Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The joy of belonging to another

You are not your own,for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.--1 Corinthians 6:19-20


Q.1. WHAT IS YOUR ONLY COMFORT, IN LIFE AND IN DEATH?
            A. 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.


Q.2. 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; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.[1]

I love the Heidelberg Catechism.  I really do.  I especially love question and answer 1.  It is my testimony.

If you are unfamiliar with someone’s “testimony”, allow me to elaborate.  In Evangelical circles there is a bit of jargon that is helpful to understand.  The question is often posed to a person of, “What is your testimony?”  That is usually answered with some dramatic before and after story of debauchery and drunkenness met by some catastrophic calamity that led way to more respectable sins and a forsaking of evil stuff like wine and secular music.  “What is your testimony?” is often paired with the other question of “When were you saved?” I have made a long habit of offering the answer of “2000 years ago, on a hill outside of Jerusalem” to the latter question but have also recently embraced using “I am not my own…” as an answer to the former.  Beyond being slightly annoying and intriguing to the questioner--both of which are beneficial in their own ways!!—both answers have the unique quality of being completely true and biblically based. 

I remember filling out a questionnaire to be part of a pen-pal type ministry my friends were starting to go along with their ministry in Brazil and it had a section to tell them about you.  Since these were good friends who already knew me, I decided to put the answer to the first catechism question because it said what was more true about me than anything I could have thought of.  The lady running it was blown away by my answer, so I told her that I was too. :-D  Then I told her it was written a couple of centuries ago but I have adopted it as my own.

What peace and joy to know that I am not my own.  What comfort to rest in the truth that I belong to Another, one who is infinitely good and infinitely capable.  To love me, to care for me, to provide for me, He knows no need, He lacks nothing.   I am not my own.  I was created by Another.  I was purchased by Another.  I belong to Another.

To whom do you belong? If you belong to yourself, there is no one but you to make sure you have all you need. If you belong to yourself, you have to make all the choices about what is best for you. You have to keep yourself well and safe. If you belong to yourself, you have to find some way on your own to pay for all your sin and to be so good that you please God. What a dreadful burden it would be to belong to yourself alone. It is so much better to know we belong to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He loved us and willingly suffered God’s wrath at sin so we wouldn’t have to. If we belong to Jesus, he has bought us, paying for us with his own blood. Having paid so great a price, he will never allow us to perish. Our bodies and our souls, whether we live or whether we die, are safe in the hands of one who loves us with so great a love. [2]--Starr Meade

What responsibility to realize that I am not my own.  It is comforting, yes, but it does remind me that my decisions matter.  My choices are important.  I have obligations because I am not an autonomous being, but a created one.  I operate in freedom, yes, but it is a creaturely freedom that is bound to the will of the Creator.  I do not have the right or the ability to usurp control and power from the one to whom I belong.  I am not my own. 

“We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal.[3]

This is my comfort, and my only comfort.  Does that mean that there is nothing else that comforts me?  No, but it does mean that this is the only thing that will ultimately and eternally comfort me.  All other comforts fall under the umbrella of this greatest comfort—the fact that I belong to Another, the greatest Other there is, at that.  I belong to Him, in life and in death.  I belong to Him, both my body and my soul.  I belong to Him because He freed me from the tyranny of the devil, tyranny I willingly subjected myself to.  He freed me by purchasing my redemption with His sinless blood.  I belong to Another, One who is constantly seeking my good as His child and His friend.  This is the truth that will sustain me through all of life’s ebbs and flows, a truth that will take me from “life’s first cry to final breath.”  That is my hope, my comfort, and it is the comfort and hope of all who trust in the risen and reigning Messiah, the Lamb who was slain but lives again.  This Jesus, who is the Christ. 

We live in a world where we expect to find comfort in possessions, pride, power, and position. But the Catechism teaches us that our only true comfort comes from the fact that we don’t even belong to ourselves. How countercultural and counterintuitive! We can endure suffering and disappointment in life and face death and the life to come without fear of judgment, not because of what we’ve done or what we own or who we are, but because of what we do not possess, namely, our own selves.[4]
If you trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ for your salvation, answer #1 is not just my testimony, it is yours as well.  Thank God we belong to Another, the only One worth belonging to!



[1] Ursinus, Z. Heidelberg Catechism.
[2] Meade, S. Comforting hearts, teaching minds : family devotions based on the Heidelberg catechism .
[3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III, vii. 1
[4] DeYoung, K. The good news we almost forgot: rediscovering the gospel in a 16th century catechism.