No Other God (Commandment #1)
HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAY 34
What does the Lord require in the first commandment?
That I, not wanting to endanger my very salvation, avoid and shun all idolatry, magic, superstitious rites, and prayer to saints or to other creatures. That I sincerely acknowledge the only true God, trust him alone, look to him for every good thing humbly and patiently, love him, fear him, and honor him with all my heart. In short, that I give up anything rather than go against his will in any way.
What is Idolatry?
Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed himself in his Word.
No Other God (Commandment #1)
Christians believe that identity in Christ precedes and is foundational to the imitation of Christ. The Lord graciously delivered Israel from Egypt before He gave His commandments (Exodus 20:1-3). Likewise, the Father’s gracious deliverance of Christians from bondage to sin through Christ’s death and resurrection precedes and is foundational to His command “to put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature” and to be clothed “as God’s chosen people (Colossians 3:1-14). Do not miss the critical point. The Lord saves, accepts and justifies us as we are, but He has not given us the freedom to remain as we are. The natural fruit of grace is obedience. To profess Jesus as Savior requires that we submit to Him as Lord.
Christians believe that every ethical consideration begins with the profession that the Savior is now our Ruler. A wise person penned this saying: “The first duty of every soul is to find not its freedom, but its Master” (unknown source). Since we are all ruled by someone or something, we must ask: “What is the greatest affection of my heart?” The Catechism’s commentary on the first commandment – “you shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) – is an invitation to direct our affection to “the one true God, who has revealed himself in his Word” because whoever or whatever I trust will define how I live. More than a few who have set their idolatrous affection on financial security now live with pain because they abandoned spouse and children on the altar of success. Only the gospel of grace and the path of Christ-centered truth can remedy such brokenness. Therefore, the first command is given so that we will “sincerely acknowledge the only true God, trust him alone,” and “give up anything rather than go against his will in any way.” Whether in the use of our knowledge, influence, money or relationships, we are to bring glory to God alone through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord (1 Peter 4:11).
The first commandment rests in the assumption that, while many other religions or gods may promise a better life, it is only the Triune God revealed in the Bible – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – who actually gives and accomplishes it. So, let’s never tire of this gospel-centered question: “Are we placing our trust in the One True God?”
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn
Sunday, August 6
The Catechism states that Christians are to “sincerely acknowledge the only true God” and “trust him alone.” Christians know it is relatively easy to acknowledge God. They also know it much more difficult to trust Him and His ways in the midst of trying circumstances. Read Proverbs 30:5-9, Jeremiah 17:1-10 and John 17. Prayerfully reflect on how your life demonstrates trust in the Lord alone.
Monday, August 7
The Catechism states that Christians are to “look to him for every good thing.” Christians know that our human perception of or desire for good may not be consistent with God’s revealed desire for His children. Read James 1:1-18. Prayerfully reflect on how this passage challenges your perception of good and how you will more consistently look to Him to be clothed in His good.
Tuesday, August 8
The Catechism states that Christians are to “look to him for every good thing humbly and patiently.” It is safe to say that humility and patience are not attributes that define our proud and arrogant American context, even for those who claim the title Christian. Read Colossians 1:9-14 and 1 Peter 5:5b-7. Prayerfully reflect on how you will grow in Christ-like humility and patience.
Wednesday, August 9
The Catechism states that as a Christian I am to exercise single-minded devotion to “the only true God” – to “love him, fear him, and honor him with all my heart.” Christians not only find their deepest satisfaction and joy in the Lord, but live to display His glory in all things. Read Proverbs 1:1-7 and Matthew 22:37-40. Prayerfully reflect on how your gratitude for grace will translate into practical behavior that displays His glory.
Thursday, August 10
The Catechism states that Christians are to “avoid and shun” all that may “endanger” their salvation. Christians are not immune from the presence, power or purpose of sin as they await the return of Jesus Christ. In fact, sinful behavior routinely entangles us in a web of guilt, pain, shame and fear. Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 and Hebrews 12:1-3. Prayerfully reflect on how you will practically avoid, shun and flee these attacks on your life.
Friday August 11
The Catechism states that “idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God.” It has been said that the human heart is an idol factory that often pursues personal comfort at the expense of Christian faithfulness. Read Ephesians 5:1-20. Prayerfully discern the idols that have a grip on your heart and life, and reflect on how you will turn away from them to trust in the teachings of the Lord alone.
Saturday, August 12
Read Philippians 3:7-4:1. Pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit these words will become your life’s vision and passion.