On Sunday morning we looked at the “darkness” in John 1:5 and saw how big a problem our sin is. But God’s grace is bigger than our sin. This question from the Heidelberg Catechism is a brilliant statement, because it doesn’t fudge or belittle my ongoing sin, but shows how Jesus Christ brings me real peace with God. I remember reading this question and answer on a Sunday afternoon over 10 years ago and being bowled over by it. Time and again we need to go back to basics.
Q.60. How are you right with God?
A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.
Even though my conscience accuses me
of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments
and of never having kept any of them,
and even though I am still inclined toward all evil,
without my deserving it at all,
out of sheer grace,
God grants and credits to me
the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,
as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner,
as if I had been as perfectly obedient
as Christ was obedient for me.
All I need to do
is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.
Can the follower of any other religion say anything remotely like this?! Praise God for the gospel!
Here are the proof texts: Rom 3:21-28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Phil 3:8-11; Rom 3:9-10; Rom 7:23; Titus 3:4-5; Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8; Rom 4:3-5; Gen 15:6; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 1 John 2:1-2; Rom 4:24-25; 2 Cor 5:21; John 3:18; Acts 16:30-31.
You can find more of the Heidelberg Catechism here
I highly recommend this little book. It’s a true Christian classic. It was written by a group of English and Scottish ministers in London during the English Civil War in the 1640s. I don’t know what you would choose to write about when a war was on, but these men wrote 107 questions and answers about God and our relationship with him, all in under 50 pages.
The Bible says: “In your thinking, be mature” (1 Cor 14:20). How are you going to do that? Well, this booklet is one of the best things I can recommend to help you.
I like to think of the catechism as a training programme for the Christian mind. If you go to the gym, you need to have a plan, and you need to follow that plan if you want positive results. If you just rely on the spur of the moment, you’re not going to lift the hard weights, or push yourself to run hard; you won’t keep it up, and you’ll stay flabby. In the same way, our Christian minds need exercise to help us grow strong and think God’s ways not our ways. I think the best way to use this catechism is as your training programme. That means it’s not an “easy” read, to relax with on the beach; you can’t skim read it and get the benefits, anymore than five minutes at the gym is going to help build your biceps.
No, this is a book to keep coming back to. It’s a book to read slowly and carefully and thoughtfully. Read through it again and again. Look up words you don’t understand in a dictionary. Look up the Bible verses and think about how they prove the answer. Ask questions. Ask me at church why it answers things in that particular way. Use it to direct your prayers sometimes. Take a question and thank God for the Bible truths unpacked in the answer. You can even try and memorise some of your favourite questions and answers. If you use the catechism like that, it will do wonders for your Christian mind.
A lot of Christian books published today you can skim through and you may learn one or two interesting things. But this booklet is different. It’s one to keep nearby your Bible. My copy has been my companion for years now, and is grubby, held together with tape, and covered with coffee stains. It’s given backbone and fibre to my Christian mind and thousands upon thousands of others. “In your thinking, be mature” (1 Cor 14:20).