The Sacraments

The Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 25

65. Question: Since then faith alone makes us share in Christ and all His benefits, where does this faith come from?

Answer: From the Holy Spirit,[1] who works it in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel,[2] and strengthens it by the use of the sacraments.[3]

[1] John 3:5; I Cor. 2:10-14; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29. [2] Rom. 10:17; I Pet. 1:23-25. [3] Matt. 28:19, 20; I Cor. 10:16.

66. Question: What are the sacraments?

Answer: The sacraments are holy, visible signs and seals. They were instituted by God so that by their use He might the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the gospel.[1] And this is the promise: that God graciously grants us forgiveness of sins and everlasting life because of the one sacrifice of Christ accomplished on the cross.[2]

[1] Gen. 17:11; Deut. 30:6; Rom. 4:11 [2] Matt. 26:27, 28; Acts 2:38; Heb. 10:10.

67. Question: 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?

Answer: Yes, indeed. The Holy Spirit teaches us in the gospel and assures us by the sacraments that our entire salvation rests on Christ’s one sacrifice for us on the cross.[1]

[1] Rom. 6:3; I Cor. 11:26; Gal. 3:27.

68. Question: How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the new covenant?

Answer: Two: holy baptism and the holy supper.[1]

[1] Matt. 28:19, 20; I Cor. 11:23-26.

Prayer Journal: Week 25

Pray as you can, for prayer doesn’t consist of thinking a great deal, but of loving a great deal.
(Saint Teresa of Avila)

This Week’s Scripture

·         Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
·         Psalm 32
·         Romans 5:12-19
·         Matthew 4:1-11

Adoration

Psalm 32:11
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
    and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Great Is Thy Faithfulness (verse 1)
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee
.
thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not;
as thou hast been, thou forever wilt be.
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided;
great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

(Thomas Chisholm)

Take time now to offer God your praise and worship.

Confession

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit
 (Psalm 32:1-2)

O Lord, Deliver me from everything that keeps me from loving you fully and completely. Deliver me from the desires, ambitions, and emotions that draw me away from serving you and pleasing you in all parts of my life. Deliver me from being half-hearted in my devotion to you, in my prayers and reading of your Word, and in my service to you. Keep my desire for you and for serving you ever growing, ever burning. Amen. (John Wesley)

As David did in Psalm 139, ask the Lord to search you and know you through and through. Confess the sins God brings to mind, knowing you are forgiven and that He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Thanksgiving

Beautiful Savior, we praise you for the free gift of salvation offered to us at great cost to you. We love and adore you for our redemption, grounded in the grace of the Person and Work of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Even in the midst of our sinfulness, Christ’s free gift brought our justification. We praise you for the active righteousness of our Savior, your Son. We thank you that he won our salvation, not only through his death and resurrection, but also through his life of perfect obedience. Thus, by faith, his righteousness becomes our own. That’s more that we can even comprehend, and vastly more than we deserve, but we glorify you for your goodness and grace. In his holy name we pray. Amen. (based on Romans 5:15-19)

Spend some time reflecting on the prayer of thanksgiving above and then thank God for who he is and the many ways he has poured out his goodness and grace in your life.


Supplication (Petitions – prayers for yourself)

·         Give me greater love for those who are hard to love.
·         Help me to be compassionate and kind to those in need, even when it’s inconvenient.
·         Pour out upon me your courage and boldness to love those who do not know you and to share with them your Gospel, in word and deed.
·         Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
·         Other needs


Supplication (Intercession – prayers for others)

·         My family
·         My family and friends who do not have a saving relationship with Christ
·         For those in my other spheres of influence who do not know Christ
·         For evangelists around our city, country, and world who risk much in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with those who are lost
·         Other needs

Help me today, my Lord, to discover your good, perfect, and acceptable will and to focus all of my desire and energy upon doing it. (Reuben Job)

Good Works

The Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 24

62. Question: But why can our good works not be our righteousness before God, or at least a part of it?

Answer: Because the righteousness which can stand before God’s judgment must be absolutely perfect and in complete agreement with the law of God,[1] whereas even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.[2]

[1] Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10. [2] Is. 64:6.

