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,
 
 


The Seventh Commandment: H.C. Question 108

What does the seventh commandment teach us?
 
Leviticus 18:30 – Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God.’”
 
Ephesians 5:3-5 – 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.
 
Jude 22-23 – Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

1 Corinthians 7:1-9 – Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
 
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 – It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be
impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
 

Hebrews 13:4 – Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.



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

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 40

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

I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either.

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

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

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


Condemning Violence: H.C. Question 107

Is it enough then that we do not murder our neighbor in any such way? 

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.

Matthew 22:39 – And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Romans 12:10 – Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Matthew 5:3-12 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luke 6:36 – Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Romans 12:10 – Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:18 – If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Galatians 6:1-2 – Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Ephesians 4:2 – Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Colossians 3:12 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

Exodus 23:4-5 – “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.

Matthew 5:44-45 – But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Romans 12:20-21 – 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.

Proverbs 25:21-22 – If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.



More than Murder: H.C. Question 106

Does this commandment refer only to murder? 

Proverbs 14:30 – A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Romans 1:29 – 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,

Romans 12:19 – 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.

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.

1 John 2:9-11 – Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

1 John 3:15 – Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.