Posted by: lepages | April 18, 2010

I believe in….

My preach from this morning, picking up again on our series looking at the Apostles’ Creed. Found my preparation really refreshing, and was delighted to have someone say they felt the teaching refreshing this morning – hope you do too! The preach should be available to download / listen to online from the church website in the next few days.

The Apostles’ Creed
“I believe in…the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints…”

Introduction
I believe in the Holy Spirit the holy catholic church the communion of saints handout, but I’m not guaranteeing I’ll do it every time I preach, but I think today lends itself well to this approach.

We return to the series we began at the start of the year, looking at foundational Christian teaching from the Apostles’ Creed. During January we spent time thinking about what it means to believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. What it means to believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary, Who suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried; who descended into hell and the third day rose again from the dead; what it means to believe that He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, And will come to judge the living and the dead.

This week and next week we will think about the remaining stanzas of the Apostles’ Creed. This week we look at
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy catholic Church,
The communion of saints,

We need to unpack some of the phrases a little, because with changing terminology over the centuries we could easily misinterpret their meanings….. but before we begin to do that, I want to ask:-
Why is it important to say we believe in the Holy Spirit and in the Church, as well as in God the Father and the Lord Jesus?

I want to answer that with 2 bold statements, the reasons for which will hopefully become apparent as we reflect on the statements in the Creed.

Why do we believe in the Holy Spirit?
Because without the Holy Spirit, none of us would be here now.
It is the Holy Spirit who reveals the truth about God and about Christ and about salvation to us.

Why believe in the Church?
Because without the Church, none of us would be here now.
The Church is the agent through which the truth about God, Jesus Christ and his salvation are communicated.

Therefore both are inherently valuable, and both are foundational in the Christian faith.
Scripture is God breathed by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the bulk of Scripture is about the truths of God being worked out in his people, in the Old Testament the Jewish people, in the New Testament, the body of Christ on earth, the Church.

So,
I believe in the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit has always been a bit of a mystery to people.
God as Creator, out there as supreme being is a concept many people can cope with, because it makes sense of an otherwise confusing world.
Jesus we can identify with, because he was a human being and we can read physical accounts of events in his life.
But the Holy Spirit is a bit more difficult for some.

We know from scripture that he is described as
the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of truth

But we know too that he is not just a part of God as Father, or Jesus as Son, but he is also fully God in himself.
He was there at creation ‘hovering over the waters’ Gen 1:2.
Jesus described him as ‘another Counsellor’ John 14:16,26 and said that he would teach us all things reminding us of what Jesus has spoken to us and would be with us forever.
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would come upon people and would give them power Acts 1:8
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement John 16:8

When we meet with the Holy Spirit we meet with God as Father, we meet with Jesus as Saviour, but we also meet with the Holy Spirit, the one who comes alongside us and makes his home in us, so that we are never alone.

Christians have always struggled to describe this wonder – and eventually came up with the term ‘Trinity’ – three in one – one God, but personified in three persons – all equal and all one and yet eternally with their own identity so that at the beginning of time God could say amongst himself ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’ Gen 1:26.

We can’t see the Holy Spirit, but just like the wind…. which we can’t see, we can see and feel his effect!

Turn with me if you would to John 3:5-8

Jesus is talking with a religious leader named Nicodemus about the need we all have to have a spiritual birth, to be ‘born again’ as Jesus termed it, if we are to see the kingdom of God, his rule and reign in our lives. In response to Nicodemus’ questions Jesus says these words v5

READ John 3:5-8

It is the Holy Spirit who brings us to spiritual birth – without him we would not know the truth about Jesus, we would not be convinced of our need of a Saviour. We gather on a Saturday morning to pray for more of his work in our midst and in our communities.

Jesus compares the Spirit to the wind and there is some wonderful analogies here which are not easily seen in English.

In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for breath – God breathing life into beings is the word ‘ruach’ – which is also the word Spirit – so when God breathes life into people he breathes his Spirit into them – the Spirit brings life into being – and he brings spiritual life into being.

In the New Testament the Greek word for wind is the word ‘pneuma’ but it is also the word for Spirit. So in these verses in John Jesus plays with the word, using it in different contexts to refer to the spirit of God, the wind of God and to the physical wind. Its interesting that as the Holy Spirit was first poured out on the day of Pentecost there was the sound ‘of a mighty rushing wind’ Acts 2:2

The Holy Spirit blows as he pleases – when he breathes life into people, when he blows upon them – wind (much as I can hate it when cycling into it!) has a habit of invigorating us – look at a class of children on a windy day! I remember the adventure of jumping into the wind with my coat above my head as a child and being caught and blown along. There is a delight in doing the same and catching the wind of the Spirit as he moves amongst us. I know several folk have caught the wind of the Spirit as we have worshipped together in the past few weeks and their hearts and lives have been stirred, empowered, empassioned – but for some it has been a little bit frightening.

The Holy Spirit is the giver of life, he breathes life into people. Giving birth isn’t easy (so I’m told!! 😉 ) Coming to spiritual birth isn’t always easy – it can be painful to face the fact that we need a Saviour to rescue us, to face the fact that we need a spiritual birth – but just like giving birth physically brings incredible joy to people, so coming to spiritual birth releases incredible joy in people’s lives as the Spirit breathes life into us. And as sometimes there is absolute delight in the wind (out on my bike with the wind behind you – what a joy!!) Walking on the cliffs in Guernsey with the wind driving into your face, what a thrill. So when the Holy Spirit comes and blows on your life, what a thrill, what a buzz, what a delight, what a motivator to action.

