What is God?

Q. 7: What is God?

A. 7: God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”

(John 4:24, Job 11:7-9, Psalm 90:2, James 1:17, Exodus 3:14, Psalm 147:5, Revelation 4:8, 15:4, and Exodus 34:6)

EXPLANATION

Since God is the first and chiefest being, and since God has graciously provided His Word that gives us the knowledge that we need about Him as well as how to live for Him. It is important, then, that we know who and what God is. The Baptist Catechism provides a helpful, brief, and packed answer to the question, “What is God?”

Without getting into too much nerdy detail (and trust me, this is really difficult for me!), theologians have regularly divided God’s attributes (or, characteristics, and many other labels) into communicable and incommunicable attributes.

What do these mean? Berkhof helps distinguish these two terms when he writes, “While the incommunicable attributes emphasize the absolute Being of God, the communicable attributes stress the fact that He enters into various relations with His creatures.”[1] So we could delineate these terms further (and possibly simpler) by saying that God’s incommunicable attributes are what make Him God (e.g., infinite) while His communicable attributes are those that we experience (or, demonstrate, e.g. His holiness).

The Catechism, as we have noted, is not exhaustive. It is meant to be a teaching tool, providing the foundation truths of the faith and encouraging further study and contemplation. Even with that, however, the Catechism provides ten answers to the question, “What is God?”

Books have and will be written. The infinity of God provides a never-ending source of materials for study and praise. How can we summarize this important and life-changing question? God, though completely transcendent (i.e., out of our reach), He is also immanent (i.e., close and understandable to a finite degree), has graciously revealed Himself to us. The Scriptures cited above offer a presentation of these ten aspects of God (which include communicable and incommunicable attributes).

APPLICATION

As with all these attributes, we could spend eternity and never plunge its depths. We will, therefore, limit our applicational thought on one facet: God’s holiness. In Revelation 15:4, the individuals who were victorious over the beast (15:2) declare to the Lord, “For You alone are holy” (NASB). God is holy. That is what God is, if you will. There are a variety of ways to describe this, such as God’s separateness from creation and His moral perfection. But how can we apply this knowledge? Peter offers us a helpful and direct way in 1 Peter 1:15-16, “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy” (NASB). In other words, be like God. Imitate Him, represent Him to others, strive for holiness!

Search the Scriptures for the incommunicable attributes and praise Him for His grace! Study and live the Scriptures as you learn about the communicable attributes and praise Him for His grace. What is God? Our God is unimaginably marvelous!


[1] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology: New Combined Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1938), 57-58. You can purchase it <a href="http://<iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=librarymusing-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=1773563319&asins=1773563319&linkId=77d3318bfa191c37dad7a91e36e72fed&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff"> here.

What is in the Bible?

QUESTION SIX


Q. 6: What things are chiefly contained in the Holy Scripture?
A. 6: The Holy Scriptures chiefly contain what man ought to believe concerning God, and what duty God required of man.
(2 Timothy 1:13, 3:15-16)


EXPLANATION


The Baptist Catechism continues building on the construction project, brick by brick. We have answered several questions (please see links below if you have not read them). The Catechism addresses what the Scriptures contain in this question, which we will see the importance of momentarily.


First, I wanted to discuss the way this question is asked. The framers of the Confession and Catechism carefully choose their words. The Catechism asks what things are “chiefly” contained in the Scriptures. Why chiefly? Because, as anyone familiar with the Holy Scriptures will declare, there is a lot more than doctrine and practice. One example is the genealogies (e.g., see Genesis 10). Now, they are important for a variety of reasons (all of which are outside the scope of this post), but they do not directly teach any doctrine or provide examples of piety (practice). They do teach, however, chiefly the things we should believe about God and our duties toward Him. Let’s look at those.


Doctrine


The first of the two-part answer is “what man ought to believe concerning God.” That is, doctrine. Doctrine, defined in a Christian way, is simply teaching. Specifically, it is the teachings contained in the Scriptures and taught by the pastors and elders of the church. It involves items such as God, humanity, sin, and many other topics. This teaching is found in the Holy Scriptures. Though creeds and confessions are helpful (only as they are based in Scripture), they do not take authority over Scripture. What do we believe? We believe what the Scriptures teach.


