Faith Essay, Research Paper
In the scriptures we read of relationships that people like the apostles had with Jesus. The friendships that they had were deep and personal. They were also challenging. Jesus challenged the disciples regualarly as well as encouraged them. He warned them of the evil they were to oppose. He also healed them and disciplined them accordingly.
A personal relationship with Jesus has first to do with meeting him. For some who personally walked in the time of Christ, He simply called out their names and said, come follow me. For those of us who can’t see him, we have to find God on a different level. We have to hear of Him and His teachings. We have to think about the beliefs that surround the idea and theology of Christ. We have to determine if we are going to accept that as truth, and ultimately follow in the footsteps of the apostles. The Bible informs us that God is always there knocking on the door of our hearts, and all we have to do is turn to him and let him in, and choose to follow Him with our whole heart. Thinking that God exists is much different than knowing in your heart that God exists.
Let’s begin with my belief that there is a God. In my mind God exists because I believe he exists. Even if I didn’t exist, I believe that God would still exist. There is too much “evidence” with the earth and the historical facts that point toward a creator. I think it would be foolishness not to believe. Lee Strobel says in his book “The Case For Christ” – For me it would have been more foolish to continue on in my atheism than to accept Christ. (paraphrased) I agree with that statement. I don’t know all there is to know about the evidences of Jesus Christ, but I have experienced something in my life. Something personal, and loving, and merciful, and I would call him Lord. If evidence at some point is strong enough to prove to me that God doesn’t exist, I will still believe in Him.
I believe that God wants all people to come to a saving knowledge of Him. I don’t think God wants anyone to die and go to hell. I believe this because I have come to think of God as loving and merciful. Loving because I know I am saved from death. Loving because I have a roof over my head, and food to eat, and a wife who loves me, and a church family who cares about me, and this beautiful earth to enjoy, and a solid Christian education, and the list could go on forever. If God were not loving he would be a contradiction of himself, and that is not possible – that is if God exists – which I believe he does. Therefor, to me, God is loving. He is also merciful. Merciful because my sins have been forgiven, and they continue to be forgiven, even today. He is merciful because he allows me to live when I deserve death. He gives me a life serving him when I should be cast out from him. My God is loving and merciful. I have experienced it! I have seen it!
The only other core belief that I will talk about is Jesus’ death and resurrection. I believe Jesus came to this earth to live a perfect life as a testimony to the awesome power of God, and to become the perfect sacrifice for the sins of man. I believe Jesus was crucified on a cross. I believe he died. I believe that 3 days later he rose from the dead and accended to heaven. I believe he will come back for me. I also believe that the only way for a person to be forgiven of their sins and accepted into heaven, is for them to believe this and to ask forgiveness from Christ, and change their actions.
Why do I believe these things? I believe God exists because historical evidence and findings point toward an ordered universe, not the evolutionary, happen stance world that darwinists believe in. I believe God exists because some things in life are too perfect to have been chance. For example: of all the planets, the earth’s atmosphere is the only one that is ideal for sustaining human life. Next let’s take the human life as an example. Our bodies are designed much too precisely to have just appeared. The inner workings of our bodies are so perfectly designed to keep us functioning properly. How the skin repairs itself when damaged. How the eyes see. The ability of our brains to reason. No animal has the reasoning capabilities that we do. These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the evidence for God’s existence.
Reasons why I believe that God is loving a merciful, include most of the reasons I listed above. I have a roof over my head, and food to eat etc. But it goes deeper than that. I think of it as a direct reference to the character of Christ. What is God like? He is not unlike us as humans except that he is perfect. He feels emotional pain like we do. He reasons and thinks like we do. I believe he cries tears exactly the way we do. Psalm 91:14 says ” Because he loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.” Based on this verse, which is only one of hundreds, the Lord loves us and will take care of us when we call upon his name. Again, there are far too many reasons or evidences for why I believe these things to list at this time. Just know that they exist and each of them is powerful.
Worship is what humans do whenever they want God to know that He is appreciated. Worship can take on many forms. Some people pray, some sing songs, some read scripture, and some do all of those. None is more important than the other and none pleases God more than any other. I personally like singing. I play the guitar, not well enough to share it with others, but well enough that God appreciates when I sing to him. I enjoy pulling out a song book, sitting down by myself and singing songs of praise to the Lord. I have to believe that He loves to hear me sing. I think He loves to hear his name being called upon. I think He loves to show us mercy and to give us grace.
Another main way in which I worship is through quiet time with Him. When I have my quiet time every day I feel stronger and better able to serve God effectively. This is a special time when I can come before my master and confess the things I have done wrong, thank Him for the many things He has done for me, and ask Him for guidance when it comes to everything else. I truly believe that Jesus enjoys this time with us as well. I think He likes it when we humble ourselves daily to Him. I think He gets joy from seeing our obedience and from knowing that we love and respect Him enough to worship Him.
Second. I think this time alone can also bring us great peace. The silence of these times with God can be life changing. They can teach us obedience and self control. Most importantly, I think they can teach us how to listen for the voice of His spirit. I think maybe the only way I can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit is when I’m quiet and calm, when I’m worshipping. I don’t hear His voice very often and I believe that’s because I don’t take enough time to listen. Listening and obeying are the keys to quiet time and worship. I believe this is what it takes to achieve maturity in our faith. After all the best way to get to know someone is to spend time with them.
Third. Daily quiet time and worship can help us become more mature in our Christian lives. For me this is the ultimate goal. I look at the people I know who are very strong in faith and those are the people who have their quiet time every day. They make it a priority; it’s the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning, and this devotion to God and His word is what makes those people mature. I want to be like them. I want to have the desire to know God the way they do. I want to have that kind of knowledge and wisdom when it comes to God. I think I have a desire to know God and His word, but not to the extent that they do. I don’t make it a priority, yet. I’m learning, and I’ll get to that stage some day. I have that hope.
