A Young Theologian’s Christian Convictions

An Explanation of the Hope We Have in Christ

The Journey

We believe that everyone is on a journey in life. We’re all part of a greater story, yet many of us don’t know how we fit into it.Some of us are searching for meaning, wanting to make a lasting impact in the world. Others are looking for answers to deep questions. Still others are experiencing hurts and are longing for healing and hope.

We believe in the story of life as presented in the Christian Scriptures.  We believe that this story is true and it is the best way to make sense out of the world around us. We believe that there are answers and hope for all who search for God with all their heart.  In this post-Christian culture, few people know the Bible or its message. We believe that it is important to explain the foundations of the Christian story to everyone willing to listen.

 

Creator

We believe that in the past, present, and future, God exists eternally in a loving community as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Church throughout history — when describing that there is one God and three distinct persons — has called this divine community “trinity”, meaning threefold-unity. This does not mean that there are three Gods or that there is one God with a split personality. But as Christian scholars have derived from the Scriptures: “God is one “essence” (ousia) but three “centers of consciousness” or “independent realities” (hypostaseis).[1]

This trinitarian God is the Creator and King of all things. This means that everything comes from him and is created for him. For all time, love and glory have been expressed and shared within the Trinity. God is motivated by love. It is not an erotic love as can be idolized in our highly sexualized culture. It is a love that is deeply sacrificial and selfless: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, selflessly serving one another out of love.[2]

In love, the Creator and King chose to extend his perfect love to mankind. He created man and woman with dignity and equality in his image. God created us so that we could enjoy him and reflect his good character throughout the world. He created the world with beauty and purpose. He instructed humankind to care for, manage and govern his creation. His desire is for us to live in pure and devoted fellowship with our Creator.[3]

God is also motivated by glory. Out of love, each member of the Trinity aims to express their glory with one another and to the world. God does not share his glory with anyone else. He has created the cosmos for the sake of his glory. We exist for his glory, to spread the fame of his name throughout the cosmos. He has made all things for himself. That is, the Father created the world through the Son, by the Spirit, to show their glory through all creation and to all creation. God acts throughout history for the sake of his name. Fifty times in the book of Ezekiel, God says that he acts so that they “will know that I am Yahweh”.[4]

So God is neither a God of gushy love, nor is he harsh removed from our cares, only concerned about his glory. He is not a cosmic vending machine who exists merely to please us and give us what we want. Nor is he a cold, heartless tyrant who dictates over his slaves. God is love and God is holy.[5]

God is holy and distinct from anything we’ve ever known. Yet he has created the world and a multitude of things in the world to reflect a degree of his character. In one sense, we can say “God is like…”, and in another sense, our comparisons don’t even come close. They can only be expressed analogically. We can compare the creation to the Creator in the same way that we can compare the light of a flashlight to the radiance of the sun. Both emit light, both produce heat. But this would not do the comparison justice until we describe the magnitude of difference between the two. We can hold a flashlight in our hands. If we come too close to the sun, we will be consumed by its unbearable heat. We are like a drop in the bucket, like dust on the scales to him. Because God is immanent, he has chosen to reveal many of his attributes through various forms of revelation. Because God is transcendent, we recognize the limitations of our analogies.[6]

He refers to himself as I AM – the great presence who has always existed – sufficient in himself. He is beyond this world. He is transcendent. Our God is in the Heavens. His ways and thoughts are far beyond ours. And yet he is immanent. He is not far from any of us. He is so intimately involved in our lives. He knows each word before it leaves our lips. He even knows the number of hairs on our heads.[7]

God is good. He is the source of all goodness. He is perfectly righteous. He is a God of justice: not letting the wicked go unpunished. He cares about his creation and his glory: not letting either be abused without confrontation. Yet God is merciful, compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. He is all knowing and wise. Therefore, God can make even the worst scenarios work toward good outcomes for the glory of his name and for the flourishing of his people.[8]

 

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

We believe that God is the origin and embodiment of truth. He is the ultimate reality of all time. As he has chosen to extend his love to mankind, he has chosen to reveal his truth to us as well. That is, the truth of who he is, the reason we exist, the problem we all face, and the solution of hope that he alone offers.