Practice


The second of the two-part answer is “what duty God required of man.” The Holy Scriptures do not only teach what we should believe (which, as we will discuss below, has enormous implications for what we do), they also teach us what to do. This is our practice or our lifestyle (cf. Phil. 1:27). The Scriptures teach us how we are to live. How do we live as husbands? The Scriptures tell us. How do we function with the government? The Scriptures tell us. How do we handle our finances? Surprise, surprise, the Scriptures tell us!


APPLICATION

The applications of this question and answer are as broad and wide as the Holy Scriptures themselves. On an individual level, we apply the doctrines of Scripture to our understanding and beliefs. It is not “what I think is…” or “I believe that…” but “The Scriptures teach…” These are important distinctions that must be made and kept. We have all sorts of influences on our beliefs. Educational institutions, culture, friends and family, backgrounds and ethnicities, all of these and more affect our beliefs. While there is nothing we can do about most of these, we should always check their validity to the Scriptures. Paul teaches us this in 2 Tim. 1:13, “Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (CSB)

Paul understood his words to be inspired from God (see 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Additionally, we should apply the practical aspects from Scripture to our lives. For example, if you are a husband, you should utilize Paul’s teaching in Eph. 5:25-31 to live as a husband. The Scriptures give practical teaching such as this on almost every page. We do not live, in other words, the way we want to but the way Scripture tells us to live.


Corporately, as in involving the Church (and I mean individual, local churches) this question and answer gives us the truths we are to believe and the way we are to conduct our services. This truth provides freedom and boundaries on what churches can or cannot do. That is, there are some aspects of worship that are not allowed in the house of God (i.e., the church) that are okay in homes. Does our church hold to these truths? Does our church hold to these practices? These are important questions that we must know and answer in accordance with the Scriptures.

Ought everyone to believe there is a God?

QUESTION AND ANSWER TWO

The second question and answer of the Baptist Catechism is,

Q. 2: Ought everyone to believe there is a God?

A. 2: Everyone ought to believe there is a God; and it is their great sin and folly who do not.

Explanation

Last week we established that the beginning point for our life with God (and truly, all life) is God. Logically, the Catechism moves from that foundational thought to humanity. Because God is the first and chiefest being, then, what is humanity’s response to be?

This involves belief. The Catechism provides two supporting Scriptures for us to consider Hebrews 11:6 and Psalm 14:1. Let’s look at these Scriptures first, and then we can more effectively unpack the Catechisms teaching.

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”—Hebrews 11:6, ESV

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.”—Psalm 14:1, ESV

The verse from Hebrews is extremely profitable for our question and answer. If God is the first and chiefest being, then it makes sense that we must believe in Him. The author of Hebrews posts it in an even more significant way, informing us that without faith (i.e., belief) humanity cannot please God. It is impossible.

Furthermore, it is not enough simply to believe. The author of Hebrews says, “whoever would draw near to God must believe that he [God] exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (My emphasis). There are many that believe in God (or, perhaps more accurately, a god), but belief is as far as it goes. The author of Hebrews makes it clear that mere belief is not enough. Belief in God as first and chiefest being should change the way in which we live (i.e., that God rewards obedience positively and punishes disobedience negatively). Question 6 will address this idea further.

Additionally, if God is the first and chiefest being, it makes sense that humanity would want to be close to Him. We read in Hebrews 11:6, “whoever would draw near to God,” which implies that there are some who would not draw near (a point that is addressed with Psalm 14:1).

If God is the first and chiefest being, then yes, everyone ought to believe that there is a God.

We could say more about Hebrews 11:6, but now let us turn our attention to Psalm 14:1. Ought everyone to believe there is a God? Yes, but what about those who do not? The Catechism teaches us that this unbelief is a “great sin and folly.”

The psalmist offers much that helps us understand this great sin and folly. First, it is a belief that stems from the innermost part of the unbeliever’s being (i.e., the heart). Books, articles, and monographs have been written upon this subject, but at the heart (forgive me!) of the matter is that the Hebrew way of thinking about one’s heart concerned the entirety of the being’s mental and emotional decision-making factory.

Second, we see that the unbeliever’s life opposes God. “They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” In other words, they are depraved. Beeke and Smalley’s definition of total depravity is helpful, “Total depravity means that corruption infects the whole person and stains every act he performs.”[1] Correlation does not equal causation. However, there is a connection between a refusal to believe in God and act in accordance to His truth, and that connection is found in total depravity. Paul teaches us this in Eph. 2:1-3 and Rom. 3:9-18 (which also quotes our psalm).

