by Rev. Don Anderson
The Bible asks of us the question, "Who do you say that I am?" and demands with the same breath, "without faith it is impossible to please God." The Bible then offers what it demands, "the free gift of God is eternal life."
Belief is both that which God demands and gives to the one who will seek.
Belief is the fabric of how we interpret all things. It is neither rational, for that would make it fact, nor irrational, for that would refute it. Belief relates to the question we have asked from infancy - why? It takes us where reason is silent, though our hearts are not. Belief is the mentor of existence.
Belief is pervasive of life. It is not a spectacle which can be taken off, or a discipline which can be optional. If you want to know what I believe, ask my children, for they see through my words to that which prompts my being. To act without belief in what one is doing is sin.
Christian belief is not simply intellectual assertion, a collection of words no matter how complete, nor is it practice. Belief is not that which I confess, but I find that it is that which God is confessing in me.
I used once to believe in God, then discovered that God believes in me, enough to die for me. And that has made the difference in my life.
I invite you to examine my belief as a minister of the United Church over the next weeks.
I believe that there is no other god besides God, that he alone is author and Lord of creation.
I believe God is one, the person of my prayer and worship revealed as Father, Son, and Spirit. The church refers to this as the mystery of the Trinity.
I believe that God is personal, that he loves us and seeks to be known by us.
I believe that God is made known by the witness of the Spirit, the scriptures, and the church, and that it is only as God is approached in faith that he is found.
I find God to be holy, almighty, loving, just, and merciful, needing no person or no thing to authenticate himself. In confronting me, God reveals not just himself, but also who I am. My experience of God is one who hugs me with 'no strings attached', awaking within me awe of one who is holy but who accepts me that way.
In that he is God and reveals himself to us, belief, obedience, and worship are not things which he must earn, but things which he has the right to claim of us.
I believe God directs history, and that no purpose of his can be thwarted. Though God allows us the freedom to reject his claim, permitting evil to exist in creation, God neither authors evil nor wills it.
I believe God risked all creation to be in relation with us, and he awaits our response.
I believe that Jesus is the Christ looked for and witnessed to by the scriptures, the image of the invisible God.
I believe God became incarnate, taking our form that we might approach him.
I believe we found Jesus offensive and so crucified him. He died a real death, but death could not defeat him and he lives.
I believe that in Christ, God was reconciling us to himself. The purpose of his coming was not just to be an example or to teach, but to effect our salvation through his death and resurrection, defeating sin and death. Jesus Christ reaches past the sin which separates us from himself and offers forgiveness that we might be reconciled to him, dealing with our brokenness spiritually and with the spiritual death which results from it.
I believe the only unforgivable sin is to reject the witness of the Spirit that Jesus Christ is God. There is no other who might reconcile us with God.
I worship Jesus Christ.
I believe that Jesus Christ is personal, changing me. His love invites, no, compels me to believe.
I believe that Jesus Christ frees us for himself, for that is the meaning of the biblical word redeem, that we might love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
I believe God is not a recluse in heavenly places but seeks to be intimately involved in our lives.
I believe the Spirit pervades creation, but is separate from it.
I believe the Spirit makes us aware of our sin, brings us to the person of Jesus Christ to deal with our sin, and prompts us to believe. As we reach to him in faith the Spirit comes to live in our lives - what it means to be 'born again' - confirming that we are children of God. God is not a critical parent but a loving Father who desires that we live, not by a set of rules, but by the Spirit he gives. So where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
I believe the Spirit teaches us the truth, in a world where there are many lying voices. I find the Spirit to be personal, telling me the truth about myself, confirming that God loves me, and changing me. This is what sanctification means, to be made holy as my Father is holy.
I believe the Spirit brings us into the presence of God, and invites us to be on a first name basis with God - Daddy.
I believe the Spirit fills the believer, giving gifts for the needs of the believer and of the church.
I worship the Spirit.
I believe the Spirit draws believers into fellowship, and that our divisions are an indication of how we limit the Spirit in our lives.
I believe we are not to quench the Spirit within us. In a world of shattered dreams only the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christmas.
I believe that we are more than the dust of the earth to which we return, but that we are also spirit; and we will struggle with the image and the spirit God created, to be god, usurping creation - that is our sin; and we will struggle with the image and the spirit God created, to find God, who alone can give meaning to our existence - that is our goal.
I believe heaven is living in the presence of God, and hell is living without God - and both start here on earth, so without God we are walking dead people.
I believe the God we seek is found only in Jesus Christ, by our reaching in faith to what he has done and not by what we are doing.
I believe the only unforgivable sin is to reject the witness of the Spirit that Jesus Christ is God.
I believe God has a purpose for our lives, and the more we open our lives to God, the more we find that purpose. As we repent of our grasp to be god, and give creation, our plans, and ourselves back in faith to an almighty loving God who made us, we find at last peace in the creation we thought was ours, hope for tomorrow, and the God our spirit tells us is there.
I believe God listens to our prayer, and answers.
