Monday, January 31, 2011

Daily Devotions from the Heidelberg --- What is Your Motivation?

Friday

Our Deepest Motivation

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

8 Q. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?

A. Yes, unless we are born again, by the Spirit of God.

2) Scripture

Ephesians 5:8-10: for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

Comment

Are people really unable to do any good? Q&A 8 of the catechism seems hard to believe at first, until we start to think about it. If a person does not belong to the Lord, then his motivation for doing good is not to please the Lord. Only a Christian is motivated by the desire to please the Lord. Therefore, we would say that non-Christians can do good things, but never from a right motive. Unbelievers never do anything out of love for their triune Creator, the Lover of their souls, for whom they were created.

Without this motive of pleasing the heavenly Father and the Son whom he sent, people are corrupt at the very spring of their being, that is, in their deepest motivation. I was recently watching a documentary on the Olympics. The question was asked, What motivates an Olympic champion? Every former champion interviewed admitted that their motivation was selfish---to please themselves in some way. No one answered that their goal was to glorify and please their heavenly Father. How different was Jesus’ motivation! He said, “He who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29).

The main thing Q&A 8 is trying to show us is that no one can come to Christ without the working of the Holy Spirit. People don’t seek the true God because of sin, which causes us to put self ahead of Jesus. Because of our sinful nature, “no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11b). Apart from God’s Spirit, all people are doing exactly what Adam and Eve did in the garden --- running away from God and hiding from him. Apart from God’s Spirit, people are not seeking God and coming to him to receive mercy and pardon through the sacrificial work of his Son.

However, know this: If you desire to come to the triune God for forgiveness and fellowship, then this is a sign that you have been born again. The Holy Spirit has done, and is doing, something wonderful in your heart. He is changing your deepest motivation from living for self to living for the Father and the Son! The Spirit through the gospel has done, and is doing, what you could never do on your own: changing your heart even at the level of your motivation, so that as children of the light you try to discern what is pleasing to your Father and Lord Jesus Christ!

Discussion: What should motivate a person to do good? Do non-Christians live their lives with the desire to please the Lord? What was Jesus’ motivation, and how should we be like him?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank the Lord for working in your heart, so that you seek to please him. Pray that the Spirit will continue to give you a new motivation. Pray for non-Christians you know who are running from the Lord --- that instead they might run to him.

Hymn for Lord's Day 3

Savior from Original Sin

To the tune ARISE (Come, You Sinners, Poor and Needy http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/534 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/CCEH/197). Based on Lord’s Day 3, Q&A 7 and 8 (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 13-20). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
In the garden our first parents
lived with God in light and love.
Adam was our representative
for the children yet to come.

v. 2
In the garden he was tested
seeing if he would obey.
He rejected God’s most holy word,
chose to live in his own way.

v. 3
Adam’s sin affects each person,
born with sin, by guilt oppressed.
We will flee his holy presence,
if our sin is not confessed.

v. 4
Adam’s fall corrupts our nature,
gives to us orig’nal sin.
Poisons springs of all our motives,
we refuse to live for Him.

v. 5
Who can save from guilt, pollution,
the effects of Adam’s sin?
Christ will be our representative,
if we will believe in Him.

v. 6
Who will bring us to Lord Jesus?
It is not our fallen will.
‘Tis the Holy Spirit brings us
to the Father’s grace, goodwill.

v. 7
Born from heaven by the Spirit,
we confess our Jesus, Lord.
God our Father, Christ our brother,
we’re the fam’ly of our Lord.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Expositions for Expositors — John Woodhouse on 1 Timothy : Anglican Church League, Sydney, Australia

Expositions for Expositors — John Woodhouse on 1 Timothy : Anglican Church League, Sydney, Australia

Everything I know about John Woodhouse is good! I read his commentary on 1 Samuel and I've heard hims speak a few times. I am going to listen to his talks on 1 Timothy, maybe you should too!?

Introduction to the Daily Devotions from the Heidelberg Catechism

Christ and His Benefits:
Daily Devotions from the
Heidelberg Catechism and Scripture

Written by William Weber

Introduction

I grew up in a Christian home. I was confirmed in the Lutheran Church when I was 15. I had a conversion experience when I was 16 years old, and started attending a Baptist church with one of my friends. I attended church regularly for the first 19 years of my life, and listened intently to the ministers’ sermons, both Lutheran and Baptist. And yet, I remember undergoing a time of depression my freshman year of college, wishing I knew the purpose of life!

About 15 years later, I ran across the Heidelberg Catechism for the first time, and one of my first thoughts was, where had this marvelous book of instruction been my whole life!? How I wish I would’ve had this book of comfort in my hands as a discouraged young Christian in college, who knew so little that he didn’t even know his purpose in life. How much help I might have derived from these enlightening words:

“God created them good and in his own image . . . so that they might truly know God their creator, love him with all their heart, and live with him in eternal happiness for his praise and glory.” (Q & A 6)
You might respond by saying, How could you not know the purpose of life sitting in church those first 19 years? Surely, your ministers had to say something about our purpose for living in all of those words. And, what about Luther’s Catechism, weren’t you exposed to it? What about your own Bible reading, couldn’t you have gleaned the purpose for living from reading the Bible?

The answer to these questions is yes, yes, and yes! But somehow the most basic question of our existence was still baffling to this young, professing Christian. The ministers never seemed to tell me. My Lutheran Church ignored the confessions and catechisms. And, the Bible is a big book. A trustworthy guide to its contents would’ve been a great help.

The fault was mine. Sin blinds us to God’s truth and makes us deaf to God’s Word. But it was an amazing experience fifteen years later to find the answer that troubled me so much my Freshman year in college, written in very plain words in this catechism.

Maybe it was partly because I came to the Heidelberg Catechism so late in life that now I love its teaching so much. In my opinion it is the greatest catechism ever written. In that judgment, the great reformer from Switzerland, Heinrich Bullinger agreed. He wrote:

“The structure of this book is clear, its content pure truth; everything is very easy to follow, devout and effective. In succinct conciseness it contains the fullness of the most important doctrines. I consider it to be the best catechism that has ever been published. Thanks be to God! May He crown it with His blessing!”
Willem van’t Spijker writes, “In the wider Reformed context, in which numerous confessional documents have found a home, the Heidelberg Catechism continues to be the best-known statement. Its status is undisputed. “ I think this is true, but why is it true? Why has the Lord blessed this catechism, and those who have learned from it, for the last 450 years?

The answer, I believe, is that the Heidelberg Catechism gives us a wonderful summary of the Bible’s message in a wonderful form. The triune God, in his mercy, has blessed this book of instruction because it so beautifully summarizes the biblical message, faithfully echoing Scripture’s message, tone, and form.