APPLICATION

How can we apply this to our daily lives? I see at least three ways.

First, we must believe that there is a God. He is the first and chiefest being, therefore we should trust in Him (as stated in Heb. 11:6). Belief also requires knowledge. In other words, I cannot believe in gravity if I do not have any idea of what it is or what is means. We are working on the foundational knowledge that God exists and that He is the greatest being. Our goal, then, should be to expand this knowledge. We will deal with this in question three, however, we need to ask ourselves if we are developing our knowledge. If you believe in God, you will!

Second, our lives should demonstrate a belief in God. That is, we should live differently if we believe that God exists. We have already discussed this from a positive standpoint, so we will not reiterate this point again. However, we should apply this belief to our actions. If we say we believe in God, but our lives do not demonstrate this, then we are lying to ourselves and others. James tells it like this, “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves” (James 1:22, NRSV).

Third, we must guard our hearts against unbelief. While we rejoice in God’s goodness in allowing our depraved hearts to be regenerated, we also acknowledge that sin can find its way into our hearts in the form of unbelief. Solomon warns us, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23, NRSV). Guard your heart against the great sin and folly of unbelief. This can be applied to a variety of situations. We can doubt God’s Word that He will provide for all our needs (cf. Matt. 6:33). We can doubt God’s Word that He will be with us all the time (cf. Matt. 28:20). The list could go on, but I think we get the picture. We must guard our hearts against unbelief.


[1] Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 404.

Who is the first and chiefest being?

(Originally posted at warriorcreek.org, used with permission)

Today we begin a new series through the Baptist Catechism. Unfortunately, when many hear (or, in this case, read) the word catechism they think of Roman Catholics. This, as I said, is unfortunate, for the Church has historically used catechisms to teach children and adults the theology of the Scriptures. (If you are interested in looking into the history of catechesis, I recommend this thesis: “A Historical Review of Catechesis: Development, Use, and Disuse” by John Kidd.)


Catechisms are structured differently. Some catechisms use the question and answer format (e.g., Baptist Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism). Others provide a detailed treatment of doctrine and practice (e.g., Catechism of the Catholic Church). Each week, we will look at one question and one answer (with the supporting Scripture). We will briefly discuss it, and provide a few suggestions for application.
I have a two-fold goal in working through the Catechism. First, I hope to increase our knowledge of the Scripture and the doctrine we derive from it. Second, I hope our lives increasingly conform to the holiness of God as revealed in His Word.

Without further ado, let us begin.

QUESTION AND ANSWER ONE


Question One: Who is the first and chiefest being?Answer One: God is the first and chiefest being.Supporting Scripture: Isaiah 44:6; 48:12; and Psalm 97:9
The question and answer provide the starting point for everything. We are introduced to God. He is described as the first and chiefest being. It is from God that everything else flows. Let’s examine this in a little more detail.


EXPLANATION

God is the First Being


God is the first, meaning He was present before anything else existed. Isaiah 44:6 and 48:12 both convey the same message: God is first and last. He existed before anything else, and He will outlast everything.


God is the Chiefest Being


Psalm 97:9 teaches us that God is “exalted far above all gods” (ESV). There is nothing that comes close to God. We will see the implications of this truth further into the Catechism (questions 47-86).


APPLICATION

This short question provides us with much to consider. Its brevity is profound because it packs a tremendous amount of truth into one question and answer (a theme that runs through the entire Catechism). We can ask ourselves if we truly believe this. How can we tell? Ask yourself the following questions:
· Does my life display that I believe God is the chiefest being? In other words, what do I spend my time thinking about, what do I do?· Does my life display that I worship Him? If He is the first and chiefest being, anything less than perfect worship and obedience is idolatry.


There are many more questions we could ask, but this is a great way to begin our look at the Baptist Catechism.

“But they should know better!”: A Lesson in Maturity and Patience

In Philippians 3:15, after a lengthy treatment discussing the supreme importance of following Jesus Christ, Paul writes, “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” (ESV)

During my sermon preparation for Sunday, I was working through Calvin’s Commentaries and came across a much needed reminder, particular in the Church and the Academy. We need to display maturity and patience with others, regardless of their knowledge of biblical truth or lack thereof. (I am writing this now because, inevitably, someone will caution that this does not mean we should accept everything and be patient with false doctrine. I hope that this is self-evident, because Scripture does balance this out, for example, see Titus 3:9-11).

