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.



Romans 5:1-5 "The New Life"

Christians talk a lot about “putting our faith in Jesus” which leads to the forgiveness of sins and our justification before God.  But Justification is just the beginning, the doorway into a new life with Christ.  Today we explore a bit of what that looks like.

What does it mean for you to have “Peace with God” now?  How does that peace impact how you live as a Christian daily?

Does the Grace we gain access to by faith in Jesus Christ transform your everyday experience?  How?

Through the Holy Spirit, we are united to Christ and experience the love of God; nothing can separate us from it (not even death).  How does this Hope affect your daily life?



Content of the Creed: H.C. Question 24

How are these articles divided?

Into three parts:

God the Father;

God the Son and our deliverance;

God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.

For more reading and comparison, I would encourage you to return to the post on question 23 and see how other creeds are divided up as well.



1 John 3 – What Great Love!

Read 1 John 3

John continues his emphasis on love, now turning to the love that God has shown us in Jesus Christ.  Whereas in chapter two, John was giving direction on who and how to love, as well as where not to place our love, now he shows the example of perfect love that comes only from God.

God’s infinite love is beyond amazing.  Far too often we talk about it in a limited fashion, referencing it simply to the forgiveness or sins, or God not getting mad at us when we don’t live the way He calls us to.  Both of those are true statements but fail to get anywhere close to the far-reaching depth of God’s love.

Through the love of God shown in Jesus Christ, we aren’t just given a free pass, God actually adopts us as His own, calling us His children and, as Scripture says, making us heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.  Our old self, the sinful dirty part of us, is put to death, washed away, and completely covered Jesus Christ, whom God sees when He looks at us.

There is very intentional imagery being used here because it gets at the importance and intimacy of the relationship that develops here as well.  God is the loving Father who lavishes love on His Son and on us as those who are marked with His Son’s blood.

In response to this, John writes, we should love one another.  When he says this, he is using the same form of the word “love,” meaning that our love for each other should be modeled after God’s love for us.  This is supposed to be the foundation for our relationships with each other in the Christian community and with all of those we come in contact with.

It is enough to say that we fail at this often.  But John also offers a reminder and an encouragement that we have hope in God, that He is greater than our sins, and both forgives us and works to build into us and shape us more into the image of His Son.



2 Timothy 2 – A Trustworthy Saying

Read 2 Timothy 2

Paul offers a number of “trustworthy sayings” to Timothy and other recipients throughout his career.  In each of these situations, Paul is encouraging the reader to remember the truth of the Gospel, simplifying it into something that was easy to remember.  In our chapter today, he does this for what would likely be his last time.

The truth of this statement is telling, though, because of how it both addresses the situation that both Paul and Timothy are in, and it also acts as a reminder for both of them given the trials that are to come for them.  Because of the work of Jesus Christ, we have hope in every situation, a hope that extends beyond any physical trials or tribulations that we could ever endure.

We are called to perseverance through the difficulties of life as well.  Scripture often refers to this as part of our “sanctification.”  God doesn’t cause our trials, but He is always at work in us and through them to build us up and shape us into the image of His Son.

A lot of emphasis, in the midst of the persecution of the church in this time, was placed on staying true to what you claim to believe.  Though Scripture’s theology throughout the New Testament is that, once you receive salvation, there is nothing you can do to lose it, there is something to be said for the importance of not disowning Christ publically.  Doing so brings into question everything we claim to believe.  The prospect of disowning Jesus should be a gut check for us as to whether we are fully committed, or whether we are just trying to get our “get out of hell free” card.

No matter where we fall on this spectrum, though, Paul points out in the last phrase that Jesus is always faithful to us.  The promise of salvation is extended to all and there is nothing that we can do to preclude ourselves from it.  Thanks be to God that His Love and Faithfulness know no bounds!



Romans 15 – The Mind of Christ

Read Romans 15

As Paul begins to conclude his letter to the church in Rome, he draws all of his thoughts together by encouraging believers to “have the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.”  This may sound like a tall order, however, he recognizes that this isn’t simply a work of the people that he is writing to, but rather a part of the sanctifying and empowering work of the Holy Spirit on their hearts and minds.

Sanctification is the word that we use to talk about the work of God, mainly through the Holy Spirit, in our lives after we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, responding to the Grace of God, that is not the end of the journey, it is the very beginning.  The Holy Spirit begins the work of transformation, making us more and more like Christ.