63. Question: But do our good works earn nothing, even though God promises to reward them in this life and the next?

Answer: This reward is not earned[1]; it is a gift of grace.[2]

[1] Matt. 5:12; Heb. 11:6. [2] Luke 17:10; II Tim. 4:7, 8.

64. Question: Does this teaching not make people careless and wicked?

Answer: No. It is impossible that those grafted into Christ by true faith should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.[1]

[1] Matt. 7:18; Luke 6:43-45; John 15:5.

Prayer Journal: Week 24

Our prayers are only as powerful as our lives. In the long pull we pray only as well as we live. (A.W. Tozer)

This Week’s Scripture

·         Exodus 24:12-18
·         Psalm 99
·         2 Peter 1:16-21
·         Matthew 17:1-9

Adoration

Psalm 99:1-3
The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble!
    He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
2 The Lord is great in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the peoples.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name!
    Holy is he!

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (verse 1)
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to his temple draw near;
join me in glad adoration!

(Joachim Neander)

Take time now to offer God your praise and worship.

Confession

Lord our God, you answered them;
    you were a forgiving God to them,
    but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
9 Exalt the Lord our God,
    and worship at his holy mountain;
    for the Lord our God is holy! (Psalm 99:8-9)

Lord, so often as we come to you, the plea in our hearts is that you do our will and not for you to show us yours. So often our hearts have been closed to your leading and we have missed so many opportunities to be blessings to others and to be blessed ourselves. Forgive us, Lord, and help us have the courage to open our hearts to you. In Christ we pray. Amen. (James R. Wilson)

As David did in Psalm 139, ask the Lord to search you and know you through and through. Confess the sins God brings to mind, knowing you are forgiven and that He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Thanksgiving

Majestic and glorious Father, we give you our thanks and praise that you did not leave us to grope blindly through this dark world but have continually given us your light. We thank you for the way you have disclosed yourself and your will to us through the prophets and apostles. We are grateful that your Spirit filled, moved, and spoke through them so that what we now have in Holy Scripture is exactly what you want us to know about you and your ways. But most especially we worship and adore you for the Light of your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We thank you that his light has become our light and because of him, we can truly see you, this world, and ourselves as you intend.For it is in the name of Christ, the Light of the world, we offer this prayer. Amen. (based on 2 Peter 1:16-21)

Spend some time reflecting on the prayer of thanksgiving above and then thank God for who he is and the many ways he has poured out his goodness and grace in your life.

Supplication (Petitions – prayers for yourself)

·         Give me greater knowledge, depth of insight, and understanding of God’s Word.
·         Remind me daily of who I am in Christ. Let me be defined by who God says I am, not the world around me.
·         Guide me into greater understanding and faithfulness of God’s call in my life.
·         Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
·         Other needs

Supplication (Intercession – prayers for others)

·         My family
·         My pastor(s), church staff, and missionaries
·         Those wrestling with anger, anxiety, or the overwhelming desire to please people at all costs
·         Other needs

Gracious Lord, satisfy us with your love in the morning, and we will live this day in joy and praise.
(Daily Prayer)

A Prayer for Such a Time

Gracious Lord, protect us from becoming so distraught by the sin and evil in this world that we believe prayer is ineffective. Restrain us from growing so accustomed to such wickedness that we accept it as normal. Instead, fill us with righteous anger toward it and a holy discernment that seeks to direct our principles and practices with godly wisdom. Guard our hearts and minds from a fear that paralyzes us with cowardice. Lead us as we minister to victims with love, mercy, and compassion, even as you fill them with your Spirit’s comfort, hope, and strength. Lord hear our prayer, in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

The Shape of Love

We are able to love God and others because, the Bible tells us, God first loved us (1 John 4:7, 10-12, 16). Think of our love for others as an overflow of God’s love for us. When we receive the love of God, we can’t help but love God and others.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he had over 600 commandments to choose from. The Israelites had a lot of commands they were commanded to obey in the Old Testament. Would Jesus say, “Do not murder” is the most important? Would he answer, “Have no other gods before God” was the primary commandment? No, instead, he summed up the Ten Commandments by saying, the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then, he said, and the second most important commandment is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. 