On this verse, Calvin writes, “Let us in the mean time learn also from this passage, that we must bear for a time with ignorance in our weak brethren, and forgive them, if it is not given them immediately to be altogether of one mind with us. Paul felt assured as to his doctrine, and yet he allows those who could not as yet receive it time to make progress, and he does not cease on that account to regard them as brethren, only he cautions them against flattering themselves in their ignorance.” (Calvin, Philippians, 104)

Several points deserve our attention.

The Mature

First, consider the maturity of Paul, and those who accept his teachings. It is assumed that their life and doctrine are inline with Scripture. It makes sense, then, that those who know and live God’s Word would be the most patient with others. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some individuals who are highly qualified (intellectually speaking) are some of the most impatient and hard people. Intellectual capacity does not bring maturity. Maturity includes a grasp of the doctrines of Scripture and a life that matches (cf. Ezra 7:10).

The Patient

Second, consider the patience displayed by the mature. Paul does not berate them for failing to understand his teachings (even Peter had a difficult time, 2 Pet. 3:16). He simply assumes that, as they grow, their knowledge of the Scriptures (as evidenced by Phil. 3:16). When we have grasped a certain doctrine, or view of Scripture, we need to be patient with those who may have a harder time (or, slower, as the case may be). It is a common joke (though true, all-to-often) that when individuals embrace the Doctrines of Grace that they become “cage-stage-Calvinists.”

That is, they want to convert everyone to their views and display little patience for those who view Scripture differently. We need to follow Paul’s example and be patient with people. It takes time for people to mature with regards to their lives and their grasp of biblical doctrine. There is a reason that men and women of godly character disagree. We are finite, fallen creatures glorious saved and wisely grown in this life, with various backgrounds, cultures, and educational opportunities. As a result, it changes how we view Scripture. Just as we did not believe everything in Scripture immediately upon our salvation, we should not expect any different from others.

The Trusting

Third, and finally, maturity and patience is strengthened by God. Paul says, “God will reveal that also to you.” Paul was displaying faith, not in his ability to communicate, nor in his hearers’ ability to comprehend, but in God. He trusted that God would do with His children what He thought best and when He thought best (Phil. 1:6). When discussing differences in theological views, let us trust that God will grow us as He sees fit. While we still engage in theological discussion (Prov. 27:17), these should be engaged with, you guessed it, maturity and patience, all the while displaying faith that God will grow us.

Training for Godliness: Its Purpose

We read in 1 Timothy 4:7, “Rather train yourself for godliness.”

Paul, writing to the young pastor Timothy, offers helpful advice throughout this letter. This particular encouragement comes at the heels of a warning against “irreverent, silly myths.” We could say much about this, but for now let’s simply view it as useless issues.[1]

Compared to that, Paul encourages Timothy to train himself for godliness. The word train is a fascinating word which has connection to physical training. But Paul uses the analogy of physical training for spiritual purposes, namely, godliness.

We need to ask ourselves two questions. First, what is godliness? When we answer this question, we are afforded with insights into a clear command of Scripture. And second, how do I train for it? Answering this question provides the means to obtain godliness through training.

We must first answer the question, “What is godliness?” The simple answer is that when one is godly they are like God. Thus, when one is godly they think, speak, and act like God. An outsider observing a godly person would conclude that they are like Jesus. And we learn who Jesus is from the Scriptures. We could answer the question, “What is godliness?” in another way. A godly person is a biblical person. This will become more apparent as we study the spiritual disciplines. But for now, I want to consider what our present situation is.

Donald Whitney, author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, writes, “So many professing Christians are so spiritually undisciplined that they seem to have little fruit and power in their lives…. Spiritually they are a mile wide and an inch deep.”[2] Sadly, this is the state of much of the church. Many people watching Christians do not see godliness. But what does this say about us? How many of us have grown up in church, but could not be properly called godly? How many of us could recite theological truths, but when asked about our lives, would fain to answer that we were like Jesus?

And it is that point that brings us to the purpose for godliness. We train for the purpose of godliness. We want to be like Jesus. When I was first beginning to lift weights, I wanted to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I tried to eat like him, lift like him, etc. That was my goal. In a greater way, our goals as followers of Jesus Christ should be to look like Jesus. But, like so many others, we become distracted with the lesser things of life. We focus on careers and family rather than on Christ. We center on preparing for retirement (or, enjoying it, as the case may be), instead of being intentional with our time.

