Good For Explaining the Good News

Foundational, mind-boggling principles becoming clear.

Have you ever found yourself in such a conundrum: Someone you dearly love and long to share eternity with has questioned your faith?

Well, um… I believe that Jesus died for my sins. He was buried and rose again. Now he lives eternally, and as my sins have been paid for, I can spend eternity with him in heaven.

“Well, that’s just great,” they rejoin, “but what is true faith? Why do you call God ‘Father’ and why does a God who loves me let bad things happen to me?”

I distinctly recall being in that position about seven years ago. I worked with one of my best friends. I’ll call her Kelly. Kelly was never hostile to my faith, in fact she was genuinely curious. But she never lobbed easy questions at me. Whenever work was slow, we’d be organizing and checking dates on millions of supplement bottles (we worked at GNC) and she would begin asking the tough questions. Kelly wanted to know all about the Trinity. She wanted to know why Jesus had to die. She wanted to know if God really listened to and answered prayer. She wanted to know if he offered peace of mind concerning her husband who was currently deployed. Kelly wondered what made Jesus of the Bible any different from the founders of other religions.

I did my best to answer her questions. I remember going home at night and calling my mom tearfully. “What if I don’t have the right answer? I know what I believe, but how do I explain it?” Praise our good and loving God. He had already marked Kelly with his name. Despite my bumbling answers, two years later, Kelly called me with explosive enthusiasm. “I’m getting baptized tomorrow! I accepted Jesus as my savior! I know I’m going to heaven.” Convictingly, since that day, I have had to humbly accept rebuke, training, teaching and affirmation from this once baby Christian. Kelly has found the Bible to be the living source of nourishment that God promises His word is. She as grown like a tree firmly planted by streams of water and has borne much fruit.

As I have slowly plowed through Kevin DeYoung’s book, “The Good News We Almost Forgot” I have unearthed a wonderful resource for sharing my faith. DeYoung is a compelling author, making even potentially dry subjects seem humorous and interesting. However, I don’t recommend simply handing the book to your questioning friends and expecting the proverbial lightbulb to blink above their head. As a historic Christian document, the catechism employees many terms specific to the Christian faith. The questions themselves are pretty heady.

Perhaps the best use of the book is personal. A Christian (speaking to myself) has no business attempting to explain the good news of the Gospel, if he has lost its wonder in his own heart and mind. Read to remember. Remember that…

True faith is not only knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in Scripture is true; it is also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation.

I trust Him so much that I do not doubt He will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and He will turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this sad world.

That I am not my own, but belong –  body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

These are just snippets of answers offered in the catechism and expounded upon my DeYoung. Additionally, the catechism addresses the 10 Commandments, one at a time, and the Lord’s Prayer. Each is afforded useful answers.

The Heidelberg Catechism is not an infallible document. And DeYoung does not profess to be a new source of truth. The Catechism is based fully and unashamedly on the infallible truth of the Bible. It is a trustworthy source of instruction and useful for training in righteousness – and for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. The Good News We Almost Forgot, takes this ancient resource and repackages it in a less-intimidating paperback. Don’t miss this. 

P.S. To make sure you don’t miss it, I’m giving away a copy at the end of this week. Make sure to comment and repost the link for a chance to win your copy!

Day Two: Is It Good To Go Beyond The Basics?

In a novel, it’s important to start the story with a “hook,” a a sharp, compelling lead that insists the reader finish the book. In a work of nonfiction, the hook is just as important, but it has to assure the reader that he will get what he came for. In The Good News We Almost ForgotKevin DeYoung delivers the goods, starting with the foreword.

“A catechism is not a man-made add on to the Bible; it’s instruction in good theology derived from the Scriptures.” That’s good to know, because one of my first excuses to avoid the catechism is that I insist on the Bible alone. Who needs additional truth? God’s word is sufficient in itself. DeYoung promises that the Heidelberg Catechism is no more and no less than explanation and affirmation of the Bible.

Early in the book, DeYoung offers a general outline of the Heidelberg Catechism. Suddenly, it’s not such a long, disjointed document; for me it became a simple, cohesive and relatively compact way to digest the essence of the gospel.

The Heidelberg’s 129 questions are divided into 52 Lord’s Days, making it easy to preach from weekly. DeYoung uses each Lord’s Day as the material for a chapter. A brief scan of the table of contents reveals a logical progression: man’s misery, man’s deliverance and man’s response. DeYoung offers a simpler description: guilt, grace, gratitude.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is so rich and infinite, that we can never expect to master it in our humanity. At the same time, the Gospel is so simple that even children can grasp it’s great value and enjoy a personal relationship with the Father who loves them enough to sacrifice His one and only Son. Until DeYoung linked those three short words together: guilt, grace, gratitude, I had never considered how concise the message of redemption is.

Guilt, Grace, Gratitude. They provide a framework not only for the catechism, but for the Bible. In the example of Israel, God firmly establishes man’s guilt and inability to save himself. Through the giving of the Law, depravity is confirmed. Following a 400 year silence, Grace slips quietly into the picture in the form of a baby. Effusive Gratitude spills over the pages of the Epistles as the authors joyfully proclaim the excellencies of God’s salvation.

DeYoung confesses in the introduction that the catechism has been good for his own life and ministry. It narrowed his focus on the gospel. Even in the first 9 Lord’s Days I have found the same thing.

Try as you may, Christian, you can’t out grow the gospel. And if for a moment you think you have reached beyond the basics, I challenge you to pick up this book. Sparks get smaller, cooler and extinguish as they float past their birthing flame. Lay low and close the coals, let the fire of your faith revive as you discover The Good News You Almost Forgot. 

Day 1 Book Review: The Good News We Almost Forgot

Catechism. It’s an old, dusty word that rolls boringly off the tongue. It sounds like library books and creaky chairs laden with inches of dust, unmoved by studious backsides.  I remember my mother once determining that my sisters and I would study and memorize the catechisms as part of our homeschooling Bible class. As tedious as it seemed and though I never made it through the 129 questions and answers, sometimes phrases of the old document leap to my mind in response to a probing question.

Even more so now, 20 years later, with the emergent and seeker-sensitive church movement, these timeless truths have been shelved. Shelved often behind cobwebs, the very cobwebs that shroud our clarity of thought, the simplicity of the scriptures and our commitment to absolute truth.

Kevin DeYoung does a marvelous job of presenting the old Heidelberg Catechism in an intriguing light in his book The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Truth in a 16th Century Catechism. As I read the book, it was a progressively dawning light. It illuminated truths that I’ve known, but never known how to express. It confirmed doctrines like the Trinity and original sin and total depravity.

As usual, I stumbled upon this new book as I listened to In The Market With Janet Parshall on Moody Radio. By the end of the interview, I could barely wait to get my hands on a copy. Now, for three days this week I want to whet your appetite, too. At the end of the week, I will be giving away a copy of the book.

Recently I have been listening to a series of sermons on reformed theology, by R.C. Sproul. True to form, God has folded truths from both of these sources into overlapping confirmations in my mind. I certainly don’t have it all wrapped up in a nice little package, but I’m getting closer to a confident understanding and an ability to express what I believe.

I confess, I haven’t finished this book yet. You may be privy to additional nuggets of treasure that I unearth even after this week. But it’s a start. Don’t forget to be lively – COMMENT HERE – follow the links. The more involved you are the higher your chances of winning a free copy of The Good News We Almost Forgot.