The Heidelberg Catechism makes a remarkably important statement about the relationship of believers to God, though it is tucked neatly into Question 26 in such a way that sometimes it gets overlooked. It states that this God who governs all things by his eternal counsel and providence is also “my Father” (remembering that this Catechism was written for believers to state because an unbeliever cannot call God his Father in any meaningful sense of the term). Yet, the catechism goes on to say that we can call God our Father “for the sake of Christ.”
On the surface, the plain meaning of these words ought to be readily apparent — it is Jesus’ completed work on the Cross that accomplished this status for us. Were Christ never to have agreed to redeem God’s elect, the words Jesus spoke to the Pharisees would apply to us all — “your father the devil” (John 8:44).
There is a more subtle implication that is found in these words as well, and this is the idea that God’s relationship with us is mediated through the Son. Certainly, any student of the catechism will be familiar with the idea of Christ as their Mediator, but in broader church circles, we don’t often think that way.
If you were to ask someone, “Why does God love you?” Probably, the most common answer is “Because God is love and he does not want any to perish.” Both parts of that answer are drawn from scripture, but as an answer to the question at hand, they are being used woefully out of context. The other answer that I receive a lot (even from church people, which scares me) is: “Because I am basically a good person.” Friends, let there be no doubt that none but God is good and by God’s standard of perfection, we not only fall short, we fall amongst the wicked of wicked. The right answer to the question of “Why does God love you?” is “Because Christ died for me and has redeemed me from my sin. Of course, only the believer can say that.
More importantly even, the right answer for any question as to the graces of God received by mankind should be, “It is done for the sake of Christ.” God does not do good things for me because he loves me. God does good things for me because he loves Christ and as a believer, I am in Christ and he is in me. God does not love me because of anything in me. God loves Christ and because I am in Christ, God shines his love upon me. There is nothing I bring to the table, it is Christ, it has always been Christ, and it will always be Christ. There is nothing in me that is lovely or lovable apart from Christ dwelling in me and praise the Lord that I get to enter into those benefits of Christ because of Christ’s completed work. It is all for the sake of Christ.
And that means, as Christians, we ought to live like it. Too often Christians think of God in a way that is not unlike the idea of having a “lucky rabbit’s foot on their keychain.” When escaping a trial, people often say, “God sure was with me on that one…” Of course, if you really are a Christian, God is with you in all things — even in the calamities you face where nothing goes your way. He has his purposes and will work them out in your life — “for the sake of Christ,” not for your sake.