Really, this brings Paul’s letter to the Roman church, and God’s plan of salvation full circle.  Ultimately, the trajectory of Scripture is bringing us back around to beginning, to a perfectly restored relationship between God and His people and creation.  This is the “big picture” of the redemptive and reconciliatory work that is God’s plan of salvation.

Part of this will be the redemption of our hearts, which sounds rather obvious.  Paul gives us a small glimpse of what that looks like: having the same attitude of mind toward others as Christ Jesus had.  While this will look perfect when Christ comes again, we can see small glimpses of that here and now.  We are encouraged always to look to the needs of others, to serve one another, and therefore to build them up.  When we take this posture we get a glimpse of true reconciliation.



Mark 1 – Action!

Read Mark 1

Mark’s Gospel is a story of action.  Right from the very beginning, he records Jesus’ works of healing, casting out unclean spirits, and calling His disciples.  While some of the nuances that Matthew’s writing brings may be less prevalent here, the message that Mark’s record of Jesus’ life brings is no less profound.

Jesus’ ministry doesn’t begin timidly; it appears out of practically nowhere here and spreads like wildfire.  The Gospel of John describes the coming of Jesus like a light shining in the darkness and I think that is a rather apt description of what is happening at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

If you stand in a dark room and light a match, it does not take the light a little while to spread throughout the area; it is practically instantaneous.  Though your eyes may need a moment to adjust, that light is  already there lighting up the room.

When Jesus’ ministry beings, it is much like that light.  It doesn’t begin with Him trying out a few different places to see if it’s a good fit for Him, He calls some disciples and starts healing people.  This is the nature of the Kingdom and God’s impact on our lives, instant work.  When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are instantly transformed into something new, an act that we call Justification.  Paul says in Romans 3, “We are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Sometimes, though, it takes us a while to adjust to the new “light” that is shining; we call this process sanctification, God’s continuing work through the Holy Spirit to make us more like Christ.  Like Jesus’ ministry, the impact of God’s love and grace brings healing in both the short term and the long.



Day 346: 1 Thessalonians 4-5; The Day of the Lord

One of the things that Paul addresses here in First Thessalonians has to do with the Second Coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead.  In the first century after Jesus ascended into heaven, when he said that he would return soon, they thought that meant within their lifetime.  For some, this meant that there was a bit of necessity to stay alive until Christ’s return.  When Christ’s return didn’t happen right away and believers started dying, it constituted a crisis within the Church as they all grappled with what that meant for these believers that had “fallen asleep.”

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.

This exhortation comes within a greater discussion about Christian living.  From my perspective, what I see here is an encouragement from Paul that the believers take the faith and hope in which they living from day to day and take it with them as they deal with the death of their loved ones who are believers.  Paul has given them some instruction in how they should be living as believers, walking according to the Word of God and keeping away from the things of this world like lust and sexual sins.  The way in which we are called to live as Christians is that of a transformed life, as we talked about yesterday.  Again, this doesn’t come to us by way of a set of rules and legalism, but as a response to the grace that we have found in Christ Jesus and in an effort to live a life of faith out of gratitude for this wonderful gift.

For Paul, this is just a natural extension of his understanding of the second coming of Christ.  He has addresses this in a metaphor of those who live in the day and those who live at night.

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.  For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.  For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.  So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.  But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.  For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

The assurance and hope in which we live as believers in Christ Jesus is also the assurance and hope which we take with us into death, whether the death of a loved one or our own death.  This is not to say that there is nothing sad about a loved one dying, and that we shouldn’t mourn the loss.  Indeed death is not what we are created for, neither was sin.  But we do not approach it as others do either, without hope, in the same way that Paul encourages the Thessalonian believers to not live in the way that others do.  The transformation takes place through the grace of Jesus Christ is one that should be pervasive throughout all of our life.  Again, salvation is not some sort of cosmic fire insurance, but an event that makes a life of transformation, which we call sanctification, that happens continually over the course of the life of us as believers.