The Bible is first of all a message about God himself, and particularly, about his glory. The Lord alone has the right to define his glory, and he defines it for us in Exodus 34:6-7:

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation."
The Lord is glorified in the fallen human race either by his mercy and grace toward sinners or by his justice and judgment of sinners. Even God’s gracious salvation comes through his judgment, as his beloved Son bore the judgment our sin deserved, so that we might receive mercy and be freed from judgment forever. God will be glorified in every human life either through mercy or justice! Those who believe the gospel message about His Son receive his mercy. Those who refuse to believe His Son receive his justice. God will receive glory in every human life one way or another, either through his mercy or justice.

The Heidelberg Catechism has been criticized by a few people as being too man-centered, and not concerned enough with the glory of God. Instead of beginning like the Westminster Shorter Catechism: "What is man's chief end? Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever," the Heidelberg starts like this: "What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ." See, the critics say, how man-centered the Heidelberg Catechism is in comparison to the God-centered glory of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

But what the critics miss is that the Heidelberg Catechism is infused with the glory of God because it gives us a true comfort that tells us about both God’s judgment and mercy, the very works of God that define his glory! The Heidelberg Catechism refuses to separate the law (justice) and the gospel (mercy), sin and grace, guilt and deliverance, and because of that it is filled with the glory of God from beginning to end! In 65 of the 129 questions of the Heidelberg, sin and its consequences, i.e., God’s justice, is explicitly mentioned while it explains to us the glorious comfort that comes from the gospel. The gospel in the Heidelberg Catechism is not separated from the law as is done in many Evangelical and Reformed churches today. For that reason, the glory of God endues the Heidelberg Catechism, for God is glorified in both his mercy and his justice in humanity.

Yet, at the same time, the Heidelberg Catechism captures the tone of God’s Word, as well as its message. For while the catechism never ignores the judgment and justice of God, the catechism, like Scripture, glories in the mercy and grace of God earned for us through his Son, Jesus Christ. God is desirous of our salvation. He longs to be merciful and gracious to us. The cross is his proof of his great love for sinners. Whoever is willing to come to Jesus Christ will be saved. If this is true for sinners outside the church, how much more is it true for the baptized children of the church to whom the catechism is specifically concerned to reach!

God is glorified in his mercy, and the dark backdrop of his judgment is just that: a backdrop. The emphasis of the Heidelberg, and Scripture, is on the glorious gospel of grace set against the dark background of our sin and all of its fatal consequences in our lives. Sin’s misery is never ignored, but its opposite, Christ and his benefits, gets top billing. Sin and its consequences are the dark screen against which Christ and his blessings shine in even brighter glory!

Then when we further consider that God saved us through judgment, the emphasis on God’s amazing grace is again seen. How amazing that God himself in the person of his Son would save us by bearing his own judgment that we deserve because of our sin! How great a love is this: the Son and Heir of heaven bearing the judgment of hell for the heirs of the hell!

The Heidelberg faithfully echoes the content and the tone of Scripture, but it even faithfully echoes Scripture’s form. I like the Westminster Shorter Catechism and appreciate its preciseness, but at times it reads like a mini-systematic theology book. There’s nothing wrong with systematic theology books, and we need them!

But the structure or form of the Bible is not given to us in a listing of topics, but rather it’s given to us in the form of a story. That story is about law and gospel, sin and grace, guilt and deliverance, judgment and salvation. Similarly, the Heidelberg Catechism, as we will see, never departs from its law and gospel format. Even when it is describing our sin and guilt, it does not forget Christ’s deliverance from sin and our comfort from guilt. Even when it is treating the good news of the gospel, it refuses to let us forget the bad news of the law, and what we have been saved from!

The Book of Romans, in some ways the very heart of the Bible’s theology, moves from sin and judgment to God’s mercy in Christ to living in response to this mercy in Jesus. Like the Book of Romans, the Heidelberg Catechism also begins with our sin and misery, moves to our deliverance from sin and misery through Christ Jesus, and then to the gratitude that should be ours in union with Jesus Christ. If Romans is a microcosm of Scripture, then so is the Heidelberg Catechism as it follows the guilt, grace, gratitude pattern of the Bible.

In content, tone, and structure, then, the Heidelberg Catechism is a wonderful and accurate reflection of Scripture’s teaching. If you will read and ponder it carefully in the course of these daily devotions, it will transform your mind and heart. It will do this, not because it replaces God’s Word, but because it communicates God’s Word.

A Few Thoughts on How to Use these Devotions

First, start at the beginning. In some ways these devotions build on one another. Some basics, especially law and gospel, are taught early on in the first few Lord’s Days. These ABC’s of the law and the gospel need to be learned, and so if the contrast between law and gospel is unfamiliar to you, then it is important to start at the beginning.

Second, remember that as disciples of Jesus Christ we are learners. That’s what the word disciple means: learner. Learning requires a bit of work. That means that you might not be able to speed read these devotions. It will take time to read the catechism and Scripture readings each day. The goal isn’t to get done as quickly as possible, but to get God’s truth down into our hearts and that takes time and meditation. Like Mary we need to ponder God’s works and words. There might be things you find hard, but keep at it and always ask for God’s illumination as you read and study, loving the triune God with your mind.

Third, there are some things you can skip if you choose. If you don’t want to consider the discussion questions, that’s understandable. If you find them helpful for your personal or family devotions, then use one or some or all of them. The one thing I wouldn’t skip, however, is the daily singing of the hymn or hymns for the week. Christians should be a singing people, and singing is a way to get the truth into our hearts:

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the LORD. (Ps. 104:33-34)

My tongue will sing of your word,
for all your commandments are right. (Ps. 119:172)
You can find the tune of the songs by using the internet addresses or by finding a hymnal and playing the tune.

Fourth, the prayer starters are just that, something to help you to pray. You may or may not find them helpful. Use them as you see fit.

Finally, remember that being a disciple of Jesus has three aspects. First, there is the truth. Doctrine is important. We have to learn about God and his ways. We need to know important truths about creation, providence, the fall, Jesus Christ, salvation, Scripture, the church, God’s will, the end times, etc. Second, there is the life. In our hearts we need to be devoted to Jesus Christ as we seek to love his glory. Our hearts need to be filled with faith and love for the Father and the Son through the working of the Spirit. Third, there is the way. We are to live in a new way in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the way, and we are to walk in him, imitating his love and truth as we seek the Father’s glory and our neighbor’s good.

This kind of book can help you with the truth, as it explains the truth through the use of the catechism and Scripture. This kind of book can urge you to the new life in Jesus---a heart devotion toward him. But this kind of book cannot do much with the way of life in Jesus. How that life will work itself out in good works in your life is something that you will have to determine in the strength and wisdom of God’s Word and Spirit. All three aspects (truth, life, and way) are needed to follow Jesus as one of his disciples. May He be pleased to use this book of daily devotions in your life and mine as we seek to follow the One who is the way, the truth, and the life.

Bill Weber
January 2011



Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Daily Devotions for Thursday, January 20: Christ as Our New Representative

Thursday

New Spiritual Health in a New Representative

Reading:

1) Catechism

7 Q. Then where does this corrupt human nature come from?

A. From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise. This fall has so poisoned our nature that we are born sinners --- corrupt from conception on.

