Ephesians 6:10-20; Matthew 4:1-11 – The Sword of the Spirit

The final weapon that Paul describes in the armor of God is the Sword of the Spirit.  Unlike the rest of the weapons, he describes this weapon clearly in this passage: the Word of God.  This sword has both offensive and defensive properties to it, however, the important thing is that knowing how to wield it.

Too often, Christians take the Bible and swing it wildly, hacking and slashing with their sword.  However, thinking that possessing a Bible or knowing a few verses allows us to swing it.  It is not the words on the page that give us power, but the authority from which they come.  The words of Scripture are given authority through the Holy Spirit who illumines it in our hearts and minds.  For us to wield it well, we much practice and be intimately acquainted with its message.

Questions to take home:

  1. For a Roman soldier, skill with the sword was the difference between life and death.  More important than even food and water.  Do we treat Scripture this way in our lives?
  2. Have you ever experienced an event in your life that you knew the enemy was involved in?  How did you respond?  How did the enemy respond?
  3. What steps can you take to sharpen your skills with your sword?  Write down your answer, form a plan, and stick to it!

 



The Law of God: H.C. Lord's Day 34

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 34

Q 92. What is God’s law? 
A 92. God spoke all these words:

THE FIRST COMMANDMENT
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.”

THE SECOND COMMANDMENT
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

THE THIRD COMMANDMENT
“You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.”

THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT
“Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.”

THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT
“Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving to you.”

THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not murder.”

THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not commit adultery.”

THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not steal.”

THE NINTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

THE TENTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Q 93. How are these commandments divided? 
A 93. Into two tables. The first has four commandments, teaching us how we ought to live in relation to God. The second has six commandments, teaching us what we owe our neighbor.

Q 94. What does the Lord require in the first commandment? 
A 94. That I, not wanting to endanger my own salvation, avoid and shun all idolatry, sorcery, superstitious rites, and prayer to saints or to other creatures.

That I rightly know the only true God, trust him alone, and look to God for every good thing humbly and patiently, and love, fear, and honor God with all my heart.

In short, that I give up anything rather than go against God’s will in any way.

Q 95. What is idolatry? 
A 95. Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed himself in the Word.

That Law of God has, in modern times, gotten some pretty bad press.  All the rules and regulations that are laid down in Scripture causes people to feel the weight and the guilt of our sins.  Often, people have turned to the New Testament, ignoring this part of Scripture completely.

“God is love,” we say, “and He loves me for who I am.”

While certainly this is true.  God loves everyone in spite of who we are; He loves us for who He knows us to be… who He calls us to be.

So what about this law stuff then?  Is it obsolete?  Old news?  Not relevant?

The simple answer is no.

We often overlook this, but it is important to note that the writers of the Heidelberg Catechism placed the exposition of the Law in the “gratitude” section, not the “guilt” section.  I tend to think there are two important purposes for this.

First, it is important to understand that new and renewed life that God calls us to live in gratitude for the gift of grace that we are given.  The Law, specifically the 10 Commandments or their Jesus given summary: Love God and Love Neighbor, create a model for a life set apart for God.  While many of these would seem self-evident, one doesn’t have to look far to see a culture in which things like “idolatry” or “sabbath” mean very little.  Yet we are called to be counter-cultural and set apart from the world.

Really, what these commandments have to do with is love.  As Jesus said, they are indeed summed up in two commands: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.  Properly oriented love is the way that God calls us to live.  Misdirected, misguided, misoriented love is what causes us to sin.  This is the fundamental root of idolatry: disoriented love.  Whether this shows up through selfish behavior or worship of the “other,” that is elevating things to a level of importance in our life that is equal to or above God, it is disoriented love.

That brings us to the second reason for these commandments: sin.  Scripture says that the Law is in place to help us recognize our sin.  Yet, we still find this in the “gratitude” section.  Why?  Because sin is not the end of the story.  Sin simply reveals to us our desperate need for a savior, for our Savior, Jesus Christ.

