HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAY 24
Why can’t the good we do make us right with God, or at least help make us right with him?
Because the righteousness which can pass God’s scrutiny must be entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law. Even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin.
How can you say that the good we do doesn’t earn anything when God promises to reward it in this life and the next?
This reward is not earned; it is a gift of grace.
But doesn’t this teaching make people indifferent and wicked?
No. It is impossible for those grafted into Christ by true faith not produce fruits of gratitude.
Monday, June 5: Philippians 3:1-11
We are not saved by our good works, but we are saved to do good works. The Catechism graciously teaches us that we cannot and should not trust our own work: “Even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin.” Still, it is easy to be self-impressed. We may claim to be a “prayer warrior,” to do “great things for God,” to be “missional,” or to have “authority” over demons. These may be good things, but it is interesting how they tend to make us believe that we are just a little better than those other Christians. When a good thing becomes an ultimate thing it is just another godless thing – no matter what kind of Christian label you attach to it. Grace teaches us to put our faith in neither our faith nor our works. Isaiah states that our “righteous acts are like filthy rags” and that like a shriveled leaf in the wind they will be swept away (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, we trust in Christ and His work alone (Lord’s Day 23). Paul makes this clear. He likens his spiritual lineage and good works to a garbage heap. “I consider them rubbish,” he says. Then he tells us why. “That I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:7-9). Don’t miss the important Holy Spirit point. The more we emphasize our spiritual performance, the more we will walk away from Christ-centered faith and enter the world of unbelief. I encourage you, then, to receive the Catechism’s teaching as a message of grace. It strips away our spiritual facades and invites us to trust His work. He intercedes on our behalf (1 John 2:1-2). He began a good work and He will complete it (Philippians 1:3-6). He alone is our victory and protection over principalities and powers. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing. All our work is to be rooted in Christ alone according to the Word alone for the glory of God alone. Don’t trust your work. Trust His in and through you.
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn