The Good Life
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 Good Life
Thursday, July 20: Colossians 2:6-23
The Catechism’s teaching about doing good is a breath of fresh. “Only that which arises out of true faith, conforms to God’s law, and is done for his glory” is good. From beginning to end, the Christian life is Christ-rooted and Christ-directed. First, think of this theologically. We place faith in Christ who is the vine (John 15:1-17). We conform to God’s law only when we, branches of the vine, feast on Him who resisted temptation (Matthew 4:1-11) and met all the laws demands – He bore the guilt, curse, shame and punishment for human sin (Isaiah 53, Romans 8:1-2, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Galatians 3:13, Hebrews 10:22, 1 John 4:18). We bring glory to God when we share Jesus’ posture, “Not my will, but your will be done.” Second, think of this pastorally. John Calvin’s words are critical for vibrant, joy-filled faith: “We are children of a Father, not slaves of a master.” We obey because of love. We do not obey out of fear. That is the reason the Catechism states: “That which is based on what we think is right or on established human tradition” is not the good that God requires or wants from us. Too many of us are stuck in our religious environments that have turned tradition and personal comfort into idols to be worshipped at the expense of a “wholehearted joy in God through Christ and a delight to do every kind of good as God wants us to do.” Please do not underestimate the importance of these theological and pastoral expressions of grace. Too often, well-meaning Christians use themes like accountability and discipleship to reverse the order of grace. In practice, they suggest that doing precedes being, imperative precedes indicative, responsibility precedes relationship, and that Christ will treasure us only if we first delight in obedience (July 19). This is what Paul calls the “hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Let’s remind ourselves that we receive, rather than earn, the good life in Christ. Let’s encourage one another to delight in Christ by the power of the Spirit, rather than engage in a vain attempt to earn His delight through our grunt work. The good life, the conversion life is well stated this way: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness (Colossians 2:6-7). Will we live the pre-eminence of Christ by grace alone?
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn