives, standing readily by to expose and convict us of our participation in them.
 
Like many of the other commandments, this too points us to the reality of sin in our lives.  If sin is indeed disordered love, then what we find ourselves doing is, in fact, loving ourselves and our desires above those of God and our neighbor.  Participating in things like this show our lack of respect and love for those around us, whether we are consciously or unconsciously bringing our neighbor into a lie about someone else, or if we are slandering our neighbor.  Either way, we are not showing love to them.
 
If indeed we were to love our neighbor as ourselves, we would work hard to protect and advance their good name at every twist and turn.  Recently, our physical neighbors moved and a new family moved in.  Those who lived there before had been there a long time and are well known in our town.  The new neighbors have come in from the “outside” and it is very interesting how many questions I’ve received regarding them.  “How are the new neighbors?” people will say, “Do you like your new neighbors?”  The emphasis on the new is not an accident either.  Whether people are hoping that they are nice people or are looking for some nice juicy dirt on some new people in town, I don’t know.  But really, if people want to know about our new neighbors, wouldn’t we just take a moment to go meet them rather than asking everyone around them for their opinion?  The questioning seems more like gossip to me.
 
Finally, this commandment gets at something that seems to also be running rampant in our society: condemnation without a hearing.  Especially in today’s charged political climate, we are quick to jump on any news story that accuses, convicts, and tries to sentence those who do not necessarily think like us.  Individuals from both policial parties are actively involved in political assassination attempts almost daily… and it’s not even an election year.
 
How quick are we to judge those who do not necessarily think the same way we do, agree with our political affiliations, or even practice the same religion as us?  Whereas one of the founding notions of this country was the premise of “innocent until proven guilty,” which is arguably also a Biblical model of justice and judgment, America seems to have succumbed to a media-driven judicial system that topples people and parties for the sake of its own ratings.  Truth, sadly enough, is no longer a yes or a no, but rather a stream of grey haze that happily interpret to our own liking when it is convenient for us and ignore when it isn’t.
 
What would it look like for us to apply the teaching of the ninth commandment to all of our “neighbors?”  We are called to love God above all and love our neighbor as ourselves which, when Biblically applied, refers to all of those made in God’s image.  How can we love each other as Jesus loves us, willingly laying down our lives so that in God’s sight, our name would be protected and made good?  It is only through His power, the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, that we can begin to see others in this way, especially our enemies, and show them His love in our lives.


The Ninth Commandment: H.C. Question 112

What is the aim of the ninth commandment? 
 
Psalm 15 – Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?  Who may live on your holy mountain?  The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.  Whoever does these things will never be shaken.
 
Proverbs 19:5 – A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free.
 
Matthew 7:1 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
 
Luke 6:37 – “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
 
Romans 1:28-32 – Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
 
Leviticus 19:11-12 – “‘Do not steal. Do not lie.  Do not deceive one another.  Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
 
Proverbs 12:22– The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.
 
Proverbs 13:5 – The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.
 
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.
 
Revelation 21:8 – But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
 
1 Corinthians 13:6 – Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
 
Ephesians 4:25 – Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
 
1 Peter 3:8-9 – Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
 

1 Peter 4:8 – Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.



Matthew 21:23-32 “The Right Way?”

This morning we come to worship God through Jesus Christ, His Son, the embodiment of Truth.  God’s Truth, Love, Grace, and all of the characteristics of God are communicated in His Word to us.  From that we are able to learn both who we are in Christ and how God calls us to respond and live into that identity.

Sometimes, however, we like to pick and chose which truths we think are the right way to live while ignoring others that seem to be more culturally acceptable.  We claim to have Christ in us, claim Him as our Savior, even claim to follow Him, but then choose not to when it’s too difficult or inconvenient.  Sadly, in that same thought, we also readily question and point fingers at those who are “off the path” in a more visible or, perhaps, culturally unacceptable way forgetting that we too are God’s people, fully dependent on His grace alone.

Questions to take home:

  1. Are there some Truths that Scripture teaches that you tend to look at more than others?  How about us as a church?  Is there a way that we could be better about not cherry picking the truths and sins for our own convenience?
  2. Jesus poses an interesting question about which kid actually did what the father wanted.  Is it better to say yes and then not do something, or say no and then change your mind?  Why do you think so?
  3. What if we cast this question in the form of “religion” vs. “relationship”?  Who is doing what the Bible wants, the one who says yes to relationship with Christ but then follows religion, or the one who says no to religion but then finds a relationship with Christ?


