Friday, August 18, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 34: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 92-95

Reformation 500 WEEK 34: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 92-95

Question 92: What is the Law of God? “And God spoke all these words, saying: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. [First Commandment] You shall have no other gods before Me. [Second] You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. [Third] You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. [Fourth] Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. [Fifth] Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you. [Sixth] You shall not murder. [Seventh] You shall not commit adultery. [Eighth] You shall not steal. [Ninth] You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. [Tenth] You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

     We were created in God’s image to imitate God by obeying His law – which harmonizes with His eternal and unchangeable wisdom. God created Adam and Eve with a knowledge of His law (Rom. 2:14-15). “The law was engraved upon the heart of man in his creation, and is therefore known to all naturally” (Ursinus, 104). “Since the fall, however, which resulted in the corruption and depravity of our nature, a considerable part of the natural law has become obscured and lost by reason of sin [Rom. 7:7], so that there is only a small portion concerning the obedience which we owe to God still left in the human mind. It is for this reason that God repeated, and declared to the church the entire doctrine and true sense of His law, as contained in the Decalogue [i.e. the Ten Commandments]” (492). God wrote the Ten Commandments in stone (Exodus 31:18) as His permanent will for mankind. The other laws (both ceremonial and judicial) were temporary, designed only for Israel in the Promised Land, and were abolished by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:14-16).
     But the Ten Commandments were not abolished. Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). Jesus fulfilled the law “by teaching it and restoring its true meaning and sense, which He did by freeing it from the corruptions and glosses of the Pharisees, as appears from His sermon on the Mount” (Ursinus, 496). He fulfilled the law by obeying it perfectly and suffering its curse on the cross (Gal. 3:13). “Christ fulfills the law in us by His Spirit, by whom He renews us in the image of God [Rom. 8:4] …. This obedience is commenced in us in this life by the Spirit of Christ, and will be perfected in the life to come” (Ursinus, 496). We were “created, and have been redeemed by Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, that we might keep this law … both in this life and in the life to come [2 John 1:7; 1 John 2:3-4; 1 Cor. 7:19]” (Ursinus, 491).
The preface to the law, “I am the LORD your God, who delivered you from bondage,” makes it clear that God redeems His people from the bondage of sin in order that they might obey His law out of thankfulness for salvation (John 14:15; 15:14).  

Question 93: How are these Commandments divided? Into two tables: the first of which teaches, in four commandments, what duties we owe to God; the second, in six, what duties we owe to our neighbor.

     The Ten Commandments were written on “two tablets of stone” (Ex. 34:1), for they contain all we owe to God and our neighbor. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40).

Question 94: What does God require in the first Commandment? That, on peril of my soul’s salvation, I avoid and flee all idolatry, sorcery, enchantments, invocation of saints or other creatures; and that I rightly acknowledge the only true God, trust in Him alone, with all humility and patience, expect all good from Him only, and love, fear, and honor Him with my whole heart; so as rather to renounce all creatures than to do the least thing against His will.

     To have other gods is not to have the true God (the God of the Bible), or to worship anything that is not God. The unbelieving and ungodly have always “worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). Sorcery, enchantments, or praying to unseen spirits are just some of the many ways people try (vainly) to find answers and help apart from the true God (see Deut. 18:10-12). God saves us so that we might begin in this life to love and desire Him more than anyone or anything else, so that our greatest desire is to please Him, and to fear to do the least thing against His will (Luke 14:26-33). “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God, my soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1-2). “Make me walk in the path of Your commands, for I delight in it” (Ps. 119:35). 

Question 95: What is idolatry? Idolatry is to conceive or have something else in which to place our trust instead of, or besides, the one true God who has revealed Himself in His Word.


     Part of putting off the old man and putting on the new man is to avoid and flee all idolatry. Since we believers are not perfectly sanctified in this life, the sin of idolatry still clings to our heart, and therefore we must daily fight against it: “do not become idolaters as were some of them…. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:7, 14). “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). Every day we need to be reminded to put God first. “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33).


NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 88-91

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 33


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 33: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 88-91

Reformation 500 WEEK 33: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 88-91

Question 88: In how many things does true repentance or conversion consist? In two things: the dying of the old man, and the making alive of the new.

Having considered why we must do good works (out of thankfulness for salvation), we will now learn that doing good works is part of what it means to live a repentant and converted life – which is exactly what sanctification involves.

The terms repentance (change of mind) and conversion (turning around) basically mean the same thing: to turn from sin to God for forgiveness and to obey Him out of thankfulness for salvation in Christ (Acts 11:21). “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). The repentance of the Gentiles (Acts 11:18) is called “the conversion of the Gentiles” (Acts 15:3).