Finally. I know that a daily quiet time and worship prepares us for battle. Spiritual warfare is something that we don’t often think about, but it’s so close and so real that sometimes it’s scary. Think about the things we go through in a day and all the decisions we have to make, and then think about how spiritual warfare affects those decisions. Praise the Lord! I’m so thankful He has already defeated Satan. Reading the Bible prepares our minds for battle. When we are confronted about our faith we have the answers, but only if we read the word and ask for strength to stand and fight. Reading the word can mean life or death when it comes to spirituality. I truly believe this, and that’s why I try to have quiet time daily.
We worship God because He deserves it. After all the things he did for us through His son Jesus, after all the times he has forgiven us, and taken away our pain, He desearves to be praised. I almost think He expects it, and for us not to give it to Him – we are only hurting ourselves. Worship comes out of humility and heart felt devotion for God and for his love for us. I feel pulled from the inside to draw near to him in some meaningful way, just as a small child desires to be held by her parents. He is my refuge and strength, I go to him for refueling. He directs my steps and calms the storms of my life. He speaks to me in times of solitude. Each of these comes from worship for me.
True community can be found in the pages of scripture. Specifically in Acts chapter 2. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” This passage is probably the most descriptive and meaningful passage about community in the whole Bible. Basically everyone supported one another and looked out for one another. They were all on the same team, with the same direction and focus. They all had the same idea of what Christian ministry was all about. They praised and worshipped. They took in all the great teaching from the apostles. They were evangelizing obviously since we read that God added to their number daily, those who were being saved.
I think community is one of the most important aspects of the body of Christ, his believers. Community is what locks us together, each with our own gifts, and allows us a support system for doing the work of the Lord. He honors this and gives us blessings as we seek him out and step out in faith to do his will.
Humility has much to do with discipleship. CS Lewis has said about pride as the opposite of humility, “there is no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves, and the more we have it in ourselves, the more we dislike it in others” Humility helps us to focus on Christ which is obviously essential for discipleship. It is very important to cultivate an attitude of humility in ourselves long before we attempt to disciple anyone. Matthew 12:34 says: “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” We can not lead a person any closer to God than we are ourselves. We can’t pass on to another person a spiritual truth unless it is first a firm reality in our lives (McClung, 1990)
I picture discipleship as a small group setting with in the youth ministry of a church. This is where a wiser, older person begins to build relationships with a younger non or new believer. The leader takes the time to listen first. They listen to the students concerns, problems, and complaints and perhaps the leader shares some of their own. A common ground is reached and they begin to talk about deeper issues which in turn leads to discussion about God and beliefs. Before long the student is being discipled by the leader as they learn about spiritual truths and Biblical ideas. Discipleship is all about sharing Christ and learning about the Bible with another person. Friendship and relationships are very important to discipleship obviously. Duffy Robbins has said, “true discipleship is what happens between meetings”. It is the idea that a person will take the truths they have learned as redistribute them to their peers and the rest of the world. That is what the disciples of Jesus did, and aren’t we all disciples of Jesus? “Real-life discipleship is marked more by footprints than by monuments.” (Duffy Robbins) Again it is the small things that a leader does in between meeting times that make the real difference. We are talking about the “what would Jesus do” stuff of ministry. Asking ourselves that question before actually acting on our beliefs is what will determine whether or not we are true disciples of Jesus.
To serve as Jesus did we would have to be willing to do anything for the sake of a total stranger. Jesus served with no expectation of being repaid, with no expectation of being thanked or praised for what He did. Take as an example the woman who poured purfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them clean with her hair. Recall what He said to the apostles when they questioned it. Self sacrifice is at the very heart of true servanthood. I know a woman who gave up literally everything for her son. She was divorced when her son was only two years old. She was forced to move back home with her parents, as well as work two jobs to make ends meet. As her son got older she was faced with more problems because of her son. He turned sick and was in the hospital off and on for a number of years. As you can imagine this was not cheap, yet she worked very hard to pay the bills and to keep her son healthy. She was kicked out of her apartment because neighbors complained about her son being too loud. She raised her son the best she knew how, and she sacrificed everything so that he could have a better life. She never remarried and chose to raise him up in the church. This woman lived the epitome of a self sacrificial life all for the love of her child. God treats us the same way, and gave us the example of His son. This woman, much like God should be honored for her sacrifice, and I tell her everytime I see her that I love her. She was my mother.
True love, and I add to this, true service is to lay down your life for your friends. This verse uses the idea of death as the ultimate sacrifice, and it is, however service can be seen in the daily actions we take to make someone’s life better. It can be shown in a simply kind word spoken at the right time that brightens a person’s day. Service is thinknig of others as better than yourselves.
The Local Church
Why should a Christian be involved with a local church? Why did Christ establish the church and call it a body with many parts? Why does the Bible say that the hand can not say to the foot – I don’t need you? The ministry of the body of Christ depends soley on the parts of the body each doing their specific jobs. Without the foot the leg will not work. Without the pastor the people have no direction. Without the people the church is just a building.
A believers involvement with a local church is critically important for that person’s spiritual health. The vine, after being cut from the branches does not fall to the ground and begin to take root and grow a new tree. On the contrary it dies and becomes food for a fire. The Christian needs to be around people of like mind. They need to fellowship, to talk and laugh with people who understand them and love them regardless of their past. They need to have a support system; people who will pray for them and even provide for them if need be. They need a place and people where they can explore the things of God and be challenged by older, wiser men and women; those who can correct, teach, and encourage spiritual growth and change.