2) Scripture

Jeremiah 17:9:

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?

Mark 2:17: And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Romans 5:18-19: Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.

Comment

Have you ever been sick with the flu? It’s awful isn’t it! Your body aches. You feel sick to your stomach. You have the chills. When you finally feel better, what a relief! It makes you thankful you feel good most of the time.

But what’s the real problem when you have the flu? The real problem is the virus that’s attacking your body. The virus is causing all of these awful symptoms. This is a picture of what sin is like in our lives! The virus is the original sin within us that makes us turn away from God. The symptoms of this original sin are like our actual sins, that is, the sins we actually commit --- the transgressions of God’s holy laws.

Original sin is like a virus in our body. It is an anti-God attitude we are born with. We’ve inherited this anti-God virus from our first parents, Adam and Eve. Original sin is 100% contagious. Adam and Eve have passed it on to every human being brought into the world.

Can we be cured of this awful disease? Thankfully, we have a doctor we can go to for healing. His name is Jesus Christ. He came to call sinners like us to himself. When we come to him by faith, the healing process begins.

But is it fair that Adam sins, and we inherit our sinful nature from him?

Adam was the head or representative of the human race. He represented us, and in a real sense we were with him when he sinned. This is the way God created the human race. But now Christians have a new representative or head when we come to Christ Jesus by faith. Jesus represents us with his perfect sacrifice and righteousness. In a real sense, we were with him when he died and rose (see Romans 6:1-14). In union with Christ our head, his righteousness is imputed to us to free us from guilt, and imparted in us to make us more like himself. Everything we received from Adam in a negative way, we now receive in a positive way from Christ!

Discussion: What is original sin? To what does the catechism compare original sin? What are actual sins? How do actual sins and original sin relate to one another? Who can help to cure us from original sin and actual sins?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer come to Jesus by faith as your new representative and head, asking him to begin to heal you from your sins by his imputed and imparted righteousness.


Hymn for Lord's Day 3
Savior from Original Sin

To the tune ARISE (Come, You Sinners, Poor and Needy http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/534 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/CCEH/197). Based on Lord’s Day 3, Q&A 7 and 8 (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 13-20). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
In the garden our first parents
lived with God in light and love.
Adam was our representative
for the children yet to come.

v. 2
In the garden he was tested
seeing if he would obey.
He rejected God’s most holy word,
chose to live in his own way.

v. 3
Adam’s sin affects each person,
born with sin, by guilt oppressed.
We will flee his holy presence,
if our sin is not confessed.

v. 4
Adam’s fall corrupts our nature,
gives to us orig’nal sin.
Poisons springs of all our motives,
we refuse to live for Him.

v. 5
Who can save from guilt, pollution,
the effects of Adam’s sin?
Christ will be our representative,
if we will believe in Him.

v. 6
Who will bring us to Lord Jesus?
It is not our fallen will.
‘Tis the Holy Spirit brings us
to the Father’s grace, goodwill.

v. 7
Born from heaven by the Spirit,
we confess our Jesus, Lord.
God our Father, Christ our brother,
we’re the fam’ly of our Lord.


Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Daily Devotions from the Heidelberg: Wed. January 19

Wednesday

The Purpose of Our Journey

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

6 Q. Did God create people so wicked and perverse?

A. No. God created them good and in his own image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that they might truly know God their creator, love him with all their heart, and live with him in eternal happiness for his praise and glory.

2) Scripture:

Psalm 139:13-16:

13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

John 17:3: And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

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

Comment

Q & A 6 teaches us that:

• Human beings are made by God.
• Human beings are made like God.
• Human beings are made for God.

We are made by God, who creates each of us in our mother’s womb. We are made like God, because we were created in his image for rule and relationship. We are also made for God. This is what the catechism tells us when it talks about knowing, loving, and living with God.

Knowing God is something that happens as we learn about Jesus. Jesus is described in the New Testament as the perfect picture of God. Jesus explains and shows us what God is really like. This is why Jesus could say to his disciple, Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Loving God is something that also happens as we come to know Jesus. We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Jesus showed us God’s love when he came to this earth to save us from our sins. In love God’s eternal Son became a man. In love God’s Son lived a perfect life of obedience to his Father. In love the Son went to the cross to bear our sins, so that we might have eternal life.

Living with God is something that happens when we come to Jesus. People look for happiness in all the wrong places. The right place to look for happiness is in Christ, living in fellowship with the Father and the Son. Jesus is our Lord, companion, friend, and God on the journey of life. Living with him and the heavenly Father brings us joy.

Knowing God, loving God, and living with God is the way to true happiness. But even more, it is the way to bring praise and glory to our triune God. This is what we were created for!

Discussion: How does Jesus help us to know God? How does Jesus help us to love God? How does Jesus help us to live with God? Why were we created?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer ask the Lord to help you to truly know, love, and live with him for his glory.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Was Dr King Nice? « Heidelblog

Was Dr King Nice? « Heidelblog

I agree with Scott Clark in this article that "niceness" is not a Christian virtue.  Niceness is often just a way of going along with the status quo.  I think one of Clark's points is that Reformed people need to be Reformed rather than trying to be something we are not.

Right now, one of the problem with Reformed churches is the disjunction between our theology and our worship.  We keep trying to blend Reformed theology with a kind of Charismatic, emotional approach to worship.  We are trying to attract people by our music instead of seeking to design and lead worship services that match our theology.

But even a bigger problem in our worship services, beyond the kinds of songs we sing, is that we have lost the glory of God in our services.  By trying to attract people by seeker sensitive services, we have lost the glory of God.  His glory has departed, and we have not even noticed!  Let me explain.

God himself must define his own glory (Exodus 34:6-7).  The Lord defines his own glory, and he defines it in terms of his mercy and justice.  God will be glorified in human lives one way or another, either in mercy or in justice.   Every human life will bring God glory in either mercy or justice. 

But these attributes of mercy and justice correspond to the categories of law and gospel.  Sadly, however, it is the law and the gospel that we have stopped proclaiming in our churches in our liturgies and in our preaching.

The Reformation taught that we should always preach law and gospel together, but today, even in Reformed churches, it is hard to learn much about the law: sin, corruption, and our perilous condition apart from Jesus Christ.  In trying to attract people, we have stopped preaching both the law and the gospel, and in doing that the glory of God has left our services, and we have not even noticed.

The Heidelberg Catechism has been criticized by a few people as being too man-centered.  Instead of beginning like the Westsminster Shorter Catechism: "What is man's chief end?  Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever," the Heidelberg starts like this: "What is your only comfort in life and in death?  That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ."  See, the critics say, how man-centered the Heidelberg Catechism is in comparison to the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

But what the critics miss is that the Heidelberg Catechism is infused by the glory of God because it keeps law and gospel together.  It refuses to separate the law and the gospel like modern churches do, and because of that it is filled with the glory of God, who defines his glory in terms of mercy and justice.  In 65 of the 129 questions of the Heidelberg, sin and its consequences---what we are saved from---is explicitly mentioned.  The gospel in the Heidelberg Catechism is not separated from the law as is done in many Evangelical and Reformed churches today.  For that reason, the glory of God endues the Heidelberg Catechism, for God is glorified in both his mercy and his justice in humanity.

