Tag Archives: apostles creed

The basic creed of Reformed churches, as most familiarly known, is called the Apostles’ Creed. It has received this title because of its great antiquity; it dates from very early times in the Church, a half century or so from the last writings of the New Testament.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.

Amen.

The Atheist Creed by Steve Turner – 1980

To celebrate the completion of my series through the Apostles’ Creed, I thought I would share the Atheist Creed by Steve Turner.”This is the creed I have written on behalf of all us.We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don’t hurt anyone,
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy is OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything is getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there’s something in
horoscopes, UFO’s and bent spoons;
Jesus was a good man
just like Buddha, Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher
although we think His good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same–
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of
creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied,
then it’s compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Khan.

We believe in Masters and Johnson.
What’s selected is average.
What’s average is normal.
What’s normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors
and the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.
It’s only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.

We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.
We believe in the rejection of creeds,
and the flowering of individual thought.

“Chance” a post-script

If chance be the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky,
and when you hear
State of Emergency!
Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage!
Whites go Looting!
Bomb Blasts School!
It is but the sound of man worshiping his maker.”

– Steve Turner, Creed, 1980

Amen

(This is part nineteen of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

This is the last entry about the Apostles’ Creed. The last word of the line is simply:

“Amen.”

This word is actually a Hebrew word and it implies truth or steadfastness. According to the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, “Since Jews, Christians, and Muslims all use this word in a variety of languages, it may be one of the most widely known words in the world.” It conveys affirmation of a weighty statement or divine commands. In Deuteronomy 27:15-26, God’s people use it as affirmation to His commands. They’re agree with them and agreeing to live by them.

Our lives should reflect this reality. We should live in light of these truths and seek to study them deeper and share them with those around us. We should live as though there is a sovereign Creator-God, we should live as though Jesus came in the flesh, died for our sins, conquered death and will come back in glory. We should live as though the Holy Spirit dwells inside us, giving us the power to live for God instead of ourselves. We should live as though we’ve been forgiven and now belong to a beautiful family of Believers. We should live as though this life is short and temporary. We should live in light of eternity. In a recent sermon, Francis Chan simply said, “My prayer is that your life would make sense in light of eternity.” Does your life reflect the truths of the Apostles’ Creed?

After all, these are some of the core pillars of our faith!

Thus it is fitting to end the Apostles’ Creed with a heartfelt “amen.”

I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of Heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit;
born of the Virgin Mary,
and suffered under Pontius Pilate.
He was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into death.
The third day He rose again from the dead,
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father.
He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Can I get an “amen”?

and the life everlasting.

(This is part eighteen of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

After discussing the resurrection of the body in the previous post, we’ll be looking at what the Creed says we resurrect to; namely

“the life everlasting.”

There have been entire books written about this subject, but I want to highlight a few simple aspects of the life everlasting that I find particularly encouraging.
First, there is a reason that Christians throughout the ages have endured hardships and suffering with joy that is glorious and inexpressible (1 Pt 1:8). Peter wrote that we have been born again to a “living hope” (1 Pt 1:3). He wrote that through the resurrection of Christ, we have been granted “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Pt 1:9). But here’s the kicker, in the next verse Peter wrote that they were rejoicing in their future inheritance, “though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” and that these trials serve as a test to see the genuineness of their faith (1 Pt 1:6).
It’s that “for a little while” that catches my eye. How long is “a little while”? Is it a few hours? Is it a few days? A week? A month? A year? A decade? Since Peter was just speaking about our eternal inheritance, it makes perfect sense to read the phrase “a little while” within the context of our entire lives. Eternity is a long time; our life on this earth is “a little while.” If we view our lives from an eternal perspective, we will see how short and temporary this life truly is! The brevity of life cannot be overstated.
It’s this perspective that allowed Barb to finish well. It’s this perspective that will empower you to finish well. It’s the promise of a life everlasting that gives us hope, if not for this life, then for the life to come.
This is our great hope; our great joy; and the secret of Christian contentment: the life everlasting.
Second, do you know what will be the best part about Heaven? God! We get to spend eternity with a perfect being that offers endless love and infinite joy; if that sounds boring to you then it’s only because you fail to grasp the fact that God has infinite glory. We could never get tired of worshiping Him; we could never get bored with Him. It’s like Amazing Grace says:
“When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun.”
It’s an impossible concept to grasp this side of eternity, but we will never run out of reasons to worship our God. Never. We must remember this: the thing that will make Heaven so heavenly is the fact that we will be with God forever.
Third and finally, we will all experience Heaven uniquely! Consider Revelation 2:17b, which says: “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
Did you catch that? We’ll each get a name that no one else knows! C. S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain, wrote very profoundly of this passage:

What can be more a man’s own than this new name which even in eternity remains a secret between God and him? And what shall we take this secrecy to mean? Surely, that each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the divine beauty better than any other creature can. Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently? And this difference, so far from impairing, floods with meaning the love of all blessed creatures for one another, the communion of the saints. If all experienced God in the same way and returned Him an identical worship, the song of the church triumphant would have no symphony, it would be like an orchestra in which all the instruments played the same note.

At the risk of sounding silly… THIS BLOWS MY MIND!! You will have a unique, intimate communion with God for all eternity. There are dozens of other facets concerning Heaven and eternity that could be explored, but those are probably my three favorite. Praise be to God for the grace He extends in His salvation!

the resurrection of the body

(This is part seventeen of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

The line of the Creed looks at something that was one of the core reasons I felt as though I could trust that Jesus was the Son of God:

“the resurrection of the body.”

Perhaps someone has told you that even if Jesus was not the divine Son of God, He still teaches us the best way to live; even if there is no Heaven, hell, or eternity, the way of Jesus is still the best way you can possibly spend this life before you die.

But is this true? Is that a Biblical claim or an attempt to diminish the submission that Christ rightfully claims from His followers?

It’s easy, in modern-day America, to make the claim that Jesus’ way is the best way to live, but think about that claim for a moment in light of the Church’s history. Would that claim work in India? Would it work at the underground churches in China? Would it work anywhere Christians are being persecuted today? How would that claim hold up to any of the churches that experienced heavy persecution by the Roman empire?

Paul would say that, if Jesus is not God and there is no resurrection, then we’re wasting our time. In fact, Paul says “if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world” (1 Cor 15:19, NLT). The Common English Bible translates it like this: “If we have a hope in Christ only in this life, then we deserve to be pitied more than anyone else.”

In other words, if there is no resurrection we are the most pitiful people on earth. We’re wasting our time and should just go do whatever we want. All of Christ’s claims hinge on whether or not He was resurrected; because if He was not resurrected, then we won’t be resurrected. And, as Paul says, if our hope is only in this life then we are to be pitied.

Which brings us to the most obvious of all questions, “Is there good evidence for the resurrection of Jesus?”

I believe there is; I also believe that’s an investigation that Christians need to make for themselves, so as to strengthen their convictions and expand their ability to share their faith. Here are some recommended reads if you’re interested:

Online Articles:
Evidences for the Resurrection by J. Hampton Keathley, III
Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ by Christopher Louis Lang
Testimony of the Evangelists by Simon Greenleaf
Extra-Biblical Historical Evidence for the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus
Powerful Evidence For The Deity of Christ: The Greatest Sign – The Resurrection

Books (I’m sure there are dozens of options but these are some of the most popular):

The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus
More Than a Carpenter

Here’s a sermon you could watch if interested:

http://marshill.com/v/nrb7h5bxbr1d

Take a look at any of those resources if you’re interested; laying out the historical argument for the resurrection is far beyond the scope of this entry. However, I do think it’s important for Christians to examine why they believe in the resurrection with the hopes that it will deepen their faith and enhance their ability to share their faith.

But if we believe in the resurrection, how should this affect the way we live?

I think Dan & Barb Evans are an excellent example of how the resurrection can dramatically change the way we live. They have been in ministry around the world for 21 years with Cadence International, a group that specializes in ministering to members of the armed forces. I’ve watched them open their home and their lives to show the love of Christ to many people. They have had a profound impact on the lives of many people around the world (I found one great example here). It’s an honor to know them.

