You know, I am always amazed at how many Christians don’t really know what they believe and because of that fact neither are they confident in what they actually stand for in life.
So I guess this leads me to the big question, what about you? What do you believe? What do you stand for?
In 2 Timothy Chapter 1 vs 7-14 we find the Apostle Paul writing his epistle to encourage the young Pastor, Timothy.
Basically in this passage Paul is nailing his colours to the mast. He confidently declares ‘I know in whom I have believed, I know who I have put my trust in, I know who I follow. I know what I believe and I know what I stand for.’ In fact, he states with the greatest of conviction ‘I am fully persuaded’ he says about the one in whom I believe.
In effect he was saying ‘Timothy you need to know who you believe in and what you believe about him.’ Here we see him encouraging the young Pastor to do all he possibly could to be fully persuaded about Jesus and to work hard to ensure that those he was leading also knew what they believed and what they stood for where the Lord Jesus Christ was concerned.
The Apostle knew that if a person doesn’t really know what they believe – they will end up believing anything. He knew that those who don’t stand for something will end up falling for anything!
You see, contrary to what you might think, this isn’t just some emerging 21st century problem. Believers not knowing in depth what they really believe has been an issue right throughout christendom from the very early church – hence Paul’s exhortation to the young minister. In fact, it was for this very reason that the early church Fathers introduced the concept of reciting ‘creeds’.
I wonder if you know what a creed is?
Of course, it wasn’t so long ago when every regular Sunday service in the Church of England would have included the recitation of either the Nicene or Apostles’ Creeds – often both. Today, however, it is possible to attend many Anglican churches and rarely hear them read. There are actually many creeds but these two are by far the most well known.
A creed is a statement of belief or a confession of faith – a corporate reminder of what an individual believer or a church body believes. Creeds were designed to accurately state the irreducible minimum where Christian doctrine and belief were concerned.
Both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creed had their origins as baptismal affirmations. In its present form the Apostles’ creed is relatively late but creeds similar to it were apparently in use by the second and third centuries.
When people became Christians from pagan backgrounds it was important that they were taught the Christian faith. Creeds were simply a neat summary of that faith and were used as part of the teaching process of the church. It was only natural therefore that believers would be asked to recite a creed of belief at baptism.
The Creeds are therefore not additional truth but merely a synopsis of scriptural faith, a sort of early and brief systematic theology. Their value begins and ends with the fact that they are based on the Word of God.
Creeds prevented false teaching. They were meant to prevent the dilution of sound biblical truth.
In our own day when there seems to be significant ignorance about the Christian faith both outside and inside the Church, maybe it could be argued the concept of the creed ought to be introduced again in our teaching today. Many denominations and church groups including the Pentecostal and Charismatic streams would certainly benefit from this in my opinion. Just take for example the Nicene Creed, it provides a summary of the Christian faith that really has stood the test of time. It describes the nature of God and it sets out the work of God in creation, in salvation through Christ, in the world today through the Holy Spirit and in the future return and judgement of Christ. And indeed although the Nicene Creed began as a baptismal creed it was then modified to state the truth more clearly by denying erroneous views about the nature and deity of the Lord Jesus. When it comes to dealing with the very nature of the eternal God you really can easily see how such a creedal approach is particularly beneficial.
This is not to say creeds don’t have their downside. For example, no one creed covers all the main tenets of scripture, they are limited in their coverage. Then there is always the potential that people just recite a creed verbatim without much thought or heartfelt meditation. This is the danger of any written devotions including the Lord’s Prayer, that we find the words coming out of our mouth and not from the heart. And yet despite the few apparent dangers creeds have clearly stood the test of time!
Then There Is The Apostles’ Creed
The most well known creed today by a long chalk would be ‘The Apostles’ Creed.’ Let me remind you how it goes….
“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic ( i.e.,universal ) Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.”
Powerful stuff, don’t you think? You can see what I mean when I say a creed is a statement of belief or a confession of faith. Throughout church history it has been necessary for the church to adopt and embrace creedal statements to clarify the Christian faith and what Christians believe. Creeds were introduced to distinguish true content from error and what is accurate from false representations of the faith.
Singing The Creed The 21st Century – The Hillsong Way!
It was January 2014, John Dickson, co-founder of the Centre for Public Christianity and senior Anglican minister in Sydney, sparked a storm of responses when he posted on Facebook, “Can someone with real Hillsong contacts please urge their brilliant songwriters to put the Apostles’ Creed to inspiring music. They’d be doing mainstream Christianity an enormous favour.” At the same time he directly tweeted the same request to the Hillsong worship team.
His simple request reached the ears of Cassandra Langton, Hillsong’s Creative Director, who tweeted her reply to John within 24 hours, “We shall have a go!!!” This began a production process for Hillsong’s song ‘This I believe.’ And what an anointed piece of contemporary song writing it is – and it’s all based on the age old Apostles’ Creed.
Ben Fielding, one of Hillsong’s leading songwriters said, ‘We thought it would be amazing to be able to put music to it and give it new life.’ Ben felt that taking Hillsong’s platform and putting the words of the Creed to music to reach contemporary churches was an incredible opportunity. He went on to say,’In an age where there is so much division it’s powerful to declare something we all believe is true, emphasising our core beliefs. Anything that has the power to unify the church has to be a good thing. This song does exactly that as has the Apostles’ Creed for close to 1700 years.’
Just take a moment to meditate on Apostle’s powerful words.
“This I Believe (The Creed)”
Our Father everlasting
The all creating One
Through Your Holy Spirit
Conceiving Christ the Son
Jesus our Saviour
I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in one
I believe in the resurrection
That we will rise again
For I believe in the Name of Jesus
Our Judge and our Defender
Suffered and crucified
Forgiveness is in You.
Descended into darkness
You rose to glorious life
Forever seated high
I believe in you
I believe you rose again
I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord.
I believe in life eternal
I believe in the virgin birth
I believe in the saint’s communion
And in Your holy church
I believe in the resurrection
When Jesus comes again
For I believe in the name of Jesus!
A Modern Day Creed To Contemplate And To Live By.
The word ‘creed’ comes from the Latin word ‘credo’. And it is literally translated ‘I believe’ or ‘I live by’.
The following is a modern day creed that I have adapted which is both challenging and inspiring at the same time. May I suggest that over the time leading up to Easter you take some devotional time out of your busy schedules and contemplate it. It is a creed that will help you to take a stand. Here it is….
A modern day creed.
“I am a part of the Fellowship of the unashamed.
I have Holy Spirit power,
The die has been cast – I’ve stepped over the line
I have decided to be an authentic follower of the Lord Jesus Christ! I am redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and I am a new creation.
I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees colourless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals!
I no longer need pre-eminence, position, promotions, plaudits or popularity.
I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognised, praised, regarded or rewarded.
I now live by His presence, walk by faith, believe with patience, am upheld by prayer – for in Him I live and move and have my being!
My face is set, and my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, and although my companions may be few, my guide is reliable, my mission clear – I have become an authentic follower of Jesus Christ!
I refuse to be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or slow up until I have preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ!
I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, I must go until He comes, give until I drop, preach till all have heard and work until He commands otherwise.
And when He comes to get His own – He will have no problems recognising me, my colours will be clear, they have been nailed firmly to the mast….I have decided to be, pursue and live as an authentic follower of you Lord God.
Lord Jesus Christ just say the word – you can depend on me ! Amen!”
(Author unknown – adapted by Rev P C Weaver)
Our prayer is it will be a creed that will have a lasting effect on your life.