I Believe in God

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Mark 9:24

A lot of people today approach their religious faith the way an adventurous cook operates in the kitchen – with a strong desire to experiment and come up with a unique personal recipe. But Christians are not free to make up their own beliefs. We have a creed. We confess a faith that is held in common by all true Christians of all times and places. David Bast explores this common faith in a series of programs based on the Apostles’ Creed entitled “What We Believe.”

What do you believe in? Everybody believes in something, even if it’s only something trivial. I remember an old commercial years ago on television. A young man looked into the camera and said, “Know what I believe in? I believe in playin’ hard . . . workin’ hard . . . rock and roll . . . my friends . . . my car . . . Joanne . . . and beer.” And the announcer intoned reverently, “Old Style – a beer you can believe in!”

Our Personal Credo

Well, I hope that you have more to believe in than beer. But maybe you’ve never stopped to consider or examine your beliefs in any detail or depth. So what do you believe in? What is your personal credo? The word “credo” is Latin for “I believe;” it’s where we also get the word “creed.” As individuals we all have personal beliefs. We all have a set of convictions about the nature of ultimate reality that lies behind our principles and shapes our ideals. Perhaps the most important of those basic convictions is whether or not we believe in God and what we think God is like.

Our culture loves individual choice. Nothing beats a smorgasbord, and that includes when it comes to religious beliefs. A lot of people today approach religious faith the way an adventurous cook operates in the kitchen, experimenting to come up with new and uniquely personal recipes. They take a little bit of the Bible – especially from the sayings of Jesus – blend in a good helping of new age spirituality, perhaps a pinch or two of astrology, or yoga, or vegetarianism, add a dash of social activism, mix it all together, and end up with their own personal set of beliefs, their “spirituality,” as we say now, a belief system in which God may or may not play a major role.

But for Christians it’s different. We do not invent our own personal credos. Of course, like everyone we will have different particular causes to which we are especially committed, different emphases in our theologies, but believing Christians all share the same basic creed. We all believe and confess the same faith. One of the most familiar and ancient of the common Christian statements of faith is the Apostles’ Creed. It’s called that because it was once thought to be the product of the twelve original apostles of Jesus Christ. That isn’t the case, but the Apostles’ Creed does go back to the early church, and it does faithfully summarize what the apostles taught about God.

Jesus commanded his followers to baptize “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In the early Christian baptisms this three-fold name was used in a kind of question and answer confession of faith: “Do you believe in God the Father?” one would be asked. “I believe in God the Father.” “Do you believe in God the Son?” “I believe in God the Son.” “Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?” “I believe in God the Holy Spirit.” And eventually this grew into the trinitarian structure of the Apostles’ Creed as we know it today.

I Believe in God

“I believe in God.” That’s how the Christian creed starts. It’s also how the Bible starts. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God . . . .” In the beginning God is already there. There is nothing in the Bible about where he came from or what he was doing before the beginning. Nor is there any attempt to persuade us or convince us that he really is there. I don’t know of one single argument in the Bible for God’s existence. There isn’t a verse, not a sentence in scripture, that tries to prove that God is real. Even the famous opening verse of Psalm 19 isn’t an argument. It’s a declaration: “The heavens proclaim the glory of God.” All the arguments and the proofs come later, from philosophers and theologians and apologists. The Bible just says that God is there always, everywhere.

One of the assumptions of many people in our time is that belief in God is an outmoded superstition. Science can now explain how everything came to be, including us. So we no longer need the hypothesis of a God who created the world and the human race. But the legendary Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking has said that the most difficult question is not how the universe came into being, but why there is a universe at all. Why is there something, instead of nothing?

Science has absolutely no answer for that most basic question, but Christians do. There is something rather than nothing because God is real. There is a universe because God chose to make one. He planned it and called it into being.” The Lord Almighty has sworn,” says Isaiah, “‘Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand'” (Isaiah 14:24). “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. . . . For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Psalm 33:6,9). The fact is, most people, in most times and places, have believed in God because it makes the most sense both of our world and of ourselves. People of every sort – ancient and modern, learned and ignorant, Christians and non-Christians, scientists and philosophers, farmers and poets, teachers and preachers – have agreed in their conviction that there must be a God behind it all.

I Believe, Help My Unbelief

But such a conviction alone isn’t enough. The Christian creed does not confess faith in a God, that is, in a generic Creator. It confesses faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. We believe that God not only created the world that exists unseen behind it, but that he came into the world visibly, as a person, and that he suffered, and died, and rose again, and will return one day. We believe in a God who isn’t just powerful but personal, a God who loves us and saves us and judges us and directs our lives from beginning to end. And I have to tell you in all honesty that it isn’t always easy to confess faith in a God like that.

One of my favorite Bible characters is a bit-player so insignificant he’s not even named in the gospel story. But I like him a lot because I can identify with him. Perhaps you can, too. He was a man who took his epileptic son to see Jesus one day to ask for healing. Jesus told him that anything was possible for the person who believes, and immediately the man cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). I think that most of us would have to acknowledge, in our most honest moments, that we are a lot like that anxious father. We believe too, but we also sometimes doubt, or at least wonder. We have faith, but we have unbelief too. There are days – most days, I hope – when we know that God is real, that he is near, that he is good. But there are also some dark days, when we wonder whether it might all be just an illusion, a gigantic wish for something that isn’t true, a hope for Someone who isn’t there. And then there are the darkest times of all, when we believe that there is a God, but think that he is against us, that he doesn’t hear, that he doesn’t care.

“Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Our Joint Belief

It’s during the dark times, the doubting days and sleepless nights, that it most helps to be part of a body of believers. You see, whenever you say, “I believe in God, the Father, Almighty,” remember that it isn’t just you saying that. It’s really “We believe in God, the Father, Almighty” because the whole church in all the ages confesses this faith. You’re not alone. You confess faith in God with the saints and the apostles, the martyrs and the missionaries of all times and places.

One of my friends tells of a time during his college years when he was struggling greatly with his faith. Newly exposed to various philosophies and world-views, greatly troubled by the existence of so much suffering and evil in the world, this young student was beginning to doubt the truth of the faith in which he had been raised.

Then one Sunday he happened to go to church, and his doubts and struggles were resolved in a wonderful way. It wasn’t the singing or the prayers that helped him, and he really didn’t recall anything about the sermon. No, what happened was that at one point in the service, when the whole congregation got up to recite the Apostles’ Creed, my friend happened to notice one of his professors – a brilliant, world-renowned philosopher – standing with all the others and repeating the words with conviction. And he thought, well, if he believes that, I guess I can too.

And so can I, and so can you. There will always be room for doubt. Of course, the same thing is true for most of the really important things in the world. I can’t prove, for example, that my wife loves me; after all, she might just be pretending. I can’t prove that it is better to give than to receive, or that love is more important than money. But I still know that all those things are true. Just as I know that God is there. He is in control even when it seems like life is the pits. He loves me even when I do things that make me hate myself.

Theologian James Sire has said that the only thing worth believing is the truth. I believe in God, not because I need a Father-figure, or wish for blessings from him, or hope that he will take me to heaven some day, but because I know he is real. He is the Truth. He is the only one worth believing in. Can I prove this to you? No, I can’t. You’ll have to try faith for yourself. Believe, and you will know.