Give me! Give me! H.C. Lord’s Day 42

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 42
 

Q 110. What does God forbid in the eighth commandment? 

A 110. God forbids not only outright theft and robbery, punishable by law. 
 
But in God’s sight theft also includes all scheming and swindling in order to get our neighbor’s goods for ourselves, whether by force or means that appear legitimate, such as inaccurate measurements of weight, size, or volume; fraudulent merchandising; counterfeit money; excessive interest; or any other means forbidden by God.
 
In addition, God forbids all greed and pointless squandering of his gifts.
 
Q 111. What does God require of you in this commandment? 
 
A 111. That I do whatever I can for my neighbor’s good, that I treat others as I would like them to treat me, and that I work faithfully so that I may share with those in need.
 
Reading the 8th commandment feels, at first, like a breath of fresh air.  “Finally,” we say, “something I’ve got going for me here!”  Some of these other commandments make us cringe, especially when we start talking about them as matters of the heart.  But not stealing?  That’s easy.  I have no desire to rob my neighbor or shoplift at the mall.
 
Yet the commandment to not steal goes far deeper than simply stealing.  At the heart of this command, we find the themes of greed, cheating, injustice to the poor, and even the misuse of resources in the world.  All of this, unfortunately, is both part and parcel of western culture and sadly, deeply ingrained in the way that we often do things in America.
 
Once again, at the heart of the is not just a rule, its a heart alignment.  Living in a country that has been abundantly blessed, it is easy for us to overlook some of the less than righteous ways that we have gotten to this point.  This has also become true in the commercial sector as well.  We watch cut-throat businesses claw their way to the top, treating their employees as both abusable and expendable.  Even the medical industry is run in a way that promotes their profits over the health and well-being of those they are supposed to be helping.
 
It is easy to look around us and see structures and entities that work and thrive while violating this commandment.  Sadly, these are the perversion of a capitalist society that has chosen to promote personal gains and company profits over the well-being of those that their company was meant to benefit.  Yet, sadly do not even need to look that far to see this sort of sin, because it resides deep within us as well.
 
Have you ever taken an idea from a book or website without offering the appropriate credit?  Have you ever swiped a pencil or pen from a classroom or display?  Have you ever been lazy at work or taken things home from it that wasn’t yours?  Have you ever waisted someone else’s time either intentionally or unintentionally?  Have you ever sought a handout when you could easily have done something yourself?  Any and all of these (and unfortunately so much more) leave us in violation of this commandment.
 
Each one of these questions can sting.  As I was thinking through them I find myself having to answer yes to more than I thought I would.  An easy commandment?  Hardly.  We are steeped in a culture of self-fulfillment at almost any cost.  We will steal time from our families to give to work.  We will steal time from work to give to ourselves.  We will steal things from work so we don’t have to buy them from the store.
 
What’s worse?  We’ll do all this to “better” ourselves while ignoring the needs of our neighbor who is struggling.  It is the epitome of us not following the summary of the law: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
 
So where does this all come from?  Well, obviously sin is the answer.  Specifically, though, we are looking at hearts that are flooded with greed.  Turns out that greed is just an intense and specific form of selfishness that is centered on the disordered love of money and things.  Simply put, we want what we want and we don’t really care how we get it.
 
The question for us, then, becomes very clear: how do we combat our disordered desires?  Once again, the direction that the commandments point is also clear: we NEED a Savior.  As we encounter Jesus Christ and invite Him into our lives, the Holy Spirit begins the world of reordering our love and desires.  We are freed from the bondage of sin and selfishness and opened up to loving our neighbors and seeing them as God sees them.  This is a gradual process, not something that will happen overnight.
 
No doubt, we will readily be willing to see changes in some aspects of our lives while resistant in others.  Not too many people, if you ask them, would see overtime as a sin.  Certainly, in many cases, it’s not.  But when working becomes workaholism and the desire to provide becomes a love for money at the expense of family or other relationships, then we have crossed the boundary.  The same would be true for being late; not too many people would consider that a sin.  However, when being late is a constant disregard or lack of respect for the time of others (likely due, at that point, to an inflated sense of self-importance), then we are indeed sinning.
 
