Our Lifestyle Matters
SCRIPTURE: TITUS 2:11-14
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Our Lifestyle Matters
The Heidelberg Catechism, like most catechisms written during the time of the Reformation, frames its Biblical teaching around the Apostle’s Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. This is, Tim Keller explains, “a perfect balance of biblical theology, practical ethics, and spiritual experience” that sets “forth a comprehensive exposition of the gospel,” that forms “a distinct people” that reflects the likeness of Christ (The New City Catechism Devotional, 8-9). So far, we have grounded ourselves in Biblical theology (Lord’s Days 1-34). Still, we must ask if these great doctrines of truth and grace translate into practical ethics and Christian spiritual experience? The Catechism’s answer is: “Yes it should.” Its Biblical vision for ethics is found in Lord’s Days 34-44 and its understanding of spiritual experience found in Lord’s Days 45-52. Beginning today, July 30, until October 21, we will explore daily practical ethics through the Catechism’s teaching on the ten commandments.
It is helpful to think of the ten commandments as God’s gracious gift, His guardrails to protect and promote joyful Christian living. Here is what that means. If you have traveled the “Going-to-the-Sun Road” in Glacier National Park, then you have experienced the stunning beauty of God’s creation. You may also remember the danger of the trip. Cars wind their way along steep cliffs with only a guard-rail providing the boundary between joy and terror. This is the purpose of the 10 commandments in the practical ethics of walking in faith. They are the boundary between joy and terror – God’s guard-rails that protect our lives from the terrors of sin and evil, and through Jesus Christ promote our joy in the beauty He intends for our lives. The Decalogue uses the terms “no” or “not” 11 times (19 times if you assume their presence in the various phrases of the 4th and 10th commandments). This “thou shall not” language, however, is very gracious. It serves as the Spirit’s invitation to wisely navigate God’s path which leads to human joy. If all God did was tell us what to do, He would reduce us to miserable slaves whose value would be measured by the quality of our rule-keeping. Since He is teaching us what to avoid, He is treating us as the children He loves. Loving parents fill their children with the dignity and value of genuine humanness by equipping them to grow into healthy decision-making adults. This is the reason John Calvin said, “We are children of a Father; not slaves of a master.” The Father’s gift of the 10 commandments reveals His character of grace, purpose of restoration, and gift of reconciliation, so that we can live the genuinely human Christ-like life. Grace restores our human dignity. God’s law is His gracious guard-rail to protect us from throwing it all away again.
Let’s never tire of this gospel-centered question: “Are we living as the distinct people of Jesus Christ?”
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn
PERSONAL REFLECTION JULY 30-AUGUST 5
Sunday, July 30
The Heidelberg Catechism answers the question, “What is involved in genuine repentance or conversion,” with these words: “Two things: the dying away of the old self, and the coming to life of the new” (Lord’s Day 33, QA 88). Read 1 Peter 2:4-12. What difference will this Spirit inspired text make in your conversion life from this day forward?
Monday, July 31
Conversion or repentance describes both the gracious gift of becoming a Christian and the daily choices one must make to faithfully live the Christian life (Lord’s Days 32-33). Conversion describes both the gracious gift of becoming a Christian through the “living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:22-25), and the practice of making intentional daily decisions to more and more live who we are in Christ (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Read Isaiah 55. What difference will this Spirit inspired text make in your conversion life from this day forward?
Tuesday, August 1
The Heidelberg Catechism answers the question, “What is the dying away of the old self,” this way: “It is to be genuinely sorry for sin, to hate it more and more, and to run away from it” (Lord’s Day 33, QA 89). Take time to prayerfully reflect on how you will more and more resist sin and temptation in your life.
Wednesday, August 2
The Heidelberg Catechism answers the question, “What is the coming-to-life of the new self,” this way: “It is wholehearted joy in God through Christ and a delight to do every kind of good as God wants us to” (Lord’s Day 33, QA 90). Take time to prayerfully reflect on how you will more and more make the Lord and His will in Christ your identity and purpose in your life.
Thursday, August 3
The Christian life of conversion can be described as a gracious “descent into humility.” Read 1 Corinthians 15:9-11, Ephesians 3:7-8a and 1 Timothy 1:15-17 – words that describe the Apostle Paul’s own gracious descent into humility. Prayerfully reflect on how your humble confession of sin is the rich soil for the display of God’s glory in Christ in your life.
Friday, August 4
The Heidelberg Catechism describes “every kind of good” God expects with these words: “Only that which arises out of true faith, conforms to God’s law, and is done for his glory; and not that which is based on what we think is right or on established human tradition” (Lord’s Day 33, QA 91). Prayerfully reflect on what motivates the choices you make, which faith or human traditions may be an obstacle to a life of genuine conversion, and how you will continue to equip yourself to live for God’s glory.
Saturday, August 5
Read Romans 6:1-14. Prayerfully reflect on how the grace of God is helping you to count yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ.