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By Simon ManchesterSunday 29 Sep 2019Christian Growth with Simon Manchester
Simon Manchester presents a 10-part series of messages called ‘Confident Theology’. Week by week, he takes listeners on a journey through the famous statement of Christian faith known as the ‘Apostles’ Creed’.
Part 1: “I Believe in God the Father” – Acts 14:11-18
Good morning everybody. Let’s bow our heads and pray for God’s help.
Heavenly Father, we read in your Word that it is granted to your people to believe, and we pray together that you would do a work in us so that we would believe truly and deeply – and that our belief translates to belonging and behaving in a way which brings praise, is a blessing to others and a joy to us. We ask it in Jesus’ name – Amen.
We are starting a new series this morning everybody and it will go for 10 Sundays. We are going to follow the Apostles’ Creed. I am sure you know what I am talking about: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth…”
This series is a little bit difficult because it is not taking a passage and digging into the passage, which I love to do, but it’s thinking about a topic, a subject, a theme – and therefore we are trying to think across the Bible and not just into one particular passage.
The Apostles’ Creed is a wonderful statement – 110 words – and I imagine when you stand and you speak the Creed there will be days where you do it by rote and occasionally you will do it with great joy and conviction. The Apostles’ Creed was not written by the 12 Apostles, although there was a lovely legend that Peter wrote the first sentence and John wrote the second and James wrote the third, but the Apostles’ Creed was not written by the original Apostles; it is summary of the faith of the Apostles.
And the Apostles’ Creed (110 words) is not an inspired piece of writing like the Scriptures, but it is a very good summary of Trinitarian faith. And because Jesus told us that we are to make disciples and we are to baptise and teach in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Creed of course is a very useful tool.
Now it was used, we understand, from about 700AD, so it has been used for at least 1200 years and parts of it are traceable to 200AD. So parts of it go back more like 1700, 1800 years.
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Having Confidence In Your Beliefs
I have called the series “Confident Theology” because I am hoping that it will have the effect of making you a glad believer, a keen believer, not a sleepy believer, not a doubtful believer, not an unhappy believer – but a confident believer.
Jim Packer says most Christians like their faith on a fridge magnet, meaning we just want everything very simple and short. Occasionally, there is a time to rethink it. RC Sproul who is another great writer/theologian, just recently passed away, has written in one of his books that a flea could wade in the knowledge about God in the mind of the average Christian – okay? He is insulting you. He is saying the depth of your understanding, a flea could wade in it.
So we are going to think this morning about “I Believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”. I hope you will be strengthened and comforted. We are going to follow this under four headings in case you are taking notes.
Question 1 – What Do We Mean by “I Believe”?
The first [question] is: What do we mean by “I believe”?
We could spend a whole morning on “I believe”. What do we mean when we say “I believe”?
Well I don’t need to tell you that in the West today the number of people who say “I don’t believe” is on the rise. This is not because the evidence has gone missing. The evidence is more accessible than never and it is very difficult to explain simply why this unbelief is on the rise but it’s got to do with the mix of pleasure and communication which is drowning people in unbelief.
I don’t need to tell you that in the West today, if you were to say “I am an atheist” you would probably get more respect than if you were to say “I happen to believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. More approve to say you are an atheist.
Now we know that numbers are not the test of truth. You could be the only believer in your company or the only believer in your school or university or the only believer in your country and you could be right. Numbers are not the test. But why is it that we stand up and say “I believe?” And I hope you do not stand up and say “I believe” because you say “well I have a feeling that God is real”. A feeling will not sustain you. I hope you don’t stand up and say “I believe” because it’s just a tradition, it’s a dead formality. You don’t really like doing it but everybody is doing it and you’d feel a bit dopey if you sat in your seat and everybody stood up and said “I believe”.
“The non-Christian who looks down on the Christian has to realise that not every Christian is a fool.”
I hope you don’t lie when you get up and say “I believe”. You should be able to say “I believe in God” because the evidence is excellent and I have been persuaded God has confronted me with the creation and with history of his working and with his son and I am trying to deal with the evidence which is overwhelming and it has persuaded me. I hope you won’t fall for the line when people say “well where’s the evidence for God?” No, no the question is what are you doing with the evidence for God?
The non-Christian who looks down on the Christian has to realise that not every Christian is a fool. We were reminded at a conference this week for Ministers that every weekend in Australia 400,000 attend football games across the codes – 400,000. Every weekend 900,000 people watch the news on television and every weekend 1,800,000 are in church. Not every one of those can be mindless. I am not saying that going to church makes you a Christian, I am not even saying that saying the Creed makes you a Christian but what does it mean when we say “I believe?”
And I want to ask you this question – when you do say something like “I believe” or you sing it as you have just done now, do you mean that you are attached to God or detached from God?
For example I could say I believe in World Vision but I am not attached to World Vision. I am mentally aware of World Vision. I may in the past have been supportive of World Vision. I may be supportive of World Vision in the future but at the present I am not attached to World Vision.
The question is, are you attached to the God you believe in or are you detached? Is He just a distant concept or is He a present fellowship? And what the real and grateful Christian means, is that “the evidence has persuaded me and I’ve come to the point of putting my faith in Christ” – that’s what it means to be a Christian.
Question 2 – Why Do We Believe?
The second question this morning is “Why is it that we do believe?”
And there is something very helpful and clever in the words of the Creed. I don’t know if you have ever noticed this before. I had not properly grasped it until this week when I did a little bit of work on the Creed.
But in the wording of the Creed there is something to help you when you are asking yourself the questions,
- “How can I say that I believe in God when it seems so stupid to so many people?”
- “How can I believe in God when in the workplace where I work which is a very tough workplace, nobody else does?”
- “How can I believe in God sincerely and sensibly when we are in such a science worshipping, God denying world?”
Now the Creed helps us. The Creed, you see, doesn’t just want us to just say “I believe in God, any god, any god will do” because we don’t believe in many gods. We don’t believe in Allah. This is the good news. The Creed says “I believe in God the Father.” You don’t need to learn all the philosophical arguments to be a believer. You don’t need to work out the cosmological argument and then the teleological argument and then the ontological argument and then the moral argument in order to be a believer. The Creed says “I believe in God the Father”.
So the Creed, you see, doesn’t begin by saying “I believe in God and now I will explain him to you philosophically.” Nor does the Creed begin by saying “I believe in God and we are going to begin with the creation and then we are going to go on to the preservation and then we are going to go on to possibly the Fatherhood of God.”
No, the Creed says, “I believe in God the Father.” Why does it begin like this? Because we meet God as a Father when we come to the Son. It’s when we come to Jesus we discover who God really is. I mean there are many people around the world who could begin by thinking there must be a Maker and I am a sinful person and they put the two wires together. There is a great God and I am a sinful person and that may cause them to cry out for mercy and God may hear that prayer, because they are seeking and they will find. But in the end the real reason that we believe in God is because He has come in the person of his Son into the world, and we have realised who He is and what He has done, and it is by faith in Him that we have entered into the family of God.
We Come to the Father Through the Son
When I was at school in Year 7 aged 13 a new boy came to the school and he was very tall and he was very skinny. I suppose we were all about 5’4″ and he was about 6’3″ and he was mercilessly picked on, and I genuinely felt sorry for him. And I began to sit with him at lunch and after we had been sitting together for a few days or weeks, he said “I wonder whether you would like in the school holidays to come to my farm?” I said “that would be great.”
So I caught a train to Camden and the family picked me up and drove me down this incredibly impressive gravel drive to an absolute mansion of a house, and near the house was a huge lawn with a pool in the middle and a diving board, and around the lawn were a whole lot of units. And I was given my unit and he said to me (aged 13 yrs) “this will be your truck that you will drive, this will be your motor bike that you will ride on, this will be your horse that you will ride, and I was drawn into this very great famous wealthy family through the son.
“it’s not really enough just to say ‘Oh I do believe in God’, it’s better to say ‘I believe in God the Father, because of God the Son who came into the world, who has knocked on your world’… because that will take the conversation in a particularly helpful direction.”
I’d like to talk more about that this morning but I have to leave it at that. I just want to simply say to you it’s by coming to the Son that you come into the family of God and that’s why the Creed begins “I believe in God the Father.” The New Testament tells us in John Chapter 1 that it’s those who receive the Son, Jesus Christ, who become the adopted children of God. You come to the Father through the Son, you come to the Father only through the Son, it’s your response to Jesus which opens the door to God’s family and when you kneel before Jesus and you receive his forgiveness and his acceptance, suddenly God is your Father, Jesus is your Saviour and the Holy Spirit is your permanent resident. We deal with Jesus.
Now friends, what this means is that when you say to yourself, as you do every now and again, “Why do I believe in God?”, You must say to yourself, “Because I believe in God the Father. I don’t just believe in the Maker – I do believe that; I don’t just believe he is the Judge – I do believe that; but I believe in him as the Father because I have done business with his Son.” And when you are talking about your faith and somebody says “do you believe anything?” it’s not really enough just to say “Oh I do believe in God” it’s better to say “I believe in God the Father”, because that will direct the conversation in a particularly helpful direction and you are able to go on and say “I believe in God the Father because of God the Son who came into the world – who has knocked on your world”. And I hope this will comfort and strengthen you because there is a logic to your faith. You didn’t just become a dreamer and a mystic and a weirdo and I hope it will help you in your witness because, you know, to say G-O-D today doesn’t mean very much, but ‘God the Father’ says a lot.
Question 3 – Who is it We Are Trusting and Believing In?
Here’s my third comment this morning…
- (What do we mean when we say “I believe”? We mean the evidence has persuaded us and brought us to faith.
- Why do we believe? We believe in God the Father.)
- Thirdly – Who do we trust?
And you see the Creed goes on to say “I believe in God the Father” and then what’s the next word? Almighty. Father, Almighty. Now here is a question for you. Once you have established that God is your Father, perfect Father full of wisdom, wonderful steadfast, what’s the next word you would like to put after that? Because there are so many possibilities.
- I believe in God the Father – Loving
- I believe in God the Father – Wise
- I believe in God the Father – Steadfast
Gerald Bray says in his large book on theology, he says, “What is the most fundamental attribute of God? What is the most fundamental quality of God?” Well, how difficult, he says, it is to rank them – because they all hang together. But he says there is one that stands out and it is his rule, his Lordship, that he is Almighty. This is extremely important, says Gerald Bray, because it rules out any idea that a part of creation is owned or ruled by hostile powers. And it’s also very important, says Gerald Bray, because it tells us that God the Father is not beyond ability to help or control things. Everything is under his control.
Perfect Love and Complete Control
Once you have locked in that God is your Father, it’s important to know that he is Almighty because there is no hope for us, is there, if there is a loving Father but he is stuck for answers when things get difficult. And there is no hope for us if God is Almighty but he doesn’t care that much what happens to us. It’s bringing together the Father and the Almighty, the love and the power, that gives us great hope. And this is not just talk, because we know in the person of the Lord Jesus we see perfect love and complete control.
Now we need to say that talking about God as Almighty, it doesn’t mean that He can do anything at all. The wonderful thing about God is that He cannot be inconsistent. So for example He can’t lie, He cannot sin, He cannot deny his character, He cannot cease to exist. We should be very thankful that there are lots of things that God cannot do. Almighty doesn’t mean He can do “anything, anything, anything”.
“Underneath His love and his power there may be things that are happening in the world which we are out of our depth to explain.”
The other thing is that when we say that God is Father and Almighty is raises huge questions as to why evil continues in the world as we have just heard in our service. What we have to do, and I have said this so many times and I hope you are with me in this, we have to lock in He is the Father and He is the Almighty, and then we have to recognise that underneath His love and his power there may be things that are happening in the world which we are out of our depth to explain. We don’t drop the Fatherhood, we don’t drop the control, we just have to bow our head and we don’t actually match his brilliance or his wisdom.
It’s interesting in the Book of Job there are 31 references to God as Almighty and one of the last things that Job says in the Book of Job is “no plan of yours can be stopped or blocked or thwarted”. In other words, says Job, at the end of all his suffering, I have come to the point of recognizing “you are amazing”.
Now we need to think about it because we are in a very shallow world, we are quite a shallow church. I don’t mean this church, I mean the church across the world is quite shallow. We need to do more and more thinking about what it means that God is our Father and the Almighty.
What Excites You?
I don’t know whether anything in your Christian life has gripped you or enthused you or thrilled you lately? Sometimes when I am having lunch with somebody I say “what excites you?” and people really struggle to think of something. We need to think about God Father Almighty.
Jerry Bridges has done some thinking in his book called Trusting God and I am going to read you a little quote – it’s a little bit long but if you can stay with it you will see that it’s a good thoughtful quote. Jerry Bridges says:
“Nothing exists of its own inherent power of being. Nothing in creation stands or acts independently of the Lord’s will. The laws of nature are nothing more than the physical expression of the steady will of Christ. The law of gravity operates with unceasing certainty because Christ continually wills it to operate. The chair I am sitting on while I write these words holds together because the atoms and the molecules in the wood are held in place by His will. The stars continue in their course because He keeps them. The Bible teaches that God sustains us. He gives us our life, our breath and everything else. He supplies our food. Our times are in His hands. Every breath we breathe is a gift from God. Every bite of food we eat is given to us from Him. Every day we live is determined by Him. He has not left us to our own devices or the whims of nature or the malevolent acts of other people. No he constantly sustains, provides, cares for us every moment of every day.
Did your car break down when you could least afford the repairs? Did you miss an important meeting because the plane you were to fly in developed mechanical problems? The God who controls the stars in their courses controls the nuts and the bolts and everything on your car and the plane that you are planning to fly in.”
It’s a good reminder, isn’t it? Trusting God by Jerry Bridges.
Question 4 – Where Do We Turn?
Finally, where do we turn?
I’ve thought about “Why do we believe”, and I’ve thought about… something else… and now I am asking the fourth question which is, where do we turn?
Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. Just a few quick thoughts on “Maker of heaven and earth.” It’s because God is Father Almighty that there is a heaven and an earth. It’s because He’s good and great there is a creation. It is a good creation – fallen but good. And it’s because He is Almighty He can do it.
You know of course that the universe is here in existence either because it is eternal, it’s always been here or it’s self-generated, it made itself or it has been created. Those are the only three options we have got for the universe. Scripture and science say that it’s not eternal. It had a beginning. Scripture and common sense say that it’s not self-made. You just don’t make yourself. And so a created universe fits the facts. And even the scientific community recognise this. Even the non-Christian scientific community that are advancing the idea of intelligent design will say ‘we cannot go down the road of random chance – it’s just too absurd’. They’re poised between random chance and God and so they go intelligent design. The scientific unbelieving community is interested in the intelligent design.
“Now the genius of God of course is that He created from nothing… He takes absolute nothing and turns it into something.”
Now we of all people who believe in God, who believe that the Father Almighty made the heavens and the earth, we of all people, when we stand to say the Creed we should be giving honour to God. He deserves it. Chance does not deserve it.
And the Creed of course is simply summarizing the Biblical information right through the Bible that there is a creator. No laboratory can come up with this information as to who made the world. No scientist can refuse that there is a maker. That’s why Albert Einstein once said “scientists should not transcend their domain”.
Now the genius of God of course is that He created from nothing. An artist takes paint and creates a picture. A person or an adult can produce a baby but God turns nothing into something. Some people have said this is a bit like a musician. A musician can take a tune that is non-existent and come up with a tune. But that’s because musicians are keen to pat themselves on the back way too often because even they are using the notes. But God takes absolute nothing and turns it into something.
And all of this should increase our reverence. You know the creatures who were before Jesus, before God in heaven in Revelation chs 4 and 5 – they are absolutely thrilled by God. They see more clearly than we do and they can’t stop saying how great He is. It should increase our reverence. It should increase our dependence as well because we completely rest on the arms of God and it should increase our devotion.
We should find ourselves saying again and again, “Our Father in heaven, may your name be hallowed, may your kingdom come, may your will be done.”
Saying the Creed with Meaning
I want to finish this morning by asking some questions – just questions.
- First of all, can you say the Creed with meaning? Can you say “I am a child of God”? “God is my Father because I trust the Son”?
- Do you know that you are accepted by God? Do you know that?
- Are you afraid of God? Or unafraid of God?
- Do you have a large view of His love?
- Do you have a large view of His power?
- Is there something you think could just be outside His control? It’s impossible.
- Do you recognise that He is the Maker of heaven and earth?
- Is this information meaningful to you? Does it affect you? Does it affect your view of life through the week?
- Do you think this is simply private information just for you?
- Do you believe to the point of gratitude and joy and concern for people who cannot yet say “I believe in God the Father Almighty”?
We thank you gracious God for coming to us in the person of your Son, for the huge privilege of inviting people like us who are so small and temporary to become your children. We thank you for your almightiness, your wisdom, all your attributes which are beyond our comprehension. And we thank you too, Heavenly Father that you have given us the great privilege of knowing you, the great joy of being able to say ‘we believe’ and the great mission of helping others to do the same. We pray that the things we have thought on this morning would impact us more and more and that you would help these things to be lived out in us for your honour and we ask it in Jesus’ name, Amen.