                When God grants us true repentance so that we are truly converted, this is the beginning of our life-long experience of sanctification. By His Holy Spirit God has set us free from the enslaving power of our old sinful nature by giving us a new holy nature (2 Cor. 5:17). This does not mean we no longer have our old sinful nature, but it does mean we are no longer slaves to it (Rom. 6:6, 14). We have a new nature that hates sin and desires to please God out of thankfulness for salvation (Col. 3:10). “There is a part of us which is renewed [the new man] and a part which retains its natural corruption [the old man]” (Calvin). The process of sanctification is the process of repentance and conversion, of turning from our old sinful nature and living according to our new nature. Scripture says to “put to death” (Col. 3:5) or “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and … put on the new man which was created according to God [in His image], in righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:22-23). We are sanctified “so that we may more and more die unto sin and lead holy and unblameable lives” (Q&A 70).

Question 89: What is the dying of the old man? Heartfelt sorrow for sin, causing us to hate and turn from it always more and more.

The dying of the old man is the life-long process of mortification, of putting to death our sins by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit: “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13). “Therefore, put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5; cf. Eph. 5:22-32). The Holy Spirit works in our hearts a godly sorrow for sin (Joel 2:13), which causes us to hate our sins and to turn from them more and more; “godly sorrow produces repentance” (2 Cor. 7:10). “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6). This is a very painful process (Gal. 5:17). The apostle Paul, speaking as a new man in Christ, expressed what is true for every believer, “I do the very thing I hate…. For I do not do the good I want to do but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin [my old sinful nature] that dwells in me” (Rom. 7:15, 19-20). “Our conversion to God is not perfect in this life, but is here continually advancing, until it reaches the perfection which is promised in the life to come” (Ursinus, 474). “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it” (Phil. 1:6). 

Question 90: What is the making alive of the new man? Heartfelt joy in God through Christ, causing us to take delight in living according to the will of God in all good works.

The making alive of the new man is the life-long process of God remaking us into His holy image, causing us out of thankfulness and joy to put on the new man. The old man must decrease. The new man must increase. Paul tells his fellow believers: “you have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering,” etc. (Col. 3:10, 12). “Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us” (Eph. 5:1-2). Just as heartfelt sorrow causes us to hate sin and turn from it more and more, heartfelt joy in God through Christ causes us to take delight in living according to God’s will in all good works (Rom. 5:1; Gal. 2:20). “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). When we do not put our sins to death but give in to them, then we must confess our sins to God and pray for the renewal of the new man. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psalm 51:10, 12; cf. Jer. 31:18; Luke 12:32). “Revive us, and we will call upon Your name” (Psalm 80:18).

To sum up, the sanctified life is putting off the old man and putting on the new man. For example, “putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with His neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor…that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification” (Eph. 5:28-29). To put it very simply: “Turn away from evil and do good” (1 Peter 3:11).

Question 91: What are good works? Those only which proceed from true faith, and are done according to the Law of God, unto His glory, and not such as rest on our own opinion or the commandments of men.

Three things are necessary for our works to be good: (1) A good root: True faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). Remember that prior to regeneration we are spiritually dead incapable of doing anything good. “A bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matt. 7:18; cf. Matt. 12:33). The Lord makes us spiritually alive, giving us faith in Christ; and from the seed of faith comes a tree full of good fruit. True believers are “those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit” (Mark 4:20; cf. Heb. 13:15); (2) A good standard: God’s law (John 14:15; 1 John 2:4) – not what is right in our own eyes (Judges 21:25); not according to the traditions or commandments of men (Matt. 15:9). (3) A good goal: God’s glory; “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). To do anything to the glory of God, “is to do it, that we may testify our love, reverence and obedience to God, and that for the sake of showing our thankfulness for the benefits which we have received,” and not “from a desire to advance our own selfish interests;” God must “be respected first whenever we do anything; nor must we care what men may say, whether they praise or reproach us” (Ursinus, 478). Our good works are not perfectly good, but the unregenerate have no good works at all!

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 88-91

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 33


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 32: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 86-87

Reformation 500 WEEK 32: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 86-87

Question 86: Since, then, we are redeemed from our misery by grace through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we do good works? Because Christ, having redeemed us by His blood, also renews us by His Spirit after His own image, that with our whole life we show ourselves thankful to God for His blessing, and that He be glorified through us; then also, that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by the fruits thereof; and by our godly walk win also others to Christ.

     Having now considered the greatness of our sin and misery (Q&A 3-11), and how we believers have been redeemed from our sin and misery (Q&A 12-85), we will now learn how we are to show ourselves thankful for our redemption (Q&A 86-129).

