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

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 88

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Good Works: H.C. Question 91

What are good works? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



New Self: H.C. Question 90

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Old Self: H.C. Question 89

What is the dying-away of the old self? 

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

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

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

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



Genuine: H.C. Question 88

What is involved in genuine repentance or conversion? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



All Cleaned Up! H.C. Lord's Day 26

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 26

Q 69. How does holy baptism remind and assure you that Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross benefits you personally?
A 69. In this way: Christ instituted this outward washing and with it promised that, as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body, so certainly his blood and his Spirit wash away my soul’s impurity, that is, all my sins.

Q 70. What does it mean to be washed with Christ’s blood and Spirit?
A 70. To be washed with Christ’s blood means that God, by grace, has forgiven our sins because of Christ’s blood poured out for us in his sacrifice on the cross.

To be washed with Christ’s Spirit means that the Holy Spirit has renewed and sanctified us to be members of Christ, so that more and more we become dead to sin and live holy and blameless lives.

Q 71. Where does Christ promise that we are washed with his blood and Spirit as surely as we are washed with the water of baptism?
A 71. In the institution of baptism, where he says:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

“The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.”

This promise is repeated when Scripture calls baptism “the water of rebirth” and the washing away of sins.

The Great Commission of Matthew 28 is the first place that we see it expressly commanded that Baptism is a vital part of the life of Christ followers.  It is important that we recognize how, though.  In Jesus’ parting words, the key action is not “go,” it is “make disciples.”  How we are to “make disciples” is by going, baptizing, and teaching.  These three supporting actions provide for us the model for outreach, discipleship, and the Christian life in general.

Baptism is an important part of this, not just because Jesus tells us to do it, but rather because of the significance and the reality that it points to.  The water of baptism symbolizes washing and it reminds us that God’s forgiveness is for us, no matter what age we are.  We are shown physically the grace of God and reminded of the promise of God that whoever believes in His Son, Jesus WILL be saved.  Jesus’ blood doesn’t stain, it washes us clean and makes us righteous before God.

We don’t think about this enough.  Baptism, far too often, is just a cute thing that we do.  Especially in the Reformed Church, where we practice infant baptism, it is an even that takes place where we get to see a little baby and celebrate a new life.  Sadly, we don’t often think of the reality that the event we are witnessing reminds us of.

Every day, at the end of the day, I take a shower.  I honestly cannot go to bed without doing so.  If I try, I feel sticky and gross and just can’t get around laying in my own filth.  So I shower.  The water washes me clean and I can end the day, crawling into bed free of the day’s filth.  Perhaps you have a similar experience?

In baptism we are reminded that, through faith in Jesus Christ, we too are washed clean.  Infant Baptism, something we will talk more about next week, reminds us of the true nature of this washing: it is the promise of God available to all, no matter how unaware of this reality we may be.  This washing removes the filth, the blemishes, the grime that is sin in our lives.  It taints every aspect of who we are and, without Christ, we would constantly be working to scrub it from ourselves.

But, we are washed.  You may notice that in the baptismal liturgy that is often read, it doesn’t say “you washed yourself clean,” but rather “you are washed clean.”  In Jesus Christ, we are washed clean.  We don’t have to lay in our own filth anymore.  Rather, we have been cleansed!  This is God’s work in our lives through Jesus Christ and it is an integral part of our identity.

Whether babies or new believers, the symbolism is the same: Forgiveness is for you, through faith in Jesus Christ.  The next time you take a shower, jump in a pool, take a dip in Lake Michigan, or even wipe the sweat off your face with a cold, wet cloth, think about your baptism.  Remember that you are washed in Christ’s blood, you have been made clean, and you can rest assured that we no longer have to wallow in our own mess but can dwell in God’s presence and security through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen!!



Reminder: H.C. Question 69

How does holy baptism remind and assure you that Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross benefits you personally?

Acts 2:38 – Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:11 – “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Romans 6:3-10 – Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

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

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

1 Peter 3:21 – and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,



John 20:1-8; 1 Corinthians 15 "Resurrection Life"



Colossians 3 – Living the New Life

Read Colossians 3

The theme of life and death is one that runs throughout the Old and New Testament.  In fact, much of the meaning of Christ’s death as a sacrifice for our sins derives its meaning from the Jewish sacrificial laws and worship cult (which means: a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object) that was in place in the Old Testament.  For them, the understanding of the need for something to die so that one may live was normal and natural.

So when Paul talks about the New Life that we have in Jesus Christ in terms of putting to death some things so that we can live a new life, it would make sense in this culture.  Ultimately it is Jesus who died that we may have true, redeemed life.

For us to live this new life, though, our old life needs to die as well.  Paul talks about this in other places by saying that it is his “old sinful self” that was crucified with Christ and died with Him there, and when Christ was raised from the dead, so too is our new self raised with Christ.

Paul places several practical applications to this at the end of the chapter, but how he talks about it shows the everyday nature of new life in Christ.  He probably recognized that the difference between talking about the new life and actually living it are two different things.  While it isn’t as easy as putting on your clothes, it certainly is a daily decision to do so.  In the same way that, every morning you have to decide what you are going to wear that day, we have to choose to put on the clothing of our new life.  Sometimes those will feel more like work clothes than casual, but the simple fact is that each day we have to chose to put them on and live into the profound gift that God offers us in Christ Jesus.



Romans 8 – Spiritual Life

Read Romans 8

Claiming to be “spiritual” but not Christian has become a common phrase in western culture.  As social and cultural trends continue to move us away from anything that may have a “negative past,” people have desired to shed the Christian title and lingo for the sake of less “offensive” labels.  While there is something to be said for being conscious of what one is known for (or as), the title of those who are “in Christ” is not nearly as important as the reality that comes with their identity.

As Paul has been laying out the plan of salvation, he has made it abundantly clear that we are sinners who are born sinful by nature, and that God is justified in His judgment against us.  However, the reality of the grace of God in Jesus Christ leads to these words, the apex of God’s salvific work in Jesus Christ: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

With these words, Paul speaks to the truth of our identity.  When we place our faith in Jesus Christ and receive the Grace of God, we are forgiven of our sins, set free from sin’s bondage, and ushered into a new life in which the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ and we find ourselves raised with Him.  Your old self is no more; we have been made new.

This new identity is permanent.  Do we continue to sin?  Yes.  The fullness of our new life in Christ will not be recognized this side of eternity.  But Scripture assures us that we no longer stand condemned because the one who can condemn us is also He who died for us, and nothing in all creation can separate us from His love.  This is true spiritual life.