During the fall of 2009, Barb was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. For a while, we weren’t even sure she was going to wake up from her brain surgery, but by the grace of God she pulled through. Soon after, a prayer group was started on Facebook. It has over 650 members from all around the world. I only share that last bit of information to convey how far reaching their ministry has been. For the entire Evans family, it has been a long, hard fight but they didn’t stop ministering. If anything, they have done more ministry, through Barb’s battle with cancer, than ever before. Barb spent the last 19 months of her life knowing that her condition was terminal unless God miraculously intervened. She never lost the faith, but instead found refuge in God. Barb spent the last 19 months living her life to the fullest.

On Christmas Eve, Barb spoke very openly and honestly about her battle, her fears, her hopes, her ministry, and, most of all, her desire to glorify God through her struggle and to finish well. On March 7th, Barb breathed her last and went to be with Jesus. Connie and I went to Dan’s house that night to say goodbye to Barb. She looked so peaceful; no more struggle, no more pain, just glory with Jesus. I leaned over and, with a tear in my eye, whispered in her ear, “You finished well, Barb. You finished well.”

While I do grieve for those she left behind, I’m not sad for Barb. Why? Because there is a resurrection. Barb was able to finish well because she knew that there is a resurrection; she knew that, on the other side of death, true life was waiting. She knew that, through His death, Jesus conquered death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Barb knew that something far greater waited on the other side of her death.

But we’ll discuss that in depth with the next post.

the forgiveness of sins

(This is part sixteen of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

Few people actually live as though they believe in…

“the forgiveness of sins.”

Consider, for a moment, that you could shed all of your regrets, move on from all your past mistakes, and walk into a future of freedom. Imagine you could live your life and make your decisions motivated by faith, and not fear. Some of the people I love in this world seem to walk around as though they have a cloud of guilt and shame from the past hanging over them. I wish they would shed the past like a butterfly sheds its cocoon and fly with wings of faith. Or, as Oswald Chambers said it, “Leave the broken, irreversible past in God’s hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.”

So how does one do that? They can’t, at least not alone; instead they must be set free from their past by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. The beautiful truth of the Gospel is that you can be set free. Jesus says that whoever sins is a slave to sin (Jn 8:34). But He also tells us that the truest and most pure way we can live is when we are free to love God and others (Mt 22:36-40). We are meant to be free from sin; liberated to worship and serve God. That’s how Adam and Eve lived before the fall (Gen 2:25). Sadly, we are unable to purchase our own freedom. I can see no greater benefit of the forgiveness of sins than freedom. In Galatians, Paul says that we have been forgiven so that we may be free to love God and serve others (Gal 5:1, 13). In fact, going all the way back to the book of Exodus, the reason Moses tells the Pharaoh to set the Israelites free was in order that they might worship God!

Thus, when Christ has set us free, we are free indeed. We can stop being haunted by the past because we are set free from it. This doesn’t mean that we won’t still face the consequences of our past, but it does mean we do not have to be mastered by our sins. It means that God will redeem our past mistakes and use them for His glory.

We often want to fool ourselves and say that Jesus could not possibly forgive our worst sins; the sins we haven’t told anyone about for fear they would never look at us the same. That’s a lie. We overestimate the power of our sins and underestimate the power of the Cross. Could there be a sin more heinous than crucifying the innocent Son of God? Yet we see that Jesus prayed for them, even as they crucified and mocked Him (Lk 23:34). Truly, the cleansing power of the blood of Christ is stronger than the deepest, darkest stains of sin. We insult Christ when we think that our sins have more weight than His forgiveness can lift. God knows the full weight of our sin far more than we can ever fathom and none of it is hidden from Him, yet because of the overwhelming power of Christ’s blood, we can still be forgiven. This is truly miraculous.

Another thought that just occurred to me is that this line follows the line about the “communion of the saints.” How beautiful! Can there be any communion or harmony amongst us if we refuse to forgive one another? In his essay on forgiveness, C. S. Lewis says, Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it. He continues to elaborate on this idea and closes by saying, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” We are called to pay it forward, so to speak.

This type of love is something that is only possible through a connection with Christ and it is one of the most visible manifestations of the Church.

I pray that I will be able to live a life free from the heavy burdens of my past sins; a life that is radically free to love and forgive others!

the communion of saints

(This is part fifteen of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

This entry will carry over some of the ideas from the previous line of the Apostles’ Creed and some of my other entries on Communion. The line we’re looking at today is

“I believe in the communion of the saints.”

There are two important ideas in this little line: communion and sainthood. Both of these ideas stem from one of my favorite parts of the Gospel, and that is reconciliation. Sin is the great divider that separates us from God but it also drives a wedge into human relationships. Because of sin our relationships with God and with one another are broken. When Christ died on the cross He reconciled us to God and to one another; thus we are able to enjoy the communion of the saints. That being said, I’ll just break this down into two simple questions.

What is sainthood? The Roman Catholic tradition for sainthood is not what we’re talking about here. According to Roman Catholic tradition:

In official [Catholic] procedures there are three steps to sainthood: one becomes Venerable, Blessed and then a Saint. Venerable is the title given to a deceased person recognized as having lived heroic virtues. To be recognized as a blessed, and therefore beatified, in addition to personal attributes of charity and heroic virtue, one miracle, acquired through the individual’s intercession, is required. Canonization requires two, though a Pope may waive these requirements.

But the Bible actually paints a different picture for sainthood. I could blatantly rip it off, but instead I’ll share a link to an article that does an excellent job of explaining the Biblical teachings about being a saint. Three important things to take away from that article:

  1. “The idea of the word “saint” is a group of people [the Church] set apart for the Lord and His kingdom.”
  2. “Scripturally speaking, the “saints” are the body of Christ, Christians, the church. All Christians are considered saints. All Christian are saints…and at the same time are called to be saints.”
  3. Christians are saints by virtue of their connection with Jesus Christ. Christians are called to be saints, to increasingly allow their daily life to more closely match their position in Christ. This is the Biblical description and calling of the saints.”

Therefore, the only person who can declare someone a saint is Jesus. All Christians are saints because of their connection to Jesus Christ. That brings us to our second question…

What is communion? I would dare say that Communion is largely misunderstood in the modern Church. If you don’t believe me, explain why this video is so funny!

While communion may seem pretty simple, unleavened bread and wine, there is a lot going on behind the scenes.Communion is a time when believers remember the sacrifice that Christ has made on their behalf. But it’s also a time to contemplate the benefits of such a sacrifice; specifically, reconciliation with God and with one another. The Church is intended to be Christ’s Body here on earth; thus we are united with Christ but also with one another. In Romans 12, Paul describes the Church as a body; in a physical body all the members are organically connected, in the Church all the members are spiritually connected. Elsewhere, in 1 Corinthians 11:33 Paul is stressing the unity of mind that Christians should have when they come together for Communion.

In this line of the Apostles’ Creed, two things are being stressed. First is the fact that Christ declares His followers to be saints. Second is the fact that we are reconciled to God and to one another; there is beautiful unity achieved as a result of Christ’s finished work.

I’ve shared communion with saints literally all around the world, from Knoxville, TN to probably a dozen different churches in Alaska and even in Japan. I’ve shared communion and worshiped Jesus with a great church in Portland, OR that Connie and I plan on attending as soon as we get down there. I’ve even worshiped and shared communion with the saints in Afghanistan (where I met some amazingly passionate Christians, Danny & Andrea Avery) and I’ve had the privilege of worshiping with the saints in the United Arab Emirates. It’s been an amazing privilege to see that no matter where I go there is always a group of people there who I can connect with. The Church truly is a world-wide Body that spans entire continents and is bonded by the blood of Christ.

For me, this line most vividly reminds me of one of the most beautiful worship experiences I’ve ever encountered. Last year I had the privilege of visiting the Evangelical Community Church of Abu Dhabi. There were people from over 60 different nations all gathered together to worship Jesus. And it wasn’t like there was a section for white people, a section for Asians, a section for blacks; no, we were all sitting completely mixed together as a diverse, but unified group. It was beautiful! It was the communion of the saints.

the holy catholic Church

(Note: After receiving some feedback and engaging in a couple of conversations, which prompted me to prayer and meditation, I have decided to revise this entry. I’ve made this decision for a couple of reasons. First, I think my original entry did a bad job of explaining “the Church” so I’ve taken some more time to expound on what that idea means. Second, I think it did a good job of alienating people. With text, things like tone and body language are stripped from a message and it can be easily misunderstood as too harsh. These two factors combined to create a message that I believe was largely misunderstood. Finally, and most important, this is something that I take very seriously (James 3:1) and I hope this revised message will give glory to God and encourage His Church.)

