What does it mean to “Believe in God”?

id-10083941

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”  Hebrews 11:6

Humankind has been wrestling with the concept of belief in God for thousands of years.  The most brilliant minds from every side of the issue have argued for and against belief in God.  Lately the voices against have become louder and more widely accepted and belief in God is considered antiquated, foolish and a cause for scorn.  But for a person of faith belief in God is the starting place.  Everything else springs from this crucial point.  Without God our worldview – our understanding of the universe, of life, and of ourselves changes completely.  So, we must nail this one down – What does it mean to “believe in God?”  

Our key verse declares that faith believes in the existence of God and there are evidences all around to prove He does exist.  God has first revealed Himself through His creation.  Romans 1:19-20 says “What may be known about God is plain to [men], because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities- His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made; so that men are without excuse.”  David said “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands…Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”  (Psalm 19:1, 3).  The world around us professes to the reality of God.  When I was in seminary, I had to take Biology – which I saw as useless for a Biblical/Theological degree.  But the more I leaned about the science of life, the more I saw God in creation.  Gaze into an astronomer’s telescope to the farthest reaches of space and God’s handiwork is there.  Look through the most powerful microscope at the most miniscule parts of cellular life and God’s fingerprints are all over it.  There is too much intricacy to the greatest and smallest details of everything that exists to deny the work of a creative Designer.  People of faith believe that the universe and all life was not created by some “cosmic accident” It was created by God. The foundation of faith is the belief in the existence of God as evidenced by everything that surrounds us.

So, is that all there is to it?  Is believing that God exists enough?  Not according to the Bible.  “You believe that there is one God.  Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19).  If the demons of hell profess to the existence of God, then there must be more to faith than simply saying “Yes, I believe there is a God.”  Let’s revisit our key verse and the claim that we must believe that God exists.  The word “exists”  holds a deeper meaning in the original Greek than just being; it carries the impression of acceptance, companionship, belonging, involvement.  It means relationship.  To believe in God is not just intellectual assent, though we cannot miss out on that first vital understanding.  Believing in God means investing all I am in a relationship with my Creator.  It means that I am His and He is mine.  That’s the difference between how the demons believe and how faith believes.  Faith – genuine faith – is both mind and heart – recognizing the truth of God’s existence and making it personal through a relationship that impacts every aspect of our lives.

 I believe in God – and this is not just a rote statement I declare, it is the deepest conviction of my heart and it changes everything about my life.  Beloved, do you believe in God?

 

 

 

 

A Foundation of Faith

thZLAVPS9I

“We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world” (John 4:43).

A sinful woman encountered Jesus one day and an entire village was changed.  The Samaritan woman found Jesus at a well.  He told her who she was, and then He told her who He was.  The Messiah.  She ran to her village and called her neighbors to meet the man who changed her life.  And they came.  And they believed.  Not because of what the woman said about Jesus, but because of what He said about Himself.  “Because of His words many more became believers” (v. 41).  They believed because they heard Him with their own ears and saw Him with their own eyes.  Second-hand faith is not a sustaining faith.  We must hear and know Jesus for ourselves.

I am so grateful for my time as a seminary student.  That experience stretched my mind and my faith in ways I never imagined.  In seminary I learned how to study the Bible for life, how to search out its treasures and discern God’s truth.  I learned how to think critically, how to compare and contrast the many messages I receive every day.  Most of all, I was challenged to consider what I believe.  I looked at everything I claimed to hold as true and examined it carefully, scripturally, practically – and truly made it my own profession of faith.  I took out everything I learned from childhood on and held it up to the light of the Word of God and the wisdom of the Church under the leading of the Holy Spirit.  I found some things needed to be challenged and changed, and some things needed to be nailed down as the foundation of my faith. I no longer stand on what others told me about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, the Church and my faith, I stand on what I know is true and right.  I know what I believe and I believe what I know.

You don’t need to go to seminary to build a strong foundation of faith.  All you need is the Bible and the courage to examine your beliefs through the lens of God’s Word and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.  We’re going to do that together over the next few weeks.  We’re going to ask some critical questions, and dig for the answers.  We’re going to become Bereans. Acts 17 tells about a church that took what Paul taught and lay it along side of Scripture, “to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).  We’re going to find out if what we believe is really true.  That’s the kind of faith that stands firm against the winds of the culture, against the “wisdom” of the world, against the threat of suffering, persecution, and death.  Do you really think the martyrs of old would have died for something they weren’t convinced was true?  You and I need to be sure of our faith and our convictions too. We need to be certain that we have a faith that’s worth living – and dying for. 

 

Stop and Think About It

Selah
In the Psalms we frequently see a word, Selah, tucked in among the verses.  That little word packs a lot of wisdom.  The Amplified version of the Bible renders that word, “stop and think about that.”  The Psalmists use it as a word of warning, encouragement, and comfort.  It’s a two-step process to victory in our Christian walk.
“But you are a shield around me, O Lord, you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah” (Psalm 3:3-4).
“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with sons of deliverance. Selah” (Psalm 3:7)
  When difficulties come, stop and think about God as your shield and your hiding place.  Think about Him placing His great hand under your chin and lifting your sorrowful head.  Thank Him for His protection and deliverance.
“How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth!  He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet.  He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved. Selah” (Psalm 47:2-4).
Stop and think about how worthy God is to be praised – He is the Lord Most High, the great King, the Sovereign over every nation.  Now stop and think about how He has chosen you as His own.
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Selah (Psalm 68:19)
When you are weighted down with burdens, stop and think about God calling you to cast them all on Him so your heart can be at rest. Then do it.
If there is a “secret” to surviving life on this side of heaven it is this:  Stop and Think.  Stop worrying, stop agonizing, stop fretting, stop comparing.  Stop letting your thoughts control you and take control of your thoughts. Think about who He is, think about who you are because of Him, think about His faithfulness in the past, think about His promises, and think about what is true and right and pure and worthy.  Beloved, it’s time stop the negativity in your head, to stop the voice of the enemy speaking  doubt and fear and temptation.  It’s time to fill your heart and mind with  the Words of your Creator and Father and Savior – words of truth and hope and strength. 
Stop and Think – and step up in victory!

Search Me O God

bright-light“The lamp (light showing the way of truth) of the Lord searches (examines, tracks down) the spirit (breath, life) of a man; it searches out his inmost being (heart, chamber, bedroom, the most intimate part of the heart),” Proverbs 20:27.

When we are searching for something important, we turn on every available light and look throughout the room.  We move things that might be covering up what we’re seeking.  We check every corner, hunt through drawers, closets and shelves and we keep looking until we find our target. Sometimes we even go back where we’ve already looked, just in case we missed it the first time.

God has a holy light, a brilliant, powerful light that illumines every corner and crevice of our lives.  He shines that spotlight on us, searching our hearts and minds, out thoughts and intentions, our desires and passions and our actions.  He moves everything we use to cover over our hearts. He looks far deeper than we even know exists, to the most intimate levels of our being, to the place where we find the truth about ourselves.  His purpose is to locate and root out everything in us that does not meet the perfect standard of His children. 

 I need this holy light of truth to examine my life, to track down everything in me that is not conforming to the image of Christ.  I need God to search out every offensive way in me (Psalm 139:24).  In the deepest part of my heart, there are passions and desires that need to be crucified to Christ Jesus (Galatians 5:24) if I am to truly love Him and be a vessel for His glory. 

Lord, I want to be fully open to the Spirit’s examination, I want You to roam throughout my heart, mind and body and expose me to the core. 

Evolution vs. Creation – What do you Believe?

hires“Although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21)

It’s the simplest truth, taught to the littlest children: God created the whole world. It is the opening statement of the Holy Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  This truth is foundational to our understanding of who God is, and in turn who we are.  Mankind has had one of three responses to the biblical account of creation:

Some receive it as truth and accept God as Creator.

Some receive it as a possible truth and add God to their harem of higher powers.

Some outright reject it and deny the power, and often the existence of God.

The Bible calls those who reject the truth godless and wicked because there is proof of God in every tree, flower, mountain, and star and even in their mirror every morning. (Romans 1:18-20).  From the highest heavens that man can see with a telescope to the smallest micro-cellular level of life, God’s fingerprint is clearly visible.  You really have to stretch to deny creation by God.  There’s too much evidence in favor of intelligent design and an intelligent Designer.

Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary science admitted that it is “[extremely difficult] or rather [impossible to] conceive this immense and wonderful universe, including man” without being convicted of the existence of God.  He said he felt “compelled to look to a First Cause” and as such even desired to be called a Theist (one who believes in God).  Yet he abandoned that “strong conclusion” and devised the evolutionary theory that the world has received as an alternative to the truth.  (Taken from a video lecture by Dr. David DeWitt).  All that he could see around him convinced him of the existence of God, but his arrogance led him to reject God and “suppress the truth by [his] wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain  . . . because God has made it plain” (Romans 1:18-19).  His theory has lead millions of human souls away from God.

You and I chose what we believe.  Are you making the right choice?

Be Careful Little Ears What You Hear

5867554“This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.  Listen to Him!” Matthew 17:5

Facebook.  Instagram.  Twitter. Blogs. Articles.  Books.  Everyone has an opinion, and we all want to be heard.  Whether it’s politics, childrearing, fashion or religion, the world – and that includes you and me – is quick to share their thoughts on any given subject.  Some are more, shall we say prolific, than others (think Kardashian) and some only speak when it’s something they are passionate about.  Or maybe, we’re so busy doing all the talking we can’t hear what others have to say.  I’m a writer, so I’m as guilty as the next person.  The question is, in this sea of public opinion, whose opinion are we listening too?  Kim K’s?  The media’s?  The candidates’? Or our own?

Jesus took three disciples with Him to the mountain top to witness the extraordinary – His glory coupled with the appearance of Moses, who represented the Law, and Elijah, who represented the prophets.  Peter was so overcome with excitement that he started babbling his opinion – “Let’s make three booths, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Matthew 17:4).  I have no doubt that James and John were nodding their heads in eager agreement.  They had the wisest of wise men and the very Son of God before them and the three disciples couldn’t hold their tongues long enough to hear what they had to say.  God had to shake them up – and shut them up.

When I was much younger and more naïve spiritually, I attended a weekly Bible study.  I cringe when I recall asking the teacher, “Do I really have to read the Bible? Can’t I just read books about the Bible? It’s too hard to understand.”  She was wise and patient in her answer: “Never take anyone else’s opinion for what God has to say but God Himself.”  That has stuck with me for thirty years and now, as a Bible teacher, I tell my classes the same thing.   Only God’s opinion matters.  What others have to say, no matter how profound they seem, whether it’s Billy Graham, Beth Moore, or Dorcas Beth Andrews – you take it to the Holy Word of Holy God and verify it against the Scriptures that were inspired by the Spirit of God.  That’s what the Berean church did and the Bible calls them people of “noble character, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).

Want to know what really matters in the cacophony of voices? You’ll find it between the pages of Genesis and Revelation.  God’s Word matters above every other voice.  Find out what He has to say to you.

By Faith

faith“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).

Since the day the stone was rolled away from His tomb, many have rejected the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, the foundation of the Christian faith.  The Jewish religious leaders concocted a lie to deny His resurrection, claiming that His disciples stole His body away.  But His followers were certain that He had returned to life because they had seen him with their own eyes, and touched Him with their own hands.  They shared meals with Him, walked with him, and marveled in His presence.  Saul encountered the resurrected Lord on the road to Damascus, and though he did not physically touch Him, he heard his voice with his own ears and saw Him in glory so bright that it blinded his human eyes.  These were the last eyewitnesses of Jesus.

To us, they are specially blessed because they had seen and heard and touched.  They had the advantage of His physical presence to bolster their faith.  Who could doubt after witnessing the resurrected Lord?  (Believe it or not, some did-Matthew 28:17.) But what about you and me?  We have not physically seen Him or touched Him or heard Him, and that makes faith a challenge for us.  We like proof that we can affirm physically.  Isn’t that what our culture has taught us?  Don’t trust anything you can’t prove.  I’ve talked with several people who are firm in their unbelief and they always come back to the same manta:  “When you can prove God scientifically, I’ll believe.”

But hear what Jesus said to one of His disciples: “Because you have seen me you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29-italics added).  That’s you and me and every believer since the Day of Pentecost when the Church was born (ref: Acts 2).  Jesus is saying that we are more blessed because we haven’t seen than are those who have.

Why would that be?  Because when we “live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), we show that we believe God is truthful in all He has said and promised.  Our faith is a testament to who God is.  That is why John said “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has [God’s testimony] in his heart” (1 John 5:10).  God’s testimony is twofold: is it the declaration that Jesus is His Son (Matthew 3:17), and it is the promise that God has given us eternal life through His Son (ref. 1 John 5:11).  In other words, we affirm to the world that God is truthful.  It’s not as though God needs our affirmation, but the world needs to be convicted of the truth of God.

By contrast John says, “Anyone who does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about His Son” (1 John 5:10).  When men reject Jesus Christ, they are saying that God is not truthful nor trustworthy.

The heart of faith is what we believe about God and about what He has said through His Word, His Son and His Spirit.  We see that in Hebrews 11—the “Hall of Faith”—as saint after saint hears God, believes God and acts on what God has said. God told Noah, build a boat, because a flooding rain is coming.  Until the flood, rain had never fallen on the earth, so Noah had to decide if he was going to believe what he had known all his life, or believe what God told him.  Noah believed and built the ark, and God declared him righteous because of his faith.  Abraham, an old man, married to an old woman heard God say – your wife will bear you a son who will become the seed of the promise I have made to you.  Abraham, though he faltered at first, believed God, and Isaac became their joy and delight.  When God commanded him to sacrifice this same son, Abraham weighed God’s promise against what would be the physical outcome of this action, and he believed God and acted in obedience. God spared Isaac’s life and fulfilled His promise.  The Bible is full of faith-filled people like Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Esther, and many more.

When I say I am a Christian, I am not making a statement about my assent to the truths of Christianity; I am making a statement about the truthfulness of what God has said about Jesus Christ: “This is my Son” and “Eternal life is through Him.”  I believe these words are true.  When I say that I believe in Jesus, I am putting all my hope and confidence is God’s power to save me as He has promised.  That is why “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 13:1).  I cannot see Jesus with my own eyes, nor have I ever seen heaven.  But I believe that He is the risen Lord and that His sacrifice is sufficient to save me and give me eternal life.

If you believe in Jesus Christ, you are blessed in every way; for this life and life eternal.  You are blessed because you stand on the confidence of God’s testimony, not on the traditions of men.  You are blessed because

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepare for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:10).

But for us who believe, “we will see the glory of God” (John 11:40).  Our faith will be made sight and our hope in Christ will be confirmed.  In the chronicles of heaven our names will be recorded among the great saints of human history, and we will be commended with who pleased God by their faith.  What a blessing it is to believe!

Holy Father, I believe, not because I can see, but because You have said, and I know Your words are true.  My faith is in Your Son, Jesus Christ, who was and is and is to come.  In Him is all my hope and trust.  Amen.

Am I a Child of God?

Cross-and-BIble2“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

In a recent devotional on Matthew 25, I presented Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish virgins, where the Lord’s message is clear: there is an eternal difference between those who know about Me and those who know Me.    It is vitally important that we know that difference for our own lives.  Thankfully the Bible gives us a very clear-cut way to examine ourselves and know the truth.  I encourage you to grab your Bible and follow along as we read in 1 John (almost at the end of the Bible).

The book of 1 John was written by one of Jesus’ disciples, the same John who wrote the gospel of John and the book of Revelation.  1 John is part of three letters written to the church in Ephesus, which was under attack by false teachers.  A group of philosophers, known as Gnostics had infiltrated the church, claiming a “higher, secret truth” that set them apart from the common Christian.  They deemed themselves above the teachings of the Scriptures and the Church with a superior holiness that excused their sinful behaviors, yet they still called themselves “Christians”.  (Hmmm, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)  So the old apostle takes pen in hand and says, there is only one God, only one truth, and this is how you can know where you stand.  Ready? Let’s dig in!

John says that those who belong to God “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7) “as Jesus did” (2:6).  The child of God choses to live in the light, where their deeds are visible.  By contrast, those who do not belong to God “walk in the darkness” (1:6, 11) where their deeds are hidden, they think, from God and men.  The child of God “does not love the world” (2:15), meaning the twisted and evil value system of the world.  But those who do not belong to God “love the world” (2:15).  Their hearts are drawn to what the world values: sex, power, money, deception . . .

The heart of the child of God “is at peace with God” (3:21) because he “listens to God” (4:6). He “obeys [Jesus’] commands” (2:3), “does what is right” (2:29; 3:10), and “does not continue to live in sin” (3:16).  When he does falter, which is the exception rather than the rule (2:1), he is quick to “confess [his] sins” (1:9) and be forgiven and purified.  The heart of the one who does not belong to God “condemns him before God” (3:21) because he listens to the world.  He “does not do what is right” (3:10) and “does not obey [Jesus’] commands” (2:4).  He “continues to [live in] sin” (3:6, 10) and then “denies his sin” (1:8).  Those who do not belong to God have convinced themselves that their actions are not sinful because they “speak the world’s viewpoint” and “the world listens to them” (4:5-6).  Just let that statement sink in for a minute.

Those who belong to God enjoy “fellowship with one another” (1:7), and “love their brother/sister [in Christ]” (2:10 and multiple verses). They love the company of believers, love to gather with the church, and love one another sacrificially (3:16-19) “in action and truth” (3:18).  The one who does not belong to God hates those who are in Christ (2:9 and multiple verses); they “do not love” (3:14, 4:8), and certainly do not love sacrificially.  “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has not pity on him, how can the love of God be in him” (3:17)?

Those who belong to God “believe that Jesus is the Christ . . . the Son of God” (2:20-23; 5:5), because they “know the truth” (2:20).  They “love the Father” (5:1-2) and “do not fear punishment” (4:18) because they have “Christ’s Spirit within them” (3:24).  Those who do not belong to God are “liars” who “deny that Jesus is the Christ . . . the Son of God” (2:22-23; 5:10) because they “do not know the truth” (2:20).  They “do not love the Father” (5:1) and “fear God’s punishment” (4:18) because they do not have Christ’s Spirit (3:24).

One of the most telling and public ways of discerning the difference in God’s people and those with a pseudo-faith is how they respond to persecution.  In John’s day the claim of Christianity was often a death sentence.  Many who enjoyed the church’s benefits, when pressed with the decision to deny Christ or die, chose to “turn away” (2:19) rather than suffer for the name of Jesus.  Those who stood fast in their love and devotion to Christ did so at the risk of severe punishment and death.  In other parts of the world today, Christians are being murdered for their faith.  In the West, the risks are more subtle—for now—but it is clear that the tide is quickly turning and those who love Jesus will be faced with greater oppression.  John says that those who belong to God will remain faithful to their confession of Jesus as their Lord (2:21). The time is coming—soon—when our true relationship with God will be a public, and possibly deadly matter.  The evidence of the true child of God shows up in our conduct, our love, and our willingness to stand firm and persevere when being a Christian isn’t popular anymore.

As you come to the end of this devotional, there are two ways to consider this message.  You are either assured of your standing as a child of God, or you are convicted by what is true of your life and beliefs.  I pray you do not walk away without settling the matter.  Beloved, how is it with you and God today?

Holy Father, we stand before You in the light of Your Word. The truth is clear and we cannot deny it.  Help us to be honest in our answers.  Help us to open our hearts to You.  Amen.

Advent 2015 – Day 6 – Hope That Never Fails

Advent candle 1This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance . . . we have put our hope in the living God who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.  1 Timothy 4:10

“Oh I hope it doesn’t rain out the picnic today!”  “I hope I did well on that Biology exam.”  “I hope she will go with me to the prom.”  “I hope . . .” It’s like saying “I’d like for it to be so, but I just don’t know.”  In our ever-changing world, there are very few things we can count on anymore.   In the past quarter-century we’ve seen our society change at a break-neck pace, and not always for the better.  Isn’t there anything or anyone we can put our hope in that won’t let us down?

God.  God is the only sure and solid foundation for hope.

He is El Khi—the Living God and the source of all life.  Would you rather put your hope in a living God or in “chance?”  Chance is shifting sand.  Only the Living God is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

He is the Soter—the Savior of all men.  The greatest need all humans have is for a Savior, someone to rescue us from our sin.  God sent His one and only Son, the Babe we honor in this Christmas season, to pay the penalty for our sin.  He gives us hope because He is our Savior.

These things are true – they are trustworthy.  We can put our hope in God because He is faithful.  He promises salvation for all who believe, and He always—always­­­—keeps His word.  If you need a hope that never fails, hope in the Living God who is your Savior.  He is a trustworthy God and a sure foundation of hope.