If we could recover this true way of being Reformed, and stop being "nice" as Scott Clark defines it, then we might see God's glory recovered in our churches for the true comfort of his elect people.  We might also, if the Lord was so pleased, see conversions of men and women who are headed toward the ultimate threat of the law, hell, so that they might obtain the ultimate blessing of the gospel, heaven, where believers will bask in the glory of the Father and the Son forever.

Daily Devotions from the Heidelberg Catechism: Tuesday

Tuesday

Imaging God: Rule, Relationship, and Dependence

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism:

6 Q. Did God create people so wicked and perverse?

A. No. God created them good and in his own image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that they might truly know God their creator, love him with all their heart, and live with him in eternal happiness for his praise and glory.

2) Scripture:

Psalm 8

8:1 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Comment

Q&A 6 of the catechism teaches us that:

• Human beings are made by God.
• Human beings are made like God.
• Human beings are made for God.

Some people in our world deny that human beings are made by God. Some also deny that humans are made like God. Some people see human beings as no more valuable than a snail darter or a groundhog. In their view, we are just another animal which has evolved, and is part of the food chain.

God’s Word teaches us that human beings are creatures unique among all of God’s creation, because we are made in his triune image. We were created to reflect God’s character in the world. The Lord, who is the Great King, created Adam and Eve as his king and queen, but subject to his will. Together, Adam and Eve, were to rule and care for the world, while displaying the Great King’s glory in the world.

The Lord gave us a privilege even angels don’t share. We alone were created in the triune God’s image. As the Father, Son, and Spirit exist in a relationship of love from all eternity, so human beings were created to reflect this love in our relationships, first toward God, and then toward others.

Relationship and rule—this is what defines us as human beings. We were created to be in relationship with the Lord first of all, and then with our fellow creatures who bear his image. We were also created to rule on our God’s behalf, under his good and gracious rule.

Psalm 8 begins and ends with the same words: "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" When a psalm or other section of literature is framed like this with the same words, it is called an inclusio. The inclusio emphasizes something important through repetition as well as the theme of the section it frames. However, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth," comes as a bit of a surprise in a psalm that is about man! How do we explain this?

What the psalm teaches us is that we cannot define man apart from God, and we cannot bring God glory without a child-like dependence on him. The psalm is teaching us that man rules and brings God glory by his child-like dependence on, and his filial fellowship with, the heavenly Father!

Discussion: How are humans supposed to be like God in terms of rule? How are humans supposed to be like God in terms of relationship? The idea of being made in God’s image brings to mind a mirror. How are we to be like mirrors of God?

Prayer : In your prayer thank the Lord creating you in his image. Ask for his help for yourself and others on your prayer list in reflecting his image.


Hymn for Lord’s Day 3


O, To Know God I Was Created




To the tune EL NATHAN (I Know Not Why God’s Wondrous Grace http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/495 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/714). Based on Lord’s Day 3 of the Heidelberg Catechism, Q & A 6 (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q & A 10). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.



v. 1

O Lord, our Lord, how lovely is

Your name in all the earth.

Creating us in holiness,

the image of your worth.



refrain

O to know God I was created,

to love Him wholly,

live in his presence,

that I might enjoy life with Him,

for his praise forevermore.



v. 2

O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful

Your name of highest worth.

O help us spread Your holy name,

Your fame to all the earth.



refrain

O to know God I was created,

to love Him wholly,

live in his presence,

that I might enjoy life with Him,

for his praise forevermore.



v. 3

Our Lord, we praise your triune name,

the name above all names,

forever you exist in love,

three persons yet but one.



refrain

O to know God I was created,

to love Him wholly,

live in his presence,

that I might enjoy life with Him,

for his praise forevermore.



v. 4

Into your wondrous triune name

I was baptized to bear

Your name to carry through this world,

to praise it ev’rywhere.



refrain

O to know God I was created,

to love Him wholly,

live in his presence,

that I might enjoy life with Him,

for his praise forevermore.



v. 5

Dear Lord, I know my debt is great,

it reaches to the sky.

But trusting in my Jesus Christ,

You pardon, justify.



refrain

O to know God I was created,

to love Him wholly,

live in his presence,

that I might enjoy life with Him,

for his praise forevermore.



v. 6

On Jesus Christ, God’s only Son,

the Father set his seal.

And those who come to Christ in faith,

please God and do his will.



refrain

O to know God I was created,

to love Him wholly,

live in his presence,

that I might enjoy life with Him,

for his praise forevermore.


Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

God's Design of the World: Daily Devotions from the Heidelberg Catechism

Monday

The Triune God’s Intricate Design of the World

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism:

6 Q. Did God create people so wicked and perverse?

A. No. God created them good and in his own image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that they might truly know God their creator, love him with all their heart, and live with him in eternal happiness for his praise and glory.

2) Scripture:

Genesis 1:10, 12, 17-18, 21, 25, 26-31: God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Comment

Sometimes people blame God for all of the suffering and sin in the world. But Genesis 1 teaches us that God created the world, and that he created it good. We can’t blame man’s sin or the effects of man’s sin on God. God is good.

Q&A 6 and Genesis 1 teach us three important truths about ourselves as human beings:

• Human beings are made by God.
• Human beings are made like God.
• Human beings are made for God.

The fact that human beings are made by God is denied by many in today’s world. Evolutionists say that somehow we just evolved by a process of time and blind chance. But the creation is too complex to believe in this sort of evolutionary myth. The more science learns the more we realize how intricately designed the world truly is.

Listen to just one example of this intricate design of the world by the Lord:

“The DNA Double Helix is one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all
time. First described by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, DNA is
the famous molecule of genetics that establishes each organism's physical
characteristics. It wasn't until mid-2001, that the Human Genome Project .
. . presented the true nature and complexity of the digital code inherent in
DNA. We now understand that each human DNA molecule is comprised of
chemical bases arranged in approximately 3 billion precise sequences.
Even the DNA molecule for the single-celled bacterium, E. coli, contains
enough information to fill all the books in any of the world's largest
libraries.”

We live in an amazing world that points us to the even more amazing God who created it! Let us praise and glorify him as Creator!

Discussion: After creating certain things, we read that God saw that his creation was good. Why do you think this changes to “very good” in Genesis 1:31? What accusation do people often make against God, and is it true? Discuss the complexity of each DNA molecule. What attitude does it create in your heart about God?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer praise and thank the Lord for creating the world in all of its wonderful complexity, and for creating and caring for you.

Hymns for Lord’s Day 3

O, To Know God I Was Created




To the tune EL NATHAN (I Know Not Why God’s Wondrous Grace http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/495 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/714). Based on Lord’s Day 3 of the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 6 (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 10). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.



v. 1

O Lord, our Lord, how lovely is

Your name in all the earth.

