This I Believe!

8 09 2009

This morning we read The Apostles Creed and I want to ask aloud questions that may be going through your head today.  What does that mean to us?  What’s the importance of that reading?  Does it have a bearing on us?  And what is a creed – did the Apostles really write that thing?

Well, to begin, a creed or creedal statement is a way of summarizing basic doctrine, basic beliefs.  And the reason that we read that together is that once in a while it is good for us to come back to these early statements of faith and think them through.

I suppose you could just as easily pick up a Bible and say:

“This is what I believe.”

But how well do you know the entire contents?  And how well could any of us articulate all that the Bible has to say?

And yet, some churches do exactly that.  They refuse to be constrained by any creedal statements, finding that it would be too restrictive.  As Baptists we have a proud history of not letting anyone else define what we believe – our local congregation is free to interpret Scripture as they feel led by the Spirit without interference by any other group or body – known as the autonomy of the local church.

Ironically, the Convention – now known as the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec – have come up with an entire booklet designed to help express who we are as Baptists and what makes us distinct from other denominations as well as what we believe overall – the materials are marked as Resources for Faith.

The Apostle’s Creed is possibly the oldest creed in the Christian faith.  There are actually several creeds of faith and they are designed to sum up the main points of our doctrine.  Part of the reason that it was written was to help the early church and keep heresy from growing up amongst them.  Remember that in the point in history, literacy wasn’t nearly as common as it is today.  Added to that was the challenge that they also didn’t even have the Bible like we do today.  Back then it was still a series of letters and small scrolls that were shared and copied.

And so they came up with this creed – this statement of faith – to help believers know what their beliefs were about.

But it starts off with 2 very challenging words, if we stop to think about it:

“I believe…”

My question to you this morning is simply this:

Do we?  Do we really?

Because if we do that should affect how we live.  It should affect how we behave.  It should affect how we treat others.  And it should affect how we expect others to treat us.

In the passage read to us from Acts today, from the best of my knowledge, this was the first Christian soap-box speech.

It was the day of Pentecost and people had come from all over to gather for a feast in Jerusalem.  And Peter gives them a run-down – gives a summary of the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus – it’s like a piece taken right out of the statement of faith.  More likely the other way around – the creed was based on passages such as this in addition to the gospels themselves.

To answer the other question that I brought up, it’s not likely that this was written by the Apostles, it was written too late in history.  It likely received this name because this was agreed amongst the churches that this was what the apostles taught.

So let’s take a look again at The Apostles Creed and think about what we have said we believe in this morning.

  1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I think we need reminders of the majesty and sovereignty of God sometimes.  We remember that God loves us and it’s wonderful to feel wrapped in that love but we need to also remember the awesome power that he wields.

C.S. Lewis uses the image of a lion to represent Jesus in Chronicles of Narnia.  In this scene, Lucy and Peter, two of the children are learning about this King of Narnia from a couple of beavers who have taken them in.

“Is – is he a man?” asked Lucy. “Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the king of the wood and son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion-the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he- quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “That you will dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

“I’m longing to see him,” said Peter, “even if I do feel frightened when it comes to the point.”

But God is not only just some big, powerful being.  He isn’t like the father gods of many false religions.  Think of Zeus or Odin and the image they have is big, powerful, father like – and scary.  They use their ultimate power to keep everyone else in line, throwing thunderbolts at whoever won’t do their bidding.

God isn’t like that – or if he seems that way at times, that’s not all of who he is.  He didn’t just create mankind then sit back at watch to see what would happen, chucking a bolt when the mood strikes him.

When we say that we believe in him, that means that we don’t need to worry about whatever any strange ideas people may come up with to try to dismiss the notion that God is real.  Whether it’s evolutionists with loud voices and strong arguments, or those who would deny God for other reasons or even try to make God into what they want him to be.  When we say this part we affirm God for who he really is. He cares intimately about each and every one of the people that he has created.

And so he sent his son – his only son.

  1. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

He came as Lord – he was there at the foundation of the world – and he came to be our Master as well.  He deserves to be our Master simply by who he is.  The creed carries on to give a some clear concise facts about who Jesus was.

  1. who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
  2. born of the Virgin Mary,

God used his Spirit to have his son conceived in a special way – this was no ordinary conception, this was God’s direct intervention.  And yet, although Jesus was God’s son, he was born in a normal way – this shows that he was truly human, as well as truly divine.  His birth was not lost in some vague obscurity though – he was born to a specific person in history, with roots that could be traced.

He came with a special plan and an ultimate purpose.

  1. suffered under Pontius Pilate,
  2. was crucified, died, and was buried;
  3. he descended to the dead.

This statement not only shows what happened to Jesus, but it also places the event in history by naming the ruling governor at the time that it happened.  It states not only that we believe these things happened but how they happened with details of suffering at the hand of Pilate, being crucified – a uniquely Roman way of doing things; that he died – not merely appeared to have died like some false religions say; that he was buried and that he went down to the place of the dead referring to it as “the sign of Jonah” – that he would spend 3 days and nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40)

  1. On the third day he rose again;
  2. he ascended into heaven,
  3. he is seated at the right hand of the Father,

The creed also states that he didn’t stay there, but that he came back to life, and went where he said he would go, and where Stephen – the first Christian martyr, saw him –at the right hand of God.  This statement of faith is not just something we hope for – it is based on eyewitness accounts from the earliest followers of Christ.

  1. and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

Jesus will not stay there forever, but has promised that he will return one day.  And when he does, every single person will be called on to account for the life that they have lived.  Those who are alive at the time, and those who have “fallen asleep” – meaning died.

If we say that we believe in Jesus Christ, then we need to be accepting the whole package.  It’s not a case of only taking the parts you like.  What’s the point in saying that he was a wise teacher and a great man, but not believing in his deity?  Jesus claimed to be God – he was either a liar, a lunatic, or he was the Son of God.  If you believe, if you really take to heart this creed, then he is your Lord.  What does that mean to you?  How should you live knowing that?

I will leave the rest of this creed for next week because this brings us to a very appropriate place of reflection. As we prepare to share the Lord’s Supper we need to remember why we are here.

It’s not just a social time.  It’s not about getting together with others.  It’s about meeting with the God of creation – ALL creation – heaven and earth.  The entire universe.  And this isn’t something that we should be taking lightly.

It’s about remembering Jesus, who gave up his life so that we could even enter into the presence of God.  It’s about identifying with him in his completeness, as we put our own selfishness aside once more dying to ourselves so that we can live for him.

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