By commanding us to love God and our neighbors, Jesus summed up the main points of the Ten commandments. The Ten Commandments show us what this love looks like. The first four commandments emphasize our love for God, while the last six focus on neighbor-love.

But even there, we think we’re obeying these commands by NOT doing something we’re commanded not to do. But the commandments mean so much more. For example, not only are we NOT to murder another person, but we are to have their best interest at heart and try to help them when we can. There’s a positive side of every command, just as there is a negative side.

The Good Samaritan not only committed no harm to the injured Jewish man (The Jews and Samaritans hated each other, as groups of people). But the Samaritan did more than “not hurt” the Jewish man, he helped him. He put the Jewish man’s needs before his own. He went out of his way to help him and then made sure that if more was required, that too would be taken care of. Jesus is telling us that that is what our love for others should look like. 

That’s the shape of Christian love. And most importantly, that’s how God loves us. We aren’t called to love others because they deserve it any more than God loves us because we’re so awesome. We love others because the grace-filled love of God flows in us and through us so that we can love others with God’s love. Thanks be to God for his love. Amen.

Yesterday, Today, and Forever

Hebrews 13:7-8 – Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. [8] Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

No Expiration Date

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is unchangeable. What blessed consolation there is in these words. What challenge there is in these words.

If our Lord is the same today as he was yesterday, then that means what he said 2,000 years ago about himself and his work remains true to this very day. He has overcome the world. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. He is living water. He is the bread of life. He is the way, the truth and the life. He is the door. He is the gate. He came to bring life. He came to save sinners. He came to bear witness to the truth.

His words of exhortation to believe and receive all these truths about himself (and more) are just as true, binding, and life-transforming for us today as when they were first spoken. And they will continue to be so 2,000 years from now, should our Lord wait that long to return. His promises are trustworthy because he is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

A Larger Perspective Needed

When I consider the saints who have gone before us and read their words about our Lord, I am moved by the fact that, regardless of the century in which their words were written, there is a vital and familiar thread that runs throughout. It’s not simply because those who wrote were merely using the same vocabulary to describe Christ. It’s much more intimate than that. Instead, they were describing someone they knew – someone who does not change with the tides of time and place. Span the centuries and you will find the Lord Jesus being written about, adored, and worshipped with striking continuity and intimacy.

We would do well to imitate those faithful saints who traveled the way of Christ before us. Our vision of our Lord, when confined to our time and place alone, can become myopic and limited. It’s easy for us to grow accustomed to his face. Instead, we need to step outside our surroundings and see a bigger, more beautiful Jesus. We need to cross the generations to discover what others have said about our Lord and learn how their thoughts and lives were transformed and renewed because of him.

I love to read the works of the saints who lived, served, and died over the last 500 years (though, admittedly, that too can be limiting). I want to learn from those giants of the faith, whose lives, ministries, and teachings have stood the test of time. They have much to teach me today in my narrow little place in history.

I encourage you to do the same. Aside from time in God’s Word, there are few better ways to occupy your life of study and mediation than to read Christian biography. The lives of those who traveled with our Lord in the past can serve you as you travel with him in the future.

Walking Points

  • What are some of the ways you are comforted and encouraged by the unchangeable nature of Jesus?
  • What are some ways that truth convicts you?
  • Do you have a favorite person you enjoy learning about from Christian history? What is it about that person that inspires and encourages you?
  • There are many fine mini-biographies available to introduce you to some of the great saints of Christian history. Find one that interests you and start reading today. Keep a journal of some of things you learn from it.

Prayer

Eternal God, you are the one, true God of the past, present and future. Your Son is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I give you praise and thanks that the promises you made in the past are just as true today and will be tomorrow as well. I bless you that what was true about you in the days of the Apostle Paul were just as true when you spoke to Abraham. And praise God, they are just as true today. You and you alone, are worthy of trust because you are the one, true God, and you do not change. Please fill me with your eternal Spirit and keep me close to you today, tomorrow, and forever. In Christ I pray. Amen.