Day 314: John 16-17; The Holy Spirit & Jesus' High Priestly Prayer

Today we continue to the conclusion of Jesus’ farewell discourse as it is recorded in John.  After the main thrust of Jesus’ message is made known, He begins to walk down off the other side of the stage, returning once again to talk of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus has taught them so much, and yet He says that He has so much more to tell them, things that they couldn’t even bear at that time.  However, Jesus says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

He doesn’t just stop here, leaving the disciples to wonder about what it is that they can’t handle though… and yet I guess what Jesus says isn’t really giving them more than they can handle either.  Jesus has told them that He would be handed over to the authorities and that He would die, at least that has been recorded in the other Gospels.  Here Jesus says, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”  Obviously the disciples are a little confused.  So Jesus clarifies in a brilliant way, while still being a little cloudy on the details: “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’?  Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.  When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.  So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

I love the metaphor of what Jesus is about to go through, the ultimate glorification that John sets up, as being like giving birth.  There is momentary (or perhaps extended) pain, suffering, and a lot of work that is to be done to bring life into the world, but when it is all over, there is abundant joy and happiness.  This is exactly like what is about to take place.  Jesus would suffer and die.  This would be traumatic not just for Him physically, but for all who follow Him.  Yet this is not the end.  He will be raised to life again to the Glory of the Father, and with that there will be much rejoicing and happiness… not to mention new life!

Finally, the last part of Jesus’ farewell discourse comes about in the form of a prayer.  There is so much that can be said about this prayer.  There are elements of Trinitarian theology, union with Christ, Atonement theology, Sanctification, and a simply a good demonstration of how to pray.  This prayer links Jesus to the prologue of John and creation, and even gives us a glimpse of the fact that God has been working toward this since the beginning.  Also in here you will see some of Jesus’ praying for the “abiding” of the disciples as we talked about yesterday.  I think, today, I am just going to post this prayer here and encourage you to read it again.  Pick out some of the elements that have been mentioned here and perhaps others that you notice as well!

The High Priestly Prayer

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”



Day 212: Isaiah 48-50; Refiner's Fire

Sometimes knowing the reasons why you are going through the trouble that you are is helpful as you are persevering through it.  I imagine that if you know the good that is going to come from it, how you will be stronger and better for it on the other side might actually make it seem a bit more bearable at the time.  There are other times, however, in which I’m sure it doesn’t matter at all what the reasons are for the pain, but you may feel like the end certainly don’t justify the means.  We’ve all been there… and I think this is the situation that the Lord speak into here, giving reasons for the exile that the Israelites are in.  They are not simply being punished, though the punishment and judgment against them they certainly earned by their wickedness, they are also being refined.  Another word for this is ‘purified,’ like the process that metal goes through in a furnace, removing all impurities so that the strongest, highest quality product will come out.  Refinement is the purpose for their affliction, and the result, as God proceeds to show them, will be the sending of His servant to the world.

As Christians, we call this process Sanctification, the process by which we are being continually transformed into the image of God that we see in Christ Jesus.  This doesn’t always happen through pain and wilderness experiences, but also through every day life experiences in which that Spirit is at work within us.  Sometimes we are convicted for something that we shouldn’t have, or perhaps should have done.  Maybe we should have said something, or shouldn’t have.  Perhaps something that you read, witnessed, or heard impacted you in a very particular way.  It could be that you are just trying to make your way in life through the mundane day in and day our routine, trying to be the best you can be.  Even in this can the Spirit work to change and transform you.

Whatever the case may be, like Israel, the final goal of this refining (sanctification) that we go through is the restoration that God speaks of about Israel.  They do not go through this just as a way of punishment, God has a purpose for this time.  Why?  Because God has chosen them to be His people like He has chosen us to also be His people.  The mere fact that God is working on us shows us that He is not done with us, He has not given up on us, and He has great things in store for us that He is preparing us for.  It is the same with Israel in our reading today, preparing them for the coming of the Lord’s servant.  God’s people are in this process of being transformed and restored.  Even in this, God knows that the people won’t be perfect, that they will again falter, which is why God’s plan is to work through them to bring about the incarnation of Jesus.

This is true with us as well.  We are not sanctified through our own merits.  Again and again we, like the people of Israel, will fall back into sin.  Yet, like the people of Israel, we have a savior that has done a great thing for us by defeating sin and death once and for all!  He has done the work for us and continues to do the work for us through the Holy Spirit.  We may fall into sin time and again, but we are also living as forgiven people, a testament to the grace and love of God.  May we continue to live in the grace and love of God each and every day, continually being shaped and formed into His likeness through the Spirit.  Amen!