Throughout history, God has revealed his truth to humanity. By the Holy Spirit, he spoke through prophets. He orchestrated scribes, carrying them along to record and preserve his truth. Their writings were compiled in the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments. This is what is commonly known as the Bible. The Bible is not a collection of myths and moral tales. Nor is it propaganda, corrupted and changed according to the likes of political or religious rulers. The Bible is inspired by the Spirit, fully trustworthy, and stands as our highest authority. We have confidence in this because God is altogether wise and powerful. He is capable of perfect communication through imperfect people. He is equally capable of preserving his words from generation to generation.[9]

At the climax of human history, God entered the story he created. Over two thousand years ago, he became fully human, revealing his truth in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the incarnate Son of God, not just a great moral teacher. He is the full embodiment of God’s self-revelation, not merely a messenger who points to it. Eastern and Western religions alike esteem the moral “Golden Rule”. It says “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. According to Jesus, this happens to be the second greatest commandment.

Jesus taught that the first and central demand of God’s law is this: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength”. Jesus makes it clear, we were created to love all people, and more importantly, to love God most of all. This is the purpose for which we were created: to reflect God’s glory and love in our relationships with him and each other.[10]

 


 

Pride comes before the fall

Throughout history, and today, humanity rebels against the Creator and King. We reject his offer of life. At the root of our rebellion is pride. This rebellion results in the loss of our initial dignity, honor, and glory that we had as God’s people. It not only hurts ourselves and those around us, but it also attempts to steal God’s glory.  It values created things rather than the Creator of all things. It puts us in God’s place, at the centre of our lives. This self-centeredness, this pride, is what the Bible calls sin.[11]

The Bible says that all people have sinned and fall short of God’s standard of goodness. Because we reject the Creator of life, death and separation from God become the ultimate consequence for us all. Because we rebel against the King of the universe, who is worthy of infinite honour, we face the wrath of a holy and just God.  The bible calls this everlasting state of death, separation and anguish “hell”. Hell is not a temporary sentence to reform our attitudes, but an eternal place of torment.[12]

 

Gospel

The word Gospel means good news. It’s the good news that God loved us so much that he came to us in history to restore our story. Through the person of Jesus Christ, God came to fix the brokenness in our lives and bring us to himself. He showed us what he is like by becoming human, like us, yet remaining fully divine as well. He showed us what it is like to live as a perfect human, unlike us. The Son showed perfect obedience to the Father and lived as our perfect example.[13]

Jesus died on a Roman cross to display God’s mercy and to fulfill God’s justice. He offered the exchange of his life for ours. Jesus took our rejection and sentence to hell so that we could return to God in a right relationship. By faith through grace we receive the forgiveness and righteousness of Christ. We now forgive others as we have been forgiven.[14]

He rose from the dead on the third day and gives believers his resurrection life so that we too may live new lives. And as God makes our lives new, following Jesus’ ways, he wants to restore and renew our community and the world.[15]

 

Community of new lives

God plans to restore our world through his redeemed people. The Father plans redemption, the Son mediates it, and the Spirit applies it to our lives. Jesus calls his followers to be the church.  This is a group identified by those whose highest hope and allegiance are in God through Jesus Christ by the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who preaches the word of the gospel to our hearts and causes us to be born again. He brings us from death to life. The Holy Spirit is known as the Spirit of adoption. He becomes the inner witness that we are God’s children. He puts God’s law on our hearts and leads us to pray according to God’s will. It is through the Holy Spirit that our character begins to look more and more like that of Jesus. He gives us new desires and yet he does not override our personality. The Spirit gives us a new identity in Christ and empowers us to live accordingly. The Spirit is sanctifying us; making us holy as God is holy. We are being conformed to the likeness of Christ, purified from one degree to another. Because of this work of sanctification – and the justification we have in Christ – we can now approach a holy God.[16]

The Spirit delivers spiritual gifts to God’s people to further the gospel and to glorify God. By the Spirit’s power, we are made into bold witnesses, ready to proclaim the good news of Jesus to the world. But the Spirit of God does not simply do this work in individuals so that we can go into the world as independent mercenaries. The Spirit of the triune God fills us, shapes us and brings us together so that we can reflect the divine community of love. It is the Spirit of God who brings such a diverse community into unity. There is no place in the church for divisions of God’s people based on race or social status. The church is a reconciled people who live new lives by the Holy Spirit and will be with each other and God for eternity.[17]

 

Hope

We believe that one day God will make right all that was ruined. He will restore all that has been broken ever since we first became proud and turned from God to our own ways. He will come to judge the world, to bring justice, to heal the broken, to restore and renew the whole world. We will not be disembodied spirits for eternity, floating around from cloud to cloud. We, along with all of creation, will be made new. We will have physical bodies, but there will be no more pain, no more death, and no more tears. God will eradicate all evil. Those who do not turn from their self-centered ways will be cast into hell for eternal punishment. God will bring the fullness of his kingdom to earth. The earth will be established with the perfect peace that the world has been longing for. Most of all, we will finally be in perfect fellowship with God and he will be our eternal joy.[18]

We do not know the time or hour that Christ will return to make all things right. We need to always be prepared to explain the hope we have. People everywhere are faced with this urgent call to respond to God’s mercy in Christ.[19]

If you have not yet received life in the Spirit then today is the day to turn your whole life to God. Today is the day to turn to God for forgiveness and freedom from sin. The Spirit of God is saying, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts”. Jesus is calling you to turn from sin, to follow him, and entrust your life into his faithful hands.[20]

 

[1] Grenz, Stanley J.; Smith, Jay T. (2015-01-13). Created for Community: Connecting Christian Belief with Christian Living (Kindle Locations 674-675). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. Cf. Deut 6:4; Gal 3:20;Matt 3:16, 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14.

[2] Col 1:16; Jn 6:38; 14:31; 15;10; 17:5.

[3] Gen 1:26,27,28,31; 2:15;

[4] Eph 1:6,12, Jn 7:18; 17:5; 16:14; Is 48:11; Mt 5:16; 1 Cor 10:31; Pr 16:4; Ps 19:1.

[5] 1 Pe 5:7; 1 Jn 4:8, Isaiah 6:3; Rev 4:8.

[6] Is 40:15; 55:8-9; 2 Ch 2:6; Jb 26:14; 38ff; Heb 12:29; Rom 1:20.

[7] Ex 3:14; Ps. 90:2; 8:4; 115:3; 139; Is 55:8-9; Acts 17:27; Jer 23:23;, Lk 12:17.

[8] Ps 136:1; 145:17; Js 1:17; Pr 11:21; Mt 12:36; Heb 4:13; Ps 86:15; 116:5; Rom 11:33-34; 8:28.

[9] Jn 14:6; Heb 1:1; 2 Pe 1:21; Acts 28:25; 2 Tim 3:15-17; Rom 11:33; Job 36:5; Dan 2:20; Eph 3:20.

[10] Jn 1:14; 14:9; Mt 16:16; Heb 1:3; Mk 12:33;

[11] Rom 3:23; 2:23; 1:23; Pr 14:34.

[12] Rom 6:23; Jn 3:36; Heb 10:29-31; Lk 12:5; Mk 9:43-44.

[13] Jn 3:16; Eph 5:27; Heb 2:17; 4:15; Jn 13:15; 1 Pe 2:21.

[14] Rom8:3; 2 Cor 5:21; Rom 3:26; 5:9; Mt 27:46; Eph 2:8; Col 3:13.

[15] 1 Cor 15:4; Rom 6:4; Phil 3:10; Eph 1:10; Col 1:20.

[16] Rom 8:19-22; Eph 1:7; Jn 3:5-8; Jn 6:68; 15:26; Rom 8:11,15,26; Jer 31:33; Gal 5;17; Eze 36:26; 2 Cor 3:18; cf 1 Pe 1:16; Heb 10:19.

[17] 2 Cor 5:19; 1 Cor 12:4; Acts 1:8; Eph 4:3; 2:18; Jas 2:9; Rev 1:6.

[18] Rev 21:1-5,8; Is 25:8; 2 Cor 5:1-5; Mt 25:31; Jn 17:3.

[19] Mk 13:32; 1 Pe 3:15; 2 Tim 4:1-2; 1 Thess 5:2; Rev 1:3.

[20] Heb 3:7; Mt 4:19.

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