(This is part fourteen of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

I think this may be the most widely misunderstood line of the Apostles’ Creed. What does it mean to say…

“I believe in the holy catholic church.”

How many sermons have you heard on ecclesiology? Yeah, zero, right? That’s because many Christians, pastors included, take for granted the doctrine of the Church. Did you notice that I just used a big-C when I said Church? That’s the focus of this entry:  the difference between a church and the Church.

The best definition I’ve heard for “the Church” comes from Wayne Grudem‘s Systematic Theology. He defines “the Church” as “the community of all true believers for all time.” A church is a building; the Church is an eternal group of believers. A church is built out of brick and mortar by the hands of men; the Church is an eternal community built by God. Therefore, there is the visible church (a building) and the invisible church (an eternal community); a church and the Church. To miss the distinction here is to miss the entire point of this entry and what this line is all about. Also, when we talk about the “holy catholic church,” the word catholic simply means “universal”. So in this line, we’re talking about the community of all true believers for all time; this is the universal church (however, this is not universalism).

That’s why, in this line, we also use the word “holy” to describe the Church; the Church is holy because it is not a work of man, but a work of God. So what about the horrible things that have happened in the name of God over the centuries? For example, what about the Crusades? In the Crusades their mantra was Deus vult or “God wills it!” Here’s the interesting part about using any of those historical examples; everyone knows on some level that the Crusades go against what the Bible teaches, right? We all know God’s desire for “the Church” does not match the actions of the Crusaders. At some level, we all have an idea of how the Church should look and how it does look. And we all know the Crusades are irreconcilable to Scripture, right? (And on a more personal level, we all have an idea of how our own personal conduct should look and how it does look.) This goes back to the visible church versus the invisible Church; which one was responsible for the Crusades? Were the Crusades a semi-political cause that was the fruit of widespread corruption within a visible, man-made institution? Or were the Crusades the will of God as His will was done on earth through His invisible Church? One consistent pattern throughout all Scriptures and all human history is that, when people get involved, things go wrong. Because of the taint of sin and because all of creation, including us, is subject to physical and moral decay (Romans 8:21) we need the Church. The need visible churches to fulfill their mission as the invisible Church. And, within the pews and seats of those churches, we need Christians to live their lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27). We live in a world that desperately needs “the Church.”

This brings us to a largely forgotten and likely unappealing Latin phrase: extra Ecclesiam nulla salus! In English, this means “outside the Church there is no salvation.” Notice it’s “the Church”? That’s what this phrase refers to! So why do I bring that up? Hang in there with me!

Have you ever met someone who says something like…
“Oh yeah, I believe in God just not organized religion!”
“I don’t need to go to some building for God.”
“I don’t trust institutions.”
“I have my own little church-like experience without going to a building.”

Well, if you hear someone say that, they’re revealing a deep ignorance of or apathy towards the Scripture. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I’m just calling a spade a spade! Being connected to the Church, not the building but the true community of believers, is a fruit of being connected to God. People who say they connect with God by themselves are just making excuses for not being involved in a community of Christians; it’s that simple. How can you love God if you don’t love God’s people? First John 4:21 says that if we love God we will love our brother. Who is our brother? Our brother is our brother in Christ. Thus, if we do not love our brother in Christ, we prove do not love Christ (1 John 4:20).

For example, in John 10:14-15 Jesus calls himself the “good shepherd.” What does He lay His life down for? The flock! Sheep travel in flocks. In Acts 2:42, the newly baptized Christians devoted themselves to “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” They were devoted to the fellowship, not to themselves. True Christianity is not a solitary practice but something done within the context of community. In 1 Peter 2:4, the author describes the members of that church as “living stones” that are being built into “a spiritual house.” One brick by itself does not have a purpose; bricks are made to be used together. Peter continues by describing that church (and subsequently all Christians) as “a chose race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people…” (1 Pet 2:9). The context here is very clearly a community; not individual people who never get together. Proverbs 12:17 says that “iron sharpens iron;” it doesn’t say that iron sharpens itself. We need one another to encourage and build one another up, to challenge one another, and to call one another out when we need to repent.

