“From Nothing to Abundance” by Pastor Andy Braams

Three months ago, we were carrying on in our lives with the usual cares and concerns. Two months ago, much of what we thought was important had changed. Within just a matter of days, it was impossible to find toilet paper, Lysol, sanitizer, bread, cereal, and other staples. But perhaps the biggest concern was the scarcity of masks for the medical personnel. As we move forward, many supplies are still not available. Other items have restrictions on the amount that can be purchased. Some of you have experienced this personally, and it has impacted you in various ways.

Ultimately, the issue is related to a mindset of scarcity – and specifically, its relation to abundance. For years, we were a people living in an economy that was experiencing unprecedented abundance. Now, much of that thinking has been changed. But worldwide, approximately 702 million people (or twice the population of the United States) live on less than $1.90 per day (that’s $694 per YEAR!!!).

That is why I say that scarcity is a mindset. Because I know some of those individuals who make less in a year than I do in a week. I am by no means wealthy in terms of money. But compared to many around the world, I am. But even those of us who have more than most, have a scarcity mindset at times – which is so evident when we consider hoarding. Because although hoarding may seem like someone has an abundance of something, the nature of hoarding actually comes from a mindset of scarcity. And scarcity comes from a mindset of not having enough trust – particularly in God.

I am not suggesting that we should not save for a rainy day. I am not suggesting that we should not make long-term plans with our resources. But I am saying that trusting God means we can share, we must share, of the resources that we have received. We will see this idea plainly in the passage today.

Why should we share? Because, as I have been saying for the last three weeks specifically, we are better together. Again, we are experiencing that in a very real way now that we are gathering together again, but beyond that, we must realize that learning, and living, and worshipping, and doing ministry, and sharing with others is all better when we do it together. We are better together.

And we are better when we include others. We see that time and time again – in the New Testament AND in the Old Testament.

And sometimes we find this truth in little known stories from unexpected sources, and unnamed individuals. Stick with me for the next few minutes and I will share with you such a story and why it matters for us today.

Before continuing, please read 2 Kings 6.24-32; 7.1-2.

At the end of 2 Kings 6, the king of Syria had overtaken Samaria (the northern kingdom of Israel). Verse 25 says that a great famine was taking place and a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels of silver. Ok, we may not have much context for that. But notice that ¼ of a quart of dove dung sold for five shekels of silver. While we do not know what type of coin Judas got, it definitely could have been a shekel. If true, dove dung was worth about 1/6 the amount that Judas got for betraying Jesus! That is a sermon for another day!

But the price would not stay that way for long. Read 2 Kings 7.1-2.

Soon after, Elisha said that the going value for seven quarts of fine flour would be a shekel. And fourteen quarts of barley would be a shekel.

Thus, in a short span of time (Elisha said, “tomorrow”), people went from paying five shekels for ¼ quart of dung to one shekel for seven quarts of flour. In other words, scarcity turned to abundance overnight.

But the captain of the king did not believe it could happen, and so while he did see the prophecy come true, he did not get to experience it.

But why did the scarcity turn to abundance?

The answer lies in God doing what only God can do and four unlikely heroes doing what they knew they should do. And when I say unlikely, I mean unlikely. Because as verse 3 tells us, they were lepers.

The lepers were preparing to die. They would die if they stayed where they were. They would die if they went into the city. No food existed for them. So, they had an idea to go to the enemy to see about getting some help there. But the Syrians had abandoned their camp because God made the Syrian army hear the sound of a mighty army approaching. That is the part that only God can do.

Verse 7 tells us that the Syrians left behind everything including their horses and donkeys. Verse 8 mentions food and drink as well as gold and silver. They left everything and these four men were the recipients – and the only recipients!

What would you do? What if you and three of your close friends found a huge stash of money? Furthermore, what would you do if everyone else wanted nothing to do with you – that is, you were an outcast? You found the loot. No one likes you. What would you do?

