What do Christians believe?
Two thousand years ago, the first people to follow Jesus were labelled "Christians". Initially it was a derogatory term, to describe a group of people who were trying to live out the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught his followers to live differently to the culture surrounding them. Essentially they were to turn to God and live righteously, in a way that pleased God. They were to resist and reject "sin" in themselves, in the world around them, and in the spiritual realms controlled by the Devil, also called Satan.
As there is today, there were different opinions about what believing in, and following Jesus, meant for individuals and society. The first followers of Jesus, his "Apostles", wrote books and letters in which they wrote down the teachings of Jesus, with instructions on how to apply them in daily life. These letters are collected together in the library called the "Holy Bible".
In 325 AD the first Roman Emperor to follow Jesus, called Constantine, called a council in Nicea. Christian leaders defined the Christian Faith in the Nicean Creed, which was refined into this version from 589 AD.
We believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life.
He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
He spoke through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
and to life in the world to come. Amen.
This was a good start. But it is impossible to summarise an infinite God, 66 books and thousands of pages of Holy Scripture, the Bible, in one page.
It omits important points. God is love. God is Perfect. God is just. God has a plan and a purpose for his Creation, for each and every person, for you. God will judge and deal with all the sin in the world. God will set things right. God will reward, and God will punish. God's salvation is ongoing, as we live in his power and his presence.
God will help us overcome our sinful nature. You see, that is one key difference in belief between followers of Jesus, and most other religions, atheists and agnostics. The Bible teaches us that each person has a sinful nature. We are not basically good. We are fundamentally evil in nature, because we come from and are related to the first humans who rebelled against God. Therefore we need saving. Click here to read some teaching on human nature, and why we need saving, and why we need a saviour provided by God. That Saviour was called the Messiah by the Hebrews or Jews, and the Christ by the Greeks.
And of course there are three Baptisms described in the Bible. The first is the Baptism of Water, symbolising the start of our new life in Jesus. We submit to God, and allow ourselves to be washed clean by him. As the punishment of our sin is washed away, we receive a new identity as a Child of God, and we receive the Holy Spirit.
The second baptism is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is on-going. We go on being filled and immersed in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, to enable us to live the life God calls us to live.
And the third Baptism is the Baptism of Fire. When John the Baptist announced Jesus to the world as God's Messiah, he said that Jesus would baptise us "in the Holy Spirit and with Fire". This is the process of discipleship, of learning the Christian life of discipline, of freedom from sin. The fire of God is the refining, the changing, the recreating, as our old sinful nature is replaced with the righteous nature of Jesus Christ. We change from living lives that satisfy our sinful nature, towards living lives that are led by the Holy Spirit. This brings joy to God in the same way that God spoke verbally about Jesus - "this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased". Our righteousness does not earn God's love or forgiveness - Jesus paid for that with his death on the cross. But our righteous living does please God, and it does position us to receive God's blessings. The greek word "Baptism" means to be fully immersed, to be completely surrounded, overcome, and filled with the power and presence of God, and it is spoken of in the Bible as an ongoing process.
Humans tend to argue and create division, and history shows us how people divide on beliefs. Religious groups split. Typically what happens is that the leadership of the main group drifts away from God over time. Yet a small remnant of people seek God, and create a new structure in which to serve him. One major split occurred in the 1500's - the group called the Protestants split from the Roman Catholic Church. One new church, called the Church of England, created the 39 articles of Faith, which can be found here. These were written from a perspective of distinguishing the "Anglican church" from the Roman Catholic Church. They summarise many important truths about following Jesus, but they too omit many truths about God and his people. They do not refer to "Love" for example.
And the word Protestant implies that they are always protesting something. And what they are protesting is the things that the other christian groups are getting wrong.
We like to be different. We like to be Celebrants. We like to celebrate the things that God has done right, the good things that he has done for us.
What do you believe?
It is a good activity for you to write down what exactly you believe, and why you believe it. Does it make sense? Where do we come from? How did the Universe get here? How did life start? What is God to you? What is sin? Are you basically good, or basically sinful? Are you saved? Do you know Jesus? How do you know? Who, or what, are you trusting in? What are your idols? What are the most important things to you? What controls you? On what basis do you believe and know your truth?
When we seek him, God promises to lead us into truth. At Lighthouse, we seek to know God and know his salvation. We seek to live in his life, and his truth, and follow his way.
Jesus said to his followers, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me."
Seeking and finding Jesus, is therefore very important for each one of us.