Eternal Comfort – H.C. Lord's Day 1

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 1

Q1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A1. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Q2. What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
A2. Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.

Question and answer #1 of the Heidelberg Catechism is easily the most well-known of all catechism questions, perhaps rivaled only by the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s beginning: “What is the chief end of man?  To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  It is appropriate and perfect for us to start here because we, like Paul says in Ephesians, “the Christian life does not begin with a big ‘Do’ but rather an eternal ‘Done.'” (Watchman Nee.  Sit, Walk, Stand)  We begin with grace, which is what both of these two questions speak to.

The author purposefully writes in the question what is my “only” comfort.  This isn’t just one amongst many comforts, this is the only solace that we have in life.  In fact, you could also translate this word to mean “trust.”  What is my only trust in life?  Sure, you trust your spouse, maybe your pastor, and perhaps your parents and kids, but you have most likely also experienced reasons in those relationships to question that trust from time to time.  With Jesus, that is never the case.  No matter what comes around in life, we are assured that our salvation is both complete and eternal; nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8).

All of this was done for us, accomplished by Christ on the cross.  We don’t have to work for it or earn it.  Rather, we can bask in God’s loving adoption of us and live freely in that eternal state.  This, I think, frees up our heart from worry and fear that we are somehow “not in,” and allows us to fully enthrone Christ at the center of our lives and, as the second question and answer point to, live in thankful response to this wonderful reality of grace.



My Only Comfort: H.C. Question 1

Heidelberg Catechism Question #1:

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

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

Romans 14:7-9 – For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

1 Corinthians 3:23 – …and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

Titus 2:14 – who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

1 Peter 1:18-19 – For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

1 John 1:7-9 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  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.

1 John 2:2 – He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

John 8:34-36 – Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Hebrews 2:14-15 – Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

1 John 3:1-11 – 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.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

John 6:39-40 – And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

John 10:27-30 – My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

2 Thessalonians 3:3 – But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.

1 Peter 1:5 – who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Matthew 10:29-31 – Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Luke 21:16-18 – You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 5:5Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Ephesians 1:13-14 – And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Romans 8 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

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.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 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. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.



What's Next?

We’ve made it through the whole New Testament!  What a fantastic journey it was too!  Naturally, I have been thinking about what is next for this space.  It would make sense for us to go back to the beginning and start from Genesis and go through the Old Testament, and that will probably happen at some point in time.  However, I need a little rest and the Old Testament, as a whole unit, would be a multi-year commitment that I don’t know I can make right now.

But, the question is still out there: what’s next?

I’ve been doing some thinking and what I’ve come up with is a sort of interactive journey through the Heidelberg Catechism.  Now, before you close your browser window and start looking for a different devotional idea for 2017, read on and give it some thought.

The Heidelberg Catechism is broken up into 52 segments, perfect for a weekly devotional.  Each question and answer contain tons of Scriptural support that we can consider and the whole of the Catechism is primarily discipleship oriented.  In fact, the Heidelberger was written as a discipleship tool, teaching young Christians about Scripture and what it means to be a Christian.

So, here’s how 2017 is going to work for us:

On weekday mornings, questions from the Heidelberg Catechism will be posted along with the associated Scripture given for the answers.  The answers themselves, however, will not be posted.  What I hope will happen is that, through reading the Scripture, you will work to formulate your own answers to the questions.  I want to encourage you to post thoughts, reflections, questions, and comments each day.

Some weeks there will be a question each day, others it will not because of the number of questions there are for that week.  Some days will have more Scripture passages than others.  Take your time, maybe spend more than just a day on them.  Enjoy the journey!

On Friday, the whole week’s questions along with the answers will be posted along with some of my reflections as well.  Through all of this, I pray that together we can discover deeper meaning and grow deeper in our relationship with Christ.



