The Dying Away of the Old Self
HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAY 33
What is involved in genuine repentance or conversion?
Two things: the dying-away of the old self, and the coming-to-life of the new.
What is the dying-away of the old self?
It is to be genuinely sorry for sin, to hate it more and more, and to run away from it.
What is the coming-to-life of the new self?
It is wholehearted joy in God through Christ and a delight to do every kind of good as God wants us to.
What do we do that is good?
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.
The Dying Away of the Old Self
Tuesday, July 18: Colossians 3:5-11
The Catechism teaches that conversion or repentance involves the dying-away of the old-self. That means we are “to be genuinely sorry for sin, to hate it more and more, and to run away from it.” This is pretty intense language – sorry, hate and run. J.I. Packer explains why. Sin is “an energy, an obsession, an allergic reaction to God’s law, an irrational anti-God syndrome in our spiritual system that drives us to exalt ourselves and steels our hearts against devotion and obedience to our maker. Pride, ingratitude, and self-gratification are its basic expressions” (Rediscovering Holiness. 49). He goes on to describe pride “as playing God,” ingratitude “as fighting God,” and self-gratification “as hating God” (50). Sin is more than a mistake here and a blunder there. It is a power the penetrates every sincere soul in order to suffocate every remaining breath of life. As I said, this is intense language. So, how do we respond? One option is to reject the notion of sin. Perhaps you have met those who think people are essentially good, perhaps make a few mistakes, and consider the need for Christ’s atoning sacrifice overstated if not bigoted. A second option is to ignore it. Perhaps you’ve met others whose Christian language is merely a justification for adultery, racism or gender discrimination. Both approaches resist the genuinely human conversion-life in Christ. The Bible teaches we are sinners by nature (Romans 5:12-14) and in practice (Romans 7:7-25), and that we are to honestly confess it – to be sorry for sin, to hate sin, and to run from sin – if we are to live fully in Christ (1 John 1:5-2:2). The Apostle Paul understood and acknowledged the human struggle with sin. His own agonizing question, however, is the Spirit’s invitation to us all to experience grace: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death” (Romans 7:24; cf. 7-25). Jesus is the rescue agent because He became the “wretched man” for us (Romans 6:10, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:13). Because we stand in Him, clothed with His armor of grace (Ephesians 6:10-20), we are able “to be genuinely sorry for sin, to hate it more and more, and to run away from it” and to begin to live the fully human life in Christ. What is the decision we will make? Will we embrace the pain of “putting to death” the old self (Colossians 3:5) for the sake of Him who was put to death for us?
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn