The Heidelberg Catechism’s answer to question 94, “What does God enjoin in the first commandment?” contains eleven verbs, eleven “doing” words.
“A. That I, as sincerely as I desire the salvation of my own soul, avoid and flee from all idolatry, sorcery, soothsaying, superstition, invocation of saints, or any other creatures; and learn rightly to know the only true God; trust in him alone, with humility and patience submit to him; expect all good things from him only; love, fear, and glorify him with my whole heart; so that I renounce and forsake all creatures, rather than commit even the least thing contrary to his will.”
These verbs can be divided into two categories that apply to all kinds of sins:
Sin-ward actions: Avoid, flee, renounce, forsake.
God-ward actions: Learn, trust, submit, expect, love, fear, glorify.
The God-ward actions cannot happen without the sin-ward actions, and the sin-ward actions cannot happen without the God-ward actions. They are two sides of the one experience of repentance.
AN ILLUSTRATION OF REPENTANCE
We can see an illustration of most of these verbs in action in Acts 19v13-21 where the idolatrous magicians and occultists of Ephesus were powerfully impacted by the Gospel of Christ:
- They feared (v. 17)
- They glorified the Lord Jesus (v. 17)
- They believed (v. 18)
- They came out into the open (v. 18)
- They confessed (v. 18)
- They showed their deeds (v. 18)
- They burned their spell-books (v. 19)
- They turned to God’s book (v. 20)
I would have loved to see that bonfire of repentance. Some estimates put the value of books burned at several million dollars of today’s money. In burning their spell-books, they were saying three things:
I detest my past: I hate what I was and did.
I want to make sure I do not return: I want to make it as difficult as possible for me to take up these practices again.
I want to make sure others will not be led astray: They could have sold their books to others for large sums of money they didn’t want their financial gain to result in spiritual loss for others.
AN APPLICATION OF REPENTANCE
But let’s not just go back a couple of thousand years to Ephesus, or a few hundred years to Heidelberg. Let’s bring this right up to date and apply it to our own lives with this one question: What should you put on the bonfire? Of course, it need not be a literal bonfire. But if not a literal bonfire, then use these repentance verbs to have a spiritual bonfire.
If the Holy Spirit fell in reviving power among us today, I don’t think Harry Potter conferences and books would be first to go up in flames. But I do believe there would be a huge conflagration of one of the greatest idols of our own time – digital technology. Don’t think you’ve turned your phone, your computer, or social media into an idol? Test yourself with these questions (read the rest at The Christward Collective).