Lord’s Day 33 (Q/A 88-91): BEING APPRENTICED

88   Q.    What is involved
                in genuine repentance or conversion?

A.    Two things:
the dying-away of the old self,^1
and the rising-to-life of the new.

^1 Rom. 6:4-6; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:5-10; 1 Cor. 5:7

89   Q.    What is the dying-away of the old self?

A.    To be genuinely sorry for sin
and more and more to hate
and run away from it.^1

^1 Rom. 8:13; Joel 2:13

90   Q.    What is the rising-to-life of the new self?

A.    Wholehearted joy in God through Christ^1
and a love and delight to live
according to the will of God
by doing every kind of good work.^2

^1 Rom. 5:1; 14:17; Isa. 57:15
^2 Rom. 6:10-11; Gal. 2:20

91   Q.    What are good works?

A.    Only those which
are done out of true faith,^1
conform to God’s law,^2
and are done for God’s glory;^3
and not those based
on our own opinion
or human tradition.^4

^1 Rom. 14:23
^2 1 Sam. 11; 1 Sam. [15]:22; Eph. 2:10
^3 1 Cor. 10:31
^4 Deut. 12:32; Ezek. 20:18-19;Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:9


LORD’S DAY 33 (Q/A 88-91):
“Being Apprenticed” 

Eleven years ago when I first moved to the East Coast United States from California, I had to quickly learn the seasonal rhythms of life. The approach of winter means stocking up on bags of rock salt, and when snow comes, it means shoveling within 24 hours after the snow stops so that the snow doesn’t freeze as a giant glacier on your driveway, sidewalk and walkways.  Spring  meant stocking upon on antihistamines for seasonal allergies, changing the air filters in the vents, prepping the pool, aerating the soil and planting seeds. Summer meant stocking up on propane gas for the barbecue, keeping the pool filter on, and pulling out the patio furniture from storage. Autumn meant closing the pool, raking the beautiful and plentiful leaves, and stocking up the pantry with chicken stock.

As a Pacific, West Coast guy, it took several years of being apprenticed into my new environment. It wasn’t California living. It required adjustment, being re-orientated to the new. It required learning, being apprenticed by my father in-law, neighbors, church members – those who had more experience, those who tried and failed in the past and who could impart those lessons to me.

To live a life continually marked and pulsing with gratitude towards God in Christ requires spiritual apprenticeship.  The Holy Spirit apprentices us by what the Protestant Reformers called the dual work of mortification (dying to self) and vivification (revitalized living).

Q/A 88-90 is about the emerging life that is being unlocked, like the spring bud that is latent underground, awaiting for the winter snow to thaw so that it can emerge as a beautiful tulip. Q/A 88 describes the new life that emerges as “rising-to-life.”

Do you want to be fully alive, alive for God in Christ?

This is not something we could conjure up or muster with our strength, strategies, and savvy. Spiritual apprenticeship requires the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, through the difficult but necessary work of “genuine repentance” and “conversion.”

When my wife and I were preparing for marriage, our premarital counselor, who then officiated our wedding, exhorted us how important it is to learn how to say sorry to each other, to mean it when we say it, and to forgive each other. I still remember when on our wedding day he held our wedding rings, and pointing to it, he said how these perfectly round, polished rings will get nicks and scratches over the years, but they will remain beautiful. So it is with living into marriage – the nicks and scratches will be through the rough and tumble, the joys and the struggles of living deeper into our married life.

Our new life in Christ that is “rising-to-life” is our living into the marriage that we have with our Lord Jesus Christ, so to speak. Our relationship with Him is a real one, and, as with any real relationship, there’s a butting of heads. When we butt heads with Christ, it’s in every single moment of our life when we are confronted with our sin by Christ’s Spirit, when our hearts try to fend off what the Spirit tells us through His Word, when we argue with God, when we insist on our way. Then the Spirit of Jesus Christ prods our hearts to prayer, intrudes on our pride, uses the Scriptures to transform our mind, uses a fellow believer to speak to us…all the many ways that the Spirit of Christ brings death to our old self, causing our new life, our “rising-to-life” to emerge, living into resurrection life and power.

Q/A 91 prompts us to good works, underscoring what is good.  The proof-text in footnote 2 is problematic at first and second glance, the passage from 1 Samuel 15. Samuel the prophet confronts king Saul because Saul didn’t follow God’s commandments exactly. God commanded that Saul kill all the Amalekites, including all their animals.  Saul and his army save Agag and the best of the livestock, thinking that by saving them, he can then offer the best sacrifices.

This is not a proof-text about God approving the killing of Amalekites.

The prophet Samuel’s conversation with the Lord Almighty showed the thrust of this passage. The Lord regretted calling Saul as Israel’s king as Saul’s heart and actions showed he was not so much interested in following God, nor listening to Samuel.

Even Saul’s attempt to offer the best sacrifice to God was tainted with self-interest at its best even though the outcome was a sacrifice being done.

When we can only see the outcome, we don’t realize what is underneath the outcome and the process that precedes it.  I’m not a handy Home Depot guy. Home improvements don’t come easy for me, but I can hold my own…eventually.  Several years ago, one of our neighbors renovated our bathroom, and in the process of that, he found some other trouble spots. Changing a toilet in the renovated bathroom, led to him showing me how to change the toilet in the master bathroom and the guest bathroom.  By the time we worked on the third bathroom, I had become a pro at unbolting the toilet, removing the old wax ring, checking the flange, that when, a few years later, one of the toilets had a leak, I single-handedly diagnosed the problem and fixed it. I thank Jeff for taking me under his wing, his patience, his instruction, the numerous runs to Home Depot, his encouragement, and, at times, taking the tools from my hand to show me how to do the job so I can do it on the next toilet.

The outcome and process are both key.  Saul was more interested in the outcome.  He thought that the offering of sacrifices was the worship God desired. While that outcome was important, that gradual, heart-rending, hard process of unfastening our hands from the driver’s wheel and doing things God’s way – that’s the hard part, but that’s the essential part of our apprenticeship.

Living our lives God’s way, making decisions that are pleasing to God, caring about what God cares about — herein lies our lifelong marriage relationship with God. Thanks be to God, that God gives Himself in the Holy Spirit to apprentice us all our lives long.