This week on the White Horse Inn they talk to two authors about the use of catechism in the church.
Basically catechism are a system of Questions and Answers that teach the basic doctrines of the Bible. And they were geared for children to use as part of their memorization. Unfortunately, many evangelical churches like ours have turned their backs on the use of catechism to teach children doctrine to children. I would venture to say that mostly because it can be boring. But, it really isn't once you realize what it is you are learning. The ironic thing is that the Christian church has usually stood firm in not having creeds, confessions, and catechism in their churches. But then they allow AWANA programs in which is just a kinder, more fun version of catechism, and I don't think they are aware to this fact.
If you would like to look at a catechism. The Heildelberg Catechism is really good and it follows the pattern I mentioned last week about Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude. I wouldn't expect you to memorize it but it would be good to review and I can paste one at the bottom of the email.
Since we are starting with the Holiness of God and when looking at Isaiah 6 we see a sense of that Holiness and RC Sproul does a wonderful job of teaching that from so many different angles...
We see that consistently the reaction to even a hint of God's Holiness is a sense of fear, woe is me, and fainting, falling on the face, etc. You see with Isaiah in this passage (Isaiah 6), you see it with Peter when Jesus has him cast his nets on the other side of the boat and BOOM a "boat load" of fish. Peter falls to his knees and says ""Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" (Luke 5)
So, the only thing that we have to offer is guilt. Sometimes you will hear people say... But God looks at the heart" But, all God sees there is filth, sin, and death. Nothing of any kind of redeeming value whatsoever.
Sometimes you hear people say, well at least we have free will. The only problem with that is.. that isn't good news. Because if we were left to ourselves the only free choice that we could possibly make is away from God (Romans 3). Once you can get a better understanding of God's Holiness, it helps to make clear and gives a better understanding of our depravity. Which also is part of what is called the doctrines of Grace. Because this is what helps us to understand how marvelous Grace really is. And I think, at least for me, that song "Amazing Grace" by John Newton will become a new song to you and will make a whole lot more sense. I would also recommend watching the movie titled "Amazing Grace" as it tells about the life of William Wilberforce and his friend John Newton. It helps to show how the Gospel can do its work by being preached by faithful pastors, meanwhile William Wilberforce in turn is impacted by that Gospel message and it has an affect on him as a citizen of a country that was heavily steeped in slavery. Many people will see that and have commented about what a great man Wilberforce was... and that is true. But, what isn't in the limelight is the faithful preaching of the gospel that was going on simultaneously as Wilberforce challenged parliament all those years.
When I think of this process of God's Holiness, our Guilt, and then receiving Grace. I think of Jesus teaching on the Beatitudes. (Matt 5) It is often preached that these are things or attitudes that Jesus is saying for people to do or have as Christians. But, in fact, I have found out that these are in the "indicative sense" which means "statement of fact" so these aren't things that you strive to do as obeying a command. But, rather, Jesus is describing what happens to a person that goes through this process.
Blessed are the poor in Spirit: Lets just look at this. The Pharisees and the ones who thought they were righteous would never be "poor in spirit" nor would that Rich Young Ruler that asked about entering the kingdom of heaven. And the only way that someone will realize they are "poor in spirit. Is when they have been awaken from spiritual darkness or death by God and get a glimpse of His Holiness. They will all of a sudden see how beggarly poor they really are in spiritual terms. Then like all those in scripture that caught this glimpse. They will cry out to God. "Have mercy on me a sinner!" Then the rest of the beatitudes is just the process of that person being transformed by this new birth of regeneration and it is accomplished by hearing the Gospel. And you can see the pattern of Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude in the change that happens below.
The Beatitudes1Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them saying:
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Well, I think that is enough to chew on for now... And here is the first part of the Heidelberg Catechism:
Remember, this was taught to children about 1st grade to 12th grade and beyond... And it was used when literacy was non-existent a lot of times since books were not as readily available so the 'oral tradition' was used quite a bit in the passing down of the faith.
Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own,^1
body and soul,
in life and in death—^2
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.^3
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,^4
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.^5
He also watches over me in such a way^6
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:^7
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.^8
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life^9
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.^10
^1 1 Cor. 6:19-20
^2 Rom. 14:7-9
^3 1 Cor. 3:23; Titus 2:14
^4 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:2
^5 John 8:34-36; Heb. 2:14-15; 1 John 3:1-11
^6 John 6:39-40; 10:27-30; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 Pet. 1:5
^7 Matt. 10:29-31; Luke 21:16-18
^8 Rom. 8:28
^9 Rom. 8:15-16; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14
^10 Rom. 8:1-17
Q. What must you know
to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
A. Three things:
first, how great my sin and misery are;^1
second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery;^2
third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.^3
^1 Rom. 3:9-10; 1 John 1:10
^2 John 17:3; Acts 4:12; 10:43
^3 Matt. 5:16; Rom. 6:13; Eph. 5:8-10; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Pet. 2:9-10
Grace and Peace (I've created a new word) Greace = Grace and Peace together make Greace. Shall I submit it as a word for the dictionary? Just kidding!