     We have already learned from Q&A 64 that “it is impossible that those who are implanted into Christ by true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.”

Good works are the fruit of redemption (Matt. 7:18; Mark 4:20; Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:14).  
There are five reasons why we must do good works: (1) to show that Christ, having redeemed us (from the eternal penalty of sin) by His blood, is also sanctifying and renewing us by His Holy Spirit (Col. 3:9-10) so that we become more like Him, “who went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). “He who says he abides in Christ ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6); (2) that with our whole life we show ourselves thankful to God for our redemption. “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1); (3) that God may be glorified through us. “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me” (Psalm 50:23). “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15); “you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20; cf. Rom. 12:1); (4) that we may be assured of our faith, as we see the fruits of faith in our hearts and lives (Matt. 7:17; Gal. 5:6, 21-22; 2 Pet. 1:10). The first fruit of true faith is a confession of sins to God for forgiveness (1 John 1:9; Luke 18:13); (5) that by our godly walk we may bring others to Christ. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16; cf. 1 Peter 3:1; Prov. 11:30).

Question 87: Can they, then, not be saved who do not turn to God from their unthankful, unrepentent lifeBy no means, for, as Scripture says, no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like shall inherit the kingdom of God [1 Cor. 6:9-10].


     Because the unbeliever lives an unthankful and unrepentant life (Rom. 1:21), they do not do good works at all (Gen. 6:5; Rom. 3:12). Unlike the believer, they do not ask God to forgive their sins and to help them do good works. They are deceived if they think grace means it is not necessary to forsake their sins and obey God out of thankfulness. “Do not be deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 86-87

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 32


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts.

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 32 JOHN CALVIN RETURNS TO GENEVA

Reformation 500 WEEK 32    John calvin Returns to Geneva


On September 13, 1541, Calvin returned to Geneva. “The following Sunday Calvin went up into the pulpit at Geneva, and simply began again to expound holy Scripture at the place where he had left off when he had been banished [does anyone know exactly where he had left off?]” (Cadier, The Man God Mastered, 107).

“Upon his return to Geneva, Calvin drew up a Church Order, a set of rules for the governing of the church…. It was based on the teaching of Scripture that Christ has ordained four offices in the Church: pastors, teachers or professors, elders, and deacons. The cornerstone of Calvin’s form of church government is the office of elder. Elders are chosen from among the members of the church. Together with the minister or pastor they form the consistory. The elders’ office is to watch over the purity of doctrine and life of the members of the church, of each other, and of the minister. To the consistory Calvin assigned the right of discipline of the members of the church to the point of excommunication…. For Calvin, the freedom of the Church was concentrated in the Church’s right of excommunication without outside interference.

“Upon one occasion, certain citizens of Geneva whom the consistory had excommunicated came into the church armed. Their plan was to force admission to the communion table. They threatened Calvin’s life if he should refuse to administer the sacrament to them. Protectingly, Calvin stretched out his hands over the bread and wine, and declared that they would be able to take of it only over his dead body. By sheer moral courage and strength, he made them desist from their attempt to gain admittance by force to the communion table.

“Bitter opposition often arose against the strict discipline of the Church over the moral life of the members. More than once it looked as if Calvin would be expelled a second time from Geneva. What in the end saved the day for Calvin was the influx into Geneva of refugees from other countries and the case of Servetus [which we will visit later]” (Kuiper, 197-198).

While Calvin was trying to make Geneva into a Christian city, back in Germany Martin Luther was dying. “Luther and Calvin never met, but they did exchange letters. In one letter [Jan. 21, 1545] Calvin wrote, ‘Would that I could fly to you, that I might even for a few hours enjoy the happiness of your society … but seeing that it is not granted to us on earth, I hope that shortly it will come to pass in the kingdom of God’.” (Nichols, Reformation, 78).


“Catholics and Protestants awaited news of Luther’s death – the Catholics hoped for a terrible death (to prove that he was wrong) and the Protestants a triumphant one (to prove that he was right) [a crowd of people surrounded his death bed and tried to comfort him, as he kept repeating the words, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son’] …. Martin Luther died in the early morning hours of February 18, 1546, only a few steps from the house in Eisleben where he was born sixty-two years earlier.” He “was buried in front of the pulpit in the Castle Church of Wittenberg … an appropriate place. The pulpit was the place of his life’s work.  He was a preacher of the Word of God. And faithful to the end” (Legacy of Luther, 73-74). Among his most famous words were, “I did nothing; the Word did everything.”

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 John Calvin Returns to Geneva

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 32


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts.