Choosing the Right Foundation
Perhaps you have heard the saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” This rings very true in our culture today. By the time most people reach college age, they will have been exposed to many different opinions and worldviews. Internet, television, movies, music, school curriculum, and the latest bestselling books are constantly pushing many different ideas and values upon us, whether we ask for them or not. They seem to have answers for all of life’s questions—Who am I? Why am I here? Is there a God? What do I do with my life? How can I know right and wrong? But with so many different views being presented, we often find ourselves very lost and very empty.
About 2,000 years ago, Jesus walked the earth and gave some of the most profound and clear teachings about life. The things He taught and the example He set for mankind are like no other prophet or religious leader—Jesus changed the world. As Christians, it is very important for us not to take His words casually as if we can take it or leave it, or just pick out the parts we like. He did not give us that option. Read what He said after giving one of His most powerful sermons:
Matthew 7:24-27, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
What was Jesus saying? His teaching is a solid foundation for life—if you live by it, you will do well. If you don’t obey it, your life will crumble. He said elsewhere in the Bible:
John 8:31b-32, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus said His teaching was the truth, and that by following Him as His disciples, we would be free! The sad truth is that today, many people are not living by His teachings, even many Christians. We don’t obey the teachings of Christ because we really don’t believe in Christ. If we did, we would live differently, and we would be free. What we are lacking are core governing principles, or fundamental beliefs, to guide our lives and fortify our worldview. But as it stands, Christian and non-Christian alike, Americans look to prescription medications and other drugs, nightlife, self-help books, spiritual gurus, work, education, sex, and relationships to find fulfillment in life. We don’t look to Jesus or the plain teaching the Bible, and so our lives and families are falling apart.
What Do You Believe?
This post is meant to inform you and encourage you to stand for Jesus Christ and His Word. There are certain foundational truths that Jesus’ first disciples gave their lives to defend. Do you remember Peter, James, Matthew, and the other apostles? They all died as martyrs because they firmly believed in Jesus’ words, His death on the cross, His resurrection, and that He was and is the Son of God. And it did not end with them—courageous men and women throughout the ages, and to this day, have worked tirelessly and have been persecuted because they hold to these truths.
What do you believe in? Is what you’re living for worth Christ dying for? Does the way you live reflect that you have strong convictions about anything? I believe one of the reasons God requires us to have faith in Him is that if someone truly believes in something, they will live according to those beliefs. In the 20th century, two of the largest nations on earth, Russia and China, became Communist regimes because a small group of people truly believed in it. On 9/11, a handful of men committed a horrendous act of war, changing the world for evil’s sake because of their deeply held beliefs.
What about you? Your faith in Jesus should be changing your life and the world around you for the good every day. Faith in Jesus Christ ought to produce a life marked by personal integrity, love and self-sacrifice, courage, earnest prayer, hard work, humility, joy, and every other good and perfect thing you can think of. Instead, many Christians sorely lack these things; and some are being swayed to eastern religions, atheism, and Islam. It’s not that they tried Christianity and found it wanting, but they never believed it to begin with. And they haven’t believed because they never understood it. To gain a proper understanding of the Christian faith, let’s start with the basics.
The “Once For All” Faith
A brief look of Church history would confirm that these fundamentals we hold to today did not just fall from heaven, but were carefully discovered, and rediscovered, over the centuries through prayer and study in the midst of church splits, false doctrines, and reformations.
These truths were called by Jude in the Bible “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Or to interpret the author of Hebrews, God had gradually revealed himself to mankind before, but “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). This most basic and pure faith did not fall from heaven at Pentecost but was permanently revealed to God’s people when the Word of God (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14).
God’s last word was given; and in Christ, there was no longer uncertainty of who is God among the gods, or how we might be saved. Even the earliest disciples understood this as is reflected in the creeds of the Bible. Creeds are simply statements that are meant to clearly define a set of beliefs. To name a few that affirm foundational beliefs:
- Mark 12:29: the shema, a confession of faith in only one God (as handed down from our Hebrew forefathers).
- 1 Corinthians 15:3-7: a testimony of the resurrection of Christ before many witnesses.
- Philippians 2:6-11: a proclamation of Jesus’ dual nature: fully God and fully Man.
- Matthew 28:19: a blessing to Christ’s disciples to baptize new believers in the name of the Triune God.
These creeds were memorized by the earliest disciples and recorded in Scripture, and they reflect the non-negotiable elements of the “once for all” faith (Jude 1:3); they are the deep truths of the faith which Paul required church elders to hold to (1 Tim. 3:9), the elementary teaching of Christ (Heb. 6:1), the full purpose of God (Acts 20:27), and the form of teaching to which [the believers] were entrusted (Rom. 6:17). And they were faithfully passed on; as Paul wrote to his apprentice Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2).