Well, they did what most people would do. They started taking it and hid it for themselves (v. 8). But then they realized that wasn’t right. They had every opportunity to hoard. Perhaps, they had every reason to hoard. Remember, the price of dove dung was outrageous. Scarcity was not just a mentality; it was a reality.

But these four men realized a greater possibility. Despite their condition and despite their opportunity, they knew the right thing was to share the abundance with others. (Read 2 Kings 7.9-10.)

But notice the king had a scarcity mindset. (Read 2 Kings 7.12) A servant recommended sending a scout team to determine the facts. When they returned seeing that the Syrians had fled and left even more stuff as they ran away, the people went out and plundered everything. But let me read the rest of the chapter. (Read 2 Kings 7.17-20.)

The man who did not believe the prophecy of Elisha was trampled. He did live to see the abundance, but he did not get to partake – just as Elisha said.

CONCLUSION

What do we take from this story? I think we can find at least four specific principles.

      1. God will do what only God can do. And He will do it when His time is right.
      2. When God is doing His part, we must do ours.
      3. When we partner with God, He will be glorified and the multitudes will be blessed.
      4. Not everyone will experience all that God has for them to experience.

But I think the last two principles relate to the idea of our mindset.

Granted, the people benefited from the actions of four men. That will happen. But if those four men had been selfish, no one would have benefited except themselves. The land was in a famine, but they overcame a mindset of scarcity and shared from the abundance.

But the captain of the king did not believe. He could not believe. And thus, he did not benefit. His was a mindset of scarcity.

Ladies and gentleman, our culture has a mindset of scarcity right now. We are in a bit of a “great famine” in a sense. Sure, COVID-19 has played a part in that, but have we gone overboard. Is hoarding necessary? Is stockpiling every possible supply truly helpful? Again, I am not suggesting that we do not prepare for a rainy day. And right now, we are in a rainy season, if you will. But the clouds will lift someday and then what? I suppose all of the extra supplies can be donated, but still.

But, I want us to focus on the idea that these men knew what they should do – AND THEY DID IT. If you have been watching my daily videos, you will know that I have repeatedly discussed the difference between intentions and intentionality. In this story it is the difference between the men thinking “maybe we should tell others about the bounty we have found” but keeping it for themselves versus actually telling others about the bounty.

Ultimately the difference between intentions and intentionality in this story is the difference between paying way too much for bird dung to being able to provide families with substantive food. The four lepers simply did what they could do because they knew what they should do.

And that leads us to our 4 Ls. But first, let me share our JOURNEY letter for today.

JOURNEY

Our JOURNEY letter for today is EENGAGE.

The Engage part of our Strategy related to evangelism. The word evangelism simply means to tell others the good news. We are to tell the good news, and to do that we need to engage with others. That is what the men in this story did. They found a treasure of food, supplies, and money, and they told others. It was good news indeed. And because they told others, everyone received the blessing.

That is what happens when we share the good news of Jesus. We offer everyone who hears the good news – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the opportunity to receive blessings.

NEXT STEPS:

LEARN.  In order to tell the good news, we must hear it. We must know it. In other words, we must LEARN it. The men in this story actually discovered the good news, but discovery is a part of learning.

LIVE.  After we LEARN what the good news is, we need to LIVE it. We need to apply what we know to our lives. Just like the men in this story, they knew what they should do, and they did it. We need to do the same.

LOVE.  As we LIVE according to the Good News, we begin to LOVE God and love others more. This love enables us to serve others even when it is difficult. Again, the men of this story were lepers. They were not likely shown much love. They likely were ridiculed. But they served others because it was the right thing to do.

LEAD.  Ultimately, our LOVE for others will require us to share our lives with others. In other words, our lives can be an influence on others. That is what leadership is. It is influence. The four men influenced others by their action of sharing. Imagine how much influence they had to LEAD after that!

We need to be people who continue to LEARN, to LIVE what we learn, to LOVE while we LIVE, and to LEAD others to do the same. If we do what we are to do, and let God do what only He can do, then like this story, all of us can experience the blessings of God in ways that we can otherwise not imagine.

We are living in a time when most people have a mindset of scarcity. Maybe the scarcity is related to food or household items, maybe it is related to health, or any number of other matters. But as this story shows, it just takes people willing to do something a little different to turn scarcity into abundance. I believe God acted because these four men were willing to act. And because God acted, and the people acted, the prospects of a nation changed – at least for a while.

So, if your mindset is focused on scarcity, ask God to help you see the abundance in your life. Move your mindset from one of scarcity to one of abundance. When we live with a mindset of abundance (not prosperity, but abundance), we can say with the psalmist – “I shall not want.” And that is only possible by living in the economy of God, by trusting God, and by being willing to do your part as God does His part too.

“Better Together” by Pastor Andy Braams

Just over a week ago, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted that Samaritan’s Purse must leave the city over its biblical views on homosexuality.

“It is time for Samaritan’s Purse to leave NYC. This group, led by the notoriously bigoted, hate-spewing Franklin Graham, came at a time when our city couldn’t in good conscience turn away any offer of help. That time has passed,” Johnson wrote on Twitter last Saturday. “Their continued presence here is an affront to our values of inclusion, and is painful for all New Yorkers who care deeply about the LGBTQ community.” (1)

The councilman used the word inclusion. I have a simple question. How inclusive is his statement?

Now, the reality is that we all have biases. We all have favorites. And we can all be discriminatory. For instance, if nothing else, most people would help their family members before helping a complete stranger.

We might be concerned about most people or even everybody. But, do we act? Most often not, because we tend to think about the world through our own eyes, rather than from a larger perspective.

But, if we all did act in our own way, all needs could be met. Unfortunately, most all of us know the good we can do – the good we should do – but we choose to ignore the impulse because it would be uncomfortable in some way. But we all have a part to play, and our part is really rather minimal if we will just do what is asked of us.

That is the purpose for this brief series – Better Together. And it is the title of today’s message as well. Because we are better together, but we must all do our part to make that happen.

Jesus could have chosen one person, but He chose twelve. Paul included other companions when he travelled. Peter and John wrote to churches to encourage them to share life with one another. Why? Because being together is better and we are better together.

But our question for today is how does this apply to our church in the 21st Century?

OUR MISSION – EEE – Exalt, Equip, Evangelize

Our church’s Mission is to Exalt the Savior, Equip the Saint, and Evangelize the Sinner. Our Strategy to make that happen is based upon the acronym JOURNEY. And then we have our STEPS – Learn, Live, Love, Lead. We will look at the Steps next week, but for now, I want to talk about our Mission and Strategy in the context of serving together.

In Romans 12, Paul transitions from his theological explanation to practical application. We will cover this chapter in detail next year when we get to it during our study of Romans, but for now, take a moment to read verses 4 and 5.

The purpose of Paul’s writing, as we will see in a couple of weeks when we start our in depth study of Romans, is to get Christians with different mindsets on the same page. Specifically, he is writing to Gentile and Jewish believers to stop being at odds with one another and uniting for a common purpose.

That purpose would be similar to ours – to exalt Jesus, to equip each other, and to share the message of Jesus with others. These are all aspects of living out our faith. And each one of us should be involved with each part of that. But we should not seek to only do these things alone – we should desire to do them together. That is, we should serve together.

For most of 2019, we discussed the various ways the metaphor of body of Christ related to a healthy human body. Paul uses the term body of Christ in Romans 12.5 and links the part to the whole (notice the phrase, “and individually members one of another”). That is, we all have a part to play and if we do not do our part, then we can not function as well as a church as we otherwise might.

It is as Mother Teresa once said, “I cannot do what you can do. You cannot do what I can do. Together we can do great things.”

We all have certain gifts and aptitudes and life experiences that make us unique from everyone else. If we were all the same, then God would have no need of creating each of us. But we are unique. And He did create us. Therefore, we must all choose to do something. We need to find our purpose (our “why”) and fulfill our calling for Jesus. (I encourage you to watch my Signposts videos from this last week – May 11-15 – on YouTube if you have not done so.)

So find your purpose – your mission, if you will – and then use what God has given to you in order to help the church, and specifically this church, to fulfill our mission to Exalt the Savior, Equip the Saint, and Evangelize the Sinner.

OUR STRATEGY – JOURNEY

It is one thing to have a mission, it is another to think about how to execute that mission. For us, we use the acronym JOURNEY. The first letter is for Jesus. The last letter is for You. The other letters are the parts of the path (journey) we must take to move from ourselves (You) to Jesus. Each letter represents one component of a church that is focused on God’s Kingdom.

O – Obey (Discipleship)

U – Unite (Fellowship)

R – Revere (Worship)

N – Nurture (Ministry)

E – Engage (Evangelism)

The idea is that we are each on a journey. Some of us may be further along than others, but we are all on a journey of some kind. But we are not meant to travel the journey alone. An old African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Frankly, sometimes I want to go fast. But if I get out too far ahead, then I end up waiting. Sometimes it is good to go fast, but oftentimes, it is more important to go far than it is to go fast. And perhaps, it is good to find a balanced approach between going far and fast. But either way, the goal should be to go together.

For instance, the reason we can go farther together is because we can support one another. Peter’s words relate to this type of support – not just for the benefit of one another, but ultimately that God might be glorified. Read 1 Peter 4.10-11.

Like Paul’s words to the Romans, Peter wants his readers to understand that we all have a place – and that place is alongside others in order to provide strength where it is needed. We all have something God has given us that makes it necessary to work together. I am thinking back to making the mats we took to Kenya. Everyone brought bags. Some cut them with scissors. Some tied bags together. Some did crochet. Some cleaned up. Some brought food. Some donated suitcases. Some gave money that was used to help pay the extra luggage fee. Some prayed. Etc. Sure, only a few of us went to Kenya. But it took many to make possible what happened. And it all started with one simple idea.

That’s what I want our church to consider as we move forward. What ideas do you have? What opportunities do we have to serve – one another, this community, this region, this world? We may be a from a small town, but we serve a big God. And He not only has a purpose for each one of us individually, He has a plan for us collectively as Fairfax Baptist Church. How do I know? Because God knows that we may be good enough to accomplish some things on our own, but He also knows that we can do much more if we work as a team. Why? Because we are better together!

CONCLUSION

Paul and Peter knew God wanted us to serve together. They exhorted us to use the gifts God has given to each of His followers to do so. But those are ancient words? Do they still resonate today? I say, “Yes!”

And I am not alone. Many of you know that I try to glean all I can from John Maxwell, one of the foremost leaders in our world today. Maxwell says it this way, “Nothing is more rewarding than a common mission being achieved by people with complimentary gifts working together in harmony.” (2)

I have experienced that truth time and time again. To make that a reality, each one of us needs to realize that God has made us for a reason. And then we encourage one another to not only find that reason, but to use what He has given us to fulfill our purpose. When we do those two things – and we do them together and do them for the Lord, we will find immense satisfaction. As Maxwell says, nothing is more rewarding. Nothing. Why? Because we will be doing what we are made to do and doing it together.

JOURNEY:

Our JOURNEY letter for today is NNURTURE.

Nurture is our word for serving within the church. We are to serve both within and without the church. But as we serve, we need to nurture one another. We must encourage and sometime exhort one another. We need to stand together in order to work together. We may choose to serve by ourselves at times, but we must realize that we are better when we are together. But it all begins with committing to serve. As we do, we will discover who we are, and who we were made to be, both individually and collectively. But to truly become be who we are meant to be (individually and collectively), we must serve. Why? Because God made us to serve (c.f. Gen 1.28; 2.15; Eph 2.10; Col 3.23; etc.)

NEXT STEP(S):

LIVE  To serve is to truly live. We may choose to live for ourselves and think life is ok. But when we give of ourselves to others, we find out what it truly means to live. So, find some way to serve someone this week.

One way would be to join us for the prayer walk tonight as we pray over each home and family within Fairfax.

