Monday, August 6, 2007

What I Believe

What We I Believe, Part 2--Faith and Values

What We I Believe

The following statement of faith is written, not for any group of Christians, not to define what any group of people believe, but rather for only one person. I have written this in an effort to examine what I believe, meditate on it in light of God's word, and come to a clearer and deeper understanding of God's saving truth. It is not intended to be comprehensive, but is intended to be what I find to be most important of all that I believe. I am posting it here, on the first day of my 25th year upon this earth, "as a milestone that I can look back upon and, as I mature, add or delete what God's spirit has revealed to me should be a part of it." Although I post this for my own benefit, I pray that as you read it, you will be encouraged in some prayerful reflection of your own, as you examine yourself and what you believe in light of God's word. May He give you, as well, a clearer and deeper understanding of His truth. God bless and much love!

I believe in one omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God. God is many things...He is love, He is holy, He is just, He is merciful, He is faithful...He is perfect. I believe in the Trinity, that is, the idea that this one God exists in the form of three 'persons': the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is an interesting concept, because my mathematical brain has yet to figure out how one plus one plus one equals One; yet I believe this is just more of the mystery and majesty of the God that I serve. The Father is the Creator of the universe, the Lord Almighty. His Son, Jesus, also fully divine, existed with Him in the beginning, and through Him, all things were made and were given life. Jesus, the Son, became fully human and lived on this earth, died, and rose again. The Holy Spirit is the Presence of God in the world. I think I like best the description Max Lucado gives of the Holy Spirit--that of "God with his sleeves rolled up," as He is always active and working in the lives of people. I believe it was His Spirit that inspired the authors of the Bible, giving them words to write, words that are to serve as encouragement, teaching, instruction, example, and guide to life for all believers. Some things that were written, I believe, apply to the particular people and situations in which they were written. Others were meant for all times, places, people, and situations. I believe there is much room for interpreation of the Scriptures, and each person is to use his or her conscience as a guide, and in doing so, refrain from passing judgement on those whose views differ from their own. All of my beliefs that you read about here are based upon my own, personal interpretation of those Scriptures, with my God-given conscience as a guide, along with experiences with God in my life.

"He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He."

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through Him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men...The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."

I believe that of all of the Lord's creation, we, as humans, were given a very special gift--that is, He created us in His image, to be like Him. He loves us and desires relationship with us as His children. However, He loved us enough to give us another gift, that of free will. He would not force us to be His, but He wants us to want that relationship with Him. With that gift of free will, we, as humans, have the ability to act contrary to His will--to sin. Indeed, because we are not perfect, as He is, we all have sinned and fall short of His glory. Because of God's holiness, that sin separates us from Him. And because of God's justice, we, as sinners, face a death sentence, for the wages of sin is death. Yet our God has a perfect plan to correct our mistakes, and through it, He is able to bring us back into relationship with Him.

"So God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them."

"For the wages of sin is death..."

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

My God is One who, as a Faithful Father, has always honored people's faith in Him. Throughout history, from Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to David, to His prophets, to His people...those who have believed in Him and have shown evidence of faith in Him through their actions...those are the people that He has blessed. In particular, He took the people of Israel as His own and poured out His blessings on them...all in the name of keeping His promise and covenant of blessing to His faithful follower, Abraham. He established the nation of Israel as His people and gave them rules of life to live by. He gave them very specific instructions on how to worship Him and instructed them to make animal sacrifices to Him for their sins. However, at the heart of all this was...well, the heart. For even when His people followed these instructions to the letter, He was displeased with them when they would simply go through with the motions, yet not live their lives in service to Him. At times like this, God would demonstrate His perfect justice, as He would bring punishment upon His people. However, He would not stay angry with them forever. Even when they were unfaithful, He remained faithful to the covenant He had made. For not only did He promise to bless Abraham's descendants, He promised to bless the whole world through Abraham. This happened with the coming of Jesus, the Christ.

"Now, faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see...and without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him."

"Abraham believed God, and it was credited to Him as righteousness."

