Not a Statement of Faith.
Many sites that reflect a ministry or offer a perspective on life will offer a “Statement of Faith” to outline the underlying belief system. I don’t find them particularly useful because the Statements of Faith can look similar among groups that have a very dissimilar praxis (or “ideas in motion”… the practice that comes from ideas).
Instead of a “Statement of Faith”, I’ll offer that I have a way of looking at scripture, history and life, that is filtered through a grid, worldview, or paradigm. I thought I’d at least offer the grid through which I look at the world and the Bible. It has at least 5 points, all focussed on Jesus, an actual man who actually lived on the earth. The 5 point filter includes
- The Bible
- The Kingdom
- The Covenant
- The Cross
- The Holy Spirit
So let’s begin, shall we?
First, let’s consider what I believe about the Bible. The Bible is a collection of written works that describe specific covenant relationships between God and some other entity. The Old Testament are the collection of books that describe, outline, and defend in particular the Covenant or Testament that God made with the nation of Israel, but it also outlines and defends the various agreements God made with other entities, such as Adam, Noah, Himself (meaning, God made a covenant with God), Abraham, and King David.
The “books” of the Old Testament include genealogies, historical narratives, military propaganda, legal documents, census reports, architectural designs, songs, prayers, arguments on the nature of reality, wisdom, prophecies and so on. There were various writers of the Old Testament, each inspired by the Holy Spirit, although they didn’t necessarily know God was inspiring them to write. Scribes and scholars (also under inspiration) compiled and edited the works into a cohesive collection that came to be known as the Hebrew Bible. Since Christians suppose that God has replaced the Old Testament with a New Testament, Christians call the Hebrew Bible the “Old Testament.” Its brilliant. The Hebrew Bible was completed by the 5th Century BC. Many works were written in the ensuing four centuries, but none were inspired by God and all the Jews writing and reading and considering these matters knew it. The documents that defined the Old Covenants were set, as it were, in stone.
The New Testament is similarly a collection of histories, sermons, songs, prayers, and prophecies that outline the agreement God made that is called the New Covenant or “The New Testament.” (Clever, huh?) This New Covenant was unique in that it was between God and God, and also God and Man. In other words, it was between the Father and Jesus, who was and is both God and Man. Everyone else can enter this covenant by believing in his or her heart that Jesus came to earth from Heaven as a human, died, rose again, and ascended into heaven and will return again.
The documents of the New Testament describe this New Covenant agreement and serve as a commentary on much of the Old Testament. The New Testament writers were also inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the wider Church body came to recognized them (and no others) as authoritative by the end of the 1st Century. While the Bible doesn’t reveal everything about everything, it does reveal the interpretive filter we should engage in when considering God, history, reality, and our lives on earth.
We should read and interpret scriptures from the perspective of the original author and the first audience, not through a modern or denominational perspective. In other words, the Bible was not written to us, but it was written for us. The Bible is vitally important, but it is not divine. It is not God. It is not the living Word.
The living Word is Jesus. The Bible reveals a lot about God, but not everything. To understand God clearly, we must look to Jesus. Jesus reveals 100% the truth about God. There’s no aspect of God that isn’t revealed in Jesus. Amazingly, Jesus was also 100% human, just like you and me. Jesus revealed 100% truth about humans. Of course, the Bible doesn’t reveal everything about Jesus either, which is why we walk with him and seek to know all that we can through a special indwelling gift, mentioned below.
A kingdom is the rule and reign of a sovereign, power or government. From the time of Babel to the present, the Kingdom of Darkness has held sway over the affairs of the nations and humankind. The Kingdom of God is the perfect rule and reign of God on earth, which was lost in the Garden of Eden, but which God promised to bring again in some future point.
Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God by invading earth and overturning the works of the Kingdom of Darkness.
The Kingdom of God started small on earth, and began to grow, first with Jesus, then the 12, then the 72, then the 120, then the 3000 and so on until today it continues to grow and eventually will overtake the entire physical cosmos where humans live.
The Kingdom of Darkness attempts to thwart the advance of the God’s government on earth and in the attempt, much evil, wickedness and destruction is done, but it cannot prevail.
Today, we live in the tension of the kingdom of darkness raging against the ever advancing Kingdom of God. Eventually, Jesus will return to complete the overthrow of the kingdom of darkness, fulfilling God’s mission to restore lost Eden on earth. The Kingdom is here now, but it’s not fully here yet.
Jesus implemented the New Covenant, through which we can relate to God. The New Covenant rendered the Old Covenant obsolete, but it lingered for another 40 years. The Old Covenant finally passed away in 70 AD, when God’s wrath (as required by the Old Covenant) destroyed it forever, leaving only the New. The New Covenant is between the Father and Son, and all can enter it by faith in Christ and experience the new birth, becoming the living temple of God on earth, flowing with living water.
Jesus rendered obsolete the Old and sealed the New Covenant forever on the Cross. In addition, he nailed sin to the cross, killing it forever, and became new when he resurrected and sits on the throne next to the Father. Each person who has faith in Jesus also died and rose again sinless and perfect and also sits in Heaven.
In essence, Jesus took the fruit Adam and Eve consumed out of humanity and nailed it back onto the tree. Christians don’t have to sin anymore.
Through the Cross, God relates to humans (in Christ through faith) as sons and daughters, making humans joint-heirs of the Kingdom of God with Jesus. He becomes our brother. Through Jesus’ finished work of the Cross, God has reconciled the fallen world to himself, and no longer holds the sins of people against them. In addition, through faith, each believer is made new, perfect, holy and sinless.
God is not mad at people anymore. He’s done his part. To say that sin still rules is to say Jesus did not fully die. To say that God is mad at people and judging people is to say Jesus did not fully die and the Old Covenant is still in operation. But Jesus did die. He died all the way, fully killing the old you and sin with it. Of course, you are new now, but you are not new yet.
To accept God’s reconciliation, people should change their thinking about God and turn towards Jesus, accepting the truth of what Jesus did for them. Doing so, Jesus will send them…
The Holy Spirit
God comes and actually dwells in believers of Jesus Christ, making them the living temple on earth. This temple is expanding as the Kingdom is expanding and as more individuals accept the truth of the risen savior.
Literally, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit take up residence in each believer and collectively in the body of believers. They become God’s temple, the place in which he dwells on earth, holy and without sin.
In this way God grants eternal life to believers. Those who do not have the Holy Spirit will not have eternal life.
Jesus poured out the the Holy Spirit on all flesh, but he does not dwell in all flesh. The human heart requires the landing strip of faith for the Holy Spirit to enter and conduct heart surgery, replacing the old with with a new heart of flesh. This is part of the New Covenant’s promise.
Of course, believers can still sin, but they don’t have to. Generally people sin because they haven’t brought the rule and reign of God (the Kingdom!) to every aspect of their lives, because they don’t understand or believe the truth of who they are, or because they simply choose to rebel. They have spiritual salvation now, but they haven’t experienced physical salvation yet.
But they don’t have to sin anymore and should consider themselves dead to sin. They can work out their physical salvation in this life here on earth.
The Christian Walk
The Christian walk is to come to terms with these conditions and circumstances, to actually believe them, and to live like we believe them. We must continually change our thinking to line up with these truths. They are the filter Jesus used to interpret reality, although he saw more clearly than perhaps we do.
The fruit will ultimately result in perfection and the continued expansion of the Kingdom of God on earth.