But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God” (Psalm 31:14 ESV).
WHAT DO YOU believe?
This question does not speak to your emotion, your intellect or your experiences; it speaks to a much deeper recess of your person.
It asks you to search your heart and examine who or what occupies it.
In other words, who or what sits on the throne of your soul?
Another important question is, “Can more than one thing sit on your soul’s throne?”
Jesus argues, “A person can only serve one master” (Matthew 6:24). Perhaps that is why one of the most daunting questions a person can be asked is, “What do you believe?”
This is daunting because no matter what you say, what you don’t say is of equal importance. To say you believe in one thing is to firmly declare what you do not believe.
This reality that emerges as we declare our beliefs is the force behind the statement of the Lord that he didn’t come to bring peace on Earth but division (Luke 12:51) — not that Christ is calling us to arms, but simply pointing out a reality: Christians are not Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Rastafarians, Pagans or anything else but Christians.
He tells us that the fundamental beliefs of these other religions collide with the truths he came to reveal, and division will occur.
Don’t get me wrong. Christians are not defined by what they are not; they are defined by what they are: spiritually reborn citizens of heaven who declare boldly that Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3).
Many rivals of the Church argue that Christians are egotistical and dismissive toward other religions, as if Christians assume they hold the only truth. Such an argument misses the point that God himself has revealed the only truth, and it is God’s sole truth that Christians confess and teach.
Christians didn’t come up with what they believe. It was given to the world through the Word, and in it God has revealed himself as the One God (Deuteronomy 6:4): Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16-17; Matthew 28:19).
For Christians, it is he who occupies the throne of their soul. Moreover, it is God himself who declares all other gods as false (Deuteronomy 32:39), all other religions are false (Jeremiah 23:16; Matthew 7:15-20; Matthew 24:24; 1 John 4:1-6) and that salvation comes from no one else (Acts 4:11-12).
When a Christian reaffirms their belief, for instance, in the words of Nicene and Apostles’ Creed, they are simply confessing they believe God’s truth and that he alone occupies their soul’s throne.
These words are powerful, significant and fundamental, speaking to the intimate and resolute nature of our faith. What we believe in must bleed into our everyday lives.
We must stand together in this world and declare, “I believe in the Triune God.” With these words, we confess that we would rather suffer loss and experience desertion, famine, imprisonment and even death than fall away from its tenants.
We say in a united voice we are bound by the faith we have been given by the One who occupies our hearts, who reveals truth through his Scriptures. Those who have dismissed the depth of the word “belief,” who assume that being “religious” and believing in something as truth is the same, fail to understand the very basics of humanity and history.
I want to pause for a moment and address what may be a rising concern: Christians do not wish ill or hate, despise or look down on other faiths. We understand the depth of belief. Therefore, we are called to serve them by pointing to the One who has called us out of spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1-10).
Christians believe their Savior when he says, “I am The Bread of Life (John 6:35), “I am The Light of The World (John 8:12)” and “I am The Good Shepherd (John 10:7-15).”
Consequently, we declare to the world his truth and want others to know the truth of their salvation.
To speak a bold biblical truth, only those dead to belief do not care what others believe, nor understand the implications of this profound part of our earthly lives, nor truly love them enough to teach them (I Corinthians 1:17-18; I Corinthians 2:4-5; Romans 10:14-15; 1 John 3:17).
Some argue that privately you are free to exercise your faith but publicly we are to remain secular. Such a position encourages individuals to transform their belief into a secret and is fundamentally opposed to the spirit of our inalienable freedoms.
Remember, Jesus said we can only have one master. Will it be the God of Truth or those who scream for the truth of Christ to remain hidden?
The fight from the beginning has been who we will have as our master (Genesis 3:1), and today you are in a fight for your soul. You must remain steadfast unto the end just as the heroes of our faith have done (2 Timothy 4:3-7).
Stand firm, therefore, clothed with the full armor of God, and say with me, “I believe” (Ephesians 6:10-20).
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Patrick Lovejoy is minister of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or [email protected]