(1) https://twitter.com/NYCSpeakerCoJo/status/1256349197407866880

(2) John Maxwell, Intentional Living: Choosing a Life That Matters. New York (Center Street, 2015), 195.

“Back to the Basics” by Pastor Andy Braams

For eight weeks we did not meet in our church’s building. Before today, March 15, 2020 was the last time most were in the church’s facility. Besides dropping off mail, watering a plant, and a few odds and ends, I have not been in the church much over the past eight weeks either. It has been weird.

Now today, we are back. But things are different. We only have a few people here at a time. And we have two services. And we don’t have Sunday School. And a lot of confusion persists about how to move forward as individuals…as a church…as a society.

But I once heard a young lady provide the few people around her with a great piece of advice. The advice was basically to start with the basics. It went something like this – “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. When you read you begin with A-B-C. When you sing, you begin with Do-Re-Mi.” (For those who are unaware, the reference is to Julie Andrews’s character in the movie The Sound of Music.)

Well, we are not learning to read or sing today, but we can go back to the basics of our faith as we look to adapt and move forward from this disruption known as COVID-19.

As I have mentioned many times on the videos I have been doing each weekday now for the last seven weeks, the disruption in our lives is paralleled by the disruption in the lives of Jesus’ disciples. (You can find the videos on by searching “Fairfax Baptist Church Missouri” on youtube.com.) The reasons for that disruption may be very different, but the more I think about it, the magnitude of the adjustment for them was every bit as big, and maybe moreso, than it has been, and is, for us.

So, for the next few weeks, I want to talk about what it means to be back together. Because not only is it better for us to be together, it is also true that we are better together.

And that is why God calls us. It is why we are commanded to love. And it is why we are commissioned to serve. All of which are meant to be done together.

But these aren’t my words or my plan. The ideas were God’s as spoken and carried out by Jesus. But do they still apply to us today? I believe so. Let’s find out how Jesus words still apply in a COVID-19 world.

Called to Follow (Matthew 4.19) – “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”

Those ten words have changed the world for so many people. It was true of the disciples. It is still true today. Many people have misperceptions about these words. Let me briefly speak to two of those misunderstandings.

1) Being a Christian Is As Simple As Saying a Prayer and/or Getting Wet in the Water

First, we must understand that becoming and being are two different things. The steps to become a Christian and living as a Christian are quite different. Or are they? Jesus not only demonstrated baptism, He commanded it as well. And praying to God, even informally to repent of our sinfulness is critical. But saying a prayer and getting baptized are not boxes to be checked. They are a part of what it means to follow Jesus. Why? Again, Jesus was baptized so we follow His example and He said to be baptized so we follow His teachings.

But to be a Christian is to be a follower of Jesus. It is to make the decision with our head to follow, so He can change our hearts in order for us to live by faith with our hands and feet. That is what Jesus said to those whom He first called.

      • Follow Me – literally and figuratively.
      • I will make you – I will change you…from the inside out.
      • Fishers of men – you will do things differently for different purposes.

So, being a Christian may have some initial steps, but a true follower keeps following in Jesus’ footsteps for the rest of their lives.

2) God Only Calls Extra Spiritual People to Serve Him

Many people look at pastors and missionaries as people especially called and equipped by God. And yes, many pastors and missionaries do have specific training, but realize that God calls everyone to follow, to be changed, and to serve.

Some people are called to specifically fill a call to vocational ministry, but all are called to serve. I was a businessman before He called me. One of my good pastor friends was a marine. Another was a computer specialist. I know a man who is preparing to be a missionary who worked at HyVee before He was called to ministry.

Biblically, Peter and Andrew and James and John were fisherman. Matthew was a tax collector. Paul made tents. In the Old Testament, Moses and David were shepherds. Elisha was a farmer. Daniel was a teenager. And yes, all of them were especially called to do something great. But they were ordinary people by the day’s standards until they heeded God’s call.

But not everyone who follows becomes prominent. Other followers are Priscilla and Aquilla were simply faithful tent-makers who also shared their faith. Onesimus was a not-so-dutiful slave who became deeply connected to Paul and thus learned to serve God. The list goes on.

