We are currently in a series at church called “I Believe…” in which we are using the Apostles’ Creed to teach through the foundational beliefs of Christianity.
Part of our reasoning for teaching through the Creed is because we believe that in a season where it seems there are divisions on every side…nationally, politically, racially, and yes, even in the Church…we felt it would be a healthy and powerful thing to focus on teaching the things that we share in common with other Christians worldwide.
We started the series simply focusing on the words “I believe”, which is, of course where the journey of Christian faith must begin. Christianity teaches, at it’s very foundation, that salvation is not earned by good behavior; it is by desiring a relationship with and putting our faith in God…the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…by which we are not only “saved”, but in which we find meaning, purpose, fulfillment…and the privilege of partnering with God in the reconciliation and restoration of all things back to Himself and His original plan for the world.
But claiming “belief” in something does beg the question…”What does it really mean to believe”? According to the Bible, belief is not simply intellectual agreement with something, and is not expressed by repeating certain words, like some sort of magic spell, but rather, choosing to come into wholehearted agreement, where your very life is altered and lived according to this “belief.”
For example, I may say that I “believe” that the actual risks of skydiving (assuming it is done with proper training/supervision and equipment) are rather low. This does NOT, however, mean I will be heading up to the sky to take a jump. My claimed belief does not in any way lead to action.
On the other hand, despite the fact that I know many car accidents happen annually, I believe that driving is still a safe enough, necessary mode of transportation and therefore, I act upon that belief, and car riding and driving are a very normal part of my day to day life.
In other words, the old saying “Put your money where your mouth is” is a good summary of what actual belief looks like. In the New Testament letter written by James, he puts it this way…
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
Belief has very little to do with what we say, and very much to do with what we do; not because we think we are “earning our way” to heaven, but because if we actually believe the things we claim, then we ourselves are changed to our very core. The things that motivate us internally are transformed, in an ongoing process to look more and more like Jesus and the ways of His Kingdom.
The reality of being a follower of Jesus is that it takes more than a mental or verbal agreement. In fact, James goes on to say in the same letter I quoted earlier to say…
You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.
Claiming to “believe in” Jesus has implications for our lives. In the next post, I’ll touch on what some of these implications are, as we continue to make our way through this series.
*In case you are not familiar with the statement of faith known as the Apostles’ Creed, you can read it below:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic (meaning universal) Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.