I believe God speaks to those who listen.
I believe that my life is eternal.
I believe that Jesus Christ came not to make bad people good, but to make dead people live.
The question "Is the Bible the inspired infallible word of God, yes or no?" would find me answering "yes", given those choices, as that is the less wrong for me.
I believe the Bible is inspired. I accept much of Luther 's statements: "inspiration is the work of the Spirit in the heart of the believer as he reads the words of the Bible," and, "the Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me." But scripture is more than this - God's word is there.
I believe the Bible is authoritative. I stop short of infallible, as the argument for infallibility applied to variant readings of different scriptures often diminishes the scripture we have. Scripture is not to be taken lightly.
I believe the Bible becomes the word of God in the light of the Spirit.
I believe the Bible reveals sufficiently what we need to know about God.
I am intrigued by Luther's, "what the Bible does not prohibit is permitted," and Calvin's, "what the Bible does not permit is prohibited." Both considered where scripture is silent, and both may be right! The Spirit invites us to live by faith, and my faith often has me go where scripture is silent.
I believe the Bible is not placed in question by science, though our perceptions of what the scriptures say might be.
I began reading the Bible daily thirty-seven years ago, and "the Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me."
I believe Jesus Christ is the infallible Word of God.
I believe that only Jesus Christ is the living head of the church.
I believe the Spirit draws believers into fellowship and that our divisions are an indication of how we limit the Spirit in our lives. The visible church is both fallen and redeemed, just as we are.
I believe that simply going to a church does not make one part of it; rather one must be reconciled with God, one's neighbor, and oneself. There is no cheap back door to the demand of obedience to Jesus Christ.
I believe the church is not limited to any particular expression of the faith.
I believe the church is a worshipping fellowship which is united not by its expression but by the person of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
I believe the church is a proclaiming fellowship, taking the gospel in word and in deed to all the world.
I believe the church is a nurturing fellowship, teaching, supporting, and able to see past the fallen humanity to the image in which we are all made.
I believe the church is a risking fellowship, just as God risked all creation to be in relation with us.
I believe the visible church might set apart some for the ministry, but these are no different than other people of faith.
I believe the visible church has a responsibility for discipline, but ultimately Jesus Christ is the judge we will all stand before.
I believe there are a lot of good churches, so find one that confesses Jesus Christ, that lives in obedience to him, and that helps you to grow.
I accept baptism and communion as the only sacraments from Jesus Christ.
Baptism is a public confession of an inner faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. In the case of infants, those who stand with the child confess their faith in the God who works in them and the child, and promise to treat all children in a way that will bring them to Jesus Christ. One need only be baptized once, but for all of us there is daily a dying to an old way of life and a rising to a new.
The New Testament looked at baptism as saving us, "not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
Jesus Christ invites us to share bread and wine together, not because we are good or ready, but because he invites us to come just as we are. In communion we remember that our faith is something he has done - not what we are doing, we believe there is nothing he cannot forgive if we bring it to him, and together we confess him working in our lives.
The believers of the persecuted early church each brought bread and wine at the risk of their lives, and as they placed their bread and wine on the table and waited for others to come, they saw the church, themselves, as the body of Christ working within his creation.
I believe that being Christian is neither conveyed by the sacraments nor by any decision of ourselves; rather it is being 'born again' by the grace of God.
I believe that while we might significantly change our situation, we cannot by our own initiative change the sin that affects it. We ourselves cannot redeem history to bring a kingdom of peace on earth, but God will bring about a final kingdom.
I believe existence does not end in death.
I believe in the resurrection of the dead.
I believe we are accountable for being made in the image of God, and we will be judged for what we have done.
I believe heaven is living in the presence of God, and hell is living without God.
I believe God forgives those who reach to him in faith, but damns those who reject him.
I believe God seeks to be known by us, but allows us the freedom to reject him. God gives what he demands to the one who will seek. If we are not prepared to seriously worship God here on earth, then why would that be any different after death? The judgement we receive is then, in some measure, the judgement we ourselves have declared.
I believe Christians have a responsibility to proclaim the gospel so all might know there is an almighty loving God who forgives.
I live in the expectation of the second coming.
I believe we only find life by giving our lives back to God.
I believe life is really that simple but we can make it quite difficult.
I believe there is a purpose for life, and it is not in winning or losing but how we play the game. God requires of us not to be successful but to be faithful.
I believe God expects us to use that which he gives us, be it intellect, ability, or possession, but not to let these replace our hope in God.
Augustine summed up the Christian faith as, "Love God, and do as you please," with only one comment, "because if you love God you will do nothing displeasing to him."
I believe only Jesus Christ frees us to love that way, to be the people he made us to be.
I believe we will not find life any other way.
I believe belief is not a spectacle which can be taken off, or a discipline which can be optional. Belief is that which God confesses in us, and with it he interprets all of life to us.
"Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!"
I have summarized my belief as a minister of the United Church over the past weeks. Whether it be done simply I leave with you, but thank you for reading.