Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #41

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 41 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about question 108 -109.

This week our question deals with the seventh commandment, which reads:

Deuteronomy 5:18 You shall not commit adultery.

Adultery is a term that we are all familiar with because it refers to a sexual act that is far too common. In fact, adultery, voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse, is not really seen as a big deal at all by many in our culture. Sure, there are and will always be people, I suppose, that would prefer their spouse not have sex with another person; but the fact that adultery has become so common has made it seem fairly tame compared to some of the other sexual practices taking place in 21st century America.

We live in a culture where our entire lives are inundated with sexuality. It’s on our TV, in our movies, and on the catalogues and ads that are delivered to our door. It’s on billboards as we drive into downtown. It’s plastered across the magazine racks in high-gloss photos as we approach the checkout counter at the grocery store. And of course, it’s almost as if the internet was made for the specific purpose of pushing sexuality into our lives in every imaginable way.

This has had a huge impact on our lives and our culture. Adultery is so common that it is simply accepted as a normal part of adult life, especially for our political leaders. In fact, if a political leader takes measures to remain faithful to their spouse they are mocked as being sexually repressive. Sex before marriage is just normal and it has been this way for generations. Homosexuality has been declared a basic human right by our Supreme Court. Transgenderism and transsexualism are just this cultural moment’s examples of sexual deviance being made to look normal and God’s standards being made to look obscene.

Transition

But what does all of this have to do with the command of God forbidding adultery? Well, actually it has everything to do with it because Jesus teaches us in the NT that there is an underlying issue of the heart behind this command.

Matt 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Lust is adultery of the heart. It is the strong sexual desire for something or someone that is forbidden. It is the sexual desire for someone or something that doesn’t belong to you, and therefore this seventh command, along with Jesus’ expansion of it makes any sexual act outside of marriage between a man and woman sinful.

And that is what the Heidelberg Catechism helps us to understand.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 108: What is God’s will for you in the seventh commandment?

Answer: God condemns all unchastity. We should therefore thoroughly detest it and, married or single, live decent and chaste lives.

Adultery is a word we all know but unchastity may need a definition simply because we don’t use that word very often. Chastity refers to the practice of refraining from any sex outside of marriage. In some cases, people will take a vow of chastity for religious reasons and that means that they intend to refrain from all sexual intercourse by not getting married.

So, when the Heidelberg says that God’s condemns all unchastity, it is saying, and rightly so, that any sexual act outside of the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman is sin. Our understanding of all sexual immorality is rooted in the fact that any form of sexual identity, sexual temptation, or sexual satisfaction that is contrary to what God declares to be good is sin.

What I mean is that when we look to Scripture to develop a Biblical theology of sex, we must start with the type of sex that God declares to be good and pleasing in His sight, and anything other than that is determined to be sinful. Anything outside of God’s design for human sexual expression is wrong.

Question 109: Does God, in this commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?

Answer: We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul, and God wants both to be kept clean and holy. That is why He forbids everything which incites unchastity, whether it be actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires. 

The proper starting point for a discussion on the biblical theology of sex must start in the Garden of Eden. Because in the Garden, God gave us His plan for human sexuality.

Gen 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

This is the foundation for what the Bible teaches on sex. Human sexuality was created by God as a pleasurable gift to be enjoyed only by a man and his wife. Sex was a means to build families, and as a way to strengthen intimacy/unity between a husband and wife. Any type of sexual act that falls short of this standard is a disordered sexuality. Any deviation from this norm, is wrong.

Any type of sexual gratification, any type of sexual activity that falls outside the scope of God’s revealed plan is sin. God condemns all unchastity. We should therefore thoroughly detest it and, married or single, live decent and chaste lives.

Now, I am very aware of the fact that this view, this teaching isn’t popular, especially in our culture today. But I don’t think it has ever been popular. C. S. Lewis, wrote,  

Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it; the Christian rule is, either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your spouse, or else total abstinence. Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong.[1]

Lewis wrote this in 1952 in the culture of Great Britain and I have no way of knowing if it was true at that time, but I take his word for it. I also, agree with his conclusion about where the problem lies. It is not Christianity that is the problem it is our sinful sexual instinct that is the issue.

God’s commands about sexuality and His commands against our sexual immorality will always seem out of place to us so long as our sexual instincts are driven by our sinful brokenness. So, what can we do to counteract our sinful sexual brokenness? What can we do to honor God and seek to obey His commands?

One step in our approach to battling sin and temptation is, “If our right eye causes us to sin…don’t look.” Behave as if you had actually plucked out your eyes. Jesus actually commands us to take real and drastic measures to battle against sin and temptation.

For some of us that means you need to put filters on your computers and home network. For others, this means that you need to stop reading the books you’re reading. For others, this means you need to delete your social media accounts or stop watching the movies or HBO and Netflix shows you enjoy so much.

Yes, I’m sure that your friends will say, “What are you talking about? You’re not going to know how this end. If you’re not going to watch this new show or read this new book…you won’t be as culturally educated as you could be.” That may be true, but it is better to be culturally maimed and preserve your purity. The question is whether you are willing to go to this extreme to battle sin and temptation.

Jesus says that it is better to live life culturally maimed, to avoid certain experiences in this life, than to risk final destruction in the life to come.

Now, in many ways, this approach to change is good But this approach is not enough because this approach cannot change your heart. This approach is simply not complete because it focuses on the outward behaviors only and the root of the problem of sexual sin is a heart problem. Behavior modification alone will not solve this problem of our hearts. Only Jesus can solve this problem.

One of my deepest Christian convictions is that the gospel is so much more than simply the minimal doctrine that one must affirm in order to go to Heaven. The gospel is the power of God that saves us from sin’s guilt and sin’s control and turns the entire world upside down.

The gospel is so powerful that it can turn an enemy of God into a worshipper of God. It is so powerful that it can change your eternity as well as your life here and now. The gospel changes us at the very core of who we are. It reorients our heart around the weight of God’s glory and when the gospel takes root in us it begins a process of reorienting all of life around our growing love for God over our love for sin.

As believers in Christ our identity as gospel people is going to propel us into battle against sexual sin. Jesus doesn’t command us to embrace a Biblical sexual ethic in order that we can be saved, but instead as the born-again people of God he calls us to embrace a God-honoring view of sex. Obedience to God flows out of a renewed relationship to God.

I think that our battle against sexual sin begins not with what we need to do but with something we need to believe…

Our identity is in Christ, not our sexuality. The culture says, “You are your sexuality.” The culture says that to deny our sexual urges is to deny our humanity. The culture wants us to believe that If we reject its views of sexuality and the practice of those views then we are rejecting what it means to be human.

But the Bible teaches us something else about sex?

a. The Bible teaches us the context in which sex is a gift. Within the context of monogamous, heterosexual marriage sex is an amazing gift of God that is to be enjoyed for pleasure, for procreation and for the joy of intimacy. Outside of monogamous heterosexual marriage sex in all its forms is sin.

b. The Bible teaches us that sex and romantic fulfillment are not the keys to life. They are gifts but they are not the ultimate point of life. Jesus was celibate and lived the fullest and most God-glorifying life ever lived. Therefore, Jesus teaches us that the key to a full life is not intimacy with another person but rather intimacy with God.

In American culture, we have completely distorted this. Our culture promotes the pursuit of sexual pleasure first and foremost and then in the context of our sexual enjoyment we are to then find religious teaching that affirms and supports our sexuality.

But Jesus wants us to pursue our relationship with God first and foremost and then in the context of that relationship we are to enjoy God’s gift of sex in a way that glorifies Him.

Trusting Christ with our sexuality is hard because it goes against the grain of what culture says and in many ways, it goes against the grain of what we feel. Our natural predisposition is to sin. It is to go against God’s glory, Gods rule, and Gods word.  We are dead in sin, we are enemies of God, we are blinded to God’s glory and through the gospel Jesus calls us out of this and into a life with God that is going to be hard.

But I want us to remember something about Jesus as we seek to navigate through this issue. In His life, Jesus dealt with a lot of sinful people, even those caught up in sexual sin. But something you will notice is that He never seems to want to push people away. No matter the issue, Jesus invites people in close so that He can talk to them and offer them grace. Even when He encountered people who were involved with deep sexual sins we see that Jesus draws near to them and offers them grace, He is honest with them about their sin, but then He looks them in the eye and He says, “Now, come and follow me.”

Thank you for joining me today to learn about the seventh commandment. Next week, we will continue to study by looking at the eighth commandment, which addresses stealing and taking what doesn’t belong to us. I hope you will join me for that discussion as we look at Lord’s Day 42 and questions 110 - 111.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.


[1] C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity: Sexual Morality (pg. 95)

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #40

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 40 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about question 105-107.

Transition

This week our question deals with the sixth commandment,

Deut 5:17 You shall not murder.

This is perhaps the most recognized and culturally accepted commandments in all of the decalogue (the ten). Even among the unbelieving, non-Christian people around us, this command is seen as right and just.

Nearly every civilization known to us, has had some laws prohibiting the taking of human life and promising punishment to those who did. But that hasn’t kept our world from being filled with murder, nor has it kept murder out of our imaginations. Right here in Dallas, records indicate that the murder rate is on a dramatic rise.

In 2018 Dallas, TX recorded 196 homicides. By May of 2019, the city had already recorded 90 homicides[1], which means that before the summer began we were on pace to break a terrible record.

But murder is not just a reality in our culture it is also big business in the box office. Horror movies depicting homicidal violence have never been more popular. The highest grossing horror film in 2018 was The Quiet Place taking in $188 million. The entire horror industry took in $901 million in 2018. Almost $1 billion was spent in 2018 by people who wanted to be entertained by violent murder being depicted on screen.[2] This doesn’t take into account the millions made on action, adventure and sci-fi depicting similar violence.

What does this mean? For starters, It reveals that we don’t take this command of God very seriously. But it also reveals that at some level deep down, murder is a problem that all of us struggle with.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Murder has been an issue for humanity since the very beginning. In Genesis 4 we read about the very first sin committed outside the Garden of Eden. Cain and his brother Abel prepared their offerings to the Lord. The Lord received Abel’s offering but not Cain’s and,

“So Cain was very angry, and his face fell…Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.

Just a few verses later in the same chapter (Gen 4), we read the story of a man named Lamech who boasted about his two wives and that he had killed a young man. After the flood, God commissions Noah and his family to being rebuilding human civilization. But this time God gives him a law prohibiting murder from Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

Don’t miss the fact that we are 9 chapters into the Bible, and we have already seen murder become so prevalent on the earth that God gave Moses this divine law in order to forbid it. Murder is a serious crime in the eyes of God and it demands a serious punishment.

Murder is an assault upon the image of God in man. Human life is not cheap, it is precious to God and when it is taken, God demands justice. Murder is the intentional taking of innocent human life. It is not the same thing as the accidental taking of life, nor is it the same as self-defense, nor does this prohibit just war.

The act of murder is a grievous sin and its effects can be seen throughout the Bible and throughout the history of humanity. Murder is a terrible crime, a terrible transgression of God’s law, which demands swift and balancing justice, but murder has a root that goes deeper than the act itself.

When Jesus addressed this sin and the commandment prohibiting it, He didn’t deal so much with the act itself but with the heart attitude behind it.

Matt 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Murder is a terrible sin, but anger is the real root of the problem and the root is what the Heidelberg wants to address.

Question 105: What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment?

Answer: I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor – not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds – and I am not to be party to this in others; rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge. I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either. Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword.  

How many of us have read the 10 commandments and thought, “Well at least I haven’t committed murder?” Jesus’ audience did the same thing. They looked at the pursuit of righteousness simply in terms of what they had and had not done, but Jesus taught that our behavior is only part of the equation. The key to understanding the deeper purpose of God’s law is to understand what it reveals about our hearts and in our hearts, we commit murder all the time.

It is easy to see that anger is what leads to the act of murder, especially if we look at the story of Cain and Abel. But Jesus wants us to know that the anger in our hearts is just as dangerous and deserving of condemnation as the act itself. God cares when we commit sinful acts, but He also cares about the sinful condition of our hearts.

So God’s will for us in this commandment is not that we would do everything in our power to avoid the sin of murder, but that we would strive to rid our hearts of the attitudes and emotions that give rise to murder. Heidelberg even talks about the act of harming oneself as murder.

Suicide is a terrible thing and often comes about because a person is hurting or has been hurt in a way that is completely overwhelming. But it is still sin. We should grieve when suicide takes place and we should try to comfort those whose loved one has taken their life, but we need to have a category in our mind for what has taken place and suicide is still sin.

Question 106: Does this commandment refer only to killing?

Answer: By forbidding murder God teaches us that He hates the root of murder: envy, anger, vindictiveness. In God’s sight all such are murder.

God hates the root of murder. The heart is desperately wicked and we cannot tame it, but God can. In His mercy and grace, God can and does give new hearts to His people, but He also renews our hearts by His Spirit and His Word.

As He works in our hearts, He calls us to turn away from the root of murder and wicked fruit and to embrace the root of love.

It is well known that love is at the heart of the message and vision of Christianity. There is perhaps no more popular New Testament verse in the world than John 3:16, where we come to understand that God loves the world and in His love He gave His Son to us so that all who believe in Him will not perish but will have eternal life. The Father’s love for unlovely sinners, like us, is at the very heart of the Christian message.

But that is not the end of Christianity’s vision of love. Jesus told his friends that there is no greater love in this world than the love that would cause a man to give his own life in order to save his friends and that is exactly what Jesus did. He died in our place. He took our place and shielded us from the judgment of God and He did this because of His love.

But still, this is not the end of Christianity’s vision of love. In the NT gospels, we see Jesus teaching all of His disciples that we are to be people of love. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are even commanded to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.

Jesus tells us that the world will know that we belong to Him by the way we love one another. The Christian vision of love is incredible and it gives us the idea that God wants love to fill the earth and fuel all of our emotions and actions.

Question 107: Is it enough then that we do not kill our neighbor in any such way?

Answer: No. By condemning envy, hatred, and anger God tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly to them, to protect them from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies.

To do good to our enemies is uncommon love. This is radical love fueled by a profound understanding of gospel realities. The gospel teaches that despite God’s goodness toward mankind, all of us have rejected Him in our hearts. We suppress the truth about Him and we seek to live as though we belong in God’s place. But, He loved us. Before the foundation of the world, He chose to love us and even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We don’t deserve His love and when this truth takes hold of our hearts, it will begin to change the way we view everyone, even our enemies. At the end of the day Jesus is calling us to imitate the love of the Father in how we interact with everyone, from family and friends, to fellow believers, and even to strangers and enemies. He calls us to love, to do good, to lend with no strings attached. God is the standard of how we are to love others, and God’s love is perfect.

As followers of Jesus we are called to love not to hate. We are called to love God in a way that resets our heart and enables us to love others in an extraordinary, unnatural and radical way. This sixth commandment is not just a prohibition against a terrible type of sin, it is also a summons to an otherworldly type of love.

Thank you for joining me today to learn about the sixth commandment. Next week, we will continue to study by looking at the seventh commandment, which prohibits adultery and helps us understand what Biblical sexual ethics are all about. I hope you will join me for that discussion as we look at Lord’s Day 41 and questions 108 -109.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.


[1] https://dfw.cbslocal.com/2019/06/05/rising-dallas-homicide-rate-comparison-other-cities/

[2] https://www.the-numbers.com/market/2018/genre/Horror

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #39

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 39 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about question 104. Only one question again this week but it too is a significant one so let’s get started.

Transition

This week our question deals with the fifth commandment,

Deut 5:16 Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

It’s no surprise to most of us that God wants us to take the parent-child relationship seriously.  Like many of you, I grew up with this commandment in mind and I have always generally accepted that it was right for children to honor their parents, even when I didn’t want to.  But for God to make it one of the ten commandments shows us just how important this command and the relationship it affects truly are.

This command is also restated in the New Testament and expanded a little bit.

Eph 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Paul tells us here that obedience to parents is right, that it comes with a promise, but he also points out that how parents relate to their children is important as well. All of that to say, there is plenty for us to consider in this fifth commandment and Heidelberg is going to help us to do just that.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 104: What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment?

Answer: That I honor, love and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I obey and submit to them, as is proper, when they correct and punish me; and also that I be patient with their failings – for through them God chooses to rule us.

First, notice that this answer extends the responsibility of submission to authority beyond the parent-child relationship. Honor, love and loyalty to parents is just the start but in general, submission to all those in authority is included. The church has understood and taught that the fifth commandment should be applied in this way.

“All the catechisms and confessions of the Reformation, for example, treated the command to honor father and mother as applicable to other ‘authority-subordinate’ relationships.”[1] When you read in the NT epistles and you come to the household codes as they are described, we see a series of relationships where there is an authority-subordinate structure and in each of these, the fifth commandment is contained.

What this means is that God has commanded that humanity ordered society in such a way that it reflects a proper respect for authority and for those in submission. Citizens should submit to governmental authorities (Rom 13:1), the church should submit to its leaders (Heb 13:17), wives should submit to their own husbands (Eph 5:22), servants should submit to their masters (Eph 6:5) and of course children should obey their parents.

It is important to point out there are clearly exceptions to these commands and there is even Biblical precedent for it. Authority can be abused. Parents can be abusive or make demands that violate God’s will. Leaders often command something that God forbids and in such cases our response should be to, “obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).” But on the whole, it is God’s design that parents lead, guide and exercise authority while children obey their authority in a way that pleases God.

God calls children to obey their parents, to follow their parent’s instruction in everything and this type of relationship is right in the eyes of God. This obedience is something that pleases the Lord. But if we are honest, we don’t see this playing out in our culture in abundance. In fact, in my opinion we see the opposite.

Why don’t we see more of this? Part of it is that the mindset of our culture is so confused about all of these roles, but specially the role of children. We have overstressed the “rights” of the child and overemphasized the individuality of the child to such a degree that we see kids who trample on their parents and anyone else in their way.

It is more common in our culture to see children disrespect and dishonor their parents. We consider it the normal course of things for children to rebel against their parent’s authority and it has resulted in many parents simply giving up. When I was younger, teenage rebellion was celebrated. It was viewed as the throwing off of patriarchal oppression and this language has only become more commonplace over the last few decades.

Never before has our cultural ethos done more to allow for and encourage youthful immaturity. Kids are coddled and their preferences catered to, in the home and in the society at large. Contrary to the fears of some, most households are less patriarchy and more kindergarchy.[2]

But God’s Word holds out the standard and says that it is not right for children to break the fifth commandment. Nor is it right for parents to provoke their children to anger in such a way that it will naturally lead to rebellion.

Eph 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

God wants us to know that the responsibilities within the parent-child relationship go both ways. Children are to obey their parents and parents are to lovingly encourage their children. The term “fathers” can refer to both parents, because after all, children aren’t commanded to obey their father’s only. But, it may be that fathers are being singled out for their role in overseeing the upbringing of their children as part of God’s design on the family.

Don’t provoke your children. Don’t lead them to discouragement. The phrase suggests that there is a way that we as parents can engage our children to the point that they take our leadership as a challenge to them. Instead of bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4) what is happening here is that parents are nagging, irritating, demanding, and provoking their children in such a way that they just want to give up trying to obey and please their parents.

Sometimes this means that children feel like complete failures who are unable to please their parents. Nothing is ever good enough. No accomplishment will ever make mom and dad happy. And sometimes this means that children feel provoked/angry with mom and dad like they are being prodded into a fight or a competition. There are ways that we can interact with our children that have a tendency to crush their spirit and there is a way that we can interact with them that makes them want to fight back…and we need to seek to avoid both.

The goal is to teach them and instruct them in the truth through a growing relationship that reflects the love that God has shown us.

The fifth commandment also applies to those of us who are older and even parents ourselves. We still have a responsibility to honor our aging parents in a way that gives glory to God. We should work to maintain our relationship to them, help them, listen to their advice and seek to be a blessing to them even though our relational dynamics have changed since we’ve moved out of their home.

There are numerous ways that this fifth commandment still applies to us today. The focus is obviously the relationship between parents and their children, which is the first and most important relationship within society. But as we zoom out, we see that this principle of respect for authority extends throughout human civilization. No culture will flourish where there is no order, trust and mutual respect.

Oh, and by the way, God has commanded the ordering of society upon the foundation of truth and mutual respect in such a way that we get a glimpse of what it means to be in right relationship to Him, our Creator, God and King.

Thank you for joining me today to learn about the fifth commandment. Next week, we will continue to study by looking at the sixth commandment, which prohibits the taking of human life but also has some implications for how we are to treat our neighbors. I hope you will join me for that discussion as we look at Lord’s Day 40 and questions 105-107.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.


[1] Kevin DeYoung The Good News We Almost Forgot (Pg. 187)

[2] Ibid, pg. 186

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #38

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 38 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about question 103. Only one question this week but it is a significant one so let’s get started.

Transition

This week our question deals with the fourth commandment and the fourth commandment is all about the Sabbath.

Deut 5:12 “ ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Now, there is much for us to consider as we think on this particular command. We need to understand where it comes from, how it applied to OT Israel, what Jesus taught us about it and how it changes, if at all, for Christians today. Thankfully, the Heidelberg helps us tremendously so lets go ahead and look at Question 103 and its answer.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 103: What is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment?

Answer: First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained, and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I regularly attend the assembly of God’s people to learn what God’s Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor. Second, that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through His Spirit, and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath.

I really appreciate this answer because it avoids some of the more common debates surrounding the role of the sabbath in the Christian life. It may be the case that you have avoided that debate, but I’m guessing that most of you have engaged it at some level. Over the years, I’ve found that many people have very strong opinions about the sabbath, and I’ve found that others tend to be a bit confused about it.

I don’t expect that I will solve all the problems related to it on this podcast, but I do hope to give some background and tell you why I think the Heidelberg gets it right. So, let’s start with some history.

The Sabbath principle shows up in Genesis 2,

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

At the very start of everything, God decided to include this principle of rest into creation. One day out of seven is set aside for the purpose of rest and I think it is important to point out that God didn’t do this because He was too exhausted to go back to work. I call this the Sabbath principle because rest wasn’t something that God needed to do; He chose to include it for a different reason.

Fast forward to the time when Israel was a nation of God’s people and we discover that the Sabbath was a very important part of their identity. Even before they made it into the Promised Land, God established the Sabbath principle as a way to teach His people to trust in Yahweh to take care of them and provide for them.

Now, at this point the command to rest on Saturday was part of the covenant agreement that God made with Israel. This wasn’t a command that extended to all the other nations on earth. It was part of their covenant identity and through this law God proved His trustworthiness, which seems to be one of the key points to this whole Sabbath idea.

God wanted His people to rest and enjoy His provision for them as well as to gather together in an assembly of worship (Lev 23:3). On this special day, the work stopped but the bread did not. On this day the labor ceased but the worship continued. On this special day Israel was seen to be the most blessed people on earth and Yahweh was shown to be the most glorious God. He cared for them while they rested and praised Him for it.

However, as time went on, God kept His promise, but Israel did not. They began to chase after other gods. They began to treat worship as an empty ritual that placed God into their debt. They abandoned loyalty to Yahweh and brought upon themselves the curse of exile. But, God wasn’t done with His covenant people.

He drew them back into the land. He reestablished their national sovereignty and when the people looked back at the failures from their past, they vowed to do better. What started out as good intentions, to be more faithful to God, became a source of even greater corruption. The leaders of the people began to double-down on their law keeping, assuming that in some way their obedience was the key to their relationship to God.

Then little-by-little their focus shifted from obedience to God as a result of His gracious provision, to obedience to God as the source of His gracious provision. This might seem subtle, but it made all the difference. Traditions and customs began to take the place of love-fueled loyalty to Yahweh and the command to rest went from being a sign of God’s blessing to a man-centered way to put God into our debt.

Then Jesus came along and he obeyed the Sabbath command, but rejected the man-made traditions. He taught the true heart of the law, which wasn’t about blind obedience but mercy and truth. Jesus taught that the sabbath was about freedom (Luke 13:10-17), it was about healing (Luke 14:1-6), and it was about doing good to others (Mark 3:1-6).

Then Jesus died on the cross. He was buried and rose again on the third day. He gave His life as an offering for our sin and by His gospel we are forgiven, healed, and brought back into relationship with God; not on the basis of our works but on the basis of His loving sacrifice.

Now, what? What has the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus done to the Sabbath command?

Col 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Imagine that you are standing in the middle of the desert in the heat of the day and you have to shield your eyes from the intensity of the sun. Even with your hand up to shield your eyes you find it difficult to focus on anything. You can only get small momentary glimpses of your surroundings as you blink due to the intensity of the sun.

But finally you spot an image on the ground nearby. It is indistinct but it is clearly a shadow. You begin to move toward it and the closer you get the more distinct the outline becomes. You can’t dare look up at the at the solid object casting the shadow because the sun is simply too powerful, but as you move close and blink your eyes the object begins to take shape in your mind.

Then finally the object steps into the sun’s path and shields the intensity from your eyes. You look up and your eyes begin to adjust and what you see standing before you is a man.

This is what life has been like for the Jews. Their entire religious existence has been occupied by getting glimpses of the shadow but now Jesus Christ has come, and He is the one who has been casting that shadow all along.

In other words, Jesus is the point and the fulfillment of all the Old Covenant law and our standing with God is not determined by our adherence to that law but by our faith in Christ. Don’t put your hope in the shadow to save you, put your hope in the man Himself. Let your heart and mind rest secure in the fact that Jesus alone saves you and reconciles you to God.

By my understanding, Jesus has fulfilled the ceremonial aspects of the Old Covenant Law and the strict rules of the Sabbath have been abolished. It has been abolished because it was fulfilled and is fulfilled in Christ. The Sabbath principle that reaches back to the dawn of creation was teaching us that the day was coming when we could rest from our work and trust in God to provide for all of our needs.

The Sabbath principle was about the coming day when we would gather to worship and praise the One who gave us rest by providing for all of our needs. Now that Jesus has come and provided for our greatest need we can rest from our works and join together in worship of the One who has given us true rest.

So, the Sabbath has been fulfilled and strict Sabbath observance has been eliminated. Oh yes, we should still rest but not because our rest earns us anything with God. Our rest is a gift that shows we are blessed and by resting from our labor we are able to actively remember the grace of God and worship Him for it.

Let’s go back and look at the answer to question 103…

 First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained, and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I regularly attend the assembly of God’s people to learn what God’s Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.

God’s will for us in our gospel understanding of the fourth commandment is that we should set aside at least one day of the week for gospel ministry, for Christian education, for assembling together with God’s people, to worship Christ our Savior, Lord and King. Heidelberg calls this a festive day of rest but the early church simply called it the Lord’s Day.

Second, that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through His Spirit, and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath.

The second way that we observe the fourth commandment on account of Christ is that we recognize every day that we are resting from our works and resting in the finished work of Christ on the cross. We have entered into the promised Sabbath rest for all of God’s people which will one day soon be fully realized and will never end.

So, should we still observe the Sabbath? Yes, but in a very different way than we might think.

Thank you for joining me today to learn about the Sabbath. Next week, we will continue to study these 10 commandments by looking at the fifth commandment, which focuses on honoring parents. I hope you will join me for that discussion as we look at Lord’s Day 39 and question 104.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #37

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 37 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 101 & 102.

Transition

This week we are still looking at the third commandment and how we can apply it in our lives in a positive way. Here is the third commandment:

Deut 5:11 You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Last week we tried to figure out why this is such an important issue to God and we learned that the glory of God’s person is directly tied to the holiness of God’s name. There is no way to disconnect the person of God from the name of God, so when we set His name apart in our hearts as holy, we are reverencing Him as holy. Conversely, when we devalue His name by uttering a hateful curse and attach His name to it, we are not just cursing His name we are cursing our God.

But this week we are asking the question, can we use God’s name and even swear by God’s name in a way that is not sinful.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 101: May we swear an oath in God’s name if we do it reverently?

Answer: Yes, when the government demands it, or when necessity requires it, in order to maintain and promote truth and trustworthiness for God’s glory and our neighbor’s good. Such oaths are approved in God’s Word and were rightly used by Old and New Testament believers.

Now, this hardly seems like the most pressing question that we could discuss. The swearing of oaths by the name of God is not one of those ethical dilemma’s that we tend to wrestle over. In fact, we seldom take such oaths. Also, most of us wouldn’t naturally connect swearing to tell the truth in court, “So, help me God” to be something that may violate the third commandment.

It may not be all that pressing to us, but during the reformation this was a pretty significant issue.

“For starters, the Reformers had to think through their pastoral counsel to ex-Catholics who had made monastic vows, often including the promise of life-long celibacy, and now wanted to break those vows.”[1]

Many of the vows taken by monks and other Catholic churchmen were made with the expectation that spiritual merit was being obtained. The Catholic church taught, and still teaches, that eternal life and other graces of God were to be earned or merited through the outward religious practices defined by the RC church. Since these vows were made in a system that was contrary to Scripture and to the gospel, it was necessary for the men and women who made them to repent of them, and thus they were not bound by God to fulfill them.

So, this was a pretty important issue for the newly reformed Protestant church. Today, the taking of religious oaths is not so common, but we may find ourselves in a position to have been called upon to give testimony in court. If so, we can expect to be asked to raise our right hand and swear, “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” In this case, we are promising before God and making an oath before Him that we will give honest and truthful testimony in everything that we say.

We do this as a way to bring solemnity to the court proceeding and to draw attention to the fact that justice is a matter of grave importance. It is also a matter that is overseen by our Creator God and He will be the final judge over our truthfulness in that trial. The Heidelberg sees this as a good thing for the promotion of truth and trustworthiness in society, and I tend to agree.

Now, we know that God sees everything that we do and He hears everything that we say. We know that we will also be judged by God for everything we do and say whether we swear the oath or not. God’s promise to judge the secret thoughts of men by Jesus Christ (Rom 2:16) is part and parcel of the gospel and that means we should strive to be truth-tellers at all times.

But ultimately, as believers in Christ we know that the judgment for sin that we deserve has already been poured out. Christ received in His flesh the due penalty for the sins of all who believe. What this means is that ultimate judgment for our sin has already been paid, but there is another type of judgment that will come. God will judge our fruitfulness as a token of the genuineness of our faith.

But of even more importance to the Reformers in this matter of oaths was the need to address the fact that it had become customary due to the Catholic influence, that religious people would swear oaths and vows on the name of church saints or even angels.

Question 102: May we swear by saints or other creatures?

Answer: No. A legitimate oath means calling upon God as the one who knows my heart to witness to my truthfulness and to punish me if I swear falsely. No creature is worthy of such honor. 

