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Heidelberg Catechism – Lords Day 1

24/03/2014

INTRODUCTION

* Before you begin. Read Romans 14:7-8

The Heidelberg Catechism begins with an introduction:
1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death,[1] am not my own,[2] but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ,[3] who with His precious blood[4] has fully satisfied for all my sins,[5] and redeemed me from all the power of the devil;[6] and so preserves me[7] that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head;[8] indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation.[9] Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,,[10] and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.[11]

[1]Rom. 14:7-8. [2]I Cor. 6:19. [3]I Cor. 3:23. [4]I Pet. 1:18-19. [5]I Jn. 1:7; 2:2. [6]I Jn. 3:8. [7]Jn. 6:39. [8]Mt. 10:29-30; Lk. 21:18. [9]Rom. 8:28. [10]II Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:13-14; Rom. 8:16. [11]Rom. 8:1.

2. How many things are necessary for you to know, that in this comfort you may live and die happily?
Three things: [1]
First, the greatness of my sin and misery. [2]
Second, how I am redeemed from all my sins and misery. [3]
Third, how I am to be thankful to God for such redemption. [4]

[1]Lk. 24:46-47; I Cor. 6:11; Tit. 3:3-7. [2]Jn. 9:41; 15:22. [3]Jn. 17:3. [4]Eph. 5:8-11; I Pet. 2:9-12; Rom. 6:11-14; *Rom. 7:24- 25; *Gal. 3:13; *Col. 3:17.

-oOOo-

As a pastor, I have officiated at many funerals, church members and people whom I never met in life, people who I know claimed the name of Christ in life and people who had no Christian testimony or profession. It was one of those people who I had called to see one day, at a house in Belfast. The head of the home, a man in his late sixties had just died. His wife and two daughter were deeply distressed. His little grandchildren were milling around the room, old enough to realise that suddenly their lives had been plunged into crises. Their mother was in tears, their grandmother was shaking with emotion, and their grandfather was no longer in the house, and now this stranger was sitting on their settee, asking about Granddad, speaking in a hushed voice and taking notes. Like two little orphans they stood in the middle of the room and surveyed the scene with eyes filled with shock and terror.

Their mother took me by the sleeve. “The children are very confused,” she said. “I don’t know how to explain to them what has just happened. Perhaps if you could just tell them that Granddad has gone to heaven, that would be a help to them, and a comfort to us.” I sat still for a few seconds while I took in what she had just said. The man who had died was not known to me, and although his family had had nominal ties with my church for quite a few years, no-one from that house had never attended a service, at least in my time. I had to be totally honest. “I’m really sorry. I cannot do what you ask. I am not aware of your father’s spiritual condition, and I cannot say something that I do not know to be true.” I couldn’t give them the comfort that they sought.

It was an awkward and embarrassing time. Someone had gone into eternity, and left his family with no comfort whatsoever. Yet that is exactly what we need, and no more so than at a time such as that family were facing. The Psalmist, David recognised that, and he wrote:-

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Psalm 23.

Yet comfort is available for those who are coping with life, and those who have reached life’s end, but the only source of comfort is Christ, who has redeemed us, and bought us back from the slavery of sin, and we are no longer our own, but we are his, and we are thus fully surrendered to the sovereign will of God, knowing that his way is always perfect, and nothing in this world can ever separate us from him and his love. Nothing else will do.

The Catechism informs us that only three things are necessary for us to know to have comfort. We must know:-

* The depth, the greatness of our sin and misery. The reformers called this ‘Total Depravity’. It doesn’t mean that we are all as bad and as depraved as we possibly can be. We are not all murderers or adulterers or bank robbers or terrorists. It does mean that every aspect of our life has been affected by sin. Our thoughts, our words, our deeds, all are sinful. Our motives are sinful. Our desires are sinful. Our hearts are darkened by sin. That sin SEPARATES us from God, who is holy. John the apostle describes him in these terms, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all”. (1 John 1:5). How can we, dark sinners ever approach a God who is so holy that darkness cannot exist in his presence, and must be cast away forever? Furthermore, in our sins we are DEAD and unable to do anything to help ourselves. (Ephesians 2:1). Is there then no hope for us? What comfort can we find in such awareness of our sin and condemnation? Yes there is, but it is not found within ourselves, but in Another…

* How all our sins are forgiven and we are redeemed from sin. How can we ever be redeemed from slavery to sin? According to the Scriptures, there is only one way that this problem of sin can be resolved, and that is in Christ, – who died to save us. In knowing him as saviour, we are redeemed. John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

* How we must respond in thanksgiving for salvation. Such salvation gives us great comfort and confidence, and we are grateful. This gratitude is worked out in our lives, as we love and serve our neighbour, wherever the Lord has placed us, fulfilling our own separate vocations, living with His help in obedience to him, and in humble repentance all the days of our life.
These three aspects of the Christian life are expanded in the book of Romans, and the Catechism follows the same pattern of thought. When we look at the body of the Catechism we will explore these themes in greater detail.

* Think about it.
1. When we think of comfort, we often think in terms of physical comfort, of ease and relative prosperity and relaxation in familiar surroundings. But when these things are removed from us, due to life’s circumstances, or in death, there will be no comfort in life’s possessions. Where can comfort be found? Only in Christ! Only in the knowledge that our sins are forgiven and that we are sure of an eternal home with the Lord. Do I have that comfort?

2. Are you a sinner? Read the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, and write below which of the commandments you have broken. Remember that even thinking about breaking the commandments is a sin. Matthew 6:23-28. _________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________
If you decide that you are a sinner, (one who has fallen short of God’s righteous standards and broken his law) then there is hope for you! Jesus died for sinners, and if you humbly confess your sins to him, you can be forgiven.

3. How can you properly express your gratitude for what Jesus has done for you? Read
Ephesians. 5:8-11; __________________________________________________
I Pet. 2:9-12; _______________________________________________________
Rom. 6:11-14; _____________________________________________________
Rom. 7:24- 25; _____________________________________________________
Gal. 3:13; _________________________________________________________
Col. 3:17; __________________________________________________________

* Pray. Father, I am taught in your word that I am a sinner, I am born in sin, and so my every thought and word and deed is tainted with sin. Help me to recognise sin in my life and to abhor it, as you do. Yet I am also taught that your dear Son Jesus died on the cross for sinners, to take my place and to bear my burden of guilt and shame. I confess my sins, and I ask for forgiveness and pardon, assured that my sins have already been atoned for by Jesus. Please help me now to turn from my sins, and live a humble repentant life. Amen.

Any questions?
For help or to discuss any issue related to the Catechism, email bobmcevoy@aol.com

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