We are to train for godliness. We are to put in the hard work and consistent determination to grow in godliness. It does not happen by osmosis or laziness. Godliness is developed through intentionally striving to be like Jesus as we read about Him in the Scripture.

As we learn about the spiritual disciplines (i.e., the methods God has provided for growth in godliness), I hope we all keep our purpose in the front of our minds: for godliness. May it be said of us, “they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”[3] How? Because they thought, spoke, and acted like Jesus. Let us train for godliness.

__________

[1] Ralph Earle describes it as “Jewish legends.” See Ralph Earle, “1 Timothy,” in Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary Volume 2: New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 902.

[2] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 21.

[3] Acts 4:13, ESV.

Training for Godliness: Introduction

Disciplines for a Godly Life

One of my God-ordained goals is to see our church grow into Christlikeness.[1] The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith summarizes the biblical teaching on the role of the pastor like this,

“The work of pastors being constantly to attend the service of Christ, in his churches, in the ministry of the word and prayer, with watching for their souls, as they that must give an account to Him; it is incumbent on the churches to whom they minister, not only to give them all due respect, but also to communicate to them of all their good things according to their ability, so as they may have a comfortable supply, without being themselves entangled in secular affairs; and may also be capable of exercising hospitality towards others; and this is required by the law of nature, and by the express order of our Lord Jesus, who hath ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” LBCF 26:10

One method the Lord has graciously provided His Church comes in the form of discipline.

In fact, it could be called spiritual discipline. Discipline is an excellent quality that every human being should cultivate. They should be disciplined in their health, in their various occupations, in their relationships, as citizens, and the list could expand.

Discipline, simply put, is “orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.”[2] While discipline is helpful in all areas of life, it is particularly beneficial in the life of a Christian. In fact, it is biblical. Paul, writing to the young pastor Timothy, encourages him with these words,

“Train ourself for godliness.” (1 Tim. 4:7, ESV)

Perhaps you are wondering why I use the word discipline when Paul uses the word train. The concept is the same. Train, or discipline, yourself to godliness. Be orderly in your conduct or pattern of behavior. We must ask ourselves, “What is our pattern to follow?” Paul answers simply, “for godliness.” Be like God, brothers and sisters, through training, discipline.

In this series of posts, we will discuss this idea of discipline and the Christian life. There are a multitude of ways that you and I can grow. Thankfully, we will learn from an expert. I would highly recommend you purchase Donald S. Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. It is a wonderful book of only 249 pages. In this book, Whitney discusses the basis for our discipline as believers. He also provides chapters fleshing out the various disciplines available. It is not an exhaustive work, but it is a helpful one.

As you and I grow into the image of Jesus Christ, we must discipline ourselves for godliness. Lazy Christians will never progress in godliness. Only disciplined Christians will grow. We will look at these spiritual disciplines over the next few posts. I hope that you will, like Timothy, train yourself for godliness.

__________

[1] If you are not a member of our church, it is not that I do not want to see you grow. I do! However, God has assigned me to the good people of Warrior Creek Baptist Church. My focus is on them, and biblically so (see Hebrews 13:17). I would encourage you to prayerfully seek out a biblical church to join.

[2] “Discipline,” Merriam-Webster Online (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discipline, accessed 10 September 2020).

FULL PARDON, WONDERFUL GRACE

Have you ever sinned against God, had your conscience rear up and bite you, and then confess your sins (1 John 1:9)? What is the next thing that happens?

I have often found myself beset by guilt. Guilt is an odd concept, and an even odder feeling. The Cambridge Dictionary defines guilt as “feeling of worry or unhappiness that you have because you have done something wrong, such as causing harm to another person.” (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/guilt, accessed 27 August 2020).

It is this feeling of worry or unhappiness that often accompanies our confession. True, we have communicated to God what we have done. And true, we believe the Scriptures when they say “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV) But there seems to be a disconnect between the facts of forgiveness and the feelings of guilt. What is the Christian to do?

