Sun, Mar 18, 2018
Creed part 2 - The God We Believe In
John 14:6-12
Second message in a series on the basics of the Christian faith. Based on the Nicene Creed

Creed pt 2 – The God We Believe In

We are in a new series that I’ve entitled Creed

In this series I want to take a look at the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith

If you were to ask 10 different people what it meant to be a Christian you would likely get 10 different answers

For some, unless you believe exactly like they do, read the same translation of the Bible as they do, vote like they do, talk like they do, and dress like they do then you are going straight to hell

That’s kind of sad

I want to make it clear, though, that not all beliefs are equal

There are some that are flat out wrong

There are others that are just different

The Bible gives us a lot of “wiggle room” in some areas

I’ve seen many times in which two people can read the exact same passage of Scripture and get two totally different things out of it

There are areas in which we as Christians can see things differently

That is why we have so many denominations – at the last count there were over 40,000 distinct Christian denominations in the world

Many of these differences are over theological beliefs

Let me give you a good example

Let’s look at the issue of communion

We celebrate communion about once a month, other churches do it more frequently, others less, but it is something all Christian churches do

There are 3 primary ways to look at communion

Some denominations believe in something called Transubstantiation

Transubstantiation means that the communion elements – the bread and the wine/juice – actually become the body and blood of Jesus

Other denominations believe in something called Consubstantiation

In Consubstantiation they believe that although the bread and wine do not become the actual body and blood of Jesus, Jesus is somehow in the bread and wine

We practice what is known as Symbolic communion

We believe that the bread and wine are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus

Although I have my opinion on which view is correct, it honestly doesn’t matter

This is one of those areas in which we can have differing opinions, and still be Christians

But what are the non-negotiables?

What does someone have to believe in order to be a Christian?

That is what this series is all about

When thinking about the non-negotiables of the Christian faith I was drawn to the creeds

What is a creed?

A creed is simply a statement of belief

There are several creeds within the church, and this series is based on the Nicene creed

Why the Nicene creed?

In my opinion – and remember this is just my opinion – the Nicene Creed gives the best overall statement of Christian beliefs

It is also the oldest of the creeds – at least in the form we have it in today

The Apostle’s Creed is great, but since the Nicene Creed is older I chose that one

Last week I gave a brief history on the Nicene Creed – if you missed that you can pick up a CD in the back or listen online

But just to recap, the church had been around for about 300 years and had a wide variety of beliefs – some of them pretty radically different

To help settle some of these differences Emperor Constantine convened a council in the year 325AD in the city of Nicaea, which came up with the fundamental statement of Christian beliefs that we know as the Nicene Creed

So the Nicene Creed was developed to stop heresy and to determine what beliefs were necessary to be a Christian

Let’s read the Nicene creed together

We believe in one God,

the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made,

of one Being with the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation

he came down from heaven:

by the power of the Holy Spirit

he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,

and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again

in accordance with the Scriptures;

he ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,

and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.

He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,

and the life of the world to come. Amen.

[give brief explanation on what “one holy catholic & apostolic Church” means]

Last week we took a look at the first part of the Nicene Creed

“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.”

I spoke about why I believe the God exists

Initially my plan for today was to continue in the creed about believing in Jesus, but on Thursday my plans changed a little bit

As I was thinking and praying about things I had a conversation with someone that confirmed I was to do something a little different than I had originally planned

I still plan to talk about believing in Jesus, but we will do that later

What I want to do today is build a little more on what we talked about last week

All Christians will most definitely agree with the Nicene Creed when it says “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen”

We all believe that God exists

However, where there is a ton of disagreement is in what God is like

So, in light of that, today I want to spend some time talking about the God that we believe in

I think that this is a vital discussion to have

Why do I say that?

Because how we view God will dramatically affect how we approach and live our life and our faith

I have spoken with several people over the years that have told me that they were either an atheist – someone who does not believe in God, or an agnostic – someone who is not sure whether God exists or not

I’m not always able to do this, but when I can I like to ask these people to tell me about the God they don’t believe in

They almost always go on to tell me about a God who is hateful, judgemental, vengeful, full of wrath, etc.

When they are done I like to respond by telling them that I don’t believe in that God either

I have discovered that there are a couple of different ways to look at God

I can look at God like a cosmic law enforcement officer, or as a loving Father

Here is the difference

Although I have a lot of respect for law enforcement officers and believe that they play a vital role in our society, they are a unique bunch as a whole

Their job is to deal with the worst of our society on a daily basis, and consequently it is not unusual for them to get a little cynical over time

Law enforcement officers basically spend their careers looking for people to do something wrong, and then citing them or arresting them

They have this long lost of rules called the law, and watch everyone around them looking specifically for someone to violate those laws so that violator can be punished

Contrast this view on life with that of a loving Father

A loving Father is not waiting for his children to do something wrong so he can punish them

No, quite the opposite in fact - a loving father is always looking for instances to praise and encourage his children

In fact, he will often times praise his children for things that are, in the grand scheme of things, not particularly praise worthy

I am guilty of this - I love to brag up my kids and think I have some of the most amazing kids on the planet

Even when they do things that are wrong I will do my nest to minimize their mistake and will even go to bat for them

Why? Because that’s what loving fathers do!

I mention these two contrasting images because I see people viewing God in a very similar fashion

There are many, many people - way too many in fact - that see God as nothing more than a law enforcement officer

They believe that God is constantly watching them and just waiting for them to do something wrong so He can punish them

Sadly, this is the image that has been promoted the most in the Evangelical church

It’s an image that I believed, and even preached myself at one time

In 1741 Jonathan Edwards gave his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

In this message he gave very graphic word pictures of just how much God hates our sin and so very much wants to punish us

Here is a line from that sermon that very much sums up it’s message

“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked. His wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire. He is of purer eyes than to bear you in his sight; you are ten thousand times as abominable in his eyes as the most hateful, venomous serpent is in ours.”

I don’t know about you, but that certainly does not sound like a loving father to me!

Yet this one sermon has had such a powerful impact on much of evangelicalism today

To so many people the Gospel message they have heard is that God hates them so bad and wants to throw them into hell, but Jesus stepped in and stopped Him

That Jesus saved us from the immense wrath of a vengeful God

That when we get to heaven God will look at us with disapproving eyes and say “I really don’t like you or want you here, but Jesus does so come on in”

Does that sound like a loving father to you?

If you knew an earthy dad that was like that would you think he was a nice guy?

Would you want to spend eternity with someone like that?

Honestly, I can go to the Bible and get this version of God

I can cherry pick verses and stories and paint a picture of God that most definitely matches the description given by Jonathan Edwards

But the question we need to ask is this - is it the right version of God?

Is God really like this, or are we getting the story wrong?

Let me just say it right now so there is no doubt

This is not the God that I serve

He is nothing like this, and, quite frankly, I don’t think I could worship a God that was

There is not a whole lot that I am absolutely certain about, but this is something that I am most definitely certain of!

How do I know this? What changed my mind?

It all started when I came to the realization that the Bible is all about Jesus

Everything - every chapter, every book, is all about Jesus

I need to read all of Scripture through the lens of Jesus

Let me take a look at a few things Jesus said in the Gospel of John to drive home my point

John 10:30 I and the Father are one."

The Father and Jesus are different, yet the same

If you know one, you know the other

John 12:44-45 Then Jesus cried out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45  When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.

Jesus is saying “if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father”

John 14:6-12 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." 8  Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." 9  Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10  Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12  I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

I love what is happening here

Jesus is saying to His disciples “If you know me you know the Father”

Philip says “show us the Father!”

Jesus basically says “Look at me, you are seeing Him!”

Here’s the point that is being made:

Any version of God the Father that does not look like Jesus is wrong

The Father will always look like the Son, and the Son will always look like the Father

Anything else is wrong. Period.

As I mentioned earlier, I can go to Scripture and paint a picture of God the Father that looks very different from Jesus

What do we do when we run into Scripture that makes it seem like God the Father is very different than Jesus, God the Son?

Let me give you an analogy that I think will help

This analogy isn’t original, I shamelessly swiped it from Greg Boyd

Almost all of you here know my wife Brenda

For those who don’t let me just say that she is one of the most amazing people on the planet - of course I am unapologetically biased!

She is very kind, very gentle, and very much a peace lover

She doesn’t put up with foolishness, but she is most definitely not a mean person

{Brenda spitting on someone, beating them up, and stealing their money}

What would you think if you saw Brenda doing this?

I can think of a couple possibilities

1) Everything I thought I knew about her was wrong

This is unlikely because people can fake it for a little while, but their true nature quickly becomes known - I’ve known Brenda for 34 years and I can tell you that this is not true, She is exactly who she appears to be

2) It’s not really Brenda

Maybe it’s her long lost evil twin sister

That leaves us with only one other possibility

3) There is something else going on

Maybe she’s having mental health issues? And after 34 years with me is that surprising?

Maybe she is filming a television show and there are hidden cameras

There has to be something else going on because what just took place is completely against Brenda’s nature

I believe the same thing when I read some of the difficult passages in Scripture

The passages that paint God as anything other than the loving and merciful God I see in Jesus

I’ll be straight up with you, I don’t have it figured out yet

There are a lot of things that I still struggle with when it comes to this

I just know that God the Father looks and acts like God the Son, and God the Son looks and acts like God the Father

I know that any version of God the Father I have must look like God the Son

God the Father doesn’t send hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, drought, famine, and disease so He can “teach people a lesson”

God the Father does not give kids cancer or cause mass shootings

I know some might be saying “But what about …” No! Just no!

Any version of God the Father that does not look like Jesus is wrong

If you want to know what God the Father is like, look at Jesus

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.”

 

And this God is full of love, compassion, grace, and mercy

 

He’s not angry, wrath filled, and vengeful

 

God is love!