The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Know

resurrectionChrist Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God.  Romans 8:34

In the world of biology, all organisms are classed or grouped together by certain similarities and separated by differences in their cellular makeup.  These grouping are known as “kingdoms,” such as the “plant kingdom,” and the “animal kingdom.”  Those are pretty obvious in their classifications, but other groupings such as bacteria and a kingdom known as “Prostista” (complex microscopic cells) have a far wider range of characteristics.  So how do the biologists determine the criteria for classifying species? My Biology 101 textbook made a statement that drew my attention: “Evolutionary assumptions are generally used to decide which characteristics are most primitive and therefore most important.”[1]  In other words, in tracing a species’ changes and growth, classifications are based on the most basic characteristics—it’s “starting point”—as the most important.  Please note, I am not endorsing an evolutionary perspective, but merely pointing to the way all life forms grow and change from their earliest state.  For instance, all human beings start from the same organisms and from there a person changes and grows, but the basic building blocks of human life are evident throughout those changes.  All humans share this starting point, regardless of gender or ethnicity or location.  Thus we classify all humans differently from say plant life or bacteria.

So how does a biology lesson apply to a Christian devotional?  I’m glad you asked.  The Christian faith has experienced a tremendous amount of change over the past two-thousand years.  Some of these changes have been positive, such as the agreement of the doctrines of the faith and some have challenged and strengthened the faith—consider the inspiration of the martyrs during the persecution of the church.  Some changes have been hard, but necessary, such as the Reformation, which gave birth to Protestantism.  From there we have multiple branches of denominations, each with their own traditions and structure.  These are not bad things in themselves but they have changed the complexity of the faith.  And yes, some changes have caused havoc, confusion and turmoil in the church.  I’ll leave those unnamed so we don’t lose focus.  The point is, all these changes have added layers to the basic truths of Christianity.

The question then becomes, when we strip away all these added layers what is the “most primitive and most important” aspect of the Christian faith?

Paul makes it very clear in his letter to the church in Corinth:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time . . . Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appear to me also.”  1 Corinthians 15:3-7.

The death of Jesus Christ, His burial and His resurrection are the core, the root, and the foundation of the Christian faith.  Paul said that those are “of first importance.”  That does not mean that other doctrine of the faith are of lesser importance.  We must recognize the humanity and divinity of Jesus, the incarnation and the virgin birth, but the heart of our faith is the fact that Jesus died, evidenced by His burial, and that He rose again, as seen by the many witnesses afterward.  If your faith is built on anything other than this, if your confidence is in your religious affiliation, if you follow a Jesus who is a “good teacher and moral example,” if you adhere to traditions rather than truth, I dare to say you do not have saving faith.  Only faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is saving faith.  If your Christianity is not built on this single most important truth of all, then you should reconsider whether you truly are a Christian.

Why are these so important?  Without the death of Jesus, our sin debt remains.  Only Jesus could be the perfect sacrifice for your sin and my sin and the sins of all of humankind.  Simply put, Jesus’ death paid for our sins.  But why is it so important to know about His burial?   Because without the grave His death is a question not a fact.   Jesus was visibly buried in an earthly grave to validate His death.  It is also important because, to borrow from Bill Gaither, “The empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.”[2]  The empty tomb was the first indication that Jesus’ followers had that He was alive.  Jesus’ resurrection is the assurance we have of eternal life.  Without His resurrection, we are trusting in a dead man with no power.  But He is alive and He promises us that we will have life everlasting if we believe and trust in Him.

There are many facets to the Christian faith and we do well to learn about atonement, justification, sanctification, grace, Christology and the other great truths of Christianity.  If you’ve never studied these important doctrines, I encourage you to do so.   They will enrich your understanding of the Bible and of your relationship with Christ.  Consider them the building blocks of your faith.  But before you start building, make certain you are on the rock-solid foundation of “first importance.”  Be sure your faith is resting on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Chris. “All other ground is sinking sand.”[3]

Lord Jesus, there are many voices that claim to know the truth, but only Your Word tells us what is “of first importance.”  Guard Your church Jesus lest we wander from the substance of our faith and lose our foundation.  Amen.

 

[1] Charles Detwiler, Kimberly Mitchell and Norman Reichenbach, Life by Design, (Boston, Cengage Learning, 2014), 14.

[2] William J Gaither and Gloria Gaither, Because He Lives, (1971).

[3] Edward Mote and William B. Bradbury, The Solid Rock, (n.d.)