We Believe in God
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Sunday, September 14, 2008 -

“We believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth: And 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, dead, and buried; He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen”


Let’s face it, the Christian life is all about God. It’s only fitting that the Apostle’s creed begins with the most basic thing we can say about God - “We believe in Him.” If that isn’t true, then nothing much else in the Christian life makes any sense. You would think, then, that there would be a whole lot more space given in the Scriptures to proving the existence of God. You would think that before anything else was laid down, the writers would clear the runway of our minds for this foundational truth of our belief in God. Why not remove all possibility for doubt?

The Bible makes very little effort to prove God to anybody. The assumption of the Scriptures is that man’s reasons for rejecting God have little to do with the intellect. The Scriptures assume mankind rejects God, not for intellectual reasons, but for spiritual ones: Psalm 53:1 - “The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.”

This is about all the space the Bible gives to the atheist. He is a fool - not because he is stupid. His mind works just fine. Nor does he lack evidence for faith: Romans 1:18-20 - “ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. [19] For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. [20] For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

The Bible assumes enough general revelation of God to merit His recognition by mankind in general. Not enough knowledge to be saved, (Paul says for that, there must be a preacher, or messenger to tell them about Jesus), but enough knowledge to be condemned and take away all excuse for ignoring what can be known about Him (“...His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature...” Romans 1:20).

True, we don’t know all the details about the nature of future judgement. But this much we are plainly told - God will be absolutely just in His judgement. No one will have any excuse standing before Him. But we, the creed says, believe in God. What does that mean? What does it mean to believe in God?

a) To believe in God means to put trust in Him personally - True, one must believe that He exists, but true faith goes far beyond this basic starting point. We don’t just believe. We believe in Someone. That’s why the creed doesn’t just say we believe in a God. Rather, we believe in God. Underscore that word “in.” We enter into personal trust in God that drives us deeper than merely acknowledging His existence.

Hebrews 11:1 - “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Following this great definition of faith, the rest of the chapter goes on to explain and exemplify this kind of faith: Noah built an ark with no sign of rain in sight (7). He did it because he believed in God. He didn’t just believe God existed. Noah believed God was true and reliable. Abraham left his home land, not knowing his exact destination, and lived as an alien in a strange land (9-10). He did this, not just because he had some belief in a vague supreme Being, but because he trusted God would lead and direct him. Later on, Abraham prepared to offer up his own son, Isaac, solely at the word of God because he believed that God would raise him from the dead. He trusted in the goodness of God even in the face of this strange command (17-19).

All of these examples (there are many more listed) serve to give depth and meaning to the simple phrase found in Hebrews 11:1 - “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

These people show us - the writer of Hebrews says they are actually serving as witnesses - that faith in God is not something removed from life itself. It’s first manifestation is always trust in the person and character of God. Faith anchors us to God like a boat anchor fastens the vessel to the ocean floor in a storm.

b) To believe in God means to commit your life to God in obedience - This is why the profession of faith in this creed was so closely linked to the outward sign of baptism in the early centuries of the church. Baptism, of course, gave pictorial vividness to the inward reality of dying to the right of self-rule as surely as Jesus died on the cross and entered the grave: Romans 6:4 & 6 - “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life....6:6....We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”

It is highly significant that the creed, beginning with the words “I believe in God...”, was recited right at the moment of this enactment of the believer’s funeral in Christ. Nothing less than this kind of commitment befits genuine faith. Dead people have no life or plans of their own.

Until that kind of commitment is established, belief in God is empty, powerless and bogus. This is why, when Paul explains the reception of genuine belief in God - genuine faith - he constantly sews inward faith to outward obedience: Romans 1:5 - “....through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations....” Notice, not just the confession of faith, but the obedience of faith.

So faith means, first of all, acknowledging that God is - “ Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is...” Faith doesn’t end there. But it must at least start there. And the reasons for rejecting this starting place aren’t mental, but spiritual. Then, secondly, faith means trusting in God personally. As I said earlier, faith must anchor in God. The creed implies this kind of relationship - “We believe in God...” Your faith isn’t in facts about God. It is in God. There is an element of attachment to God by faith. Finally, faith means commitment to obey God in all things.

Now, all of this should speak to us today. If everything is established by faith, we must not settle for anything less than the deepest faith possible. If faith is the life-line, or the parachute, or the respirator to spiritual life, then it is worth great attention and maintenance.

Let me close with one particular area of caution. There is always the danger of turning faith into something much cooler and duller than it was meant to be. This is not only unsatisfying. It is eternally dangerous. Again, Paul serves as perhaps the best example: 2 Timothy 1:12 - “....But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” Notice that Paul’s faith is too vivid to allow any prepositions between the words know and whom. He doesn’t say, “I know in whom I believe”, or, “I know about whom I believe.”

Years ago George Buttrick said about these words from Paul, “If all you have to believe in is a “what” instead of a “whom” - if your faith is merely holding certain facts about God, rather than God Himself, then it is all a sham. Belief or disbelief makes little difference. The object of our belief is Whom, not what. Only this is living faith. And only this faith makes any difference.”

Here’s my caution: It is dreadfully easy to drift gradually, almost imperceptibly from living relationship to mental agreement. Don’t content yourself ever to merely dealing with the outside of God. You can’t live on facts about God. Facts are not the same as faith. Church isn’t the same as spiritual life. The Christian life has nothing at all unless it has passionate devotion.

Moses didn’t scurry around the burning bush like a tourist taking Polaroids of this spectacular event. How easy it would have been for Moses to just watch this event. But God calls Moses to respond to it - to get involved in it. God told him to take his shoes off because anywhere God is should be holy and awesome.“We believe in God.” Belief penetrates. Belief enters into relationship with God. Next week we’ll look at the three things the creed says we believe about God. He is Father. He is Almighty. And He is Maker of heaven and earth.