Our challenge, like that of the other commandments, is one of a major overhaul of the heart.  We cannot cherrypick the Biblical truths that we want to have in our lives while ignoring others simply because they are more culturally acceptable.  As the people of God we are called to be set apart, called to love Him and love each other over and above ourselves.  We are also people living in the age of grace, understanding forgiveness through our Savior.  Today’s post may be convicting, but rather than walking away with our heads hung low, we can look up knowing that we worship and serve a God of second chances who is always at work, remaking us in the image of His Son, and that work is ongoing.


The Golden Rule: H.C. Question 111

What does God require of you in this commandment? 
 
Isaiah 58:5-10 – Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves?  Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?  Is that what you call a fast,  a day acceptable to the Lord?
 
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
 
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
 
Matthew 7:12 – So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
 
Galatians 6:9-10 – Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity , let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Ephesians 4:28 – Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.



The Eighth Commandment: H.C. Question 110 (Part 2)

What does God forbid in the eighth commandment? 
 
Psalm 15:5 – who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.  Whoever does these things will never be shaken.
 
Proverbs 11:1 – The Lord detests dishonest scales,  but accurate weights find favor with him.
 
Proverbs 12:22 – The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.
 
Ezekiel 45:9-12 – “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You have gone far enough, princes of Israel! Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Stop dispossessing my people, declares the Sovereign Lord. You are to use accurate scales, an accurate ephah, and an accurate bath. The ephah and the bath are to be the same size, the bath containing a tenth of a homer and the ephah a tenth of a homer; the homer is to be the standard measure for both. The shekel is to consist of twenty gerahs. Twenty shekels plus twenty-five shekels plus fifteen shekels equal one mina.
 
Luke 6:35 – But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
 
Luke 12:15 – Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
 
Ephesians 5:5 – 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.
 
Proverbs 21:20 – The wise store up choice food and olive oil,  but fools gulp theirs down.
 
Proverbs 23:20-21 – Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

Luke 16:10-13 – “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?  “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”



The Eighth Commandment: H.C. Question 110 (Part 1)

What does God forbid in the eighth commandment? 
 
Exodus 22:1 – “Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.
 
1 Corinthians 5:9-10 – I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.
 
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.
 
Micah 6:9-11 – Listen! The Lord is calling to the city— and to fear your name is wisdom— “Heed the rod and the One who appointed it.  Am I still to forget your ill-gotten treasures, you wicked house, and the short ephah, which is accursed?  Shall I acquit someone with dishonest scales,  with a bag of false weights?
 
Luke 3:14 – Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”  He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
 
James 5:1-6 – Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
 
Deuteronomy 25:13-16 – Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. For the Lord, your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.
 


Mark 10:17-27 “All In”

It’s hard to give 100% of ourselves to anything these days.  Not only is there so much to do each and every day, but there are so many things battling for our attention.  Families run here and there, bringing kids to the next sport or school event.  Technology, with its constant updates and instant communication, makes it incredibly difficult to be fully presence in any situation, at any time.  Even church has become something to do, and faith more of a “checklist” religion than a relationship.

Scripture challenges our “do everything culture,” in the same way it challenges a “do everything” religion.  We cannot simply follow all the rules, go to church each week, and call it good.  When the rich young ruler asks if this is enough, Jesus challenges him to be “All In.”  Are we “All In” when it comes to our relationship with Christ?  Or is faith simple another thing we have to do?

Questions to take home:

  1. What does it mean for you to be “fully present” in a situation (at work, at home, with a friend, in your time with God, etc.)?  Do you struggle with this?  What is one way that you could help yourself to be more present wherever you are?
  2. Jesus tells the rich young ruler to “go sell everything” and follow Him.  Do you think he was serious?  What do you think He was referring to?  How could we apply that to our own lives today?
  3. It’s really easy to turn a conversation about “giving things up” into legalism, creating more “to dos” while removing others.  Are there things that are inhibiting your relationship with Christ?  What things can you adjust in your life to better represent your priorities?


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

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 41

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

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

Matthew 5:27-30

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


Unchastity: H.C. Question 109

Does God, in this commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?
 
Matthew 5:27-29 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
 
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 – Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 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 5:3-4 – 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.
 
1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
 
Ephesians 5:18 – Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,