Question: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
Answer: That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death— to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him. ~ Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day #1
I love the reminders within the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism and thought it might be a good time to reflect on these as we head into Thanksgiving break. If you’ve not heard of the catechism before or don’t know what a catechism is, here is a definition: a summary of the principles of the Christian faith in the form of questions and answers, used for the instruction of God’s people. The questions and answers contained in the Heidelberg Catechism flow directly from Holy Scripture.
The themes that I find so comforting in this first question and answer (“Lord’s Day #1”) are these:
Identity. The first sentence is one of my favorite sentences of English prose. In a simple and powerful way, it reminds us of both who we are and whose we are. We are not our own. We belong to Jesus, our faithful savior. Our identity, now and forever, is in Christ alone–it is enough to be one of his beloved children.
Victory over Sin. Are you feeling weary in your battle against sin and selfishness? Take heart in the fact that though the battle continues while we remain in the flesh, the war has been won. Christ has fully paid for all our sins (past, present, and future) and has set us free from the tyranny of the enemy. Through Christ, we have victory over sin.
Sovereignty of God. As the creator and king of the universe, our God is on his throne and is very engaged in the affairs of his children. So much so, that not a hair falls from our heads apart from his will. In fact, we’re reminded (using words from Romans 8) that “all things must work together” for our salvation.
John Piper has written about God’s sovereignty in relation to the coronavirus, stating that the secret to living well in this season is “knowing that the same sovereignty that could stop the coronavirus, yet doesn’t, is the very sovereignty that sustains the soul in it.”
Author Adam Mabry offered a similar thought with respect to the election: “When you feel the nagging draw of anxiety [about the election], remember your King is on the throne already. While the outcome may change the moment, it changes neither the mission nor eternity. The world is desperate for a people who are secure enough in grace that they can flourish under Caesar, whoever he or she may be.”
Assurance of Hope. Perhaps the most comforting aspect of Lord’s Day 1 is the assurance that we can have, as those who belong to Christ, that we will live forever with him after we complete our short time on this earth. As we are reminded of this blessed assurance, we should also work to cultivate an eternal perspective. Thanksgiving is a big part of this work. C.S. Lewis said, “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good, if bad, because it works in us patience, humility, and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.”
Readiness to Live for Him. Finally, I love how the answer to this first question ends–with a call to action. We are not merely marking time on this earth as we wait for our death or Christ’s return, when we will move on to glory. No, he has equipped and commissioned us, “made us ready,” to wholeheartedly live for Christ as a response to the immeasurable and undeserved gift of salvation through Christ’s precious blood.
I pray that these themes from God’s Word will be a great source of comfort, encouragement, and thanksgiving for you today and in the coming week.