Thomas Manton, in his masterful exposition of the Lord’s Prayer printed by the Banner of Truth Trust, discusses this. He writes, “It is full pardon.” (Manton, 196)

It is true, for a while after they may trouble the conscience, as when the storm ceaseth, the waves roll for a while afterwards; so may sin in the consciences of God’s children work trouble, after the fiducial application of the blood of Christ. But the storm ceaseth by degrees; and it is possible that the commitment of new sins may revive old guilt, as a new strain may make us sensible of an old bruise.”

Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton Volume I (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1993), 196.

What Manton does is calm the guilt, like the storm-tossed sea, it takes time. While God fully and unequivocally forgives, the conscience rages from the left over storms of sin. It takes time, in other words, for our feelings to catch up with the biblical fact of forgiveness.

The implications, then, should be evident. When you sin, you must confess that sin. When you confess that sin, God forgives that sin. When God forgives that sin, regardless of how you feel, you are forgiven. There is nothing more to confess. Therefore, we must let unbiblical guilt to rule our lives. We must move forward, to pick up again the armor of the Lord (Eph. 6:10-20), we must reignite the light that must be displayed to the world for the glory of God (Matt. 5:14).

When God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, saves you, you experience full pardon. Is this not wonderful grace? Why? Because, “Justice hath no more to seek of Christ.” (Manton, 197)

Your Life and Doctrine: 2 Ways to Take Care of Yourself

In 1 Timothy 4:11, Paul instructs Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (ESV)
Paul desired that his young protege would be careful about his manner of life and the content of his beliefs. And, as God’s people, we must all be aware of how we are living and what we believe.
Our Manner of Life
What does our manner of life say about us? Whom does it say we serve? We all know the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words,” and perhaps that is more true (if that is possible!) for the Christian. For those who claim the name of Christ, and yet act in a manner contradictory of the Lord Jesus, they bring great shame on the Lord and confuse people who are not His followers. It can also hinder people’s own walk with God, or lack thereof.
Christians have enjoyed a period of cultural acceptance up until very recently. Now, however, society, in general, lies in opposition to almost all Christian values. The after effects of this, however, are more detrimental than society’s rejection. Consider David Kinnaman’s and Gabe Lyons conclusion, “The hypocritical perception is most acute not when a religion is on the fringes of society, but when it has because a dominant part of the culture.” (Kinnaman and Lyons, UnChristian, 43) For centuries Christianity has enjoyed a certain prestige in American society. However, that is already shifting, rapidly and increasingly. Now, more than ever, Christians need to “keep a close watch” on their lives. Those who pretend to be in Christ’s sheepfold are leaving in the droves, and Christ’s true followers must live as their Lord did. They must pay special attention to their lives.
One practical way in which we can do this is to incorporate a time of self-examination every day. I suggest the 10 Commandments, due to their consistency in Scripture as well as their ease in reading and comprehension. Regularly ask yourself, “Am I following the 10 Commandments? How does my life differ from what God has taught?” Questions like these will help you keep a close guard of your life.
Our Matter of Beliefs
In 2018, Ligonier conducted a study on what people believed (you can find the study, including the research methodologies, here: https://www.ligonier.org/blog/state-theology-what-do-people-really-believe-2018/). One of the results was the distinct declaration that people today do not believe what the Scriptures teach, Christian and otherwise alike. Some of the questions are basic aspects of the faith, and it is shocking to see.
However, before we criticize others, are we engaged in serious study of our Faith? Do we regularly search the Scriptures and see what they teach? I am certainly not advocating for people to sit down and read systematic theology books (though that would be helpful!). However, when we cannot agree on what the Scriptures teach about the exclusivity of Christ, are we keeping watch of our doctrinal beliefs?
What we believe affects how we live, which in turn affects what we believe. What are some ways you can watch your doctrine? I find Statements of Faith to be helpful, particularly in the context of your church. What does your church believe? Study their Statements of Faith. You can also check our declarations such as the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (here: http://www.sbc.net/bfm2000/bfm2000.asp). It is an excellent summary of beliefs, which also include references to Scripture.
Another helpful tool are systematic theologies. Now, I would caution you on which ones you choose. First, they can be extremely academic. While there is a need for them, it may not produce the same fervor for understanding God more. Another aspect to be aware of is the beliefs. There are systematic theologies that espouse heresies. Finally, take care with how you approach your study. It can be an exercise in gaining knowledge, but unless it helps you know and love God and your neighbors more, it is fruitless.
So, brothers and sisters, pay attention to your life and your beliefs. And to God be the glory!