When we skip over all this “law stuff,” we actually tend to overlook the problem of sin.  While no one really likes to talk about their sin, it is important that we understand its presence in our lives.  Without sin, we don’t need a savior.  Without a savior, there is no Jesus and no grace.  If those do not exist, the Christianity is nothing more than a religious gathering with semi-professional motivational speakers… all of which amount to nothing significant beyond this life.

No, sin is real, and so is our need for a Savior.  The 10 commandments reveal that need within us in a very real, very stark way.  The exposition of these commandments brings these out in an even more in depth manner.  It not only reveals, but through Scripture, begins to root out the presence of sin through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Then, not only can we be grateful for the grace we are shown in Jesus Christ, we can rejoice in the understanding that God isn’t finished with us yet.  He loves us so much that He will continue His good work in us until the day that Jesus Christ comes again and we are glorified with Him and live in His presence forever!



Idolatry: H.C. Question 95

What is idolatry? 

1 Chronicles 16:26 – For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.

Galatians 4:8-9 – Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?

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.

Philippians 3:19 – Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.



The First Commandment: H.C. Question 94

What does the Lord require in the first commandment?

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.

1 Corinthians 10:5-14 – Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.

1 John 5:21 – Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

Leviticus 19:31 – “‘Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.

Deuteronomy 18:9-12 – When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you.

Matthew 4:10 – Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Revelation 19:10 – At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”

Revelation 22:8-9 – I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”

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

Jeremiah 17:5, 7 – This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord…

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lordwhose confidence is in him.

Psalm 104:27-28 – All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.  When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.

James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

1 Peter 5:5-6 – In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Colossians 1:11 – being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,

Hebrews 10:36 – You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Matthew 22:37 – Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

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

Proverbs 9:10 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

1 Peter 1:17 – Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

Deuteronomy 6:13 – Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.

Matthew 5:29-30 – 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.

Matthew 10:37-39 – “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.



The 10 Commandments: H.C. Question 93

How are these commandments divided? 

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

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

Mark 12:28-31 – One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”



The Law: H.C. Question 92

What is God’s law? 

Exodus 20:1-17 – And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Deuteronomy 5:6-21 – “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

“Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.



Ephesians 6:10-16; Romans 8:1-14 "The Helmet of Salvation"

We often talk about salvation as a commodity, a gift that we will receive upon our death. Biblically, however, God’s salvation, while carrying that theme, is seen as a lived reality that we experience daily when we put our faith in Christ. This echos the truth that we do not fight for victory, but rather we fight from victory.

Far too often, however, we find ourselves in bondage, trapped in cycles of thinking that keep us immobilized rather than walking in victory. Today we are reminded that salvation is ours in Jesus Christ as we witness the sacrament of Baptism and remember the promises that are for Raven Hope Pavlak and for us as well. We remember that God has given us the “Helmet of Salvation” for both protection from attack and freedom to live in Christ.

Questions to take home:
What changes does your mind need to make in order to walk confidently in the knowledge of past, present, and future salvation? What game plan do you need to put into practice in order to fill your mind with Truth and Hope?
Can you identify any patterns that undermine your faith and confidence in God’s ability to deliver? What verses can you use to counter them?
Think of what you consider to be your biggest failure or mistake in life. How does the helmet of salvation protect you from ongoing guilt, regret, or fear about “the next time?”

Audio Credit: Pricilla Shirer, “The Armor of God” DVD Bible Study video series. Copyright 2015, Lifeway Press



Old and New: H.C. Lord's Day 33

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 88

Q 88. What is involved in genuine repentance or conversion? 
A 88. Two things: the dying-away of the old self, and the rising-to-life of the new.

Q 89. What is the dying-away of the old self? 
A 89. To be genuinely sorry for sin and more and more to hate and run away from it.

Q 90. What is the rising-to-life of the new self? 
A 90. Wholehearted joy in God through Christ and a love and delight to live according to the will of God by doing every kind of good work.

Q 91. What are good works? 
A 91. Only those which are done out of true faith, conform to God’s law, and are done for God’s glory; and not those based on our own opinion or human tradition.

