What Do You Need to Know?
In every area of life, there are essential things that you need to know and understand in order to be able to function or to be a part of something. You do not have to know everything about something to use it or to participate but there is an essential minimum standard, a starting place if you will. For example, in order to be able to drive a car, you need to know how to start the car, how to refuel the car and other such functions. You do not need to know all the ins and outs of how the car functions. Learning how the car works in depth can help you be a better driver but it is not essential. In a similar fashion, although not exactly the same, there is an essential amount of starting information that goes along with being a Christian. Everyone who is a Christian should be constantly growing in their knowledge and understanding of the truth, but today we are going to look at what is the starting point.
Last week we looked at the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism, "What is your only comfort in life and death?"(Q.1) The answer to that question is deep and we will be going deeper into its parts as we work through the Catechism together. The essence of the answer is in the first line though, that we belong body and soul to our faithful savior Jesus Christ. The second question asks "What do you need to know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort?" (Q.2). The answer comes in three parts.
The first part of the answer is, "First how great my sins and misery are." (Q.2, A.2) The Apostle Paul writes to us in Romans that "Both Jews and Greeks, are under sin"(Romans 3:9) and that "None is righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10). The idea here is that everyone, no matter if they are apart of the Old Testament covenant people or not are born in sin. They are entirely without excuse for their sin. John reiterates the point even further when he rights, "If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a lire, and His word is not in us." (1 John 1:10). From both Paul and John we understand some of the scope of our sin, but it is only when we look at the whole of the scripture that we see the depth of our sin. To help you understand this I want you to think about how the same action has different consequences based off of who is involved. For example, if I was to break into a random house in town, that would be bad and I would be liable to be charged with a crime, but that same act of breaking into a house becomes a much greater crime if the house that I break into is the White House or Buckingham Palace. The difference is the person whom the crime is committed against. Because those places are the homes of rulers the crime of trespassing holds more weight. To a much greater degree, when we trespass against God we are trespassing against someone who is of infinitely more value and power. He is the ruler of all and so our trespass against him is of infinitely more weight. The depth of our sin is not just that we have sinned, but that we have sinned against the infinite Lord. This is the first thing we must understand. We must understand how horrendous and terrible even the smallest sin is. There is no inconsequential sin.
The second part of our answer is where the hope comes in "Second, how I am delivered from all my sins and misery." (Q.2, A.2) There is such a great hope because while our sin is horrendous and terrible, there is salvation and deliverance in Christ. We are given eternal life through the work of Christ, and only through his work. It is not that we know of him and his work but that we know him intimately and that he knows us. John records the prayer of Christ where he tells is "And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (John 17:3) The important word here is the word know. In scripture, the word "know" rarely refers to simple knowledge, but refers to deep, intimate knowledge. It is most often used to describe the sexual relations between husband and wife. For example, in Genesis 4:1 it says that Adam knew his wife eve and she conserved, and in Matthew 1:25 we read about how Joseph knew not Mary, until after Jesus was born. Our hope comes from intimately knowing Christ and what he has done for us. The Apostles understand this when they tell the religious leaders "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."(Acts 4:12). We are delivered from our sin and misery by the work of Christ, in his birth, life, death, and resurrection.
The last part of the answer is "Third, how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance." (Q.2, A.2) Jesus in the sermon on the mount tells us that those who have been changed by the power of Christ are truly changed. In Matthew 5:14-16 we read how those who have been changed are a light in the darkness. He tells us that no one lights a light for the purpose of hiding that light but a light, by its very nature is meant to shine. In the same way, those who have been set ablaze by the work of Christ will be visible to the world around them. There is a change that is visible to the world around them. Paul reiterates this in Ephesians 5:8-10 when he tells the church how they were once in darkness but are now we are to walk as children of light. If we understand our sin and understand what Christ has done for us then we are changed by that and everything we are seeks to glorify God. There is a thankfulness not just for what God has done, but for what he continues to do in our lives. The power of the cross is not just in our justification but in our sanctification. 2 Corinthians 3:18 teaches us that "We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." When we behold what Christ has done through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, we are changed and our response is utter thankfulness.
Do you know the depth of your sin? Not just that you have committed acts that go against the nature and commands of God, but that our very nature, apart from Christ is to be against God. Do you know the depth of your sin? Do you know Christ? Not just of him, because that is not enough. It is not enough to know who Christ is and what he has done. James reminds us that the demons know these things, they know that God is one, and they know what Christ accomplished on the cross, but all they do is shudder (James 2:18-20). The evidence of knowing our sin truly and knowing Christ intimately is in the fruit that is produced, in the thankful heart that joyfully obeys. Not as one equal serving another, but as a slave who joyfully serves his master for the pure joy of being owned. If you are in Christ "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Think about these things this week. Does your life show the hope that comes from a thankful heart?
Soli Deo Gloria