Question 25: Does Christ's death mean all our sins can be forgiven?

Yes because Christ's death on the cross fully paid the penalty for our sin, God graciously imputes Christ's righteousness to us as if it were our own and will remember our sins no more.

 

The simple answer to this is, yes. Thank you, have a great week.
Why is it that we tend to make this more complicated than it needs to be? Scripture tells us that through Jesus, we are washed as white as snow. God will remember our sins no more. Our sin is removed as far as the east is from the west. All have sinned and fallen short, all deserved death as the rightful punishment for sin, but God, in His mercy and love for us, puts all our guilt, all our brokenness, and all our sin on Jesus. God in the flesh put Himself on the cross as a substitute for us.

In light of this truth, I find it perplexing that many cling to their sin by trying to work their way to salvation. Maybe it’s pride, arrogance, and distrust that makes us hold on to our sin identity. Our past has shaped the person we are now, the good things and the bad. When we surrender, not only our sin but also ourselves completely to Christ, we are given a new identity. God’s Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. We can revisit our mistakes, our regret, our guilt and hold on to our sin identity if we choose, OR we can allow God to redeem all those things that have held our spirit captive. We can be set free to live out our new identity as sons and daughters of the King. Forgiven.
Yes, Christ’s death means all our sins “CAN” be forgiven. Will you allow that to happen in your life?
 


Rick Troutt
Community Care

Question 24: Why was it necessary for Christ, the Redeemer, to die?


Since death is the punishment for sin, Christ died willingly in our place to deliver us from the power and penalty of sin and bring us back to God. By his substitutionary atoning death, he alone redeems us from hell and gains for us forgiveness of sin, righteousness, and everlasting life.

Today, we are focusing on the question, “Why was it necessary for Christ, the Redeemer, to die?”  

The shedding of blood has been a part of the gospel narrative from the start.  When we look back at the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve sinned; they broke God's law. They realized they were naked, so the Lord killed an animal to cover their nakedness and their shame.  It took the death of an animal to cover Adam and Eve's sin. Sacrifice is the only way there can be forgiveness of sin. Woven through the Old Testament tradition of the temple and the sacrificing of spotless lambs by the priests to atone for sin is the picture of Jesus and the sacrifice needed for atonement, but the sacrifice of lambs had to be repeated. The animal sacrifice was not enough.  

We need Jesus. It takes the blood of Jesus to pay the price for sin.  

Jesus is THE spotless lamb (John 1:29).  He lived and walked on this earth without sinning. He dealt with the same things that we deal with today, and yet, he did not stumble, not even once.  Jesus is our lamb. He took the sins of the world on his shoulders, bore our sin and shame. Matthew 27:46 says, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama Sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?’” God had forsaken His Son because Jesus was covered with the sin of the world, our sin. Jesus died, but that was not the end. He arose victorious from the grave three days later, conqueror over sin and death! Without the death of Jesus, there is no atonement, and there is no everlasting life with the Father. Jesus death is the bridge that crossed a great divide. Hallelujah!


Jon Speas
Worship Pastor

Question 22: Why must the Redeemer be truly human?

That in human nature he might on our behalf perfectly obey the whole law and suffer the punishment for human sin; and also that he might sympathize with our weaknesses.

 

What does it mean to be “truly human?” What do you think of when you hear “humanity”?  Some may think of present humanity’s flaws, our weaknesses.  “How could I resist? I’m only human,” is an excuse often rendered.  I know I think of my flaws, my pride, and my mistakes.  Even when I think of human nature as a whole, I sometimes think of the hurt, the selfishness, and the evil.  But Jesus became fully human and showed us what humanity was supposed to be. He was the perfect version of humanity. 
 
Jesus in his humanity also knows every weakness we have- the tiredness, the hunger, the emotional struggles.  And yet, he remained perfect.  He didn’t give in to the weaknesses of humanity. It would have been easy for Christ to have stayed perfect at the right hand of the Father and only been fully God. But he didn’t – he came to Earth. 
Jesus had to be fully human, in order to be the appropriate substitute for us on the cross.  This question brings to mind Philippians 2:3-8: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very naturea God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very natureb of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
 
We can’t be the perfect human that Jesus was, but our humanity can’t be our excuse. Because our Redeemer was truly human AND truly God, his Spirit lives inside of us as believers.  And that’s the point - we need his Spirit in us to live like he did and to love like he did.  We know we won’t be perfect which is our necessity for a Savior in the first place.  But by his grace we can strive to become more and more like Him. 
 
