In my previous article I spoke about my faith and how I became a Christian. I ended that article by saying how that was only the start, the start of a very exciting pilgrimage that is still ongoing.
For me the Bible is pivotal to my understanding of Christianity, of faith and to my subsequent growth. It is, in a manner of speaking, a road map that has guided me and continues to do so.
From the Bible I learn of one God who is the creator of all things, and who is, among other things, just, loving, forgiving and full of grace.
God is known to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As a Christian when I say ‘Father’ I understand the word to encompass much more than any human father could ever be or do. It is an all-embracing word that describes a relationship with a loving God who (among other things) provides, protects, comforts, nurtures and gives life.
It is within this loving relationship that God the Father sends His only Son (Jesus) to show us the way back to Him and sends us the Holy Spirit who continues to be our guide, our advocate, our comforter and the power by which we bear witness to God’s presence.
Throughout the centuries, Christians have tried to express and understand this relationship of one God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The statements of faith which we call ‘Creeds’ give us the boundaries by which to explore and express that relationship. These Creeds are the historic statements of belief of the main traditions of the universal Christian Church. The two main creeds which the church uses today are known as the ‘Apostle’s Creed’ and the ‘Nicene Creed’. Both are used in the liturgy of the Methodist Church in particular at key moments in the Church’s life (e.g. Baptism, Holy Communion, and Confirmation).
The Nicene Creed reads as follows:
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Bible teaches us that from the beginning we were created to know God, to love God and to be in a relationship with Him – and that He has given us freewill and choice. However, the Bible also teaches us that humanity chose to go its own way and that there now exists a separation between God and human beings.
This sense of separation the Bible calls ‘sin.’ Our sins are also the things we do or say or think that contribute to that sense of separation. It is also about the things we fail to do – hence the Bible also describes as sin our unwillingness to help others and to forgive others, increasing our separation from God.
Therefore humanity does not live as God intended it to.
It is into this that God sends His Son (Jesus) who pays the penalty for our sin through His death on the cross, thereby bridging the gap between God and humanity, and making it possible to be in relationship with God as He originally intended.
The Holy Spirit comes to us, giving us the assurance that our sins are forgiven and empowering us to live the Christian life. On our part, we must choose to accept that Jesus Christ has bridged the gap between us and God – dying on the cross in our place, paying the price for our sin – and accept the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.