We believe in one God
The Father, the Almighty
Maker of heaven and earth
of all that is seen and unseen
Over the centuries, the Christian church has endured threats to its core beliefs. That should not be surprising. Churches are located all over the world and exist within diverse cultures, political structures and religious systems who have very different understandings of life, freedom, faith and order. These basic challenges were not disagreements on things like worship style, church music, social issues or politics; you will always have that stuff. These threats represented a dire need to clarify what Christians around the world believe about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the authority of Scripture or the nature of the church. In these times of theological crisis, church leaders have sometimes assembled to determine what determines correct belief or “orthodox” and their work was generally stated in the form of a creed. “Credo” in Latin, “creed” simply means “I believe.” The purpose of a creed is to offer a clear and correct statement of what we believe. Not just your individual beliefs, but the beliefs we share collectively. The idea was that a given person, regardless of era, culture or context; when asked what Christians believe, could relay a creed that would land them in the middle of established Christian thought.
A huge problem in our culture is that many Christians simply have not drilled down into what they really believe about the Christian faith. They may attend church, pray, give, serve and invite but they have never truly owned their faith. As a result, they take things they have spent far more time developing, like their politics or stances on social issues and misinterpret their fervor around them for faith in Christ. Their search then becomes a quest for a “Christian position” which results in all kinds of positioning and a near evangelical need to get others to accept their politics or stances. This is a part of the reason many Christians today struggle with engaging in civil discourse, because they consider those who differ from them not be wrong but to be blasphemers. One huge downside of a culture that moves at the speed of insanity is an unexamined faith and we experience symptoms of that disease everywhere. So what is it that Christians actually believe? And upon what sources are those core beliefs based?
For me, the basic question is, “Who is God?” Obviously writers, philosophers and theologians have done much work on the concept of God over the centuries. Over the years, I have read innumerable books on the person of God but for me they all fall short. How can finite and imperfect humans accurately capture the essence of the infinite and holy? Apart from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I don’t think they can, so for the purposes of this blog, I am going to give all writers, philosophers and theologians some time off and we are just going to explore the Bible. Obviously, the sixty-six books of the Bible were also written by people, but Christians believe that this particular collection of books have been uniquely inspired by God. Since I believe the Bible is the best and most accurate testimony to God, let’s look at what the Bible says about God. So let’s dig in and discover some characteristics of God as revealed to us in the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament:
Nine Old Testament Witnesses to God
- God is the Creator (Genesis 1:1) – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. We believe God created everything. Creation is no more God than a painting is an artist but clearly a painting offers us unique insight into the painter. I see the beauty, wonder and intricacies of nature to be a witness to the imagination and sheer intelligence of God.
- God is a warrior (Exodus 15:3) – The Lord is a warrior; Yahweh is his name! If you get nothing else out of the Old Testament you will get this, God is not docile. God has an agenda and God is not waiting for it to come to Him; God is going out and getting it!
- God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4) – “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Though there are infinite aspects to God, God is one. There is unity in God. We often speak of the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to help explain this mystery reminding us that God isn’t just randomly swirling all over…God is one.
- God keep His promises (Deuteronomy 7:9) – Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.
- God is merciful (Nehemiah 9:31) – But in your great mercy, you did not destroy them completely or abandon them forever. What a gracious and merciful God you are!
- God is good (Psalm 34:8) – Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! We can personally experience the goodness of God.
- God is our salvation (Isaiah 12:2) – See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.” God as rescuer.
- God is holy (Isaiah 29:23) – For when they see their many children and all the blessings I have given them, they will recognize the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob. They will stand in awe of the God of Israel. Set apart.
- God is worthy of our Praise (Isaiah 42:8) – “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor share my praise with carved idols. Praise and worship is a proper response to God!
But that is the Old Testament right? In the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, the concept of God seems to get warmer. So, let’s drill down into some New Testament understandings of God.
Seven New Testament Witnesses to God
- God is living – (1 Timothy 4:10) – This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. At it!
- God is love (1 John 4:16) – We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. God’s grip on us…
- God is all-powerful (Luke 1:37) – For the word of God will never fail. God is able
- God is all-knowing (Romans 11:33) – Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge!
- God is knowable (Ephesians 1:17) – asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.
- God has a plan (1 Timothy 6:15) – For, At just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. God is watching the world…
- God is the origin and consummation of history (Revelation 1:8) – “I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”
In Exodus, God is calling Moses to be the deliverer of the Israelites who have been enslaved in Egypt for four hundred years. Moses is understandably hesitant and says, “If I go to my people and say, ‘The God of your ancestors has called me’ they will not believe me and when they ask, ‘Which God?’ what should I tell them?” God replied, “Tell them, I Am Who I Am has sent me to you.” I like that! God’s name is “I Am Who I Am” or “God is God.” So here is the big question: Do you believe in God is God? I can tell you this: I do.
You may wonder just why I believe in I Am Who I Am and here is my theologically weighted answer, “I just do.” I believe humans are hardwired to believe in God. That is why children do it so effortlessly. Obviously many talk themselves out of belief as they get older but faith comes as standard equipment in the human model and we either retain it or have to work pretty hard to have it removed. My belief in God is not the result of the successful application of skilled apologetics or someone answering all my questions or the end result of a soul trek through world philosophy and religions. There is just something inside me that witnesses to the reality of God.
If you ask me why I love my wife Melissa, I would answer, “I just do.” I suppose when we met, someone could have tried to convince me of how wonderful she was, assured me of how pretty she was or what a good wife she would become but it would not have worked. I may have gained appreciation for her or gained insights into her nature but facts, even winsome ones, do not produce love. No one could have possibly argued me into loving Melissa no matter how persuasive. I just came to love her and that love just keeps on maturing on one hand and increasing on the other.
So here is the deal, “I believe in God.” I have found many reasons over the years to better understand who God is, sharpen my theological understandings; grow in my knowledge of how God works and what demands the God may place upon my life but in the end, “I just believe.” The Bible word for such simple belief is called faith and Hebrews 11: 6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” God will NEVER reveal Himself to us in ways that negate the need for faith. So at the end of the day, you are going to determine that human existence is explained by random chance or that there is a Creator; a cosmic intelligence, a divine Father and a larger narrative.
For me, the heavens and the earth, the mountains and the plains; newborn babies and ninety year old couples still in love are far too complex and wonderful to be explained by random chance in an impersonal cosmos. I believe in God.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.