Creating us in holiness,

the image of your worth.



refrain

O to know God I was created,

to love Him wholly,

live in his presence,

that I might enjoy life with Him,

for his praise forevermore.



v. 2

O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful

Your name of highest worth.

O help us spread Your holy name,

Your fame to all the earth.



refrain

O to know God I was created,

to love Him wholly,

live in his presence,

that I might enjoy life with Him,

for his praise forevermore.



v. 3

Our Lord, we praise your triune name,

the name above all names,

forever you exist in love,

three persons yet but one.



refrain

O to know God I was created,

to love Him wholly,

live in his presence,

that I might enjoy life with Him,

for his praise forevermore.



v. 4

Into your wondrous triune name

I was baptized to bear

Your name to carry through this world,

to praise it ev’rywhere.



refrain

O to know God I was created,

to love Him wholly,

live in his presence,

that I might enjoy life with Him,

for his praise forevermore.



v. 5

Dear Lord, I know my debt is great,

it reaches to the sky.

But trusting in my Jesus Christ,

You pardon, justify.



refrain

O to know God I was created,

to love Him wholly,

live in his presence,

that I might enjoy life with Him,

for his praise forevermore.



v. 6

On Jesus Christ, God’s only Son,

the Father set his seal.

And those who come to Christ in faith,

please God and do his will.



refrain

O to know God I was created,

to love Him wholly,

live in his presence,

that I might enjoy life with Him,

for his praise forevermore.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Great Quote from B.B. Warfield

"Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books. What! Than ten hours over your books on your knees?" --B.B. Warfield

Amen and Amen to this quote from Warfield.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Comparison of Jesus and Us

Saturday

What is this you/You Have Done?

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

5 Q. Can you live up to all this perfectly?

A. No. I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.

2) Scripture

Genesis 2:15-17: The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 3:8-13: And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

John 18:33-35: So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?

Comment

After Adam and Eve sinned by rebelling against God’s command not to eat of the tree (Gen. 2:17), the Lord confronts the first couple with a number of questions. He asks Eve, “What is this you have done?” (Gen. 3:13). In a similar way, when Jesus was on trial, Pilate asked Jesus a number of questions. Pilate asks Jesus the same question the Lord asked Eve: “What have you done?” (John 18:35).

What the first couple had done was rebel against God. They tried to take the Lord’s place as king. They tried to usurp his throne. Instead of being ruled by the Lord through his words, they decided to rule themselves. They rebelled by disobeying God’s word. They tried to take God’s place by becoming like God (Gen. 3:5), so that from now on they would determine good and evil for themselves. No longer would they look to God’s word for direction. Rebellion and pride were at the heart of Adam and Eve's sin.

When Jesus went to the cross, two charges were brought against him. The first charge was rebellion. This accusation is stated in John 19:12, when the Jews say, “Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” The second charge against Jesus was pride. The Jewish leaders state this accusation in John 19:7, when they say, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

Do you see how Jesus is accused of the same charges as Adam and Eve in the garden? Both our first parents and Jesus were accused of rebellion and pride. The only difference, of course, is that the charges against us are true, but the charges against Jesus are false. Jesus was not guilty of rebelling against Rome and he certainly never rebelled against his heavenly Father. Jesus was truly God himself, but instead of exalting himself, he humbled himself to become a man and our Savior.

When Jesus died, he was dying for our sins of rebellion and pride. This rebellion and pride are what Q&A 5 refers to when it talks about “a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.” The pride and rebellion of our hearts has led to the distortion of our emotions. Instead of supremely loving God and loving our fellow human beings because they are made in his image, our love has become distorted, disproportioned, and often fixed on the wrong objects. This distortion, disproportion, and misplaced love is what the catechism means when it says, “I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.”

What have we done? Sadly, we have rebelled against our God in pride, which has distorted our love. What has Jesus done? In his loving submission to his Father, he came to earth and humbled himself by dying on the cross for our sins, loving us in a way that should melt our hearts in love.

Discussion: What were the two main sins of Adam and Eve in the garden? Why do you think Jesus was accused of the same sins as Adam and Eve? What natural tendency have all people inherited from our first parents?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer, use what you have learned to humble yourself before the Lord, and thank the Father that he sent his Son to pay the penalty for our crimes of rebellion and pride.

Hymn for Lord’s Day 2

How Do You Come to Know

To the tune TRENTHAM (Breathe on Me Breath of God http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/420 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/420). Based on Lord’s Day 2 of the Heidelberg Catechism (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 14, 42, 18-19). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
How do you come to know
your sin and misery?
The holy, righteous law of God
points out my sin to me.

v. 2
What does God’s law require?
Wholehearted love for God,
with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength,
while on this earth we walk.

v. 3
What does God’s law require?
Love to our neighbor too.
Love him as you do love yourself.
Love him for God’s sake too.

v. 4
Can you live up to this?
No one can perfectly.
The law condemns my lack of love,
it shows my guilt to me.

v. 5
What then can sinners do?
Flee to the God of grace.
God sent His Son to bear our guilt
and take the sinner’s place.

v. 6
What does the gospel show?
It shows God’s gracious will.
It shows how we may live with Him
bless’d on His holy hill.



Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Daily Devotions from the Heidelberg --- Original Sin and Actual Sins: Root and Fruit

Friday

Original Sin and Actual Sins: Root and Fruit

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism:

5 Q. Can you live up to all this perfectly?

A. No. I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.

2) Scripture

Psalm 51:1-5, 17:

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.

5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Comment

David sinned in a terrible way. First, he committed adultery with his neighbor’s wife, breaking the seventh of the Ten Commandments. Second, he tried to cover up his sin before the eyes of others by having the husband, who was named Uriah, put to death. Thus, he broke the sixth commandment as well!

It appears as though David managed to keep his sins somewhat hidden from human eyes. But though people don’t always see the sins of others, God does. The Bible tells us that the Lord knew about David’s sin, and it displeased him. In 2 Samuel 11:27 we read: “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”

Psalm 51 was written by David as his confession to the Lord. The Lord is great in grace and mercy, but he does require that we judge ourselves by confessing our sins humbly before him. As long as we remain unconcerned and unrepentant about our sins, there can be no forgiveness.

One of the things David learned in his life is what he tells us in Psalm 51:5:

“Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

David learned that he sinned because he was a sinner. Just as an apple tree produces apples, and a peach tree produces peaches, so sinners commit sin. In other words, David learned that his actual sins were produced by his original sin.

What do we mean by actual sins and original sin?

Actual sins are the sins we actually commit. David actually committed the sins of adultery, deceit, and murder. But original sin is the tendency we are born with and possess when are conceived in our mother’s womb. Original sin is our tendency to dislike God’s authority in our lives. Original sin is our tendency to follow our own minds and hearts, rather than God’s will and word. David learned that his actual sins, like adultery and murder, were produced by the original sin in his heart.

