God’s Will Be Done: H.C. Lord’s Day 49

Q 124. What does the third petition mean? 

A 124. “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” means:
Help us and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any back talk. Your will alone is good.
Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to, as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.
 
Language about the “will of God” can be very confusing.  This is due in part to the variety of ways that this language is used in Scripture, but also finds it’s puzzlement in how Christians use the term to talk about what is going on in their lives.  We readily dismiss negative events in our lives, even those related to the presence and impact of sin, as being God’s will.  A tragic death, a fatal illness, and even injustice that we experience in the world around us is all chalked up to and dismissed as “the will” of God.
 
Yet, even in that rather dispassionate response, there is something unsettling that stirs in us.  The question of how a good God can allow for such evil arises.  When we dismiss sin as the “will of God,” we even begin to walk the line of blaming God for sin and potentially see Him as the cause of it.  Thoughts such as this are contrary to what we know about God; He cannot sin and is wholly separate from sin.  How can these two things be reconciled?
 
There are really two sides of God’s will that Scripture reveals to us: His will of decree and His will of Desire.  God’s will of decree has to do with His continual governing and provision of the entire universe.  His divine sovereignty covers everything from the orbits of planets and galaxies to the number of hairs on your head and the color of your eyes.  Most of all, God’s unthwartable will is the ultimate redemption and restoration of Creation and the annihilation of sin.
 
God’s Will of desire is what the Lord’s prayer is pointing toward.  God’s will of desire has to do with what God wants for His people and for the world, but it is a will that can be disregarded by His rebellious creatures.  This is where human freedom comes in.  While it is God’s desire that everything on earth be as perfect as it is in heaven; perfect worship, perfect obedience, perfect service, perfect holiness.  He has, however, instilled freedom in the human heart.  It is this freedom that ultimately led to sin entering the world and it is this freedom that continues to allow God’s creatures to turn from Him and reject Him.
 
Ultimately, this is why we pray that God’s will would be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”  As we have been talking about already, the Lord’s prayer is about teaching us to pray.  Clearly, praying these exact words does not enact God’s will of desire here on earth instantly.  If that were true, everything would be perfect once again.  Instead, this once again reminds us of who we are praying to and what He desires for us.
 
First, by praying this we are reminded that it is indeed God’s will, not our own will, that we are to desire.  For us, that also means that we are putting our own will aside.  Scripture describes this as “dying” to ourselves.  There are many examples of human desires and will taking center stage and God’s will being put aside.  Whether it is that time when we littered while we were driving in the country or the concentration camps of the Nazis in World War 2, when human will is allowed to run free, it always runs to sin.  Clearly, we need a Savior, and one of the results of God’s salvation is the changing of the heart; we desire that God’s will would be done, not our own.
 
For this to take place, a second thing needs to happen: we need to trust God’s will.  It isn’t enough to just want God’s will to happen, we need to trust that how He is working and what He is doing is the right thing too.  Often this is where Christians start to say things like “it’s God’s will.”  Certainly, nothing in the world happens without God allowing it to happen.  However, it is not God’s will that people would die, that people would abuse or kill, or that sin would continue to have all of the horrible impacts on the world that it does.  In the midst of this, however, God is at work.  As we desire His will over ours, and as we trust in Him, we begin to see things change in our lives.  Our faith grows, our trust grows, and we look to Him in the good times and the bad, recognizing God’s faithfulness and His love, even in the midst of our pain.
 
Finally, as we desire God’s will and trust His will, we must also carry out His will.  This is the ultimate end of transformation in our hearts; it overflows into and out of our lives.  As we learn to pray and learn from this prayer, we begin to see things as God sees them, to feel about people the way God feels about them, and our hearts begin to beat in sync with His.  In essence, God’s will of desire becomes the desire of our will!  It is to that end, then, that we begin to desire that heaven would come to earth and we work to that end, spreading God’s love and working God’s will in the world around us.


Our Father in Heaven: H.C. Lord’s Day 46

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 46

Q 120. Why did Christ command us to call God “our Father”? 
A 120. To awaken in us at the very beginning of our prayer what should be basic to our prayer—a childlike reverence and trust that through Christ God has become our Father, and that just as our parents do not refuse us the things of this life, even less will God our Father refuse to give us what we ask in faith.
 
Q 121. Why the words “in heaven”? 
A 121. These words teach us not to think of God’s heavenly majesty as something earthly and to expect everything needed for body and soul from God’s almighty power.
 
Being a Father has been life-changing for me.  The unquenchable love that I feel day in and day out for this little girl is absolutely mind-blowing.  She hasn’t done anything to earn my love.  As a matter of fact, if left to simple logic, she has done more in her one and a half years to break me of my fondness for her than she has to amplify it.  Yet, my love for her has known no bounds, something I still cannot even fathom within my own mind.
 
