Contentment: H.C. Lord’s Day 44

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 44

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Need for a Savior: H.C. Question 115

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

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

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

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



Obedience to the Law: H.C. Question 114

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

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

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

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

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



The 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 Sixth Commandment: H.C. Question 105

What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment?

Genesis 9:6 – “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.”

Leviticus 19:17-18 – “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.

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

Matthew 5:21-22 – “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Matthew 26:52 – “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

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.

Matthew 18:35 – “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

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.

Ephesians 4:26 – “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,

Matthew 4:7 – Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Matthew 26:52 – “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

Romans 13:11-14 – And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Exodus 21:14 – But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.

Romans 13:4 – For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.



Honoring Authority: H.C. Lord's Day 39

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 39

Q 104: What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment? 
A 104: That I honor, love, and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I submit myself with proper obedience to all their good teaching and discipline; and also that I be patient with their failings—for through them God chooses to rule us.

The notion of honoring those in authority over us is not one that we would consider automatic in American culture anymore.  While the 5th commandment is indeed one that is still applicable to Christain life and family life in general, culture continually pushes towards autonomy, individualism, and self-determination.

While none of these things are bad, in and of themselves, when they take precedence over the God-given authority of parents, leaders, and other governing authorities, that can lead to problems.  Specifically, in families, children are given the ability choose things for themselves at ages much too young for the full ramifications of such a choice.  Children are not capable of governing themselves (think “Lord of the Flies”); that is why God set in place the parental authority and emphasized it so heavily in Scripture.

To be fair, parents and leaders in our culture have not necessarily done a bang-up job of exercising authority either.  Countless stories of parental abuse of authority coupled with the copious amount of blame shifting that seems to go on in our culture when things don’t go right (because apparently, it is always someone else’s fault) has led us to a fundamental mistrust of authority, not to mention a deep divide of ideologies when it comes to governmental authority.

However, Scripture does not give us a pass when it comes to honoring those in authority over us.  Neither does it give us excuses for the abuse of authority or the skirting of the roles we are given either.  Quite simply, parents are called to raise their children, to be the primary source of their learning, identity formation, and spiritual formation.  Parents are also responsible for teaching respect to their children through guidance and discipline.

Whereas it is often seen as natural for children to “rebel” from their parents in our culture, no such provision was given to children in the Bible.  Those who were unruly were cast out; the Law even says that such children are to be stoned.

Thankfully that is no longer the case.  We don’t live in a culture that threatens death for being unruly.  However, there is a way to exercise independence, learning to make decisions, failing every now and then, and gaining maturity and wisdom that can happen without casting aside the relationships we have or dishonoring the authorities in our lives.

Like all things that have provisions in Scripture, the paradigm of authority structures that is set up by God Himself is not meant to be burdensome, but to reveal God’s love for us.  Scripture says that God disciplines those He loves, thus setting the model for loving discipline between parents and children.  God’s goal, as ours should be as parents, is to see His children grow in wisdom, maturity, and identity.  This is not accomplished in Scripture by God allowing His people to do whatever they wanted.

This is not accomplished in Scripture by God allowing His people to do whatever they wanted.  In fact, every time we see that happen in the Bible, things go horribly wrong and they end up in bondage to someone or something.  God’s ultimate desire for His people is flourishing in the way He originally intended.  Flourishing, however, does not mean following our whims and wishes, following after things that we think will make us happy.  Indeed, a flourishing life often understands and respects both boundaries and authorities, understanding them not to be limitations but guides in the exercise of freedom.

When we do this well, whether it be exercising authority or honoring it, we begin to experience the freedom and flourishing that God has planned for us in life.  What’s more?  Those around us begin to experience this as well as the light and life of God spreads through us and our lives point back to Him.



Honor your Parents: H.C Question 104 (Part 2)

What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment? 

Colossians 3:18-4:1 – Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

Proverbs 20:20 – If someone curses their father or mother, their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.

Proverbs 23:22 – Listen to your father, who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.

1 Peter 2:18 – Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate but also to those who are harsh.

Matthew 22:21 – “Caesar’s,” they replied.  Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Ephesians 6:1-9 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.



Sabbath Trust: H.C. Lord's Day 38

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 38

Q 103. What is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment? 
A 103. First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained, and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I diligently attend the assembly of God’s people to learn what God’s Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.

Second, that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through his Spirit, and so begin in this life the eternal Sabbath.

The issues of the Sabbath day in modern culture is complicated, to say the least.  Some say that Sunday is the new Saturday and that the day is for church and church only.  Others treat Sunday as a “second Saturday” that is interrupted by a church worship service.  In either case, I think, we miss the mark of what is going on when it comes to Sabbath rest and the Bible.

During Jesus’ ministry, he was confronted by a number of religious leaders that challenged Him on any number of teachings.  One that frequently drew criticism from them was Jesus’ treatment of the Sabbath laws.  His response, in one of these encounters, was this: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

For us, this is an important teaching because it gives the context for the ultimate purpose of the Sabbath.  God created the earth in 6 days and rested on the 7th.  Scripture tells us that this 7th day was made to be holy, a day set apart for rest.  Jesus’ teaching reminds us that the Sabbath was actually created after humankind was; there is an order of priority.

If humans were made second and placed in a sort of already created work/rest paradigm, then it would be right for us to hold one day a week for explicit rest in which we literally did nothing (you know like when your parents didn’t even let you ride bikes with your friends).  Sabbath would almost be like gravity in this sense, we wouldn’t be able to get around it.

This, however, is not the case for us.  After God has finished creating everything, He introduces the concept of Sabbath.  Something that was created and purposed for all of the creation, especially for humanity.

Observance of the Sabbath day was codified in the giving of the Mosaic Law to the people of Israel as part of the covenant.  Keeping the Sabbath was a practice that only the Israelites observed, and it was done as a sign of both covenant faithfulness and trust in God’s ultimate provision.   Herein lies a great deal of the meaning behind the Sabbath day.

In a world that never rests, we are called to be set apart and distinct as God’s people.  Does this look like the legalistic observance of a particular day of the week?  I think not.  Does it, however, emphasize our trust in God as the ultimate provider of all our needs by giving a day to honor Him?  Well… that would certainly be counter-cultural and different.

In today’s world, things never stop.  We can’t stop working, researching, checking email, texting, or posting on social media for fear that we will fall behind.  If we fall behind at work, the competition could take us over or take us out.  We could lose our jobs, our livelihood, and everything we’ve worked for.  In essence, we are in charge of our own destiny… or so the “American dream” would have us believe.

But what if that weren’t true?  What if we didn’t take the place of God, the place of the provider of all our needs in our lives?  What if we let God be God and trust that His ways are higher than our ways and that He will always keep His promises, even if it doesn’t look like what everyone else is doing?

More than this, though: what if God created a sabbath day of rest/trust because He knew it would not only be good for us, but it is exactly what we need as humans?  It’s construct is a gift to us, we who would more readily work ourselves to death in an effort to get ahead.  Instead, God once again offers us grace and peace by supplying our much needed physical rest in the observance of a Sabbath day… and spiritual rest in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

“May our hearts be restless until they find their rest in You, our Lord and God.” – St. Augustine



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.