People who share common interests will gather. People who love to run run will form running clubs and will participate in races; people who love to swim will join swimming teams and attend swim meets; people who love to shoot guns (and want to protect the 2nd Amendment) will join the NRA and go to a shooting range; and perhaps the most notorious, people who believe in a political cause will gather together with hopes of enacting some type of change. (Before you argue that people can run, swim, or shoot guns by themselves, please take a minute to consider if you can baptize yourself or take Communion by yourself.) At the very least, people who share common interests will find one another and become friends; unless, of course, your single greatest passion is being alone! People who are passionately in love with God, desire to learn more about His Word, and hope to do His will in this dark, broken world will gather. They will feel compelled to find one another. It’s inevitable! If you love God, then you will want to participate in God’s mission. Guess where that is? The Church! God’s agent in this world is the Church. Thus, if you love God you will want to be involved in God’s Church so as to be part of God’s work in this world. Simple, right?

Let’s look elsewhere at Hebrews 10:24-25, shall we? How can we claim to be connected to the Head (Christ) if we are not connected to the Body (the Church)? Martin Luther, the catalyst of the Reformation, said this about the Church:

Therefore he who would find Christ must first find the Church. How should we know where Christ and his faith were, if we did not know where his believers are? And he who would know anything of Christ must not trust himself nor build a bridge to heaven by his own reason; but he must go to the Church, attend and ask her. Now the Church is not wood and stone, but the company of believing people; one must hold to them, and see how they believe, live and teach; they surely have Christ in their midst. For outside of the Christian church there is no truth, no Christ, no salvation.

The idea of a personal connection to God outside of the context of a community is, in the grand scheme of things, a very new concept. While we are individually connected to God through Christ, we become part of a body; no man is an island. It’s the result of post-Enlightenment thinking and its resultant individualism; two ideas that permeate Western thinking and the mentality of Americans. Be careful of those who claim to be connected to God, but not connected to God’s Church.

However, for those who are members of God’s Body, there is a beautiful connection, which is what we’ll be looking at in the next line of the Apostles’ Creed, so don’t touch that dial!

I believe in the Holy Spirit

(This is part thirteen of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

This is a line that I recited my entire life but didn’t fully grasp until around this time last year (an experience that I blogged about here). I think this line is about Someone that Christians forget about all too often:

“I believe in the Holy Spirit.”

To start, the Holy Spirit is a He, not an it. The Holy Spirit is a person and not some immaterial force. The Holy Spirit has feelings, thoughts, and even emotions. The Holy Spirit makes His first appearance earlier in the Bible than you might initially think! In Genesis 1:2, the Holy Spirit hovers over the water during creation. This tells us that the Holy Spirit participated in the creation of the world.

Throughout the Old Testament, there are dozens of references to the Spirit coming upon different judges and prophets and working through them. For example, the Holy Spirit empowers the Judges to guide Israel as a nation (Judges 3:10, 6:34, 11:29, 13:25, 14:6) The Spirit gives Samuel his power as a king (1 Samuel 10:6) The Spirit gives Isaiah his prophetic powers (Isaiah 11:2, 61:1). (I found a great list here that has dozens of OT references to the Holy Spirit.) My point is simply that the Holy Spirit was the inspirational engine of the Old Testament.

The Holy Spirit has an even more active role in the New Testament. For example, read through Luke and Acts (both written by the same guy) and you’ll see that the Holy Spirit empowers Jesus through the course of His ministry and then does the same for the Apostles. For example, in Luke 4:1, the Holy Spirit fills Jesus and even leads Jesus into the desert; after His temptation in the desert, Jesus returns “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). Then, in John 1:16, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to believers. And finally, in Acts the Holy Spirit arrives and empowers the early Christians to spread the Gospel throughout the entire Roman empire.

And nothing has changed since then! The Holy Spirit is the engine in the life of modern believers, too! First, the Holy Spirit actively convicts non-Christians of guilt for their sins (John 16:8). Thus, true regeneration is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides Christians in daily living (Galatians 5:25). In fact, the Holy Spirit is the litmus test for being a true Christian (1 John 4:13)!

