Last week I wrote about statements of faith, also known as creeds, that were written to protect Christians from false
teachings by focusing on the true beliefs of the Church. Over time Christian creeds have served to set Christianity apart from other religions and belief systems. The intellectual understanding of Christian beliefs is very important. Like the bark of a tree, our common beliefs protect us from outside threats and diseased thinking.
Here’s the big question: Is saying the creed out loud enough in itself to make someone a Christian?
A tree can have bark, but if there is no life coursing underneath in the deeper levels of the tree the tree is rotten and will fall down. The core of the tree is the heartwood and other layers that carry the sap and nourishment from the roots to the branches and also provide the tree’s strength.
A Christian is a person who takes right beliefs and enters into a life-changing encounter and relationship with God in the person of Jesus Christ, totally putting their life and future on the line with Him. The core or “heartwood” of a Christ-follower is The Holy Spirit, the presence of God who gives life out of an authentic faith in Jesus Christ.
If we only study the “what” of beliefs, we risk becoming intellectual Pharisees who know all the right things, but are dead inside and haven’t really entered into a life-changing relationship with God.
Here’s an illustration:
We believe that NASA is a United States government agency that created and continues to create huge machines called rockets. We believe that these machines exert enough force to successfully carry objects called payloads beyond the gravitational pull of earth and into various orbits around the planet earth. It is also our belief that these machines are capable of carrying and sustaining people in spaceflight and also return them safely to terra firma, and have in fact done so many times. A majority of us also believe that NASA successfully sent men to the moon and back, as evidenced by the large number of moon rocks, participants, and eyewitnesses to these events. We believe that an international space station exists, and is now circling the planet every ninety minutes with several people living and working on board.
Does saying this out loud make you an astronaut?
An astronaut is a person who takes that belief and climbs into a spacecraft, totally putting their life on the line based on this knowledge. They have put their faith in NASA,
A Christian is someone who takes true beliefs, climbs into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ, and then follows Him on the journey He sets before us. That is real faith, something that requires both the head and the heart, as the Apostle Paul wrote:
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 (NIV)
When we place our faith— our minds, words, heart, and life— in Jesus Christ, we will more and more look like the person described in Psalm 1:
“Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither”
I pray we will all be like trees planted firmly in God’s Truth and Presence.
Blessings to you,