Here in our church, many of you have served in ways great and small. Just in the last couple of years we have had a farmer, and road-crew supervisor, and a police officer go to Kenya to serve on mission. But others have worked the local food pantry, taught Sunday School, purchased food and drink for the youth group or children’s church. Others have made phone calls or made visits or perhaps even made food for people who were hurting, or ill, or grieving.

My point is that God calls everyone to serve. But that serving begins with a call to follow.

Commanded to Love (Matthew 22.37-40)

Besides a call to follow. We have a command to love. When challenged about which command was greatest, Jesus responded that we are to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind.” He said, “this is the great and first commandment.” Well, that’s not easy. But then, he added, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Ok, now He’s meddling! Later Jesus gave His followers a new commandment to “love one another” (John 13.34).

Over the years, I have continually said that most of the NT commands are in the plural. Jesus words to the lawyer in verse 37 are in answer to a specific question to a specific individual. So, the “you” there is singular. However, if “you” are to love your neighbor and your neighbor is therefore to love you, then we get to a sense of togetherness in the idea of love. Furthermore, the verse in John 13 is obviously plural – love one another. So, our love is to be intentional and reciprocated. We love God because God loves us. We love others because God loved us (1 John 4.19). (John strongly links the love of God and the love of others in 1 John 4.7-21.)

The truth is that we are commanded to love even if the love is not returned. But for those who chose to follow Jesus, that love should be mutual. If we are following Him, we should not need a command – we should seek to love willingly and joyfully. Sure, people show love differently, and some have a much more difficult time expressing love as others might desire, but that doesn’t mean that the love is not there. But if it is not, it needs to be – not because I said so, but because Jesus did. Again, it is a part of our calling. It is what we are to do in response to His words “Follow Me.”

Commissioned to Serve (Matthew 28.18-20)

The final basic is what is commonly referred to as The Great Commission. Jesus commissioned His first followers to make disciples by going, by baptizing, and by teaching. That commission has been passed down for generations to us today. Why should we do it? Because it is one way to show that we love God. It is a way to show our love for others. It is a way to show that we are following Jesus.

Why don’t we do this? Because we get so busy with our own passions, our own desires, our own concerns. We would rather accomplish our mission than complete our Lord’s mission for us. We would rather tell others what to do rather than follow the orders of the one we otherwise refer to as Lord to do what He wants.

We are selfish. We are arrogant. We are sinful. Maybe not always, but mostly. It is who we are as humans unless we completely surrender to Jesus.

And that is why we need each other. That is why we are better together.

CONCLUSION:

See we are called for a purpose. We are commanded to love. And we are commission to serve. But left alone, it becomes more and more difficult to submit to another. It becomes more and more difficult to listen to others. It becomes more and more difficult to surrender. But if we are alone, who is there to pick up us when we fall? Who is there to lend an ear when we have troubles? Who is there to care for us when we need a friend? Who is there to point us in the right direction when we lose our way? Who is there to push us to go farther when we feel we have nothing left to give?

That is part of the reason why the writer of Hebrews tells us to not forsake meeting together (Hebrews 10.25). It is why God created an assembly of people to meet together. It is why Jesus is still building His Church.

Why? Because God knows we are better together. And having been separated from one another for the last eight weeks due to stay-at-home orders, many listening today realize that truth as well.

So, today we have looked at some basics of our faith – that we are called to follow, that we are commanded to love, that we are commission to serve. But the calling, the commandment, and the commission are not meant for one – they are meant for all. That is, we are called together. Because God knows we are better together.

And hopefully after this ordeal, we will know that truth better as well.

JOURNEY:

Our JOURNEY letter for today is UUNITE.

We may not be able to unite physically as we would like. We may be separated by six feet. We may be meeting at two distinct times. But we can still be united in heart, united in purpose, and united in love.

NEXT STEP(S):

LOVE:  Make a call to at least one person you do not see here this week to tell them that you are glad that you are looking forward to being together with them again.

