Mundane

Once there, I remain.  It’s not merely the dilapidated, velvet-colored barns that give cause for pause.  Nor the dew that settles into place each morning meeting each blade of grass, almost as if the latter could scarce make it through the night. Or could it be the Palomino pacing the fence with her mane draped across her neck like fine silk, almost as if to prove her dignity to the still morning.  I awe as I sit in gravel with legs crossed and a clear mind.  The oaks tower over me reminding me of my youth.  I am reminded that I am mortal and that He who created them cares for me.  A starburst of orange, red, and baby blue break the dawn revealing the context of those chocolate-colored limbs.  How strange, I think, recalling my former indifference to the mundane.

JF

Quote

Religious belief exists not in its last analysis on what we can prove to be so, but on the fact of God having declared it to be so. Behind the belief, the assent, therefore, there lies an antecedent trust distinguishable from the subsequent trust. And this reliance upon the word of God is an eminently religious act. Hence it is inaccurate to say that belief is merely the prerequisite of faith and not an element of faith itself. Vos, Biblical Theology, p 84

A Quote

“…love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed in the sight of all. Men will even give their lives if only the ordeal does not last long but is soon over, with all looking on and applauding as though on the stage. But active love is labor and fortitude, and for some people too, perhaps, a complete science.” Dostoyevsky – “The Brothers Karamazov”

The Law gives us the knowledge of sin.

3.Q. From where do you know your sins and misery?

A. From the law of God.

Reflection:

Having read yesterday that it is a divine mercy to know of our sins and misery, how is it that we come to the knowledge of them?  Standing on Romans 3:20, today’s catechism points directly to God’s law.  The apostle Paul writes, “For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in [God’s] sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

Every human born into this world exists as an image-bearer.  That is to say, we all bear the image of God.  One of the ways in which God fashioned us is by naturally imposing his law upon us.  People’s consciences testify that this law is written on their hearts (Rom. 2:14-15).  Everyone strives for morality.  The unbelieving heart, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, shows this principle at work by attempting to create a pseudo-law apart from God’s law.  Sadly, the professing atheist Christopher Hitchens has displayed this principle by proposing some “better” commandments.  Even though his attempt appears to be to get a rise out of Christians and to blaspheme God, his actions still point to this principle in a more visible way.

Today’s Q & A is concerned with one of the functions of the law.  It brings us to the knowledge of our sin.  “What sin is is finally determined not by the church (Rome), nor by the state (Hobbes), nor by an autonomous moral law (Grotius), nor by the autonomous Self (Kant), nor by humanity as a whole (Comte), nor by social instincts (Darwin), but solely and exclusively by the law of God” (Bavinck).  Tomorrow’s question will address what God’s law requires of everyone.

What is needed to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

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

A. First, how great my sins and misery are; second, how I am delivered from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance.

Reflection:

If one imagines they have no sin, then they will inevitably be convinced that they have no need for redemption.  Having been created in God’s image, all of fallen humanity has this in common:  they stand before the face of God as guilty.  Sin has ravaged every part of our being leaving us completely incapable of self-restoration.  Romans 3:10 is one of today’s biblical references:  “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one…’”  This is not an indictment.  Friends, this is a verdict.  We often underestimate our sin and guilt because we underestimate the character of God.  As fallen people we often conflate ourselves with a counterfeit righteousness which acquiesces rather well to the pick-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps mentality of American culture.  When things hit the fan we are told to look inside ourselves, implying the cure lies therein.

The Bible tells us otherwise.  We need an alien (outside of us) righteousness, to use the words of Martin Luther.  Everyone has a need to have a restored relationship to his/her Creator and this is only by means of the Redeemer who is Jesus Christ.  Today’s catechism also draws from Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  Jesus Christ delivers his people from all their sins and misery.  The Christian has no need for despair when he/she considers their sinfulness.  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

As we walk Coram Deo (in the presence of God) today, let us give thanks to the God who created us in His image, and who has redeemed us from our sins and misery by the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Let us take comfort in the fact that we have not only received forgiveness of sins through Him, but we have also received His perfect righteousness.  May we let our light shine before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).

What is your only comfort in life and death?

If someone had started talking to me about confessions or catechism years ago I would have supposed that the person belonged to the Roman Catholic tradition. I remember a few of my Lutheran friends in high school using the word catechism. I wasn’t curious enough to ask why. Somehow a Protestant using these words seemed out of character. Had I considered the pages of history I would have found that catechisms and confessions were important to the early Protestant church.

They were seen as vital tools able to defend the truth and help people further understand and apply the Bible to their lives. These Protestant confessions were written with a proper view of authority in mind, namely, that true authority comes from God who reveals Himself through His Word.

There are many things that can be said as to why these important tools are neglected in popular American evangelicalism. Pietistic rhetoric is often used to discount the importance of these tools thereby preventing any serious discussion. For example, the statement “Jesus is my creed” exemplifies a common misconception. All I will say now is that the creeds and confessions of the Protestant reformation, with a proper view of Biblical authority, can be useful for devotionals and Bible study. I have especially found this to be the case with the Heidelberg Catechism.

This catechism was drafted by Zacharius Ursinus (1534-1583) and Caspar Olevianus (1536-1587) in 1563. It would later be translated for the Dutch Protestant church during years of significant persecution. Mark Noll writes in his Confessions and Catechisms of the Reformation  “the [Heidelberg] catechism was a superb statement of faith for a persecuted people. Its stress, from the very first question, on God’s desire to comfort his own, as well as its emphasis on the transcendent goodness of God’s providence, brought reassurance to those who felt that they had been abandoned by all earthly powers.” I am also fond of the catechism’s use of first person pronouns.

I will, as often as I’m able, go through the Heidleberg Catechism on this blog. I will start with the question, answer, then a personal reflection (by me) on the whole. The catechism can be divided into three overarching sections: Man’s Sin and Guilt—The Law of God, Man’s Redemption and Freedom—The Grace of God in Jesus Christ, and Man’s Gratitude and Obedience—New Life Through the Holy Spirit. I will not be posting the Scriptural proofs to each answer because of time. They are available here. Feel free to post any reflections or questions.

Here it goes:

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

A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both 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 all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

Reflection:

Let me not forget my dependence on God and that I was made to depend on Him. I am often weak and distracted in life, but when I think about the sovereign care of the Father I find true comfort. The Holy Spirit gives me assurance when I need it most. When my soul is as dry as a south Texas drought, He brings rain in due time. He sovereignly and carefully applies God’s Word to my life making me look more like Jesus. Jesus has annihilated death, Satan, and sin. God, make me grateful today for this immeasurable gift! Make me willing and able to live a life of obedience today that shows my gratitude for Him and for His kingdom.

A Few More Years Shall Roll

A few more years shall roll,
A few more seasons come,
And we shall be with those that rest

Asleep within the tomb
Then, O my Lord, prepare

My soul for that great day.
O wash me in Thy precious blood,

And take my sins away.

A few more storms shall beat

On this wild rocky shore,

And we shall be where tempests cease,

And surges swell no more;

Then, O my Lord, prepare

My soul for that calm day.
O wash me in Thy precious blood,

And take my sins away.

A few more Sabbaths here

Shall cheer us on our way,

And we shall reach the endless rest,

Th’eternal Sabbath day;

Then, O my Lord, prepare

My soul for that sweet day.
O wash me in Thy precious blood,

And take my sins away.

’Tis but a little while,

And He shall come again

Who died that we might live, who lives

That we with Him may reign;

Then, O my Lord, prepare

My soul for that glad day.
O wash me in Thy precious blood,

And take my sins away.

Horatius Bonar, 1844