This truth became profoundly important to me last year and since then I’ve started to be intentionally aware of the Holy Spirit’s role in my life. The Holy Spirit gives me power, gives me His fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), and connects me to God the Father. I can do nothing if I am disconnected from the Holy Spirit. In short, I believe in the Holy Spirit.

He shall come again to judge the living and the dead

(This is part twelve of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

Now we get to a line that many of us choose to ignore:“He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.”

This line tells us something about Jesus that we seem to forget:  Jesus will return. To some, this line is good news; to others it is bad news. Philippians 2:10-11 says that EVERY knee shall bow and that EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

For some this will be a moment of great joy; for others a moment of great terror.

For some, a moment of welcome; for others a moment of judgement.

Some will bow before Jesus as friend; others will bow before Jesus as foe.

At this moment some will accept grace; others will accept wrath.

The truth is, we all get a chance to either choose to bow down and worship Jesus as Lord now or resist and still wind up bowing down before Christ. In the end, those who resist will still bow down because Jesus will break them. For some, these words are not comforting but they actually shouldn’t be comforting for anyone, not even the believer.

The truth is, Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. For the non-believer, this should give you great pause. I beg you to stop and consider who Jesus is. Jesus is God and He gives you the chance right now to bow down and and confess Him as Lord. If you find this idea disturbing or if it troubles you then that is the Holy Spirit doing His job! Worship Jesus now! You will spend eternity with Jesus…will He be your friend or your foe?

For the Christian, this line should not comfort you. This line should trouble you deeply. This line should cause you to lose sleep at night. This line should give your entire life a sense of urgent purpose:  To spread the Gospel as far and as fast as possible. If you truly believe that your neighbor, co-worker, or friend has an eternal destiny, why aren’t you doing everything in your power to make sure they spend eternity knowing Jesus as friend? “Therefore go!” The Great Commission isn’t “Therefore do nothing…” It’s an urgent mission that has eternal ramifications.

Do you believe that? Then live like you do.

and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

(This is part eleven of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

This entry looks at the next line of the Apostles’ Creed where it says that Jesus:

“is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”

Hebrews 12:1-2 is one of my all-time favorite Bible passages. I’ve written about it in 2009 and in 2010, so I guess this will be the time in 2011 that I write about it. For this entry I want to look specifically at what Hebrews 12:2 says: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Because this passage is so stinkin’ amazing, it’s easy not to pay attention to the fact that it says Jesus “sat down at the right hand of God.” What, if anything, does it mean that Jesus sat down?

Well, think about it for a minute. If you walk into a work area and everyone is sitting down, what does that tell you? Let’s suppose you work at some warehouse where people are supposed to be loading merchandise into boxes, boxes onto pallets, and then pallets into trucks. You walk into the warehouse area and everyone is sitting down. It tells you that all the work is done. There’s nothing left to be accomplished. As Jesus put it in John 19:30, “It is finished.”

Hebrews 10:1 paints a picture of the Old Testament sacrificial system when is says that the Law “can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.” This verse is describing an endless cycle, repeated year after year, of sacrifices that did not take away guilt, but served as a reminder of guilt (Hebrews 10:3). In fact, Hebrews 10:4 says that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” In this system, there is no sitting down; there is always more work to be done. Hebrews 10:11 paints this picture by saying that “every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” The priests would stand in their service because their job was never finished; sin was never taken care of once and for all. This is the heart of religion; religion is a system that shows us what we must do for God.

Contrast this with Hebrews 10:12, where is says “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” Why did Jesus sit down? Because, on the cross, Jesus finished His work “by a single offering” (Hebrews 10:14). Jesus now has the honor of sitting down and basking in a job well done. His work is complete. His work is sufficient.

This is exactly why a Gospel of “Jesus plus nothing” is the only Gospel there is. If anyone tries to add anything to Jesus, they are suggesting there is something more to be accomplished. They are suggesting that Jesus’ work is incomplete and insufficient. But Hebrews 12:2 describes Jesus as the “author and perfecter” or the “founder and perfecter” of our faith.

When you read this phrase, think of bookends. Jesus is the alpha and omega of our faith; He started it and He completed it; He is the author and the perfecter. Faith is a gift that God gives us and it’s something that God completes for us. That is why it is a gift. This is the heart of Christianity; it’s not about what we can do for God, but what Christ has done for us.