Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011: Daily Devotions through the Heidelberg Catechism

This year I've decided to post a daily devotion from the Heidelberg Catechism.  I've written this daily devotional based on the Heidelberg Catechism and Scripture verses that relate to each question and answer of the catechism.  Each week there will be six daily devotions, Monday through Saturday.  Included below the devotion is a hymn based on the particular Lord's Day.

I hope you will find this helpful and that it will cause you to know the Lord better.  It seems that there is a feeling among many people that knowledge and doctrine is unecessary when it comes to knowing God.  This attitude is terribly harmful, because the truth is that in order to know anyone, including the triune God, knowledge is essential.  It would be foolish to tell your wife or husband, "I'm not interested in knowledge about you, because I want to know you."   The only way to get to know a person is to learn about them!  In a similar way, the Bible tells us about God and his ways (doctrine), so that we can come to know him!

The Heidelberg Catechism will help you to know the Father and the Son in a deep and intimate way, but only if you let it guide you as you get rid of the harmful idea that doctrine and knowledge is somehow a bad thing. 

But is the Heidelberg Catechism a substitute for the Bible?  Not at all.  The catechism is simply a reliable guide and beautiful summary of Scripture's teaching.  If you were going to go scuba diving, you would need a good guide.  If you were going to hike through an unknown wilderness, you would need a good map and compass.  The Heidelberg Catechism is merely that reliable and accurate guide, map, and compass that leads you to the comfort and joy of knowing God.

Another thing that might keep you from the Heidelberg Catechism is denominational affiliation.  One of the beauties of the Heidelberg Catechism is that it beautifully summarizes the heart of the Protestant Reformation.  It seems to me that Reformed, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, and Baptists can agree with almost everything they find in the Heidelberg Catechism.  Zacharius Ursinus, the main author of the Heidelberg, studied under Philip Melanchthon, the great Lutheran scholar, but was also very much influenced by reformers like Calvin, Bullinger, Bucer, and other great men.  The Heidelberg Catechism presents us with the very heart of Reformation truth.

Below is the first of the 312 devotions.  It is for Monday, but I thought I would send it early, so that you might consider coming along with me on this journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and the comfort and joy it wants to bring to our lives.

--Bill



Lord’s Day 1

Monday

Jesus Christ, Our Comfort in Life and Death!

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

Luke 2:25-33: Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.

Comment

The Heidelberg Catechism begins with a question about comfort. What comes to your mind when you think about the word comfort? Probably a nice, comfy chair or bed! A comfortable chair or bed brings comfort to a tired body.

But the catechism is interested in something far more important than relief for a tired body. The catechism, and the Bible, are interested in a comfort that will bring relief to human beings in their relation to God. This comfort is a consolation, an encouragement, and even, a salvation!

How surprising it is that this comfort God brings to the human race is a person! His name is Jesus Christ. When Simeon saw and held the baby Jesus he recognized that Jesus was the comfort the whole human race needed in its weariness from sin. Simeon held in his arms the One who can transfer us from the realm of death to the realm of life! We receive God’s comfort and salvation when we enter into a right relation with this person, Jesus Christ!

Discussion: What kind of comfort is the catechism interested in? Does it surprise you to think that God comforts us by sending a person---his beloved Son? Who is this comfort for according to Luke 2:32 and according to the catechism reading?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer, give thanks for the comfort/encouragement God brings to us through his Son, whom he sent into the world.


Hymn: 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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