As I move to this final quarter of life, I have cause to reflect on the motive for my life's journey as a Christian.
The Bible makes it clear that to live as a Christian is not a call to easy living.
Mark 3: 34 reads “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me”. It is clear that a life based on Christian perspective and teaching is affronting to our human nature.
It should not surprise us that a level of hostility will be experienced by those who engage proactively in Christian faith. Christian teaching and values call the Christian to live and serve community in conformity with God’s values. These values are becoming increasingly unpopular with the western world’s constantly shifting values.
For the sake of succinct reflection, I invite you to consider the Apostle’s creed quoted below that expresses the basic tenants of my belief.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
*The universal church
These truths create boundaries and direction for the way I live my life. It is equally true that they present discomfort and challenge as they confront my own humanity with all my weaknesses, selfishness and sadly my bias to sinful conduct and behaviour. An important consequence of these truths has been God’s revealing to me a preview of heaven and hell that have resulted from my choices and their consequences. My understanding of the reality of “heaven and hell” is that “heaven is the presence of God” and “hell is the absence of God”. These two conditions have played a part in my journey of life. By this I mean I have felt a measure of both of these realities. When choosing wrong paths of sin, selfishness and rejection of God, I have experienced the essence of hell by feeling and knowing the absence of God. Conversely when seeking God through the Bible, prayer, obedience and serving, I have experienced a foretaste of the presence of God and His sustaining encouragement, counsel, and protection.
The core beliefs outlined in the creed have been my companion in a lifetime of conviction in my pursuit of faith. They are accompanied by a raft of wisdom and teaching found in the Bible and through the voice and example of fellow pilgrims on the faith walk. There have been plenty of questions in my life's journey that have caused me concern or doubt. In these times my personal default has been to come back to God's grace and mercy. This default has been the only lasting antidote for me personally for my own brokenness and sinfulness.
My conviction remains that Christianity is a credible alternative to any other belief system this world offers!
My joy is that I have seen many men, women and children take hold of faith when the message of this creed has been preached through the “Good News” of the Gospel. The ongoing transformation and consolidation of these lives has been realised by those who have deliberately “taken up the Cross” and followed Jesus. I will strive to do a better job of representing Jesus in my world because walking as Jesus did makes Jesus visible to those who would seek him!
My prayer is that as you “take up the cross” that you will have many foretastes of heaven that strengthens your resolve to serve our Lord and Saviour as you follow Him.