God and Us
HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAY 25
It is by faith alone that we share in Christ and all his blessings: where then does that faith come from?
The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it through our use of the holy sacraments.
What are sacraments?
Sacraments are holy signs and seals for us to see. They were instituted by God so that by our use of them he might make us understand more clearly the promise of the gospel, and might put his seal on that promise. And this is God’s gospel promise: to forgive our sins and give us eternal life by grace alone because of Christ’s sacrifice finished on the cross.
Are both the word and the sacraments then intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?
Right! In the gospel the Holy Spirit teaches us and through the holy sacraments he assures us that our entire salvation rests on Christ’s one sacrifice for us on the cross.
How many sacraments did Christ institute in the New Testament?
Two: baptism and the Lord’s Supper
God and Us
Friday, June 16: Matthew 6:5-15
One of the most comforting statements imaginable is found in the Catechism – “I am not my own but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” It’s part of our Reformed soul language, the way in which we understand and experience the world. Why is it so comforting? Is it because it’s been passed down as part of the heritage of faith? Is it because many of us learned the catechism at a young age? While perhaps these reasons play a role, I think the main reason is this: it isn’t up to us. When we experience the gospel promise – the grace and mercy and love poured out upon us, made tangible by the celebration of the Sacraments – it isn’t something we have earned by our good works or achieved by our outstanding faith. In fact, if the salvation of creation was left in our hands, there is a good chance we would royally mess it up. We humans have a tendency to think only about ourselves. We humans have a tendency to rely on our intellect, our emotion, our material wealth, our economic status, our….the list goes on and on. Imagine trying to achieve or earn our way into heaven, when we know our faith journey should be centered on Christ. Imagine trying to achieve or earn our way into heaven, when we know our personal faith is defined by the larger community of believers. Imagine trying to achieve or earn our way into heaven, when we know the Sacraments point us toward the gospel promise. Imagine trying to achieve or earn our way into heaven when we are called to proclaim God’s work in our lives as loud as our lungs will allow. Imagine trying to achieve or earn our way into heaven, when the gospel tells us we aren’t good enough. Imagine trying to achieve or earn our way into heaven, when the Triune God – our loving Creator, our sacrificial Redeemer, and our ever-present Sustainer – calls us into his loving arms and offers to carry the burden of sin for us. The Sacraments serve to point us toward this resounding truth: Thanks be to God that our salvation isn’t up to us. What a sense of comfort that brings! As Paul writes, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:31-39). As we continue to study and celebrate the Sacraments, it is my prayer that you will remember the One who has already accomplished salvation for you.
Chaplain Sarah Hoogendoorn