May 12, 2013
Sunday after Ascension Sermon
Why We still Believe
1 Peter 4:7- 11, John 15:26-16:4
Sunday after Ascension
May 12, 2013
The Christian faith is either revealed truth from God, or it is just one of many made up stories that we can identify with or not as we choose. Christian morality is either God's law binding upon all people at all times, or it is just another competing human view which we are free to accept or reject as we please. Yet billions of people down through history, many of them the brightest lights of humanity, have earnestly believed the Christian faith is truth from God. Even today billions of people still believe. The World Council of Churches claims to have 590 million members. There are over 330,000 protestant denominations. 300 million people are part of the Eastern Orthodox Church. 1.2 billion people are Roman Catholics. I personally have problems calling some of these people Christians, but the fact is, they believe they are, and that raises a question; why, in this, "enlightened" age, do so many still believe? Why do we still cling to Christianity?
We still cling to Christianity because we believe it is the faith given by God. We say this because we believe Jesus Christ brought the Christian faith to us, and we believe Jesus Christ was is and forever will be, God. We believe He is the word who was with God and who was God in John 1:1. We believe He is the word who became flesh in John 1:14. We believe Him when He said in John 10:30, "I and my Father are one, " and in John 8:18, "the Father that sent me beareth witness of me," and, "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father" in John 14:9. Thus we agree fully with Hebrews 1:1 and 2, "God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son."
How did God speak to us in His Son Jesus Christ? He spoke to us in the teaching of Jesus. Jesus came to teach us about God. He said,"I do nothing of myself; but as the Father hath taught me, I speak these things" (Jn. 8:18). Looking through the Bible we see Jesus spending most of His time teaching about God. We see the Sermon on the Mount. We see Him teaching in the synagogues and in the Temple. We especially see Him teaching the men who would become His Apostles. We see Him taking them aside for special times of private instruction. He even spent time teaching them after His resurrection. Thus, on the Emmaus road, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Lk. 24:27).
It was these same men that He commissioned to be His witnesses, preaching the same faith He gave to them. They were "ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor. 5:20), and "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor 4:1). They were to proclaim only what they had received from Christ, the very same faith He taught, the very word of Christ.. They were to "preach the word," as the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Tim 4:1). And they were to pass that same word on to others, who were to pass it on to others, and so it will continue down through the generations (2 Tim. 2:2).
So we believe the Christian faith is given to the world by God, and taught in the Church from the time of Christ to this very moment. It was preserved by God through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enabled the Apostles to understand and preserve the faith. They preserved it by teaching it, and commissioning others to teach it. They also preserved it by recording it in the books and letters we now call the New Testament.
We believe God established a people, a kingdom, an organisation called the Church, and a major part of its purpose is to preserve and proclaim the faith. given to it. We believe the Church was established by God, for Christ Himself said, "on this rock I will build my church." We believe all Christians are to be active and faithful members of the Church. For Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to absent ourselves from its meetings. Christ gave the faith to the Church and the Bible calls Christianity the faith once delivered to the saints. This is why St. Paul calls the Church the pillar and ground of truth, because it preserves the faith given to it by Christ.
For two thousand years the Church has struggled to preserve the faith. It has been persecuted by enemies, and untold numbers of her people have died in Coliseums and dungeons and on crosses, rather than give up the faith. It has been torn by heresy. I said earlier that I have a hard time calling some people Christians. That is because so many of them have adopted other gospels and given up on the faith given by Christ. This is not surprising to us, for the Bible itself says the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine, and will turn away from the truth to fables. I submit to you that many who call themselves Christians today are actually following fables rather than truth. Yet God has His remnant, His people who have not bowed the knee to other gods or departed from the faith. It is this Invisible Church within the Church that is the true Church. And, though not perfect in either faith or practice, not even close to perfection, this Church continues in the faith, and always will.
That brings me to this present moment and this very place. It brings me to we who call ourselves Christians here and now. The faith has been given. It has come to us at great cost and much suffering. It is ours to believe, to treasure, and to preserve, and to hand down to future generations. Having it makes us stewards of the manifold grace of God, as the Apostle Peter wrote in the passage we read earlier this morning. But I note that Peter didn't just call us stewards of the grace of God. He told us to do certain things, "as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." He is saying that having the grace of God makes us its stewards. Now we must decide to be bad stewards, or good stewards. God help to be good stewards.