This is a statement of beliefs I was asked to write for a church website. Statements like this can be bone dry theology and the pastor wanted something a little more conversational.
With a God as big as ours, it’s no small thing to simmer down what we believe. Even seemingly simple statements pack a pretty big punch. Take the Bible. We say that it’s the inspired, inerrant Word of God, but what does that mean? Well, if you’ve ever played with a compass (or used one when you’re lost!), you know that whether you face east, west, north or south, the tip of that tiny needle always points north. The Bible is a little like that. The compass always points north; the Bible always points to God. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, it’s the only flawless, unblemished rule capable of guiding the way we live and practice our faith.
So God is the Bible’s true north, but who is God? We often talk of the Trinity, and that’s a big thing to get your head around. The Trinity refers to our one eternal God who exists solely in Himself—in three distinct persons. Those three are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and each of them is equally worthy of our love, honor, praise and adoration.
Most of us are familiar with the account of Adam and Eve in the garden. It’s the stuff of jokes and comic strips. The serpent slithers up to Eve, convinces her that by eating the fruit from the forbidden tree she will become like God. Eve falls for it and takes some to Adam. But this is so much more than a punch line or fig-leaf Halloween costume. We call it the fall because by one act, Adam plummeted from the original sinless state he possessed and became utterly lost and completely helpless. But it wasn’t just Adam and Eve. We were a part of that fall too, as completely as if we’d eaten the fruit ourselves. And so we too, are wholly lost in the state of sin.
Because of the fall, we are totally separated from God. But God, who is sovereign over everything, and only because of His ridiculously profound love and mercy, has plucked out from every nation on earth, lost, broken sinners to be redeemed, bought back from death. Those dead people who are chosen by God are revived by the power of the Holy Spirit. But it takes more than that. It’s only because of Jesus Christ, the Son part of the eternal Trinity. He lived a perfect life, then, by his atoning death and resurrection, voided the debt of sin and reconciled us with God. When the Holy Spirit stirs up the heart of sinners to belief in Christ, they become sons and daughters of God, born again to carry on to the end.
There is nothing we can do to move from our sad state as sinners. It’s only by our faith in God’s action through the death of Christ that moves us from the place of guilt to the unmerited place of righteousness. And that righteousness is always and only Christ’s; it settles in around us like a heavy coat in the winter.
But why? Why does God rescue us and wrap the righteousness of Christ around us? What purpose do we accomplish? Our aim is holiness. We are created and then saved to serve and glorify God in our lives through the work He has planned for us. Since the Spirit now lives in us, He gives everything we need to trust Him and do the work He has for us—faith, wisdom, strength, power—He’s the muscle and know-how behind it all. Our goal in this life is to direct all eyes to the Lord.
When the day comes that we believers have accomplished all He planned for us, our soul at once passes from this life into the arms of our God. Sadly, those who have not believed in Christ, at death pass into a place utterly and forever separated from God, a place of condemnation.
God operates on a covenantal basis acting faithfully and graciously toward not just individual people but families. Baptism is a sign of this pledge between us and God and it’s made available to the babies and little children of believers as well as those who as adults are brought to faith in Christ.
Since Jesus first vowed that He would return to earth, people have attempted to pinpoint the exact date and time. It is no mistake that Christ will return to earth. He will be seen and heard, not just in spirit but in flesh. Predicting that time is futile though, because as surely as He promised to return, He also guaranteed that His return will be completely unexpected. We will be surprised by His appearance as He comes to complete the plan God had from the beginning of time.
The composer Johann Sebastian Bach inscribed all of his manuscripts with the postscript “SDG (Soli Deo Gloria).” To God alone be the glory. And that’s our end; to live and move and have our being in the glory of the One who has called us.
Soli Deo Gloria.
© stephanie pepper, 2013