If there is one thing that is true across the board when it comes to religion it is the idea that changes need to take place.  Before one is an adherent to any religious ideology, they would be considered “lost,” or “misguided.”  However, when one begins to put faith in whatever deity or element is upheld within a particular religious practice, life changes are assumed.  Every religion has rules to follow and to become a good adherent to that religion, one must follow them to some degree.

As a religion, Christianity is not much different in this respect.  In fact, this Lord’s day talks very specifically about the change that takes place after one comes to faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul writes about this in the book of Romans in terms of “dying to the old-self” and “rising in Christ” or becoming a “new creation.”  The reality he is trying to convey here is that this is a fundamental change in one’s life.  A full 180-degree turn takes place when one places their faith in Jesus, from walking in sin and self-interest to loving God with all their heart, trusting Him with their life, and loving others with the same love God shows to them.

One fundamental difference, however, between Christianity and all other religions is the place from which that change comes from.  In every other faith practice, change is manufactured by the person.  The promise of salvation is for those who best practice their faith according to the rules laid out.  If you are good enough, kind enough, just enough, or, in some cases, oppose other religions enough, you will find some manner of salvation, whether in this life or the next.  It is, however, on you to make this happen.

Faith in Jesus Christ is different.  The promise of God in the Bible is that the saving work required by God has been accomplished for us in Jesus Christ!  This is amazing news for us, the “Gospel of our Salvation” as Paul writes.  In Jesus, when we place our faith in Him, our sins our forgiven and our old self is “put to death.”  Even greater is that we are “raised to newness of life” through God’s grace; this is where the change begins to take place.

Unlike other religions, however, the change that we are called to is one out of gratitude, not requirement.  Because the saving work is done, and we are saved by grace through faith, the new life is not one of obligation but one of desire.  Change, then, is not manufactured from the outside but instead is released from the inside!  This is what we often call “sanctification.”  It is the continuing work of God in our lives, through the Holy Spirit, to form us and shape us into the image of Christ.

Whereas other religions require “personal perfection” in order to gain salvation, Scripture states that Christ’s perfection and sacrifice for us is sufficient for salvation and when we place our faith in Him, that perfection (which we call righteousness) is put on to us.  God then sees us as He sees His Son and we are welcomed back into relationship with Him.  Throughout the rest of our lives, then, God is at work teaching, growing, shaping, and molding us to live into it.  We cooperate with this process by listening, learning, and seeking to live the life of gratitude for our salvation that Scripture calls us to.  It is God’s beautiful work in us to bring His work, accomplished by Christ, to it’s fullness in our lives!

Ephesians 2:8-10 – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.



Good Works: H.C. Question 91

What are good works? 

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

Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Leviticus 18:4 – You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God.

1 Samuel 15:22 – But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Deuteronomy 12:32 – See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.

Isaiah 29:13 – The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.

Ezekiel 20:18-19 – I said to their children in the wilderness, “Do not follow the statutes of your parents or keep their laws or defile yourselves with their idols. I am the Lord your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Matthew 15:7-9 – You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’”



New Self: H.C. Question 90

What is the rising-to-life of the new self? 

Psalm 51:8, 12 – Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice…
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Isaiah 57:15 – For this is what the high and exalted One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Romans 5:1 – Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Romans 14:17 – For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,

Romans 6:10-11 – The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.



Old Self: H.C. Question 89

What is the dying-away of the old self? 

Psalm 51:3-4, 17 – For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Joel 2:12-13 – “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Romans 8:12-13 – Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

2 Corinthians 7:10 – Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.



Genuine: H.C. Question 88

What is involved in genuine repentance or conversion? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

 

Questions to take home:

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


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

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 32

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul writes, in Romans 8, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”  We may be inclined to question a person’s faith, whether it was genuine or not.  That is, however, not for us to determine.  God knows the heart and God calls to Himself whom He will.  The same can be said for the so called “death-bed conversion.”  We cannot know the eternal outcome of such things.  However, what we do know is this: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).



Do I Have To? H.C. Question 87

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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