Introduction to Romans

We have now come to the beginning of what is known as the New Testament Epistles.  These are the letters, mostly written by Paul, to churches throughout the Roman Empire and is a snapshot of the correspondence between the authors and the churches, as well as a picture of what the early church was dealing with.  Interestingly, we continue to deal with many of these things.  The Epistles are divided into two groups, with several sub-groupings: Pauline and General Epistles.  Paul’s letters tend to be a bit more specific in their intended audience while the general epistles, so aptly named, have a more general audience.

The book of Romans, though first in canonical order, is not the first letter that Paul wrote.  It is, however, one of the most theologically significant of his writings, covering the length and breadth of the plan of salvation from creation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and then on to what it means to live into our faith and our identity in Christ.  Romans is the most systematic of Paul’s writings, making it one of the most useful books in helping believers and non-believers alike understand God’s plan for Salvation.

So useful has this book been in the Christian faith that the Heidelberg Catechism was modeled after it’s organizational pattern, “Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude” as well as a number of incredibly popular salvation study tools like “Romans Road.”  Paul, here, is presenting the Gospel in both its simplicity and its complexity.

Paul wrote Romans likely in AD 57, several years before he actually made the journey to Rome.  He probably wrote the letter while he was in Corinth, recorded in Acts 20.  However, even here we see both his longing to go to Rome and also his care for the Church as it was beginning there.



Day 305: Luke 21-22; Scripture Must Be Fulfilled

One of the beauties of the three Synoptic Gospels is that you read a lot of the same material over and over again, each time from a bit of a different perspective.  As we have mentioned before, the Gospel of Luke is much more like a movie documentary that is concerned with getting all the facts and details in the right order.  Unlike Matthew, who is writing to a Jewish audience, showing them all the different ways that Jesus is the fulfillment of Scripture, Luke doesn’t spend a great deal of time linking Jesus’ actions to scripture.  So, when I was reading through today’s reading I was surprised to find, nestled in between a couple of sections, a small part about how Jesus was to fulfill Scripture in His death.  In fact, all of Jesus life death and resurrection were a direct fulfillment of Scripture.  There were over 350 distinct prophecies that had to do with the Messiah and Jesus fulfilled every one of them!

It is important that we remember this.  Today we begin going through the narrative of the death of Jesus for the third time in less than a month.  While these scenes are often taken as horrific and sad, they are also part of the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is important that, while we are and should be very familiar with them, we don’t box them into their own little category.  We need to hear this narrative, and all of Jesus life while keeping in mind the greater context of Scripture.  It helps  us to better know who Jesus is, why He came, and what exactly His death accomplishes for us!

As Christians, it is important for us to be familiar with these Scriptures.  It is also important for us to be familiar with the Scriptures that Jesus fulfills.  These prophecies and narratives, as well as the many things written about them in the New Testament are at the very core of what we believe as followers of Jesus Christ.  It is also important for us to know what they mean for us.  If someone asks you, “what does Jesus’ death on the cross mean?”  We need to be able to answer them effectively.  Interestingly enough, my typical answer for this would have been somewhat vague and perhaps very simply put, because I hadn’t thought about it much.  This semester though, I’ve had the opportunity to take a class on the creeds and confessions of the Church, of which we looked primarily at the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism.  These are great tools for Christians (and non-Christians) to look at as the stand as a witness and summary of what the Church believes supported fully by Scripture.  Not only are they good summary statements of our beliefs, they are also great teaching (and learning) tools for us as we grow deeper in our faith.

While I would never elevate these documents above or even to the same level as Scripture, they are definitely important and good as seek to continue to grow in our faith!  I would encourage you to take a look at them.  Belgic Confession Article 21 is a great place to start when talking about atonement through Jesus Christ.  The Heidelberg Catechism has a great deal to say about Jesus Christ as well, starting at Question & Answer 29 and continuing all the way through 52.  May they be a guide and a companion for you today and tomorrow as we once again encounter the narrative of Christ’s death and Resurrection.