Contend for the Faith

“Contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints.”
(Jude 3)

As part of our Adult Sunday School study on the Book of Jude, I shared with the class that when we are called to contend for our faith, it is necessary that we know what it is we actually believe.  As a class we brainstormed some “Essentials of the Faith,” but as homework I suggested that each member write a brief statement of faith as well.  Below is my statement.  I admit it is not a complete statement, and I’m sure I’ve shared it before, but I wanted to share it again.

I know that I am a broken man, a sinner, who, left to his own ways, would continue to sin, rejecting God, His commands, and even His grace, mercy and love.

I know that God, who is holy, sovereign, and glorious in His majesty, is worthy of my praise, worship, honor, and obedience.  In my sin, I do not honor God, and I fully deserve God’s wrath; and He is righteous and just in His judgment against me.  Yet God is rich in mercy and steadfast in His love, and He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for me.

Jesus was everything I was supposed to be and was not.  He was without sin, living completely devoted to God, and completely loving His brothers and sisters.  Even more, He took my sin, my guilt, my shame, my judgment, and He died on the cross in my place.  Three days later, He rose from the dead, and now He lives and reigns with God, praying for me and for all who follow Him.

Through the grace of God and the love of Christ, I now live in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit teaches me through the inspired word of scripture how to live a life in response to God’s grace, mercy, and love.  I am called to become Christlike, and can only do this by the Spirit working within me.  I am called to be a faithful disciple, to follow Christ, to learn from Him, to receive his blessing, and to proclaim His gospel.

I did not choose Christ, he has chosen me.

I did not love God, he loved me.

I did not come to God, he came to me.

Everything I do from this point forward ought to be a response of thanksgiving and praise for all that He has done.

I believe that the Church is the body of Christ in the world today when the word of God is faithfully taught and preached, when the sacraments of baptism and communion are properly administered, and when, in love, we disciple and encourage one another in our maturing Christian journey.

I believe the world, now more than ever, needs to know the blessing of knowing Jesus as savior and lord – may it know this through me.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Live What You Believe

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.
Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
(John 11:25–26)

Dear Friends,

If you’ve ever shaken a bottle of soda then felt the pressure building up inside, that’s a little like what my life had become lately.  Since the Memorial Day floods here in Cherokee this spring, I feel like I’ve gone from one crisis to the next, from one major event to another.  Without any time to breathe or even think, all of this busyness was taking its toll.  My sermon preparation had become mechanical, my prayer life was withering, and I dreaded writing this weekly update because it required me to sit and think.

Last week I was blessed to be able to take some time for reading and spiritual refreshment and renewal.  This wasn’t a vacation, it was dedicated time away from the needs of the church (preaching, teaching, visitation, administration), and focusing on my relationship with God.  I had a stack of books on Pastoral Ministry that I wanted to read, and I got through those; but more importantly, I needed the time to examine my heart, time to come under God’s hand of correction and consolation.

One of the things that this week showed me was that I was having a hard time actually trusting God.  My God had become too small.

I saw this primarily as I reflected on the time leading up to our mission trip to Haiti.  I knew God could provide, that God could open the doors for the mission to be a great success, that God could guard and guide our team.  But I had a hard time trusting that God would.  I had to have everything planned down to the last detail.  I felt, in my moments of heightened self-importance, that I was the one responsible, I was the one in charge, and that the success of the mission rested entirely upon my shoulders.  I knew God could do it, but why bother Him when I can take care of it myself?

Friends, that’s not a good place for anyone, let alone a pastor, to be in.

One of the books I read during my Sabbatical Week was Kent Hughes’ “Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome.”  It is an excellent book, one that I would recommend for every pastor, and every church member to read (it’s got a great chapter on how the congregation can really help their pastor).  In the book, I came across this:

What you believe about Christ is everything.  If you believe that he is Creator of everything, every cosmic speck across trillions of light years of trackless space, the Creator of the textures and shapes and colors which dazzle our eyes; if you believe that he is the Sustainer of all creation, the force presently holding the atoms of your body and this universe together, and that without him all would dissolve; if you believe that he is the Goal of everything, that all creation is moving toward him; if you further believe that his God is the Lover of your soul – then you believe in the God that “is,”  you believe that the God of the Holy Scriptures exists!

Hughes, Kent & Barbara, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome. (Crossway: Wheaton, Ill; 2008) Pg 68.

The hard question that we must ask then is this: “Do you believe what you believe?”  So often what we believe gets stuck up in our heads so that it becomes nothing more than just a block of knowledge that has no real impact on our lives.  The faith of the church is reduced to mere doctrine that has little bearing on how we live.  For many of us, the reality of the things we believe about God fades, the implications of His existence are overshadowed by the fears of our anxious hearts.

I had the opportunity to take a long hard look at my life and ask myself some important questions, questions I think are helpful for each of us to ask:

  • Do I believe that God can take care of me?
  • Do I believe that He loves me?
  • Do I believing that He rewards, that He is morally active on the part of those who seek Him?

Ask yourself these questions, and answer them honestly.

Whatever crisis you are facing this week, whatever trials (at work or at home); Isn’t your God big enough to handle it?  Has He not shown you in the cross of Christ how much He loves you?  Has He not promised that if you seek Him first in your life, all these other things will be given unto you?

Through all of this I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism which says,

I trust in God so completely that I have no doubt that he will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul. Moreover, whatever evil he sends upon me in this troubled life he will turn to my good, for he is able to do it, being almighty God, and is determined to do it, being a faithful Father.

God is able and willing to provide your every need.  Live like you believe it.