One thing that has been a joy to me as a father has been to watch my daughter learn.  It is uncanny what she picks up as she learns to play with toys, to interact with other people, and even to speak.  I’ve had to take a step back and examine my own habit when it comes to such things and here’s why: she copies everything I do.  When she first discovered matchbox cars she would just carry them around.  Then she saw my driving them around on the floor so she started doing that do.  Next, I would run them into each other… suffice to say I am glad she won’t be driving anytime soon.  Later I would crash them and then flip the cars over as if it were a big wreck; she does that as well now.
 
All of Scripture refers to God as the “Heavenly Father.”  This isn’t to say that God is male or female; God is Spirit.  God certainly has many feminine and maternal characteristics.  But Scripture’s revelation of God has Father displays for us an image of who God is to us.  Sadly, today’s culture has twisted that image through both positive and negative movements.
 
As our culture becomes increasingly aware of the equality of gender in the world, a positive movement if ever there was one.  In that, however, there has been considerable pushback against the notion of God as being a masculine reference.  There is some validity to this as God is not a man and men throughout time have used the masculine reference to God as a way of cementing abusive dominance over others.  This is wrong, but it is not itself a reason to abandon the Scriptural witness of God as Father.
 
In a similar, but much more negative way, the breakdown of the family in North America as well as the coming to light of so many destroyed relationships due to abusive fathers & husbands has led to a wholesale questioning of whether “Father” is an appropriate reference to God.  For many who have been hurt in this way, whether by abuse or absence, even the term “Father” can bring up painful, bad memories.  Without being insensitive to this, however, it is important to understand that our pain does not supersede Scripture’s revelation.
 
The reality of God is this: God is our loving Father, the best of what was intended for that position and person in people’s lives.  God created us as His children and loves us in a way that is beyond comprehension to us, despite our disobedience and turning from Him time and time again.  God is overjoyed to see us grow and learn, maturing in our live, our faith, and even in the great gifts and abilities that He has given to us.  God is also the opposite of everything negative that has been infused into the father figure of the 21st century.  He will never abandon us nor is He ever absent; His love is perfect and encourages flourishing within our lives, even healing rather than hurt.
 
More than this, though, is our reaction to this perfect Father figure in our lives.  As we grow from proverbial infants in our faith into more mature individuals, we, like my daughter with me, begin to see how God is working in the world and how He interacts with and loves His children.  The more we see this modeled for us in our lives, the more we begin to follow those patterns, loving others as God loves us.  Our experience with God, when we turn to Him and fully experience His love, molds and shapes us, informing who we become in Christ.
 
Sadly, this too has been soured in the world through the unhealthy actions of people within the church.  God’s people have, often, missed the mark when it comes to modeling this for each other as well.  Because of this, people have blamed God for the actions of His people.  Sadly, parents can experience this too, being blamed as a bad parent for the momentary behavioral lapse of a child.  In any case, we must understand that we must look to Scripture to understand God better, not to the actions of His children which, in some circumstances, are not in line with God’s eternal love and purpose.
 
Additionally, it is vitally important to mention then second part of this week’s question: God’s location.  We are not looking to some local offical, a governmental authority, or even the clergy of a church for help, advice, or anything else.  No, our Divine Father is in Heaven, unconfined by the limits of mortal and material existence, God reigns from His throne, holding the entire universe in the palm of His hand.  Yet, despite God’s infinite magnitude, He concerns Himself with each one of us so much that, as the 1st Question and Answer reminds us: “not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven.”


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.



The 10th Commandment: H.C. Question 113

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

Romans 7:7-8 – What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead.



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

 Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 43

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

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


The Ninth Commandment: H.C. Question 112

What is the aim of the ninth commandment? 
 
Psalm 15 – Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?  Who may live on your holy mountain?  The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.  Whoever does these things will never be shaken.
 
Proverbs 19:5 – A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free.
 
Matthew 7:1 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
 
Luke 6:37 – “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
 
Romans 1:28-32 – Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
 
Leviticus 19:11-12 – “‘Do not steal. Do not lie.  Do not deceive one another.  Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
 
Proverbs 12:22– The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.
 
Proverbs 13:5 – The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.
 
John 8:44 – You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
 
Revelation 21:8 – But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
 
1 Corinthians 13:6 – Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
 
Ephesians 4:25 – Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
 
1 Peter 3:8-9 – Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
 

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



Give me! Give me! H.C. Lord’s Day 42

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 42
 

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

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


The Golden Rule: H.C. Question 111

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

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



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

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 41

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

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

Matthew 5:27-30

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


Unchastity: H.C. Question 109

Does God, in this commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?
 
Matthew 5:27-29 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
 
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 – Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
 
Ephesians 5:3-4 – But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
 
1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
 
Ephesians 5:18 – Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,