Stephanie Browning
Elementary Children’s Director 

Question 20: What sort of Redeemer is needed to bring us back to God?

One who is truly human and also truly God.

When I read this question, my thoughts are pulled to the stories of adventure and heroism that we all love. Whether it’s Lord of the Rings, Saving Private Ryan, or The Avengers, the stories that tug at our hearts and capture our attention usually revolve around ordinary people sacrificing everything so that evil can be defeated, good can prevail, and people can have life. I believe that we love those stories because they capture something of the Story, the Story that is being told in our everyday lives, and has been told from the beginning of time.

Most of us know this story well, but I think the sheer genius of it can get lost in the familiarity. We forget that before Christ came, no one expected God himself to come to earth as a human. When he came and lived in 1st century Israel, most people, even those closest to him, had trouble believing that he was God with skin on. The Apostle Paul refers to God’s plan to come to rescue us in Jesus as a mystery (Eph. 1:9, Col 1:27), a secret plan that he was waiting to reveal and that he implemented at just the right time.

The Scriptures also lead us to believe that though Satan knew that Jesus was God, even he did not understand the fullness of the plan that God had formulated. In the crucifixion, the very act that appears to be the Enemy’s victory over Christ, God pulls the biggest reversal of all time and uses the death blow dealt against him as the very means to save humanity. What a move! What glory! What a magnificent plan to defeat evil, uphold justice, and rescue us all from the death that we deserve. And no one could have accomplished this except Jesus, the Messiah, fully God and fully man.

Friends, this is the mystery of our faith, this is the glory of God, this is our hope, and our life, and our freedom. This is the Story that satisfies the deep longings of our soul. This is our Redeemer. Hallelujah!

“Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.”  – Eph. 1:7-10, the Message

Sutton Wirt
Administrator

Question 19: Who is the Redeemer?

The only Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, in whom God became man and bore the penalty for sin himself.


I could begin this week’s response to the catechism question with a three paragraph theological explanation. Instead I'll start with a story about a friend of mine in Pharmacy School.
 
I caught Greg doing something unusual every day before lunch. He would open up his door, allowing everyone in the dorm that traveled down his hallway on their way to lunch to see him reclined on his bed reading his bible. Greg practiced this all year despite the ridicule, in hope that someone seeking God would join him. "Why continue doing it?" I asked. Greg explained that when he became interested in Jesus he was intrigued by the question of why it was necessary for Jesus to die on the cross. "God makes up all the rules. Why would He create a system that would cause Him so much pain and lead to His Son's death?" The more he read, the clearer it became. "He could have created us to have robotically loved and adored Him. We would have never sinned." Greg smiled. "But that love wouldn't have meant anything without giving us the choice to love him or not to love Him.” That choice not to love Him lead to sin...and sin led to punishment...and punishment lead to the only option a perfect God had. A perfect God sent a perfect Son to do what only He could do--redeem us. Greg said this act of God stunned him. If God planned this knowing exactly what it would cost Him, then it had to radically change the way he lived. So Greg believed he was placed there in Richmond to bring glory and attention to God, and that getting a Pharmacy education was just a secondary goal.
 
This was very convicting to me. Like many people my plan for my life was to pursue things like a Pharmacy degree, and a girlfriend in Pittsburgh, and invite God into everything I was doing in life. Greg's view of life was the compete reverse. He was pursuing God and enjoying the direction God was leading him every day. In the midst of this he was inviting the events of his life to join him as an afterthought. Completely different mindset. Interestingly, Greg seemed so much more freed up and joyful and content than almost anyone else I knew. I tell you this story because the catechism question is this:
 
Who is the Redeemer?  The only Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, in whom God became man and bore the penalty for sin himself.
 