"I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring, all nations will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

Jesus came to this earth through divine conception. He was born to a virgin, concevied of the Holy Spirit. He was our Immanuel, our "God with us," both fully human and fully God. He had a very humble beginning (literally "born in a barn") followed by a life of humility and service to others. He lived a sinless life of love, teaching people how to live and showing them compassion. He continued to honor faithfulness--countless times, it was because of a person's faith that He would heal them or forgive them. In fact, He was unable to perform miracles for those who had no faith in Him. Christ taught that those who had faith in Him would be saved and have eternal life. His life of service was complete with His selfless sacrifice, as He died on a cross for the sins of the world. However, as the Perfect Sacrifice, Christ conquered death and rose from the grave three days later, just as He had previously predicted He would. After His resurrection, He spent time teaching His disciples, and told them to take His message to the rest of the world. Then He ascended back into heaven, as He had already promised His followers that He was going to prepare a place for them to come live with Him forever, and He promised to return again. In the mean time, He would send His Spirit to convict, teach, guide, and empower His followers to do His will.

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!"

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am"

"And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever...the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you...He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement...He will guide you into all truth."

His Spirit did indeed come and is active in the world still, even to this day, and He will remain so until the Lord returns again. He convicts men of their sin. When convicted, we as humans, still have that precious gift of free will--how we choose to respond to His Spirit is completely up to us. I believe that the response that God will honor is one of faith--faith that is evidenced in my life--faith that leads to obedience. We now benefit from a new, better covenant with God, where Jesus serves as both our sacrifice for sins, and our High Priest who intercedes with God for us. Some people that I know view the issue of salvation under this new covenant as a step-by-step process--that we are to believe, repent of our sins, confess Jesus as our Savior, and then be baptized into Him for forgiveness of sins. I, on the other hand, believe that baptism is the first of many things that I must obey. Scripture tells me it is where I am united with Him in His death, so that I may be united with Him in His resurrection. But I'm not sure it's as simple as the step-by-step described above. For example, although I have faith in Jesus and have been baptized, I constantly find myself in situations where I need to repent. I stumble and must allow Him to help me back up and get back on track. Although there is a moment of transformation that occurs as I begin to follow Christ, I believe salvation is also a process of transformation, as God transforms me in to Christ's likeness. (Remember, we were created in His image, to be like Him!)

"The covenant of which He is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises...the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our conscience from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins commited under the first covenant."

"We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection."

"We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

I believe that God adds people to His church--that is, Christ's body of believers. He gave us a body of believers to worship Him with, and for all of us to be a family, because I believe He created us for community, as He said in Genesis, "It is not good for man to be alone." So it is in our walk with Him. As a church, we are able to help meet each other's needs, share each other's joys, and bear each other's burdens. We are able to worship God together, and we are able to commune with each other as we celebrate the Lord's supper. Indeed, communion is a central part of our worship together, as, on the night Jesus died, He turned the Passover feast into a memorial for Himself, requesting that as often as we partake of that meal, we remember Him. His apostle Paul would later write that when we partake of it, we proclaim His death until He returns, and as we proclaim His death and resurrection to the world, we, as His body, are not only communing with the risen Lord, but with each other. I believe the early church knew this a little bit better than we did. They met everyday and shared literally everything. We've somehow whittled it down to approximately three times a week--this hardly seems like enough for me.

"All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

Unlike the old covenant, under which God gave very specific instructions on worship, under this new covenant, when it comes to instructions on how to worship, He gives us precious little. The main things that come to mind are "spirit and truth," "reverence and awe." I believe this is to allow us to experience even more freedom from the Law, where we don't have to worry about checking off a list of "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots." Once again, I believe that, as it was under the old covenant, at the heart of this matter is still...well, the heart. Rather than give us instructions on how we must worship Him, He lived on this earth to show us how to live and how to love. Also, the writings of His apostles to His early church focus less on how to worship and more on how to treat one another and how to live our lives to be pleasing to God.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifies, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship."

So whether we are singing, praying, giving, or just living, we must do it to God's glory, with a sincere effort to be like Christ and to love God and others with all of our hearts. This, I believe, is the key. For many people write creeds or statements of belief or affirmations for a group of particular people, in order to try to unite or more clearly define themselves as Christians. However, if we are all focused on loving God, loving one another, and being like Christ, we will achieve the unity that we so desire...the unity that Christ so desires for us, as His body, to have.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

The undersigned prayerfully commends these considerations, this 6th day of August, in the year of our Lord 2007.

Lacey Michelle Mauk
Member of the Body of Christ


Alan Gable said...

Good stuff, Lacey.

And Happy Birthday.

mmlace said...

Thanks...I just keep getting older...I'm not sure how I feel about that...

Next year's the big one...I'll complete my quarter-of-a-century...then I'll really be old!

preacherman said...

Great post.
I hope you have a great birthday!

mmlace said...

Thanks, preacherman. And thanks for the birthday wishes, it was a good one!

preacherman said...

I hope you had a great week and hope you have a great weekend!