I believe in the Holy Spirit
Anyone got an ‘Amen’ to that??!!

I believe in the holy catholic church

The word ‘catholic’ here is not a noun describing a particular denomination of the church, but an adjective describing the breadth of the church – the word catholic means ‘universal’
– so when the term catholic is used with a small ‘c’, it means the whole of the church – all Christian believers across our world and down through the centuries.

That’s a lot of people. Across the world today the church is growing at the fastest pace in history – perhaps not here in the West, but across the world it is. Its good to get a glimpse of the breadth of the church – the church is not called to be ‘you in your small corner and I in mine’ – can I encourage you to read of what is happening in the church worldwide, share in what is happening in the church across our nation, share in what is happening in the the church across our town.

Someone at Howard & Marion’s wedding remarked on the noticeboard at Russell Park Baptist Church describing it as ‘part of God’s church in Bedford’ – and that’s what we are too – we are not a church on our own, we are part of the universal church, the breadth of the church, across our town, across our nation, across our world.

That’s why its a delight to share in things like our Good Friday Witness, to join with hundreds of other Christians from across our town in worshipping and witnessing to our Lord Jesus Christ, that’s why its a delight to share in Partnership, a network of churches of similar background who can strengthen and support one another, that’s why its a delight to join in a big event like Grapevine, bringing together thousands of people from across our nation and beyond to worship together and hear from God together. Come and join others in doing this over the August bank holiday weekend and be blessed as we share together in it as a community of God’s people. Get your booking in before the end of the month and save money!!

The church is not only described as ‘catholic’ but also as ‘holy’.

So often we think of ‘holy’ as meaning boring, traditional – but ‘holy’ is anything but that!

‘Holy’ means ‘set apart’ and in Christian terms it means specifically ‘set apart for God’
You see the church is not your church or my church, its God’s church.
The church is not some social club for like minded people to enjoy, though there is nothing wrong with the church doing things socially, or indeed running social activities.
The church is to be set apart for God, for his purposes, to fulfil his will and desires.

I’m a member of Bedford Traktors Triathlon Club, I’m also a member of the British Triathlon Federation – but do I believe in them?? No I don’t, I enjoy them. They bring pleasure to my life. But I don’t believe in them.

Talk about the church though – that’s something I believe in – a body of people set apart for the purposes of God, to be used to see his Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven – a body of people where I can grow in knowing God, in learning more about him, a body of people where I can meet with him – that’s something worth believing in.

Which brings us to the final phrase in the Apostles Creed for today – again, like the words ‘holy’ and ‘catholic’ it’s really a description of the church

I believe in the communion of saints

When we hear the word ‘communion’ we often think of bread and wine.

When we hear the word ‘saints’ people often think of those who have been ‘labelled’ saints by the big C Catholic church. But to treat those words in that way is to narrow their meaning down far too much.

The word communion means a sharing of thoughts, feelings, emotions – so when we come to share in ‘communion’ we come to share with God and one another our thoughts, our feelings, our emotions as we reflect on what he has done for us as we break bread together and drink the fruit of the vine, and I believe God shares his heart with us too – so we feed on him.

Communion is the fellowship of sharing together.
There is something intensely valuable in Christians sharing together, sharing hearts, thoughts, emotions. It builds us up, it encourages us, it strengthens us. Its something we can do only in part in a larger gathering on a Sunday – its something we can do more fully as we gather in small groups during the week.

So that’s communion – we could replace the word communion with the word ‘fellowship’

What about ‘saints’?
I believe in the communion of saints
Is this some idea of Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke and Saint John somehow sharing fellowship together in heaven?

If you go through the letters in the New Testament you will find they are almost all addressed to the saints in a certain area – to living people – not to people who were somehow saintified many years after their death.

So in Romans we read
“To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints”

In 2 Corinthians we read
“To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia”

In Ephesians we read
“To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus”

And I could go on.
Saints are not dead people who died years ago and did something special in their Christian lives – saints are all Christian believers – if you’re a disciple of Jesus Christ, you are a saint. The word ‘saint’ has the same origins as the word holy – it means a people who are set apart for the purposes of God.

So the phrase ‘the communion of saints’ could equally be stated as ‘the fellowship of believers’, but there wouldn’t be perhaps quite as much depth in that wording.

Turn with me if you would to a section of scripture headed with that phrase ‘the fellowship of the believers’ in our church Bibles:-

Acts 2:42-47

In these few short verses we have summed up a description of what the communion of saints, the fellowship of believers meant for the early church…

READ Acts 2:42-47

That is something worth believing in, to want to be a part of.
That sounds exciting, fulfilling, pleasurable, costly, thrilling
that is what the church is meant to be.

I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints
the church is something worth believing in because it has been entrusted with the good news of Jesus, it is the place where that good news, that new lifestyle is worked out in practical living – that’s why its a delight and a privilege for me to be able to give my life to working with and being a part of this fellowship and together working to see God’s purposes worked out in and through us.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints.

Do you?

If you do, then affirm it with me, by repeating it out aloud together.

Prayer

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  1. […] couple of weeks ago we read from Acts 2:42-47 thinking about the church – a church which modelled what it means ‘to love one another as I have loved you’ and […]


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