It’s Elementary, My Dear…

“All of Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, correcting and training in righteousness.” 2 Tim. 3:16

That’s why I get almost giddy when the Holy Spirit illuminates two or three passages, sometimes from opposite ends of the Bible and ties them together. It makes God’s Word seem so personal, as if I had a private tutor patiently explaining a text I’ve over-thought and can’t quite understand on my own.

This morning, I was reading in Matthew 18. There, Jesus admonished His disciples to be humble, even as little children. Jesus’ most intimate friends might reasonably have expected to receive special status in Heaven. Even in modern churches, we assign the apostles an extra measure of honor. I mean, they saw Jesus! He chose them individually!

(As a side-note, I ask you to look closely into the Biblical truth that all who believe on Jesus were individually chosen – even you and me! Start with Ephesians 1:4)

But I digress. Theologians have dissected this passage in Matthew, mining dozens of applicable lessons from Jesus’ instructions to be childlike: Children are humble, unassuming, reliant on their fathers (as we should be on God), trusting, joyful, still learning and willing to be taught…

Can I draw one more possible connection?

Just a bit ago, I was listening to a sermon taken from 1 Corinthians. The teacher pointed out that in 1 Corinthians 3:2, Paul tells the Corinthians that they are still like children. He cannot teach them the deep things of God for they are barely able to comprehend the simple elements of the Gospel.

So, the Apostle Paul is speaking on an elementary level, the truths He pens in this foundational book of the Bible are basic principles, things that even the newest of believers should understand and apply.

Fast forward, there’s a verse that rubs against the grain of all human nature. Even the most seasoned of Christ followers struggle with this teaching.

“The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” 1 Cor. 6:7

As the oldest daughter of four, I recall being told by my parents, “Can’t you just give in? Please, just let it go. Let her have her way. Be the mature one.”

So how does it happen, that when we’re grown, it becomes expected to fight for our rights? To simply surrender is considered weak, unpersuaded, evidence of a lack of conviction.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul is not applauding his readers for being childish and weak in their faith, but his comments affirm that the instruction to relinquish our rights is an elementary principle of the Christian faith.

In this, as in Matthew 18, let us be childlike, simple in our reasoning.

Father, teach me not to connive and manipulate to get my own way. Teach me to love as Christ loved me, relinquishing His right to the very throne of God, in order to purchase my freedom from sin. (Phil. 2:6)
Even as I grow in spiritual maturity and move beyond the simple elements of the Gospel into a constant, thriving, fluid relationship and conversation with you through the Holy Spirit, help me to retain an unassuming heart.
Whether it be with my husband, longing for a better marriage, one such as I ‘deserve’, or whether it be covetousness of something I ‘deserve’, or whether it be a legal right of mine that has been trampled…teach me childlike reliance on your sufficiency for me. I have my Father, who is my Savior, who is my Constant Companion, let me have nothing else.

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.