From the New Testament times until now, men like Ignatius (50-117 AD), John Hus (1369-1415), and William Tyndale (1492-1536), among countless others, have been put to death by both religious and secular authorities for declaring the truth that Jesus is Lord and God, salvation is by repentance and faith, and the authority and inspiration of the Bible. Today, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has spent over 1,000 days apart from his family in an Iranian prison for his refusal to deny the truths of Christianity. When asked to deny Christ, he said “I cannot.”
This “once for all” faith has been under severe attack these past 2,000 years, and those who sought to preserve it have paid a heavy price. You have heard it said that “Freedom isn’t free,” but I tell you “The truth isn’t free.” Jesus paid with His blood to make God’s truth available to all nations. And, following in the Master’s footsteps, Christian martyrs have paid with their blood to bring God’s truth to the ends of the earth. The abundance of Bible knowledge and resources we have, and the freedom of religion we enjoy was handed to us—we didn’t work for it, we didn’t fight for it, and we didn’t suffer for it. The truth is precious! How much does it mean to you? You may not have to die for it, but will you at least learn it and live by it?
The fundamental Christian teachings have been passed on in different countries and in different languages. In recent years, Christian leaders have condensed these truths into Seven Fundamentals. They did not invent them, but simply recognized what the Bible teaches and what Christians, from the New Testament until now, have always believed. There are certain sideline issues such as the gifts of the Spirit and the role of women in the church, that not everyone agrees on. The fundamentals, however, unite all Christians in all times in all places. The fundamentals are what the Apostles taught; it’s what Chinese Christians risk their lives for. Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, and Messianic Jews all affirm these truths and can thusly call each other brothers and sisters in Christ.
The Seven Fundamentals are as follows:
1) The Bible is God’s inspired Word—it is inerrant, infallible, and authoritative for faith and conduct (see 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).
2) There is one true God who is revealed in three persons –the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mat. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14).
3) Jesus is God—100% human and 100% divine (Jhn. 1:1, 14; Phil. 2:5-11).
4) The Fall of Man—God made the world good, but sin and evil entered in through man’s disobedience (Gen. 3; Rom. 3:9-20).
5) Salvation—By grace alone, through alone, in Christ alone (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8-10).
6) Communion and Baptism—Two practices instituted by the Lord Himself (Mat. 28:19; Luke 22:14-20).
7) Final Judgment—All mankind will be held judged by God for what they did in life to eternity in heaven or eternity in hell (Mat. 25:31-46; Rev. 20:11-15).
Do Your Homework; Don’t Stop Believing
This post will help give you a basic understanding of each of the fundamentals, but these teachings are very deep and can be controversial. There have been many books written, and debates over, the teachings of Christianity. With that said, there is a good chance that you may still have some questions about these things. What will you do when your faith is challenged? Here are some situations to think about:
- What if you witness to an atheist, only to have him point out errors in your Bible and call it a book of myths?
- What if a Muslim or Jehovah’s Witness uses your own Bible to try to demonstrate that Jesus is not God?
- What if you hear a famous Christian leader deny the teachings about God’s judgment and hell?
- What if you yourself just can’t figure out the concept of the Trinity?
You WILL have your faith, and you WILL have difficult questions about God and the Bible, BUT NEVER EVER GIVE UP ON THE FAITH! Just because you haven’t figured out something doesn’t make it untrue. And just because someone makes a convincing argument, it does not make them right. There is a saying that goes: “Truth will always hold up against all criticism.” If the Bible is the Word of God, then it will always be proven true when all the facts are presented (see Prov. 18:17). If you find yourself struggling with one or more of the fundamentals of the Bible, here are a few steps to help you along:
- Pray—Ask God to help you understand His Word (see Jas. 1:5).
- Study—Read the Bible passages you may be struggling with. Make sure you read it in its biblical context—that is, the whole chapter and book where the verse is found. Also, check out commentaries by scholars who know the language and history of the Bible (see 2 Tim. 2:15, KJV).
- Ask—Talk to your leaders and people who you trust to know the Bible and get their thoughts. You are probably not the first person to face such difficulties; allow others to encourage you with their experience and insight (see Prov. 13:20).
When Paul came and taught the Jews in Berea about Jesus, they were excited to receive the message but still had some questions. These questions did not cause them to reject the teachings, but only to study and dig deeper! Let’s take an example from some people in the early church who had a passion and desire to know the truth of God:
Acts 17:11, Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
If anything is worth believing, it is worth living for, dying for, studying, agonizing, and debating. I would to God for a generation of back-boned fundamentalists who know what they believe, believe what they believe, and live what they believe.