Which is worse, our actual sins we commit or the original sin within us? Surprisingly, our original sin within us is worse in God’s eyes, for it is the cause of our actual sins. A good example of the relation of original and actual sin is the flu. When you get the flu you have symptoms like vomiting, headaches, achiness, and chills. But the symptoms are actually caused by a virus. The virus is the real problem and the cause of all the symptoms. In God’s sight, our original sin is the worst sin in our lives.

How humbling for us is this doctrine of original sin! But thankfully, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:7 and 1 Pet. 5:6).

Discussion: Describe actual sins and original sin. What is the deepest cause of our actual sins ? (look at verse 4)

Prayer Starter: In your prayer, thank the Father that through the work of his Son on the cross all of your sin, both actual and original are forgiven and blotted out according to his abundant grace and mercy in Christ.


Hymn for Lord’s Day 2

How Do You Come to Know

To the tune TRENTHAM (Breathe on Me Breath of God http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/420 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/420). Based on Lord’s Day 2 of the Heidelberg Catechism (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A’s 14, 42, 18-19). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
How do you come to know
your sin and misery?
The holy, righteous law of God
points out my sin to me.

v. 2
What does God’s law require?
Wholehearted love for God,
with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength,
while on this earth we walk.

v. 3
What does God’s law require?
Love to our neighbor too.
Love him as you do love yourself.
Love him for God’s sake too.

v. 4
Can you live up to this?
No one can perfectly.
The law condemns my lack of love,
it shows my guilt to me.

v. 5
What then can sinners do?
Flee to the God of grace.
God sent His Son to bear our guilt
and take the sinner’s place.

v. 6
What does the gospel show?
It shows God’s gracious will.
It shows how we may live with Him
bless’d on His holy hill.



1517: What price relevance?

1517: What price relevance?

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Daily Devotions: Bible Grammar 101: The Three Uses of the Law

Thursday

Bible Grammar 101: The Three Uses of the Law

Reading:

1) 4 Q. What does God’s law require of us?

A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22 --- Love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment.

And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments.

2) Scripture

1 John 5:1-3: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

Comment

We talked about the importance of learning the difference between the law and the gospel (see earlier devotions on Q&A 3). The law shows us our sin and the misery or consequences sin brings. In contrast, the gospel shows us our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the benefits he brings. Learning the difference between the law and gospel is like learning our ABC’s, for it is basic to understanding the Bible.

Another basic teaching which should be a part of our biblical grammar is learning the three uses of God’s law. In school we have to learn the rules of grammar. We learn how to use commas, periods, colons, and semicolons. We learn about nouns, verbs, and pronouns. The three uses of God’s law is a basic truth we have to learn if we want to learn the Bible in order to know and love the Lord and his ways.

What are these three uses or functions of God’s law?

1. The first use is called the civil use. Governments enact laws to restrain people from things like stealing, murder, and lying under oath.

2. The second use is called the pedagogical use. In this use the law shows us our sin and its results. Questions 3-11 of the catechism concentrate on this use of the law. The law functions to show us our sin and our need of a Savior. By pointing to our need of Christ, the law functions like a pedagogue or schoolmaster pointing us to Christ.

3. The third use of the law is what we call the didactic (teaching) use. The law not only shows us our sin, but it also shows us, in Christ, God’s will for our lives. In other words, it shows us how to live a life that pleases our triune God. The law teaches us God’s will in Christ, because we must remember that the Old Testament finds its fulfillment in him. Therefore, Old Testament laws must be seen through the lens of their New Testament fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Discussion: Can you name and describe the three uses or functions of God’s law? Can we apply Old Testament laws directly to us as Christians, or do we first need to consider their fulfillment in Christ and our new situation as those who live in what the apostle calls the “fulfillment of the ages” (1 Cor. 10:11)?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer, thank the Father for giving us his commands or laws, so that we can know what pleases him in Christ. Ask the Father to work a love for his will and his Word into your heart as his son or daughter.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Concluding Hymn on the Heidelberg Catechism

Praise the Lord, the God of Glory

To the tune: UPP, MIN TUNGA (http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/400 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/CCEH/1240). Based on Lord’s Day 52 of the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 128 (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 107). Words: Bill Weber 2011.

v. 1
Praise the Lord, the God of glory,
for His justice, mercy, grace.
Sent His Son to earth to save us,
Jesus died and took our place.
To His Father He brought glory,
on the third day He was raised.

v. 2
When we see the Lord of glory,
Jesus preached and lifted high.
See Him suff’ring, see Him dying,
see the cross before our eyes.
For our sin and guilt He suffered,
died for us a sacrifice.

v. 3
In the light of God’s great glory,
we confess our sinful state.
Angels call out, “Holy, Holy,”
without Christ our judgment waits.
Flee the wrath that’s due to sinners,
Jesus is salvation’s gate.

v. 4
We’ve not loved the God of glory,
in our sin we’ve turned away.
God is just to judge, condemn us,
for like sheep we’ve gone astray.
In our sin we’ve worshipped idols,
come to Christ without delay.

v. 5
Mercy, goodness, grace and kindness
fill the heart of God in Christ.
Find in Jesus grace and comfort,
and a Father reconciled.
Ev’rything is yours in Jesus,
joined to Him you’re justified.

v. 6
Praise the Father for His giving
of His one and only Son.
Grace and truth are seen in Jesus,
glory of the righteous One.
Jesus, richest fount of blessing,
if to Him do we belong.

Q & A 128

Q. What does your conclusion to this prayer mean?

A. "For yours is the kingdom
and the power
and the glory forever" means,
We have made all these requests of you
because, as our all-powerful king,
you not only want to,
but are able to give us all that is good;^1
and because your holy name,
and not we ourselves,
should receive all the praise, forever.^2

^1 Rom. 10:11-13; 2 Pet. 2:9
^2 Ps. 115:1; John 14:13


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Daily Devotions for January 11 and 12: Lord's Day 2 of the Heidelberg Catechism

Tuesday

More ABC’s: Learning the Bible’s Alphabet

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

3 Q. How do you come to know your misery?

A. The law of God tells me.

2) Scripture

Isaiah 53:1-6:

53:1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised,
and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 57:20-21:

20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea;
for it cannot be quiet,
and its waters toss up mire and dirt.
21 There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

Comment

Let’s continue to think about this contrast between the law and the gospel, which is so basic to understanding the Bible. The law and the gospel are complete opposites when it comes to salvation. The law shows us our sin, while the gospel shows us our Savior from sin! The law accuses us of sin, while the gospel tells us we are justified and forgiven of our sins. The law demands perfect righteousness, while the gospel gives perfect righteousness. The law threatens us with condemnation, while the gospel frees us from condemnation. The law says, “Do this, and you will live,” while the gospel says, “Believe this, and you will live.”

