Question 2. What must you know to live and die in joy and comfort?
The last question we looked at was “What is your only comfort in life and death?” And we saw the answer given was that I may have many comforts, but my only deeper, richer comfort is I am not my own, ‘but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ’. But it doesn’t help to know about this comfort and joy if we don’t know what’s required to live and die with this comfort. What do we need to know? What do we need to do to gain this eternal comfort?
And the answer is given from The Heidelberg Catechism is threefold. “What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?”
Answer: “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 a deliverance.”
Belonging to Jesus and not to ourselves means knowing three things. The answer says we must know about guilt, grace and gratitude. In other words, first need to understand our sin, then our salvation, and finally that we are saved to serve.
If we don’t know about our sin, which should bring an overwhelming sense of guilt, we don’t understand our need for Jesus and the gospel. If we don’t understand our condition, of how vile and lost we are without Christ, we will never call out to Him. If we ignore this, DeYoung says, “We will ignore our most fundamental problem, which is not a lack of education, or lack of opportunity, or lack of resources, but it’s sin and it’s misery, guilt.” If we want to know the comfort of question 1 of the Catechism, we must be uncomfortable with our sin.
Once we know our guilt, misery and despair of sin we must not try and fix ourselves. People try and do this. We like to fix things. But our spiritual state is something that no person can fix (not even the deacons!). But only one person can. This man— “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15). “It is by grace you are saved, and this is not from yourselves” (Ephesians 2:8). At the cross we don’t just see that we’ve been set free from God’s anger at our sin (propitiation), but also set free from our guilt (expiation).
If we understand the first two things, then we will, and must, understand gratitude. If the Holy Spirit has transformed our lives, we now live a life of gratitude. Not as a way towards salvation, but in response to our salvation.
Remember this question says to ‘live and die’ in this comfort. Live and die. Sometimes it’s easy to say we will die for our faith, but will you live for your faith? Spurgeon said, “Never fear dying, beloved. Dying is the last, but the least matter that a Christian has to be anxious about. Fear living- that is a hard battle to fight, a stern discipline to endure, a rough voyage to undergo.”
But, by the grace and help of God we will live out today and the rest of our lives in a sense of gratitude. DeYoung writes, “We find this comfort by admitting our sin, instead of excusing it; by trusting in Another instead of ourselves; and by living to give thanks instead of being thanked.”