Our only hope

What is a catechism? An old tool for teaching and learning the basics of the Christian faith, by means of memorising set questions and answers.

The Gospel Coalition recently published a modern catechism for the 21st century – the New City Catechism. With 52 questions and answers, it can be learned at the manageable rate of one question a week.

I am going through the catechism myself, and will be meditating on the subjects covered. You may like to follow me through the year…

1) What is our only hope in life and death?

That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Saviour Jesus Christ.

“For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:7,8)

It seems a slightly strange place to start a catechism… but this is a fundamental principle of the Christian faith, and perhaps the single most important thing for a new Christian to know.

We are not our own

“You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (I Corinthians 6:19,20)  – “not with perishable things such as silver or gold… but with the precious blood of Christ.” (I Peter 1:18,19) Death is a high price to pay, but Jesus died willingly on our behalf. The analogy of redemption is intended to teach us that we have ‘changed ownership’; we are no longer the slaves of our selfish desires, but we now belong to God. We have in fact become His “special possession” (I Peter 2:9).

We belong to God in life

When I became a Christian, I submitted to Jesus’ Lordship. In so doing, I renounced my right to live just as I like (Galatians 5:24). I do not belong to myself any more – and so I can no longer live for myself, putting myself first. Instead, I must live for God – which entails loving my neighbour (Mark 12:28-31). In fact, there is nothing that God cannot ask of me; He is Lord of all.

We belong to God in death

And this is the other side of the equation. Because He paid such a great price for us, we are enormously precious to God – we are His “treasured possession” (Malachi 3:17). So He will never let go of us and never abandon us, whatever happens (Isaiah 43:1-3). His commitment to us is unshakeable and unchangeable. Our commitment to Him is weak and at best partial; but He is the God who remains faithful for ever (I Timothy 2:13). “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them and they follow Me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no-one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27,28)

New Year is an appropriate time for taking stock of our lives and renewing our commitment to Jesus, with a prayer such as this old Methodist one:

I am no longer my own, but Yours.
Use me as You choose; rank me alongside whoever You choose.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering;
Let me be employed for You or laid aside for You,
Raised up for You or brought down low for You.
Let me be full, let me be empty;
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
With my whole heart I freely choose to yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal.

So now, God of glory,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
You are mine and I am Yours.

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