This statement either leaves you shaking your head in an academic manner as you check off question #19 and plod on to question #20, or it reminds you of the fierce, relentless love that Jesus our Redeemer has for you, and how this knowledge transforms your life. These truths can stir us, delightfully disturb us, and ultimately shape the way we live, or they can just remain stale one-liner questions that don't mean anything more than a memorized answer we can use just in case someone asks us the question. I must admit I look at life differently because of how I saw Greg live 35 years ago in the halls of my Medical College of Virginia dorm hallways. May we all inspire those around us with such authentic love for Jesus our Redeemer.

Steve Forbes
Elder

Question 18: Will God allow our disobedience and idolatry to go unpunished?

Question 18: Will God allow our disobedience and idolatry to go unpunished?

No, every sin is against the sovereignty, holiness, and goodness of God, and against his righteous law, and God is righteously angry with our sins and will punish them in his just judgment both in this life, and in the life to come.


People are constantly crying out for justice. We want to see the guilty party “pay” for the injustice they committed. Some people riot in the streets when they feel that justice has not been served while others riot against God and question His sense of justice. “How can God allow this injustice to occur”, we demand? “it’s not fair!” we exclaim. And yet when confronted with our own injustice and the myriad of times we have chosen to turn our backs on God, gone our own way and done our own thing we cry out for “mercy”. We fail to recognize that JUSTICE demands that all of us suffer eternal punishment that results in our separation from God.

God is just. The penalty is death. But thankfully there is one who has endured the punishment and paid the price for our disobedience and idolatry. That person is Jesus Christ and if we will turn our lives over to Him we will be spared the punishment we JUSTLY deserve. Thanks be to God that He is both JUST and the JUSTIFIER for all who follow Jesus! (Rom. 3:26)

Scott McLucas
Pastor

Question 17: What is idolatry

 Question 16: What is idolatry?

Idolatry is trusting in created things rather than the Creator for our hope and happiness, significance and security.


What are our idols?  Or, an easier way to think of it is, “What is REALLY important to me?”  “In what do I REALLY trust?”  “What would I REALLY miss most if it was gone?”  “What do I REALLY get my hope and happiness, significance and security from?”  Is it my job or position?  Is it my income or bank account balance?  Is it my home or other material possessions? Is it my hobby?  Is it a particular skill or ability?  All of these are gifts from God and, when kept in the proper perspective, are fine.  But, we are all probably already aware that any of these can also easily become our idol…. what we passionately pursue and trust in place of God.
 
As I was praying about this question, I was led to another idol that seems to be a little more camouflaged and probably more dangerous than the ones we usually think of.  It can take years to quietly develop and can easily permeate every part of our lives... almost naturally. It is one that probably all of us have battled at various points in our life… or, at least I know I have.  It is the idol called “Self.”
 
This idol is fed and grows as we go about our normal activities.  It sometimes hides behind accomplishments and even good deeds.  It thrives on feelings that it has to be in control and on opportunities to share, what is undoubtedly, the correct answer or solution in any situation.  It looks at whatever it does as a time to figure things out on its own and take personal pride in what it perceives as a positive result, or looks for a place to lay blame on a poor one. If left unchecked, it can easily grow to the point that it exudes a false confidence that it is the ultimate thing and that it needs nothing else… not even God.
 
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened… Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools… Romans 1: 21-22
 
On whom or what can we truly trust as our hope and happiness, significance and security?
 
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit… Jeremiah 17:7-8
 
I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one… John 10:28-30
 
Jerry Altieri
Elder

Question 16: What is sin

Question 16: What is sin?

Sin is rejecting or ignoring God in the world he created, rebelling against him by living without reference to him, not being or doing what he requires in his law—resulting in our death and the disintegration of all creation.


 

According to my son, Joshua (at age 6), the answer was, “Sin is the opposite of obedience; also called sodium alginate mixed with potassium chloride.” He was really into his chemistry set at the time.
 
On a more serious note, a little disobedience here and there may not seem like such a big deal but it results in death, destruction, disintegration, and eternal torment. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome:
 
"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened... Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen... And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:21-32)

We often think about sin in terms of specific actions - lying or stealing, for example. But sin is more than just individual acts of disobedience; it is an attitude of the heart - a result of our fallen nature. The heart of sin is loving something more than we love God Himself. We may love money or fame or family or autonomy or self or the earth or humanity or any number of things more than we love God. This love of other things leads us to ignore or rebel against God and to violate His laws.
 
