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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 2

28/03/2014

FIRST PART – OF MAN’S MISERY

LORD’S DAY 2

* Before you begin. Read. Psalm 19:7-11, Matthew 5:17-20

3. From where do you know your misery?
From the Law of God.[1]

[1]Rom. 3:20; *Rom. 7:7.

4. What does the Law of God require of us?
Christ teaches us in sum, Mt. 22: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”[1]

[1]Lk. 10:27. *Deut. 6:5. *Gal. 5:14.

5. Can you keep all this perfectly?
No,[1] for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbour.[2]

[1]Rom. 3:10-12, 23; I Jn. 1:8, 10. [2]Rom. 8:7; Eph. 2:3.

I was preaching on the Ten Commandments, and outlining, by way of introduction, that the primary use of the Law is to make us realise that we fall short of God’s righteous standards, and are thus all guilty sinners before God. In the course of the message I asked if anyone in the congregation had broken the Ten Commandments? How many had sinned that day? There was, as usual, no response whatsoever from the congregation. I then told them that I had sinned, that I couldn’t keep the Ten Commandments. There was an audible gasp! An elderly lady in the church was sitting with her hand over her mouth and her eyes wide open in amazement. The pastor had just publicly confessed to sin! The scandal!

But we are ALL sinners, and we must admit to our sin, before we will admit that we need a Saviour.

Sin makes us miserable, but that’s no excuse for ignoring it. There are plenty of modern preachers, word-faith heretics, self-esteem gurus and seeker-sensitive pastors who ignore sin, and they do so to the eternal detriment of the souls of those who hear their miserable, ‘life-affirming’ advice-ridden sermons. The instructor in the catechism takes the right direction, and rightly confronts us with our sin, so that having accepted our true nature, we can then be comforted with the gospel. He doesn’t dwell overmuch on the topic. Just three Lord’s Days are enough to convince us that we are sinners who need a Saviour, and cause us to flee away to Christ for forgiveness.

So what does our catechetical instructor tell us in Lord’s Day 2?
He tells us how we discover our misery. He points us to the law of God, which is the standard that God requires of all those who would be in fellowship with Him, and immediately we realise that God’s standard is too high for us. So the first use of the law is to be a schoolmaster to us, to teach us our true condition, to reveal our own depravity to us. The law drives us to despair, for no matter how hard we try we cannot keep it. It illustrates the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. When we realise this, we can begin to sorrow over our sin, repent and and trust Christ for forgiveness. Paul: Galatians 3:23-29 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
He reminds us of Christ’s summary of the Law in Luke 10:27. It is all about loving God and loving our neighbour as we love ourselves. It is a good law, a moral law. No one could fault it. If we could just keep the law, morality would pertain in society, everything would be better, civil law would be observed fully, life would be peaceable and all would be well. There is nothing wrong with God’s law. It is perfect. Psalm 19:7-11. The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. The problem is not with the law, the problem is with us, – with me. I’m a sinner and I fall short. I don’t keep the law. Nobody does. Why?
He teaches us that we cannot keep the law. My nature, inherited from Adam, is such that instead if loving God and my neighbour I do the opposite. I hate God. I am in direct rebellion against him. I hate my neighbour. Even if that is never translated into action, even if I never murder anyone, or commit crimes of theft against my neighbour, I covet in my heart, and I think unworthy thoughts, and I am far away from perfectly loving anyone but myself and mine. We can’t keep the Ten Commandments – we can’t even keep two.
Romans 3:10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one, Romans 3:20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 8:7, For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

It is this that makes Christianity different from every other religion. Religion commonly is about doing your best, and being a decent, loving, moral person. Christianity is about realising that you cannot be a decent loving, moral person, and trusting the Saviour, sent from God to rescues us, because we weren’t decent, loving, moral people.

Think about it.

The Instructor tells us that we are in ‘misery’. What is it that makes us spiritually miserable?

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How does Jesus sum up the Ten Commandments?

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Can we perfectly keep the commandments? Explain your answer.

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Give a very simple illustration of a personal sin.

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Did Jesus make the law easier for us to keep by abolishing it? Before you answer read Matthew 5:17

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Pray.

Heavenly Father, by the work of your Holy Spirit, show me the sin that dwells within me from the very day of my conception and that sinful tendency leads me into actual sin against God. Make me loathe and despise sin and to mourn over it. Show me that I cannot keep your law, and point me to the only One who could, your sinless Son Jesus, who perfectly fulfilled the law for me, and so was able to be my substitute, to hang on the cross in my place, and to take upon himself the punishment that I rightly deserved, so that I might be forgiven and be free from the guilt and misery of my sin.

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