“May It Be So” by Pastor Andy Braams

When I first conceived of this series last year, I had many topics I was planning to introduce. When we began this series in January, the same was true. These topics related to changes in our culture over the past several years – some good, some not. And many of those changes are still in play, and gaining steam while we focus on this pandemic. But obviously the major change which affected all of us, and seemingly that impact occurred in an instant, is best known as COVID-19.

This virus has come upon us quickly, has disrupted us beyond imagination, caused major illness and tens of thousands of deaths, wrecked our economy, closed businesses, cost millions of people their jobs, closed schools, and much, much more. In other words, to repeat what I said a moment ago, we have experienced major change.

We could not have conceived any of this six months ago. But none of this caught God off guard. The world has changed drastically, but God has not changed at all. The title of this series is Constant in a World of Change. That was true about God when I conceived of the series. It was true of God when the novel coronavirus began to impact the lives of millions. That fact remains true today. And God will still be the same tomorrow and for every tomorrow’s tomorrow.

Two verses make this truth known to us as plainly as can be. Malachi 3.6 says, “For I the Lord do not change.” And Hebrews 13.8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Whether your primary concern right now is COVID-19 or some other matter, two things are certain – life constantly changes and God does not.

And that brings us to the Apostles’ Creed. As I have said from the first message, the Creed is not what we worship. The Creed is not what is most dear. God is to be the focus of our lives and our worship. The Creed is not even the most important writing about God – the Bible is. But the Creed is a way to capture the fundamental beliefs of our faith, particularly of the New Testament, in a short, and relatively simple approach.

The Apostles’ Creed is not the only creed. Many creeds and catechisms have been developed over the centuries. Others have developed articles of confession and statements of faith. But most every orthodox creed, catechism, confession, or statement has core elements in common. And those elements are found in the Apostles’ Creed.

The Apostles’ Creed is the most commonly confessed creed. It was named for the apostles because content can be traced back to what the apostles learned from Jesus and saw for themselves. The Reformers showed their respect for the Creed. Orthodox Christians down through the centuries have held these beliefs to be true, as do we today.

As I have mentioned before, the beliefs expressed in the Creed do not encapsulate everything a Christian believes. I also shared this quote from Albert Mohler’s book about the creed:

“All Christians believe more than is contained in the Apostles’ Creed, but none can believe less.” (1)

But it is one thing to express a belief. It is another to live by it. And that is what this series was meant to be. It was meant to help us understand how each phrase in the Creed applies to our lives today so that we can not only have faith in the truth of the statements, but so that we can act on those truths in living our lives day by day.

In other words, to understand the Apostles’ Creed correctly, is to acknowledge the insufficiency of our faith until we are ready to cry out like the father in Mark 9, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9.23-24).

So, let me conclude this series with the same basic thoughts I shared to introduce it. I will do that by reminding us of two answers to the question:

Why Do We Need A Creed?

Read Jude 3-4

A Creed Allows Us to Hold on to SOMETHING

We all cling to something. Just as a small child has a favorite stuffed animal or maybe a blanket, or even a pacifier, we all have something or perhaps someone. Having that something or someone close allows us to feel like our world is ok, even when we know it is not. That someone or something is stability. Security.

But most people find that security in items or even people that will soon be gone. The child outgrows the blanket and eventually the stuffed animal and toy as well. As adults, we discard what was once considered worthy – including sometimes our friends and family.

But we never forget. In fact, regardless of your age, you can probably remember an item or two from your childhood that brought you security. You probably remember your best friend whom you swore you would never lose touch. But most of us have and/or will. Why? Because we change. And what is considered valuable and helpful today does not always maintain that value over time.

In Jude 3, Jude implores his readers to contend for the faith. He is saying that they should not only hold onto what they have learned, they also need to fight for it. Others have come in disregard of the truth and perverted the message of hope God has given. What Jude is saying is that there is something worth holding tight. That something is the truth of Jesus. That something is the stories of God that have been passed down for ages. That is worthy of holding. We all will hold onto something, but we need to let the truth of God hold onto us as well.

