Treasure That Lasts

15 09 2009

Last week we began a fresh look at the Apostles Creed.  The Creed was instrumental for the early church since they didn’t have the Bible as we do today – it wasn’t compiled together yet.  And even if it had of been, literacy was not as commonplace as it is today.  So they had this statement of faith that they recited and taught one another to help them articulate their faith and also to help guard against heresy – ideas that were not in line with true Christianity.

Let’s read it together this morning again –

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

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

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried;

he descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again;

he ascended into heaven,

he is seated at the right hand of the Father,

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

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting.

Amen.

Our Rally Day theme today ties in to our Vacation Bible Theme of The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.  Although the Pirates from that were fun and not very scary, more traditional Pirates seem to focus most of their energy on treasure – finding it, stealing it, hoarding it and burying it – then going out and finding more.

The only problem with riches, or treasure, is that it will eventually be gone.  Pirates always have to watch out for other pirates who want to dig up their treasure and steal it for themselves.  Or as Jesus said:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Last week we looked into what it means to say that we believe in the first part of this creed – this statement of faith.  This morning I want to touch on those items in the last part.  Although not all these treasures are in heaven, I believe that this part of the creed hi-lights several valuable gems that are well worth treasuring.

Today we will just be taking a brief overview of the rest of this creed – later we will look into them on a much deeper level.  But for this morning, let’s take a look at each of these treasures and what it means to say that we believe in them.  Here they are again:

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting.

Amen.

I believe in the Holy Spirit.  The third person of the Trinity.  So we have said we believe in the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps these might be the appropriate questions that come to mind…

Now, we are Baptists – are we allowed to do that?  Are you sure that isn’t something only for the Pentecostals?  If I say I believe in the Holy Spirit, does that mean that I will start speaking in strange languages and doing other weird things?  What does it mean?  And what does the Holy Spirit do?

As Baptists we don’t often speak about the Holy Spirit – especially about some aspects of what he does in regards to special spiritual gifts, but the Holy Spirit is an invaluable treasure given to us, because He serves several direct functions in our lives.

He:

  • Renews us – he sanctifies us – it is the ongoing work of the Spirit to make us holy – it starts when we ask Him into our hearts and it continues on for the rest of our lives
  • Convicts us – it is Him living in us that tells our hearts when we have sin in us that needs to be dealt with
  • Empowers us – with spiritual gifts – each believer that has his Spirit in them is given at least one spiritual gift.
  • Speaks to us – He instructs us, guiding us in how to live as Christians,  he helps us to interpret Scriptures and He is the voice of prophecy – when God’s voice is heard through a person, it is the Spirit of God speaking through Him.
  • Leads us – if we are careful to listen to Him, He will also guide us – think of stories like Phillip and the Ethopian treasurer.  It was the Spirit of God that had guided him there at that time.
  • Seals us – His presence in our lives is like a royal “seal” that guarantees that we are His.  The Holy Spirit being in us is a sign from God that we belong to Him and will one day be with Him in paradise.

I believe in the holy catholic church.  Catholic????  What about the holy Baptist church? That was the kind of question that I had the first time that I read The Apostles Creed.  Why would it matter that it was the catholic church?  I know that this is an old creed and that the Roman Catholic church is the oldest denomination but I thought we left them behind with the beginning of the Protestant movement.

Catholic is different than Roman Catholic.  Catholic simply means universal, or worldwide.  It’s a way of saying that we believe in the Christian church all over the world.  But, if you take a good look at what you said, it’s not:

“I believe in the Baptist church that meets in small towns and has a nice mix of traditional and modern music that has a service that’s only an hour long where people sit in proper pews, and…”

I think you get the point.  When we say that we believe in the holy catholic chuch, it means that we need to be supportive of all other churches around the world follow Scripture, despite what differences they may have about how they worship or where.

I believe in the communion of saints.  Communion is about being together, but it is also about sharing something deeply meaningful with those you have gathered with.   Communion is essentially fellowship together – it is about being with other people who also love God.  We call the Lord’s Supper communion because it is a time when we are all close together in the presence of God.

It’s great to spend time with friends, but it’s when you can sit down with a friend that also loves God that things go to a much deeper and more meaningful level.  That’s why church is so important.  It’s not about me and coming to hear me speak.  It’s about sharing a close bond, and being reminded that there are others who feel the same way you do.

The treasure of the church is found in the people who gather there and their diversity.  It’s like a pile of all sorts of different gems and jewels – different sizes, different colours and different shapes but all of them are beautiful and valuable.

That’s why we are reminded in the letter to the Hebrews:

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)

I believe in the forgiveness of sins.  It’s kind of amazing that this is left to here.  Quite simply, if there is no forgiveness of sins, then we are left in them.  It certainly is one of the very basic things of our faith.  Can you imagine what life would be like if God didn’t forgive our sins?  Frightening thought.  And that would make me wonder what the whole point of everything would be – why go to church then at all?  Just to make yourself feel bad?

And yet some people in this world haven’t yet heard that message.  And it’s tough for us to forgive other people when they keep messing up.  It’s understandable that we might think that God would not forgive us when he knows that we are only going to mess up again at some point.  That’s the beautiful part of God’s grace.  Someone once said that God is the only one who knows everything about you and loves you anyway.

Even after God wiped out nearly all of mankind in the flood, he still had no illusions that Noah and his family would be perfect.  He said:

“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. (Genesis 8:21)

If God’s forgiveness to us is not a treasure beyond measure than I don’t know what is.  I could have all the riches in the world, but without God’s forgiveness it would be nothing more than a guilty weight.  But God’s not like that and John reminds us in his first letter:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

I believe in the resurrection of the body.  For better or for worse we carry some of who we are into the hereafter.  Our bodies will not be the same as they are now – not to worry.  But unlike some people might be tempted to believe, we will have real bodies.  They will be improved and renewed.  I certainly don’t know how we will be the same and how we will be different.  But I know that we will be more than just ethereal, ghost-like creatures floating through eternity.  It will be way better than that!

There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another…  So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable… (1 Corinthians 15: 40, 42)

We know these things because Scripture tells us.  But we also know because of Jesus’ behaviour when he came back from the dead.  He ate fish to prove that he was a real person.  He told Thomas to stick his fingers in the holes in his hands and to touch his side.  He was willing to prove that he was really there.  And it wasn’t just a few people he appeared to either – he appeared to more than 500 people!

I believe in the life everlasting.  Eternal life starts now.  We don’t have to wait until we die to really live.  So the new body is something that we look forward to as these ones wear out.  But let me say it again.  Eternal life is not something that just starts when we die – our new life begins when we identify with Jesus.

Amen

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