The reformers corrected this practice by refusing to swear an oath by anyone other than God Himself. Since He is the only One who truly knows the heart of man and the only One who can ultimately hold man accountable to keeping an oath, God is the only one by whom any oath or vow should be sworn.

If you are in the habit, or can remember a time when you were, of swearing “on your mother’s grave” then you would be in violation of what the Heidelberg says is right and good. Your mother’s grave is no doubt an item of importance to every good son, but your mother, whether dead or alive, is not so special that she can truly know your heart and judge your actions with the type of majestic justice as God.

So, of course we shouldn’t swear an oath on the name, head, or even the grave of some mere creature, be it saint, angel or your dear mother. No creature is worthy of such an honor.

I think the real question is not about whether or not to swear an oath, the real question is do you put a premium on speaking the truth and nothing but the truth? The first lie occurred in the Garden in Genesis 3 and from that point forward lying is a sin at the very heart of our fallen human nature. Jesus called Satan the “Father of lies” in John 8:44 and Psalm 116:11 tells us that, “All men are liars.” Our God is a covenant keeper who never lies, but we are covenant breakers who lie naturally and treat it like it is no big deal.

Jesus wants His followers to be men and women who speak the truth.

Matt 5:33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. 

The main point of what Jesus is saying in this passage is that it doesn’t matter what verbal formula you use, what matters is whether or not you are going to keep your word. If you make a vow you are bound to keep it. If you make a promise you should do everything in your power to keep it. If we learn to be people of our word, people of honesty and integrity; then there really is no need to make a vow at all. We simply become honest and trustworthy people, like our heavenly father.

Honest people don’t need to swear by anything, they are known for their honesty and their word is enough. That’s what Jesus wants us to understand. He wants us to be honest and truthful the way He and the Father are honest and truthful. Jesus wants us to follow Him and to be men and women of integrity.

Think about it, if we said what we meant and meant what we said there would be no need to make lofty promises. If we kept our word, even down to the smallest thing, it might cause us to be slow in speaking which would be a good thing, but it would also eliminate the need for solemn vows because people could simple trust us. This is what Jesus wants from his people. He wants us to live simple and quiet lives of honesty and trustworthiness.

The Bible is filled with warnings for how our tongues can cause destruction.

Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue,

Jesus wants us to be people whose tongues give life. He wants us to be a church whose speech is trustworthy.

Next week, we will continue to study these 10 commandments by looking at the fourth commandment, which focuses on the sabbath day and keeping it holy. I hope you will join me for that discussion as we look at Lord’s Day 38 and question 103.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.


[1] Deyoung, Kevin The Good News We Almost Forgot (Pg. 175)

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #36

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 36 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 99-100.

Transition

Over the last two weeks we have been studying the 10 commandments one at a time. We looked at the first commandment and learned that it is sinful to worship the wrong God. Yahweh alone is worthy of our worship because He is our Creator and the only true God. So, the first commandment was about Who we should worship, and the second commandment was about how we should worship Him.

Since Yahweh is God, He has the right to determine how He desires to be worshipped. He forbids us to use any graven image, any image at all to represent Him in our worship. These first two commandments make sense in a way that we might expect the law of God to make sense. But this third commandment seems simple by comparison.

The first commandment is God saying worship me only and have no other gods before me. The second commandment is God saying worship me only in the way that I have told you to worship me. The third commandment is God saying don’t mess around with my name. Surely there is more to this third commandment than the fact that God doesn’t want us to make fun of His name…and there is.

Here is the third commandment:

Deut 5:11 You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Lord’s Day Focus...

When you think of taking the Lord’s name in vain, what ideas come into your mind? One of the first things that comes to mind is the way people use our Lord’s name to curse or swear. I was taught at a very young age not to use the Lord’s name in the same breath with foul language. I absolutely believe that when we do this, we are violating the third commandment.

When I was in seminary, I remember a professor making the claim that we often take the Lord’s name in vain when we pray and use his name repetitively as though it were nothing more than a comma at the end of our thought. “Lord God, we just come to you today, Lord God, and we ask you, God, to just be with us, Lord God, and help us, Lord God, to feel your love in this place, Lord God…”

Of course, a person’s heart may be sincere when praying this way, but this may also reflect a lack of reverence and respect for the name and person of God. And that is what the third commandment is all about, it’s about the connection between the name of God and the person of God and the appropriate amount of respect that should be shown to our Creator.

Question 99: What is God’s will for us in the third commandment?

Answer: That we neither blaspheme nor misuse the name of God by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders. In a word, it requires that we use the holy name of God only with reverence and awe, so that we may properly confess Him, pray to Him, and praise Him in everything we do and say.

And let’s go ahead and read the next one…

Question 100: Is blasphemy of God’s name by swearing and cursing really such serious sin that God is angry also with those who do not do all they can to help prevent it and forbid it?

Answer: Yes indeed. No sin is greater, no sin makes God more angry than blaspheming His name. That is why He commanded the death penalty for it.

Blaspheming the name of the Lord is a serious offense to God, but why? Well, in order to answer this question thoroughly we need to see how this commandment is violated in the rest of the OT. So, let’s look at a couple of passages that expand our understanding of what it means to use the Lord’s name in a vain and empty way.

In the middle of Leviticus 24, a fight broke out between a young man, whose father was an Egyptian and whose mother was an Israelite, and a man of Israel. We don’t know what the fight was about but we do know that at some point in the skirmish, the young man cursed the name of God in blasphemy. Maybe, like many of us he lashed out in anger and evoked God’s name in a way to threaten or mock his opponent. But the people took it seriously and took him into custody until the will of Yahweh was clear.

In the very next section we read this,

Lev 24:13 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 14 “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. 15 And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.

God is serious about His name and He wants His people to understand that His name is holy, it is not to be blasphemed under any circumstance. To take the Lord’s name in vain is to treat it as empty, worthless, and of no importance. God forbids his name to be dishonored but again the question is why? What’s so important about God’s name?

To answer this question I want us to look back at Exodus 33. This chapter is a turning point in the history of Israel because both God and Moses are fed up with the people. They had just come out of the golden calf incident and God said to Moses, “You go ahead and lead these people on, but I will not come with you.” What follows is a dialogue between God and Moses that is amazing, but near the end of the discussion Moses makes a request.

He asks God to go with them and to be their God, but he also asks God to show him His glory. And God agrees. God says to Moses,

Exo 33:19 “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’

Then in the next chapter we see this happen.

