Heidelbasics: Brief Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. Chuck Muether
88. In how many things does true repentance or conversion consist?
In two things: the dying of the old man, and the making alive of the new.
89. What is the dying of the old man?
Heartfelt sorrow for sin, causing us to hate and turn from it always more and more.
90. What is the making alive of the new man?
Heartfelt joy in God through Christ, causing us to take delight in living according to the will of God in all good works.
91. What are good works?
Those only which proceed from true faith, are done according to the law of God, unto His glory, and not such as rest on our own opinion or the commandments of men.
I suspect, even in this age of electronics, more than a few are familiar with the classic Dickens’ opener to the A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. . . .” And so opens the epoch narrative set during the French Revolution.
I suspect what many do not see is that, beyond the wars and rumors of war, man is at constant war with himself. The great plot of the devil is to deceive man into believing that peace, tranquility, and joy can exist outside of the heavenly Father and the Son.
In our day certain advocacy groups argue that if it were not for Christians holding to “their” absolute truths, all nations, peoples, and tribes would get along. In other words, as long as we are respecters of each other’s “truths,” lifestyles, and choices, we will all exist in harmony. Obvious to those in Christ, the absence of one way, truth, and life ultimately leads only to chaos and discord, but this is just plain foolishness to the world.
However, even to this day, souls are being regenerated, and men and women of all ages are being awakened to the words of Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” They see by the Spirit testifying to their spirit that they have held the truth in unrighteousness. What results from the falling scales from their eyes is both euphoric and unsettling.
They see the amazing grace and mercy extended to them from a benevolent Father who gave them His Son by nature that they would become sons and daughters by grace. But they also see what they were–children of wrath. One does not come into His marvelous light without some understanding of that exodus from darkness.
This is also not a simple game reset by a gamer’s push of a button. Two heartfelt experiences occur, and the catechism rightly points out: “What is the dying of the old man? Heartfelt sorrow for sin, causing us to hate and turn from it always more and more. What is the making alive of the new man? Heartfelt joy in God through Christ, causing us to take delight in living according to the will of God in all good works.”
One cannot claim a narrative of true repentance and conversion without experiencing heartfelt sorrow and heartfelt joy. Paul nails the first point in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” The apostle also well nails the second point: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope
of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1, 2).
No such points could be nailed if it were not for the greater nailing that our Lord Jesus Christ endured on the cross. Because of His sacrifice, we know, assent, and trust the one only living and true God, and we see ourselves as miserable sinners in need of His grace.