WHO'S IN CHARGE?(Question 1)
The Heidelberg Catechism is a study of 129 questions and answers that teach about God, Jesus Christ, the Bible and what it means to be a Christian. Maybe you have heard the word catechism before. All the word means is "to teach" or "to share". The Heidelberg Catechism is a teaching of the things that are found in the Bible and put together in such a way that it is easy for us to learn.
The first question of the Catechism is meant to separate those people who believe in God from those who do not believe in Him. The way this is done is by looking at who we really trust in to rule and guide our lives. For instance, if you believe in Jesus you will trust in what He has done for you on the cross. Your hope is in His death saving you. But if you do not believe in Jesus, your hope will be somewhere else. You really won't care about what Jesus says or what He has done. You will be more worried about other things such as dating, music or being popular. And when you do finally think about God or heaven, you will be hoping that when you die God will let you into heaven because you're a "good person". So who and what we hope or trust in really shows whether we are of God or of the world. Let's look at Question One and see how the answer for that question separates us from those who are not Christians.
Right away the Catechism makes the point that if you are a Christian you do not belong to yourself. This is easy to understand because we all have parents and we know what it is like to have our parents tell us what to do and to make decisions for our lives. In the same way, God is your Heavenly Father who makes decisions for your life as well. He was the one who decided when you would be born. He was the one who decided who your parents would be. And He is the one who sent Jesus to die for your sins. Just as your earthly parents make decisions for you because they love you very much, God too is a loving Father.
It may suprise you to find out, however, that those people who do not hope in Jesus do not have God as their Heavenly Father. It's true. What's even more shocking is to learn who their father truly is! Look at these words of Jesus as He describes the difference between the children of God and those who do not trust in Him:
Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded from and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil,and the desires of your father you want to do.
Jesus is making a separation between the children of God and the children of the devil. Those people who believe in Him, who trust in Him and hear His words-these people are called Christians. But those people who trust in themselves and do not have hope in God, they are children of the devil. Now this does not mean that these people are going out and sacrificing animals or praying to Satan, but because of their unbelief they are showing themselves to be opposed to God and in agreement with the devil. It is because of their sin and the devil's influence that they are unable to hear God's words and to trust in Him.
Now it is easy to think that we are part of God's family because we are "better" than others who do not trust in God, or because of something we have done. But that's not true. We were once children of the devil too. But because God loved us He took us from the devil and adopted us into His family. We were once dead in sin just like everybody else, but then God made us alive in Christ. It was nothing we did or could ever do because we were happy the way we were. Yet God made the decision for us when we were unable or unwilling to. Look at these verses and see how this adoption took place. Was it something we did or something God did for us?
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air(Satan), the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience(those who do not believe)...But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ(by grace you have been saved)...
When we are adopted into God's family He not only becomes our Father but also our Master and King. He expects us to live lives that are pleasing to Him. This might mean giving up certain things or changing some bad habits we may have. But most of all it means giving up the hope we have in ourselves, the belief that we can earn our way to heaven. We can't earn our way, that is why Jesus came and earned it for us. He died so we don't have to face the punishment of God for our sins. And by His death we are made alive to God and placed in His family.
Now, if you do not like hearing these kind of things, maybe you should ask yourself who you are trusting and hoping in. Is it God or yourself? Is it Jesus or the devil? If it is God, understand that you do not belong to yourself anymore. Jesus bought you by His blood on the cross. But if you are trusting in yourself, ask yourself this question-what will happen when you finally die and face God? Will He let you into His kingdom with His other children or will He put you with the children of the devil? God is offering you hope right now in Jesus Christ. Give up trusting in yourself and cling to Him. He has promised to save you and He will.
1. What does the word "Catechism" mean?
2. How were we too like those who don't trust in God?
3. The first group of people have God as their Father. Who does the second group have for their father?
©1998 Tim Shultz