Exo 34:5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

I love this passage because of what it tells us about God. but the thing that I want us to see in regard to the current discussion is that the glory of God’s person is directly tied to the holiness of God’s name. When God allows His glorious presence to be revealed to Moses, He connects His presence with His name. To see God’s glory is inseparably linked to hearing His name.

There is no way to disconnect the person of God from the name of God, so when we set His name apart in our hearts as holy, we are reverencing Him as holy. Conversely, when we devalue His name by uttering a hateful curse and attach His name to it, we are not just cursing His name we are cursing our God.

The name of God is worthy of praise and honor and reverence just as the person of God is worthy of praise and honor and reverence.

From a practical perspective we need to take the name of the Lord seriously and avoid using it in a vain or irreverent way. We shouldn’t use His name to make jokes. We shouldn’t use His name to curse. We shouldn’t use His name in order for personal gain.

Instead, we should praise His name, we should understand that the speak the name of God is to speak of God Himself. We should seek to honor His name, bring glory to His name, and recognize that whatever we do, whether we eat, or drink, we should do it all for the glory of His name.

Col 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Next week, we will continue to study these 10 commandments by looking at the fourth commandment, which focuses on the sabbath day and keeping it holy. I hope you will join me for that discussion as we look at Lord’s Day 37 and questions 101-102.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #35

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 35 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 96-98.

Transition

This week, we continue our study by looking at the second of the 10 commandments, which outlines God’s prohibition against His people representing Him with the use of images or statues in worship. Last week, we focused on the first commandment, which was about worshipping the wrong God. The second commandment is about worshipping God in the wrong way.

Here is the second commandment:

Deut 5:8 You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Lord’s Day Focus...

When you think of idolatry, what ideas come into your mind? Many of us think about small statues made to represent a god or goddess. That statue might be settled in the midst of a shrine surrounded by burning candles or incense. Then out in front of that shrine we might picture a person on their knees with their heads bowed, the hands clasped together offering prayers.

This image is not just some image that was seared into our minds because we saw it in a movie at some point, this is an accurate representation of the type of idolatry that takes place all over the world.

Many of you thought about some of the scenes in the Bible where false gods were worshipped. Maybe you thought about Paul in Acts 17, standing in the midst of a city full of idols. Maybe you thought about Elijah in the top of Mt. Carmel mocking the priests of Baal who were unable to get their god to show himself. Or perhaps your mind went to the Israelites at the foot of Mt. Sinai worshipping at the feet of a golden calf that they called Yahweh.

All of these images represent the type of idolatry that God forbids, but that last image is the closest connection to the second commandment.

Question 96: What is God’s will for us in the second commandment?

Answer: That we in no way make any image of God nor worship Him in any other way than He has commanded in His Word.

This commandment forbids us to worship our Creator on our own terms. Actually, this command forbids two things:

1. It forbids us to make images to represent God in any form.

2. It forbids worshipping an image of any kind.

J.I. Packer writes,

In its Christian application, this means that we are not to make use of visual or pictorial representations of the triune God, or of any person of the trinity, for the purpose of Christian worship. The commandment thus deals not with the objects of our worship, but with the manner of it; what it tells us is that statues and pictures of the One whom we worship are not to be used as an aid in worshipping Him.[1]

Over the years, this issue has been debated in great detail. Does this apply to the coloring pages that we give our children in Sunday School? Some say yes, others say no. Does this means that Christian’s should not create artwork portraying the life, ministry, death and even the resurrection of Jesus? Some say yes, others no. Should Christians use nativity scenes in their holiday decorating?

Wherever you come down on these debates, I think it is vitally important that we take this command seriously. God commands His followers not to fashion or create images that are to be used to represent God to us that are intended to be used as aids in our worship.

Question 97: May we not make any image at all?

Answer: God cannot and may not be visibly portrayed in any way. Although creatures may be portrayed, yet God forbids making or having such images if one’s intention is to worship them or to serve God through them.

One of the most natural follow-up questions to the prohibition about making an image to represent God is “why not?” What is the big deal?  For starts, it is impossible for us to create an image that accurately represents God. He is unlike any being in the universe. He is unique, holy, One-of-a-kind and any image or representation of Him will fall short of the truth of who He is.

God is Spirit, which means that He cannot be seen. He cannot be made into an image and to do so would be to falsely represent His glory, His nature and His person. It would obscure His invisible glory for us to use a man-made image or even to use the image of a created thing in an attempt to represent Him. In other words, any attempt on our part to make a graven image would result in a misrepresentation of God’s true glory.

On the flipside, an image of God would mislead us and give us a false idea of Him. It is one thing to insult God by trying to imagine Him in a finite way. It is quite another for us to accept an image of God as an adequate substitute for the real thing. In the first instance He is mocked in the second instance we are worshipping a false god.

God forbids both errors in the second commandment.

Question 98: But may not images be permitted in the churches as teaching aids for the unlearned?

Answer: No, we shouldn’t try to be wiser than God. He wants His people instructed by the living preaching of His Word – not by idols that cannot even talk.

This question brings up an argument from the time of the Protestant Reformation. The argument from the Roman Catholic side was that if the church removed the painted images depicting stories from the Bible, which contained artist renderings of God, then the average person attending church who is unable to read the Scriptures would not be able to understand what God has revealed in His Word. Therefore, the images (or books of the laity) aid the people in understanding the faith and without these images that faith would not exist.

The Reformers responded by saying, “Then we must teach them.” It is the responsibility of Christians, especially Church leaders, to teach God’s Word faithfully, accurately and always. We cannot rely on images, or in modern times video clips and theatrical sermonettes, in order to instruct God’s people about Him.

God has given us His Word and we must read it, teach it, preach it, and explain it. Our goal in worship is not to entertain it is to instruct. Our goal is not to give advice for life and then to sprinkle the occasional Bible verse in for good measure. Our goal is proclaim the Word of God and allow it to do its work in our hearts.

Next week, we will continue to study these 10 commandments by looking at the third commandment, which focuses on taking the Lord’s name in vain. I hope you will join me for that discussion as we look at Lord’s Day 36 and questions 99-100.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.


[1] J.I. Packer Knowing God (pg 44)

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #34

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 34 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 92-95.

Transition

This week, we will be answering the question, “What is the law of God?” Last week, in question 91 Heidelberg asked,

Question 91: What do we do that is good?

Answer: 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 that we do as faithful Christians is not based on our own ideas about what is good or even our established cultural traditions. The good we are called by God to walk in has been outlined for us in God’s Word, more specifically, in the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai after He delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, form the basis for our understanding of all Biblical moral law. But it might seem a bit odd that Heidelberg brings up the Law in the section that expresses our gratitude. The way many of us have been taught the law of God, it might seem more accurate to put the Ten Commandments in the guilt section of the Catechism.

This is where chronology becomes very important. You’ll remember that Yahweh didn’t give the law of God (10 Commandments) to Israel before He saved them from Egypt. He gave it to them after He had saved them from Egypt and He did so by passing over them because of the blood of the lamb.

Like those ancient Israelites, the law of God doesn’t function in order to make us the people of God. We become the children of God when we are born again and received Christ by faith. We are saved from our bondage when the blood of the Lamb covers our sin. Now, as newly freed children of God we need the law to guide us in the world so that we can obey our Father and serve Him with our lives.

The law wasn’t given in order to make us the people of God, it was given in order to guide us as the people of God. Therefore, to address the 10 Commandments in the gratitude section makes perfect sense.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 92: What is the law of God

Answer: Deuteronomy 20:1 God spoke all these words saying,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

The Ten Commandments (lit. 10 words) are central to Biblical morality in the Old and the New Testaments. They are an important piece to the whole story of Scripture. They matter because they give us a specific understanding of what God requires of those in relationship with Him. These commandments teach us a lot about God and quite a bit about ourselves as well.

However, these 10 commandments are not the only laws that God has given His people. The Biblical authors use the term law to refer to several different things. Law of Moses is used in reference to all the writings of Moses, the first five books of the OT, but more specifically it refers to the law of God that was given through Moses. This is a reference to the 10 Commandments and theologians refer to the 10 commandments as the Moral law. They represent a basic understanding of what is right and what is wrong.

But God gave other laws, like the Judicial law which refers to the specific laws that governed Israel as a nation. God also gave to Israel a Ceremonial law that governed the sacrifices and rituals of Israel’s worship. So, when we think about the law of God from a big picture perspective it can be helpful to understand that God gave a ceremonial law, a judicial law and a moral law. But when it comes to our understanding of basic Christian morality, the 10 commandments are what we focus on.

But why do we as Christians still concern ourselves with the 10 Commandments? Didn’t Jesus fulfill the law on our behalf? Within the reformed tradition we think of the law as functioning in 3 ways. First, the law has a civil function within society in that it serves to limit and restrain evil (Roman 13:3-4). Second, the law has an evangelical function in that it shows us our sin and drives us to Christ (Gal 3:10). Third, the law functions to guide us as believers to know the will of God and to live a faithful Christian life.

Yes, Jesus came to fulfill the law on our behalf but that doesn’t mean the law no longer matters to us. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount,

Matt 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Jesus wants us to understand that the moral law of God is a permanent fixture because it reflects the unchanging nature of God and the foundation for how believers should live and relate to God. We are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus, which includes His perfect keeping of the law, but as we serve God in this life the moral law guides us to know what is good. 

Question 93: How are the commandments divided?

Answer: Into two tables. The first four commandments, teaching us what our relationship to God should be. The second has six commandments, teaching us what we owe our neighbor.

This is pretty straight-forward. The commandments on one side reflect the vertical relationship to God while the commandments on the other side reflect the horizontal relationships to other people. This division is supported and summarized by Jesus when He answered a Pharisees question,

Matt 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Question 94: What does the Lord require in the first commandment?

Answer: That I, not wanting to endanger my very salvation, avoid and shun all idolatry, magic, superstitious rites, and prayers to saints or other creatures. That I sincerely acknowledge the only true God, trust Him alone, look to Him for every good thing humbly and patiently, love Him, fear Him, and honor Him with all my heart. In short, that I give up anything rather than go against His will in any way.

In a recent sermon on persecution I talked about the fact that we aren’t persecuted as Christians simply because we worship Jesus, we are persecuted because we only worship Jesus. If we worshipped and celebrated the sexual revolution alongside Jesus, then the culture wouldn’t have as much of a problem with us. If we caved to opposing pressures to add a couple of secular principles and standards to our Christianity, then we wouldn’t face so much opposition.

The temptation and tendency to try and serve two masters is within each of us, but God will not share His glory. He calls for complete devotion, not shared devotion. In fact, anything less is idolatry.

Question 95: What is idolatry?

Answer: Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed Himself in His Word.

Idolatry was a recurring problem for Israel in the Old Testament. They were constantly tempted to give their devotion to some pagan deity that promised health, wealth, prosperity, victory in battle, etc. When they came into the Promised Land they were commanded to rid that land of all the previous gods and idols. They were to take down the temples where false gods were worshipped.

God’s people were unsuccessful in ridding their lives of idols, and in many cases so are we. We may not bow down and worship those idols, we may not pray to some false deity, but give our devotion to things that take God’s place in our hearts. To be clear, idolatry still exists in this world in every form and it is still a temptation for us as well.

I think I John 2:15-17 is a fair summary of the type of idolatry that we face today.

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

When John uses the term love here and then pits our love for the world against our love for God, we have to understand that he’s talking about something much deeper than our emotions. He’s talking about a type of affection that motivates our worship, which means that loving the world here is akin to idolatry.

John isn’t saying that we should not love the people of the world, nor is he saying that we shouldn’t care for the earth itself. He is not commanding us to reject the economic and social structures of society. What He is saying is that we should not love the worldly attitudes and values that are opposed to God.

John is talking about the world that does not recognize Jesus as the Son of God and its Savior. He is talking about the world that rejects the testimony of the Bible, the world where God does not rule. It is the world set against God and His purposes in Christ and this world is still contending for our love today.

Not much has changed, the thoughts, attitudes, and morals of our world are still trying to gain our deepest love. John doesn’t say that we should hate the world, but that we should withhold our love from it. There are two things vying for our affection, our total devotion, our worship: God and the World. Only God deserves that type of love from us because we will worship what we love.

Over the next several weeks we are going to walk through each of these 10 Commandments to learn how they still apply to our lives today. So, I hope that you will join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 35 and questions 96-98.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

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