“So, what exactly is it that you guys believe?” That was the question one of the teenagers in our youth group asked me several years back on a trip to San Antonio. Most of the students in our group had grown up around church, but this girl had come as a guest, and it was her first time to really hang out with a group of Christians. The more time she spent with us, the more she wanted to understand what exactly it was that Christians believed about God, Jesus and the world around us.
It’s a really good question, but to be honest, it kind of caught me off-guard. As the Student Pastor with a Master’s Degree from seminary, I should have been able to immediately spit out the right answers and make an engaging defense for the basic tenets of our faith. Instead, I spent the next few minutes fumbling my way through the conversation with a few verses I had memorized and trying not to sound too ignorant. While it wasn’t my most articulate moment, I was surprisingly able to communicate most of what I wanted—God’s grace is good and always enough!
Since that time, I’ve thought more about this young lady’s question: what is it that we actually believe as Christians? As you spend time reading the Bible, you’ll see that Christians are referred to as “believers” over and over again in the New Testament. They saw something, they experienced something and they became believers. But, have you ever wondered what it is that these first Christians actually believed? The truth is that most people (if not all people) are believers in someone or something. But, there is something unique about what Christians believe that distinguishes our faith from any other form of religion. In our new series, “We Believe,” on Sunday mornings at Lakewood, we’ll be unpacking these beliefs in a way that will be simple, clear, practical and theologically sound.
Any conversation about what we believe should always begin and end with God. Author and theologian A.W. Tozer once said:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
So, what is it that you believe about God? Some people see Him as a grandfatherly figure who is wise and kind but completely unable to help in your time of need. Others would see Him as a mean judge who is just waiting for people to make a mistake so that He might punish them for their disobedience. There are also plenty of people who would say He is just one of many gods in the universe—sort of like a spiritual buffet line with endless options. So what do you believe?
The reality is that not all these views of God can be true. So, instead of listening to opinion polls or what feels right or even going with our past tradition and present experiences, we need see what God says about Himself and base our beliefs on that. God’s Word (the Bible) has a lot to say about who God really is and what He is really like. Through the prophet Isaiah, He says:
“To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike?…for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:5,9).
First and foremost, we need to understand that there is only one God. He is unique and no one or nothing else can even compare to Him. This truth was so important that Moses made sure to drill this into the hearts and minds of God’s people (the nation of Israel) before they could enter into the land God promised them. In one of the most famous verses of the Bible (called the Shema) he says: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Still today, faithful Jews will recite the Shema twice a day to remember the truth behind these words.
The writers of the New Testament also understand how important it was to believe in the oneness of God. Ephesians 4:4-6 says:
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Then 1 Timothy 1:5 says:
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
This belief in only one God is absolutely essential for us as Christians to understand. Before we can really get to know God, we have to understand who He is and that there is no one else like Him.
As we start this new year, take some time to consider what it is that you actually believe about God, Jesus and the world in which we live. Think through how you would respond if someone were to ask you to explain your core beliefs. Finally, spend some time getting to know the one true God. He is perfect (Psalm 18:30), powerful (Jeremiah 32:17), personal (Revelation 3:20) and desires to be in a vibrant relationship with you. Will you take some time to get to know Him better this year? What you believe about God is of the utmost importance. What you do with this belief has the potential to change your life and the lives of those around you. Please be sure to join us in this series, “We Believe,” on Sunday mornings and keep up with our blogs online. Our Lakewood staff is here for you, so let us know if you have any questions and if there is any way we can serve you and your family.