Summary: 1. Faith must be specific. 2. Faith calls for surrender. 3. Faith must be adequate. 4. Faith must be personal.
Some time ago I read a bumper sticker which said, “Keep the Faith” printed in bold black letters. But underneath was another line in smaller print that said, “If you have any left.” We live in a very cynical and skeptical world, and many people are unsure of exactly what they are supposed to believe. In the midst of life’s uncertainties and trials, you want to know what you believe. For what you believe determines the kind of person you will be. What you believe determines how you feel emotionally. It determines your attitude toward life and how you live your life. Faith is not just psyching yourself out with spiritual nonsense; faith searches for the truth and attaches itself to it. Faith is necessary because truth is not always obvious. You have to be in quest. You have to want the truth and seek the truth.
The first thing that is important to know about faith in God is: Faith must be specific. I once had a couple talk to me about having their baby baptized. They were being pressured by the family to do it, but they were not sure they believed all the things the church taught. They said they just wanted to teach their child that God was everywhere and in everything. God was in the birds and the trees. I explained that what they were talking about was Pantheism, and that it was not compatible with the Christian faith. They were offended and decided not to have the child baptized, preferring a general idea of God rather than a specific one.
The Christian faith does not leave us with the option of making up our own minds about its basic doctrines. The truth is presented for our acceptance, not for our vote. It is important to believe in something, but it is vital that what you believe is something that’s true and real. What good does it do to believe in something if it is a lie? There are many people talking about “spirituality” these days, but what they are talking about is far removed from Christianity and often antithetical to it. Many celebrities are sporting all kinds of designer religions today, as though their fame legitimizes their foolishness. Christian faith is not a collection of beliefs that you glean from various world religions. It is crucial that what you believe in is actually the Christian faith, because your life depends on it. God rewards our faith when we put our whole trust in him. Philip Yancey makes this important observation: “[After the resurrection] Christ presented himself only to people who already believed in him. So far as we know, not a single unbeliever saw Jesus after his death.” When you decide to put your faith in God, God will reward your faith and reveal himself to you. This is important, because what you believe determines the quality of your life here, as well as your eternal destiny. The more you choose faith the more you will understand. Anselm (1033-1109) had it right when he prayed, “Lord, I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand.”
The Apostle’s Creed developed quickly in the life of the church. We begin to see it in various forms as soon as the early part of the second century. It’s development was important because there were those who were spreading false teaching which was contrary to what Jesus taught us about God. Before that, it was Christ who prompted the first creed to be spoken about himself. The rumors were flying about just who Jesus was. Some were saying he was a prophet, and others understood him to be merely a great teacher. But wanting his disciples to know and express the truth, he turned to them and said, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter, in that great statement of faith that is the distillation of all truth, said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). That is actually the first Christian Creed.
Whenever the Gospel comes it comes with truth, and we cannot make the Christian faith ours until we become willing to submit to those truths. The Bible says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).
The second thing we must understand is: Faith calls for surrender. If you cannot accept the basic truths of God’s Word, what Christians since the time of Christ have understood and believed, then you need to take a serious look at where you are spiritually. You have every right to believe whatever you want, but you do not have the right to reject biblical, historic Christian teaching and still call your beliefs Christian. A surrender to God’s truth is called for.