There is good news, though. Jesus, God in the flesh, bore the wrath of God on behalf of those who trust Him.
 
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

When we begin to trust God in our lives - as we come to know and experience God more and our desires shift from other things to God Himself – sin begins to lose its grip on us. We cease being slaves to sin and become slaves to God. Instead of the death and destruction that is the result of sin, we are blessed with life, peace, and – best of all – God Himself.
 
Earle Clubb
Elder

Questions 15: Since no one can keep the law, what is it's purpose?

Question 15:  Since no one can keep the law, what is its purpose?  
That we may know the holy nature and will of God, and the sinful nature and disobedience of our hearts; and thus our need of a Savior.  The law also teaches and exhorts us to live a life worthy of our Savior.
 

When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite things to do was ride my bike.  I became all sorts of “drivers” on that bike.  I was allowed to ride anytime I had free time, but there were rules.  I could only go about three houses away in either direction.  I really hated those limits and felt my mother was trying to stifle my fun for what seemed pretty arbitrary to me.  Was I suddenly going to forget how to ride if I went past those houses?  Was there evil lurking just on the other side of the “line”?  Or was my mother just plain mean?  No, no, and yes were my answers then. 
Here’s a surprise:  I broke the rules on a regular basis.  Then, one day I was several houses past the line and I had an accident.  The street had just been tarred and graveled and there was lots of loose gravel.  My bike got out of my control because of the gravel.  I tried to stop my fall and got my foot caught upside down under my tire.  To make matters worse, I was barefoot which I’m pretty sure was also against the rules (or should have been).  That gravel tore the top of my foot all to pieces; I can still see the scars over 50 years later!  In my panic and pain, I was afraid to go home.  I was sure my mother would know where I was when I fell.  So, I went to a neighbor’s house.  The mother of the house couldn’t speak English (thank goodness she couldn’t call my mom), but she tenderly cared for me and my injury.

Now, with more experience and a tiny bit of wisdom under my belt, I realize my mother wasn’t mean.  She loved me very much.  She wanted me to stay within shouting distance of home in case something happened and I needed her.  She was just trying to keep me safe.

And that, my friends, is just a small glimpse of what our heavenly Father wants for us.  He has provided us with a safety net because he loves us so much.  Does he know that we will rebel and break his laws?  Of course, he does!  Does he know that we’ll believe we can keep these laws and create our own righteousness?  He knows that, too.  And he helps us to realize that we just can’t do it.  We don’t have the power within us.  So, he sent his beloved son to do it for us. All we have to do is give up and let him have control.  We’ll still miss the mark and break his laws.  But instead of running away from him and hiding, we need to run into his open, loving arms.  He will be there to soothe and heal our wounds.  And I’m so grateful for that, scars and all.
 
Sue Vinson
Prayer Ministry

Did God create us unable to keep his law?

Question 14: Did God create us unable to keep his law?

No, but because of the disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, all of creation is fallen; we are all born in sin and guilt, corrupt in our nature and unable to keep God’s law.


I hear lots of people talk about free-will as if it is some great gift from God and that because of our free-will we can choose to follow Him or not. Well, I’m not such a fan of free-will. My experience has been and I believe the Bible supports my experience, that free-will does not lead me toward God and making choices that are good and godly but it leads me toward self-centeredness. It was free-will that led Adam and Eve to choose to question God’s goodness and instead believe and follow the lies of Satan and selfishness. Sin has its consequences and because of the sin of selfish disregard for God and His goodness, we are all born with a nature that rebels against God and what is good and godly. We can’t keep His Law perfectly because our hearts are antagonistic toward God.

But there is GOOD NEWS! Jesus offers us new hearts and a new nature and through the indwelling of His Spirit our desires change from selfishness to selflessness. Sure we still struggle with that old rebellious nature but when we succumb to it we feel remorse because we have let God down, gone against our new nature, and aren’t living the life that we want to live. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we really can keep God’s Law but that darn free-will is still there and the reality is that we don’t tend to keep it perfectly. Thanks be to God for grace and mercy. May we immerse ourselves in God to the extent that the ways of this world no longer seem so attractive and may His will become our will!
 

Scott McLucas
Pastor