Refinding Faith: Affirmations

When working through a legal mediation, the mediator will often put on the table what are called “Recitals” or “Affirmations.” These are facts of the case on which both parties could agree before any adjustments, compromises or concessions were made during negotiations. In the same vein, I want to establish some unconditional tenants of my doctrine, theology and faith that if altered would, by my conviction, mean I cease to operate as a Biblical follower of Christ. 

In her book, Faith Unraveled, (which you may get tired of me quoting!) Rachel Held Evans refers to what she calls “false fundamentals.”  These are the rules, beliefs, standards, teachings, etc. of the church that are commonly accepted as “Biblical” but in reality are more cultural in their roots. These are often brought about by either poor interpretation or outright misuse of the Biblical text.  It’s not a new problem; much of Christ’s teaching was targeted at correcting similar mis-teachings of the religious leaders of the time. The purpose of this exercise is to separate core truths of Christianity from the cultural “add-ons” that have become part of my everyday thought. 

There are literally hundreds of passages of scripture to support these points. I have limited my citing to 2-3 for the sake of brevity. The passages quoted are from the New International Version of the Bible.  The links may open up the passage in a different version.  For more about the various translations of the Bible, click here.

Finally this list may not be exhaustive, but I do believe it covers all the basics.  I debated deviding into two posts, but didn’t want to give more weight to some points than others.  If it’s too long, take a break, go for a walk, then come back and finish it!

The Nature of Truth

2 Timothy 3:16 – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,”

John 21: 25 – “Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.

John 8:44 – “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

From the beginning of time, God created us for fellowship. Since our separation from Him as a result of our sin, he began crafting a means by which we could know the key elements of His truth and preserve that fellowship. It was a 4000 year project which culminated in the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, and reveals His plan to fully restore us into the fellowship we were created to enjoy.

Scripture also teaches us that there is more truth to be had in the universe. At the end of his gospel, the apostle John states that Jesus did more than what is written (see text above). Each one of these things could have been included in the scripture as “truth”. We however, trust that the Spirit of God worked through men to inspire both the writing and collection of the Scripture over the course of a specific time. Based on that inspiration we can rely on scripture to be the bar at which all truth can be tested and measured. To keep this in perspective you will often hear (or read) me say “All truth is God’s truth, all Scripture is true, not all truth is in Scripture.”

We also know that as much as truth is the exclusive realm of God, the enemy of truth, Satan (translated “Deceiver”) is tireless in his efforts to hide or distort truths and promote lies. Our task is to be diligent in examining our world and ourselves so that the truth and the lies, the light and the darkness have no space to come together in our hearts or minds.

Creation is Fallen at the Hand of Man

Romans 3:23 – “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

Romans 8:22 – “Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.”

Romans 8:23 – “And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.”

God created us into truth and in a weak moment, we turned from it in favor of a lie. Since that day, not just mankind but all of creation has been suffering the consequences, namely death and decay. Many of us are very quick to recognize the ultimate punishment of sin – a physical and spiritual death. But there was another consequence has had a great impact on all of history. Even though we were cast out of the garden and away from God’s presence, we were not relieved of our responsibility to be stewards of creation. Only now, we were obligated to carry out that responsibility without direct access to God’s guidance and wisdom. 

We were on our own and, to say the least, we didn’t know what we were doing. After several millennia, we still don’t know what we are doing and despite our best efforts and advancements in technology, medicine and science, we are still in a state of physical decay.

Christ Alone

Romans 5:21 – “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,[e] so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

1 Peter 3:18 – “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.”

Romans 8:1-2 – “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power[a] of the life-giving Spirit has freed you[b] from the power of sin that leads to death. 

God created us for a purpose and there is great news! That purpose survived the fall of humanity from God’s favor. He had a plan from the very beginning and neither sin or death, or even the deceptions of Satan himself could up heave what God had set down. His purpose is fellowship with us. We call it other things too, communion, relationship, discipleship – but they all point to the same thing, a personal intimacy with the God of the universe!

The problem came in the fact that God is unchanging. He couldn’t stand the presence of sin before and He can’t stand it now. There had to be a means for the stain of sin to be removed from our being. God accomplished that by sending his Son, who was without sin and was therefore qualified to pay the price of sins for the rest of us.  He knew sorrow, pain, agony and eventually death – he suffered from our poor stewardship of creation.

Then he did something we have no power to do. He defied the consequences of sin and raised himself from the dead. At that moment we are provided with a means for all who put their faith in him to be reunited with God – in the present time through the Power of the Holy Spirit and someday in his physical presence.

While there is nothing in scripture that states we must know Christ for salvation, it is clear that He is the only means by which we are saved (Christianese for restoring our fellowship with God). The method of that salvation has been debated throughout church history. Ultimately is it a supernatural act; by default we may never fully understand it in our natural state of mind.

Held Tight by Him

Romans 8:35, 37 – “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

The story didn’t end at an empty grave, although it was forever altered. From that point on the focus became sharing the great news of what Christ had done though all four corners of the Earth. In giving us that directive there was never any promise that it would be easy. After all, the cross had provided a means to remove the ultimate consequence of sin – spiritual death through separation from God – but the immediate consequence of sin was still at play – physical decay.

The challenges did come with a promise: God would not allow his people to be pulled from Him! What he has claimed as his cannot be reclaimed by another. He has given us His Spirit – the wonderful counselor – so that we could once again have access to the wisdom, insight, thoughts and feelings that can only be found through our right relationship with him.

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