Here is the contrast of the law and gospel side by side:

1. The law shows us our sin.
1. The gospel shows us our Savior.

2. The law accuses us of sin.
2. The gospel brings forgiveness of sin.

3. The law demands perfect righteousness
3. The gospel gives us the perfect righteousness of Christ.

4. The law threatens us with condemnation.
4. The gospel frees us from condemnation.

5. The law says, “Do this, and you will live."
5. The gospel says, “Believe this, and you will live.”

In our two readings from Isaiah, we see a gospel passage and a law passage. Isaiah 53:1-6 tells us about the gospel. It shows us our Savior as he bears our sins on the cross. It calls for faith so that we might have salvation when it asks, “Who has believed our message?” It speaks of forgiveness when it tells us that Christ’s “punishment” “brought us peace.” On the other hand, Isaiah 57:20-21 is a law passage. It shows us the effects of sin. As the catechism would put it, Isaiah 57:20-21 shows us our misery if we don’t belong to Jesus.

Discussion: Of the two, law or gospel, which is the good news and which is the bad news? Why is Isaiah 53:1-6 a gospel passage? Why is Isaiah 57:20-21 a law passage? Which person looks happier or more peaceful, the person who believes the gospel message or the wicked person in Isaiah 57?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer, thank the Father for his incredible love in sending his Son into the world for our forgiveness and blessing.

Wednesday

The Perfect Standard Points to the Perfect Savior

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

4 Q. What does God’s law require of us?

A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22 --- Love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment.

And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments.

2) Scripture

Matthew 22:34-40: But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Comment

When we consider the contrast between the law and the gospel, we can sometimes think that God’s law is a bad thing. But this is not true. God’s law is a good thing, because it teaches us what it means to love God with our whole heart, mind, and strength.

It is true that the law shows us our sin, but that doesn’t mean the law is bad! It’s not that the law is bad, it’s that our hearts are bad! The law shows us that we don’t love God perfectly, nor do we love our neighbor perfectly for God’s sake. The law shows us that we need a Savior, because we have failed to live up to its perfect standard.

Only one person ever kept God’s law perfectly. Only one person ever loved God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. Only one person ever loved his neighbor as himself for his Father’s sake. That person’s name is Jesus Christ. He is our Savior. The law cannot save us and make us right with God. But Jesus can save us, and he has saved every person who truly believes in him.

The law’s perfect standard shows us that the good news of gospel is not about our obedience. Instead the good news of the gospel is about Christ’s obedience --- for us! Through his perfect obedience that took him to the cross, we are saved.

Discussion: The law of God shows us our sin. Since the law shows us the bad news about our sin, is the law a bad thing? What does the law show us about the human heart? If the law cannot save us through our obedience, whose obedience can save us?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer, thank the Father for the law’s function in showing us our sin and need of a Savior. Also thank him for giving us Jesus, who is able to save us.


Hymn for Lord’s Day 2

How Do You Come to Know

To the tune TRENTHAM (Breathe on Me Breath of God http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/420 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/420). Based on Lord’s Day 2 of the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 3-5 (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A’s 14, 42, 18-19). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
How do you come to know
your sin and misery?
The holy, righteous law of God
points out my sin to me.

v. 2
What does God’s law require?
Wholehearted love for God,
with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength,
while on this earth we walk.

v. 3
What does God’s law require?
Love to our neighbor too.
Love him as you do love yourself.
Love him for God’s sake too.

v. 4
Can you live up to this?
No one can perfectly.
The law condemns my lack of love,
it shows my guilt to me.

v. 5
What then can sinners do?
Flee to the God of grace.
God sent His Son to bear our guilt
and take the sinner’s place.

v. 6
What does the gospel show?
It shows God’s gracious will.
It shows how we may live with Him
bless’d on His holy hill.


Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Daily Devotions from the Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 2, Monday, January 10

Zacharius Ursinus, the main author
of the Heidelberg Catechism
Lord’s Day 2

Monday

Learning Your ABC’s: Law and Gospel

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

3 Q. How do you come to know your misery?

A. The law of God tells me.

2) Scripture

Romans 3:9-26: 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Comment

Do you remember learning your ABCs? I think almost everyone remembers the song that taught us our ABCs when we were little children. Learning the alphabet is basic if you want to learn to read.

In learning to know the Bible (and the Lord!), one of the basic truths of the Christian alphabet is learning the difference between the law and the gospel. In the Bible there are two basic kinds of Scripture: law and gospel. The law is God’s way of showing us our sin and its consequences. The gospel is God’s way of showing us our salvation and its blessings.

The Heidelberg Catechism wants us to learn this contrast between the law and the gospel, which is so basic in the Bible. Notice how it contrasts the law and the gospel in Q&A 3 and Q&A 19:

3 Q. How do you come to know your misery?
   A. The law of God tells me.

19 Q. How do you come to know this (salvation blessings)?
     A. The holy gospel tells me.


Whenever you come across a Bible text that tells you about your sin and misery, you are reading a law passage. Whenever you come across a Bible text that tells you about salvation and its blessings, you are reading a gospel passage. So, for example, in the reading from Romans, when we read a sentence that says, “There is no one righteous, not even one”, we are reading a law passage that tells us about our sin. But when we read that “God presented him [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement”, then we are reading a gospel passage.

Learning the difference between the law and the gospel is part of our basic education as disciples of Christ, so let’s apply ourselves in the school of Christ!

Discussion: What “contrast” is basic to understanding the Bible? What does the law tell us about? What does the gospel tell us about? In the Romans passage, try to identify verses that are law and verses that are gospel.

Prayer Starter: In your prayer, thank the Lord for the law, which shows your need for Christ, and the gospel, which shows Christ and his salvation blessings promised to you.


Hymn for Lord’s Day 2

How Do You Come to Know

To the tune TRENTHAM (Breathe on Me Breath of God http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/420 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/420). Based on Lord’s Day 2 of the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 3-5 (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A’s 14, 42, 18-19). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
How do you come to know
your sin and misery?
The holy, righteous law of God
points out my sin to me.

v. 2
What does God’s law require?
Wholehearted love for God,
with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength,
while on this earth we walk.

v. 3
What does God’s law require?
Love to our neighbor too.
Love him as you do love yourself.
Love him for God’s sake too.

v. 4
Can you live up to this?
No one can perfectly.
The law condemns my lack of love,
it shows my guilt to me.

v. 5
What then can sinners do?
Flee to the God of grace.
God sent His Son to bear our guilt
and take the sinner’s place.

v. 6
What does the gospel show?
It shows God’s gracious will.
It shows how we may live with Him
bless’d on His holy hill.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Daily Devotions from the Heidelberg Catechism: Saturday, January 8

Saturday

Enrolling in God’s School

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

2 Q. What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

A. Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such a deliverance.

2) Scripture

Proverbs 1:7:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 9:8-10:

8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Comment

The second question of the Heidelberg Catechism gives us an outline of the rest of the catechism: guilt, grace, and gratitude or to put it in other words, sin, salvation, and thankfulness. Q&A 3-11 deal with our sin and misery. Q&A 12-85 deal with how we are set free from all our sins and misery. Q&A 86-129 deal with how to live thankfully before God.