We need to let God’s truth get deep within us. Sure, a creed is just a series of words. But words have meaning. Again, we cannot place any creed on par with the Bible because the Bible was fully inspired by God. But anything that helps us to know the core truths of the Bible without compromising those truths, is worth holding onto when we need that stability and security. The words do not replace the Bible, but they do point to it, and thus a creed can have great value to point us to the true stability and security we seek.

A Creed Allows US to Hold on to Something

It is one thing to have a belief; it is another to share it with others. Earlier this year, we saw the Chiefs win a Super Bowl. People of all walks of life bonded over watching a football team win a game. People who were young and old, rich or poor, black or white or any other color, professional or a tradesman, etc. rallied together to root for, then celebrate a championship. That shared hope of a championship created bonds for a short time.

In Jude 3, Jude wrote to a group of people about what has been delivered to the saints (which includes his audience). His appeal is not to one, but to many. He needed them to stand strong together, to fight together, to encourage one another in order that they could overcome the crowd trying to disrupt the true message of God. The group of deceivers was united to be disruptive, and Jude was exhorting his readers to be unified to refute the “certain people” as Jude calls this other group in verse 4.

Consider the strength of the bond that could happen if what we believe and what someone else believes about God is coincides. When we ask someone what they believe, we may be looking for a few key words, but we do not have them recite, or even read, the Bible to us. No, we focus on a few key facts to determine if we share the same beliefs. And that is what the Apostles’ Creed does for us. The Creed allows us to know people down the road, across the town, in another city, and around the world who share the same basic beliefs. The same is true of people throughout history. The fact that millions before us, and today believe the same should provide comfort and even assurance that we are not alone in our understanding. The Creed is not about what I believe or you believe. It is about what we believe. Yes, the words are, “I believe,” because a person’s faith is individual in one sense, but the essence of faith is to be understood and lived within community. Faith is about us. Our ability to be in direct community with one another has been challenged during this current pandemic, but holding a common belief in a constant God, has been what has helped many people through this challenging time.

CONCLUSION

As I turn work toward the conclusion of this message, and thus the series, I need to mention one more word in the Apostles’ Creed. The Creed does not just contain a series of belief statements (20 truths depending upon how you count them). It ends with a single word – amen.

Therefore, these statements could be considered more than pithy statements about biblical truths; rather, we could consider it a prayer.

If we think of it as a prayer, we must understand the word amen. The word means “let it be” or “may it be so.” With that thought in mind, consider what our reciting of the Creed means. We confess a series of beliefs and then conclude with Amen, which effectively is saying, “may it be so.” In other words, after stating the truths of the Creed, we are saying “let our confessions be truly representative of what we believe.”

This idea takes me back to the man, the father, in Mark 9 who wants his boy to be healed. When confronted by Jesus about belief, the man cries out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (See Mark 9.14-29 for the story, and particularly verse 24 for the statement.)

The Apostles’ Creed was not developed yet, but if it had been, we could equate this man’s statement to knowing the Creed in general, maybe even having it memorized. But being able to read or memorize words does not make it real. This man wanted his faith to be real.

You and I should want no less. It is not enough to know. We must believe. And belief is always – ALWAYS – followed by action. We can say a lot of things, but we do what we truly believe to be true and important.

For us, at this time, a part of acting on our belief is to take the words of Jude as a charge to pass on the truths of God to the next generation. We are now the ones who must contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. That faith is, in part, represented by the Apostles’ Creed. That faith has been passed down for centuries, and now it is our turn to pass it onward. People are currently trying to “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). So what will we do?

Well, whatever we do, it must include acting on the belief we have in a God who does not change…a God who is still in control…a God who gave us His Word…and whose message is summarized in what we know as the Apostles’ Creed.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead, and buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven

And sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,

Whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

The holy catholic Church,

The communion of saints,

The forgiveness of sins,

The resurrection of the body,

And the life everlasting.

Amen. (MAY IT BE SO)

 

(1)  Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity In An Age Of Counterfeits, Nashville: Nelson Books, 2019, xvi.