Christians are not opposed to learning! True knowledge of God leads to true knowledge of ourselves, our salvation, and our life in Christ in the world. As Proverbs teaches (Prov. 1:7, 9:10), the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom, and without this beginning a man is not yet enrolled in God’s school!

Did you notice the word know in Q&A 2? In order to enjoy Christ and his blessings, we need to know three things in a deeper and deeper way: our sin and misery, the gospel that delivers us from our sin and misery, and the new life of thanks which flows from Christ’s gospel. These three subjects must be mastered in a deeper and deeper way in order to know comfort and joy in the school of Christ!

Did you notice the word joy in Q&A 2? Getting to know the Father and the Son leads to an experience of joy in our lives! As believers, we don’t just know facts about God, but we also know God and his Son in a personal relationship that brings us comfort and joy, even in the midst of suffering and sorrow in this life. Such suffering and sorrow will soon pass away, but our joy in Christ will grow more and more until it is consummated in a new heaven and earth!

Discussion: What are the three main parts of the catechism? Why do Christians need to know these three things? Who do Christians know personally?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer, pray that you will grow in knowledge that will lead to truly knowing the Lord. Pray also that you will experience genuine joy in your Christian life.

Hymn for Lord’s Day 1

Only One Comfort

To the Tune: EVENTIDE (Abide with Me http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/442 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/700). Based on Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism. Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
There’s just one comfort in life and in death,
that I belong to Jesus, not myself.
The Lord completely paid for all my sins,
freed me from slav’ry, blesses me in Him.

v. 2
The Lord cares for me in a tender way,
watches my life and leads me all my days.
My Father works out all things for my good,
bless’d in His Son and filled with gratitude.

v. 3
O Jesus, Lord, my Savior and my Song,
how bless’d in You I am to now belong.
You send Your Spirit, plant Your life in me,
and in Your Word may I Your glory see.

v. 4
There are three things believers need to know:
How great my sin is, misery also.
How I am set free from iniquity.
How I should thank God who has set me free.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Daily Devotions from the Heidelberg Catechism: Friday, January 7

Philip Melanchthon, Lutheran reformer and
 Zacharius Ursinus' professor.  Ursinus is the
main author of the Heidelberg Catechism.
Friday

The Triune God: Above Us and Near Us

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

Q. 1 What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong---body and soul, in life and in death---to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

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

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

2) Scripture

2 Corinthians 13:14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Comment

In Q&A 1 of the catechism, we see all three persons of the trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As Christians we believe in the trinity. The trinity describes the fact that God is both one and three! God is one in essence, but three in persons. In the divine math, the Father is fully God, the Son is fully God, and the Holy Spirit is fully God. And yet, there are not three gods, but rather three persons in this one God.

We believe the teaching about the trinity, because this is what God reveals about himself in his Word. When we look at the things that Jesus said and did, we realize he is more than just a man. We see that he is God himself, who put on our human nature. Jesus is the God-man, and so the facts of the Bible force us to describe God as triune: as one in three and three in one.

All of this is a mystery to us. The trinity is beyond the ability of our minds to grasp. But this mystery should not be surprising to us. It only makes sense that the almighty Creator of the universe should be exalted and high above us!

But even though God is far above our understanding, he is so good that he draws near to us so that we can experience him as our triune God. We experience the favor that God the Son earned for us at the cross. We experience the love of God our Father, as those who are adopted into his family by faith. We experience fellowship with the Father and the Son which God the Holy Spirit enables as he is sent by the Father and the Son. So even though our triune God is high and exalted, yet he comes near to us in Christ, so that we can know him in a personal way as our God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Discussion: Why do we believe in the trinity? Is it surprising that we cannot
understand the triune nature of God? How does 2 Corinthians 13:14 show that God draws near to us?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer, praise God for both his transcendence (he is
exalted far above us) and immanence (he reveals himself to us and comes near to us in Christ).


Only One Comfort

To the Tune: EVENTIDE (Abide with Me http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/442 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/700). Based on Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism. Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
There’s just one comfort in life and in death,
that I belong to Jesus, not myself.
The Lord completely paid for all my sins,
freed me from slav’ry, blesses me in Him.

v. 2
The Lord cares for me in a tender way,
watches my life and leads me all my days.
My Father works out all things for my good,
bless’d in His Son and filled with gratitude.

v. 3
O Jesus, Lord, my Savior and my Song,
how bless’d in You I am to now belong.
You send Your Spirit, plant Your life in me,
and in Your Word may I Your glory see.

v. 4
There are three things believers need to know:
How great my sin is, misery also.
How I am set free from iniquity.
How I should thank God who has set me free.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Daily Devotions from the Heidelberg Catechism: Thursday, January 6

Thursday

My Father Watches Over Me

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

Q. 1 What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong---body and soul, in life and in death---to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.

He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

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

2) Scripture

Matthew 1o:28-31: And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Comment

Another blessing that is part of the comfort we enjoy as those who belong to Jesus Christ is that God is now our heavenly Father. The God who is wise enough, powerful enough, and good enough to create and sustain this beautifully intricate universe, is the believer’s Father through Jesus Christ.

Human fathers are far from perfect. But God our Father has no imperfections at all! By his wisdom and power he created the heavens and the earth. His work of creation is clearly good. “You are good and do good” (Ps. 119:68).

We learn in verse 29 that through his power and will, the Father knows, directs, and cares for little sparrows. How much more will he direct and care for his children who belong to him through faith in Jesus Christ, his beloved Son!

Having the king of the universe as our Father is an amazing privilege! As the king of his created world, our Father rules over all events, even things as small as the death of a tiny sparrow. Our Father also knows all things, even things as unimportant as the number of hairs on your head!

If God is this powerful, wise, and good, and if he is our Father, then surely we can trust him. We can trust his gospel word. We can trust him to watch over our lives. We can trust that whatever circumstances come into our lives, he has sent these circumstances and allowed them to come for a good reason. We may not always know his good reason, but we can trust him, for he loves his children and gave his beloved Son for us in love.

Discussion: How do we see God’s greatness in Matthew 10:29? What name found in both the highlighted portion of the catechism, and in Matthew 10:29, gives us reason to trust our God?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer, praise God for his greatness, in terms of his power, rule, wisdom, and goodness. Praise him that he is your Father because you belong to Christ by faith in his gospel.


Only One Comfort

To the Tune: EVENTIDE (Abide with Me http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/442 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/700).  Based on Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism.  Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
There’s just one comfort in life and in death,
that I belong to Jesus, not myself.
The Lord completely paid for all my sins,
freed me from slav’ry, blesses me in Him.

v. 2
The Lord cares for me in a tender way,
watches my life and leads me all my days.
My Father works out all things for my good,
bless’d in His Son and filled with gratitude.

v. 3
O Jesus, Lord, my Savior and my Song,
how bless’d in You I am to now belong.
You send Your Spirit, plant Your life in me,
and in Your Word may I Your glory see.

v. 4
There are three things believers need to know:
How great my sin is, misery also.
How I am set free from iniquity.
How I should thank God who has set me free.

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