Beth Moore - Finding What Matters
What is our confession is what we're doin'. We're goin' back to the fundamentals. What is it we're confessing? Working definition of confession in early New Testament church practices was this: a way of expressing allegiance to Christ through agreement with Christ. In other words, we're gonna profess, we're going to say with our mouth the same thing that God said. So, that confession he's talking about, the early church making confessions of faith in the early church practices, a way of expressing allegiance to Christ through agreement with Christ.
Now, here's what I wanna pitch out to you. I want you to know as we're about to talk about these confessions, I'm not trying to talk you into specific creeds. What we're talking about is knowing what we believe and being able to articulate it. And looking back to the New Testament church and going, okay, in that day when Hebrews was written, what was the writer of Hebrews talking about when he discussed with them the confession, this good confession of our faith? This confession that we're gonna hold onto with our hope. This is what we're talkin' about. How do we go forward in the mess we're in? We go back to go forward. We go back to the fundamentals of our faith, back to the confessions of our faith.
Now, numerous scholars suggest that in the Hebrews 4 passage, it says in verse 14: "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession". And so, they're suggesting, this is numerous commentaries, you can do some of the study for yourself if you enjoy doing that like I do. Numerous scholars say, okay, he's talking about specific words that they are saying, that they are making confessions of their faith. Now, we don't know exactly what those are, but what they are saying, what they're suggesting is that there were words that were commonly said by early Christians, perhaps at baptism, perhaps during communion.
There were also things that we see in the scriptures that suggest to us there were things they were taught to say, confessions of their faith, when they were under extreme trial or persecution. Things where you can hear that they're taught, this is what...open their mouth and speak what you know you believe. Not just because you're doing it by rote, but because you are confessing your faith, and listen, your own ears hear what your mouth is saying. Anybody understand that with me? Okay, for instance, turn with me to 1 Timothy chapter 6. All right, now, remember what, the point is it that we're trying to make.
Okay, it seems to be quite clear that in the early church, during the time when the Word of God was being inspired, they were literally in the process of the canon being completed and God's Holy Spirit coming upon these people who were breathed upon to write these words down by the inspiration of God. So, there would've been formal ones perhaps, there would've been informal ones, but I want you to think about what these confessions, professions, creeds, whatever you wanna call it, I want you to think about what some of them coulda been. Listen to this reference, 1 Timothy 6:11-16: "But you, man of God," now this is Paul talking to Timothy, "flee from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of eternal life to which you were called and about which you have made a good confession in the presence of many witnesses".
So somewhere along the way, Timothy had said out loud, he had made this confession of his faith and his commitment to Jesus in the presence of many witnesses: "In the presence of God, who gives life to all, and of Christ Jesus, who gave a good confession before Pontius Pilate, I charge you to keep this command without fault or failure until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. God will bring this about in his own time". You can feel when some of this happens in the scripture. You can almost feel when they're going into a hymn or a poem or some kind of confession, something that very likely the church said together. Listen to this: "He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see, to him be honor and eternal power. Amen".
Confessions of faith. Benedictions. Blessings. These were things that the early church was taught, and what I'm suggesting to you is that we go back to a place where all of us can articulate what it is we believe and that we know what are the things of most importance, that we would know it, that when we see what, "Wait, that does not look like Christianity to me". Anybody know what I'm talkin' about? What does it look like? What does it look like? Listen to me. It will always look like Jesus. You can't...all you have is an entity if you don't have Christ in the middle of it. Anybody know? We gotta get Christ back into our gospel. Know how to articulate it. Okay, I'm just gonna ask you to keep turning with me. You're close by.
Turn with me now to Philippians. Philippians 2: "If, then, there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose". I'm gonna ask you a very simple question: Is this what the church looks like in cultural Christianity to us today? I'm about to read it to you because this is what we are supposed to look like. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should not look out only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited.
Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even to death on a cross". Here we go. "For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father". You are staring in the face at what many theologians and many scholars believe to be the very first confession, the formal confession of the church. This was their first creed: Jesus is Lord. Anybody? Jesus is Lord. And we're thinking to ourselves, well, I mean it's easy to say Jesus is Lord.
In fact, it makes us think of places like Romans 10. I'm gonna read this to you, Romans 10:9 and 10: "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with his heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation". So, here is what we have been somehow prone to believe. If we just go "Jesus is Lord," we're just, like, saved. We can do anything we want. We can never practice any element whatsoever of our faith because we have a formula. I mean, all we have to do, open your mouth and just say "Jesus is Lord" and I mean, you got eternity.
Do whatever you want. I mean, it's already sealed, right? I mean, that's the way we think. In fact, John would even indicate that to us in his first letter when he said that anyone who would say by the Spirit Jesus is Lord, I mean, that person is in Christ. Listen to me, listen to me. This wasn't about spittin' out certain words. When they said, "Jesus Christ is Lord," they were going completely against their culture. They were in the Roman Empire where they were taught to believe that Caesar is Lord. Caesar is Lord. The way the Roman Empire had overtaken so many different regions, so many different languages, so many ways of thinking, that in order to have this one unified thing, the watchword became, the creed became Caesar is Lord. So when these Christians were saying no, Jesus is Lord.
We're gonna put 1 Corinthians 15:3-10 on the screen so you can see this wording. He says, "For," this is Paul, "For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them still alive, but some have fallen asleep. And then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. And last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me".
You've been in Hebrews. Look at verse 1 of 1. So the very opening of Hebrews. There are some scholars and theologians that think even the beginning, remember that Hebrews is gonna talk about several major times in the letter it's gonna talk about making a good confession, and that we have this good confession and because of our good confession, we're gonna hold on to our good confession. And so, there are some scholars that believe that maybe even the way it begins was these were familiar words that the early church was taught. If you're hearing me say that we need to memorize some scripture, you're not imagining things. I'm saying we need to memorize some of the words of God that we know how to articulate what it means to be in Christ, and that if it does not echo those things, there are some things that are most important.
There're secondary matters where we may see things differently. What are the primary matters? Listen to Hebrews 1:1-3. "Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high". Remember that 3:1 that says "Holy brothers and sisters who share in the heavenly calling considered Jesus the apostle and high priest of our confession"? Everybody say "our confession".
Scholar Luke Timothy Johnson in his commentary on Hebrews says this, and I'm quoting him word for word: "Hebrews does not mean to say here that Jesus is one element among others in the Christian creed, but that he is the source and substance of their entire commitment". Now, we're talking about confessions in the Word of God. This is what is ultimate and most important. But you know of other creeds that were early on, the early form of what became known as the apostle's creed was around 180, year AD 180. Nicene creed in the form that we would now say it AD 381. These are believers that have said this for centuries and centuries and centuries. These are not inspired scriptures themselves, but they're drawing foundational truths, trying to bring it together in a cohesive piece so that people would be able to say, teaching people the primary essentials of the Christian faith to guard them against heresies.
I'm just gonna suggest to you, we have no lack of heresies in our day. Would we know what to measure them next to? Because we must. We must. Let us learn to articulate our gloriously good confession. Okay, we're about to do it. 'Cause I wanna suggest to you there are various ways we can do it, but we need to do it. Anybody understand what I'm talkin' about? We need to learn how to articulate it. So what I've done is I have gone into the scriptures, and specifically the book of Hebrews, pulling out what are those things of most fundamental importance. What, if you were to articulate and I were to articulate what is it that we believe about Jesus? If he is the source and the substance, everybody say "source and substance".
What is it, what are some of our non-negotiables? In other words, if it departs some of these things, we start wondering, hmm, is that Christianity? I don't think that's Christianity. The things Im about to suggest to you are crucial to us. They're not the kind of things that we look away from and go, "Well, you know, that's not a deal breaker to me". No, no, I'm not saying we need to be breakin' deals with everybody. Please don't get that. We fight the good fight, not the ugly fight. But I am saying so that you can know, so that those you teach can know, so that those you mentor, so as you raised your children, what is Christianity? Is that a fair question to ask? What is it? What does it look like and what are the things that are most fundamental to it?
So, I've chosen twelve words. Now, I'm gonna tell you, I'm gonna try to see if we can say some of these and then I'm gonna turn it around to just the letter that begins them, and you're gonna try to make it into an acronym, but I promise you, you're not gonna have success because it's not gonna be one. It woulda been so cute. I would've loved for that to be the way it worked out. It woulda been so clever. But the thing about it is it wasn't gonna work, because when it comes, listen carefully, when it comes to the doctrines of our faith that make up our gospel of what we believe about Jesus Christ, that it's no time for clever. It is time for accuracy. Can I get an amen from the house of God?
So I want you to say these words as I walk past them, because I'm suggesting to you that when we're trying to figure out who Jesus is and what he has done, every one of these, every single one of these is crucial. Every single one. I wanna start you right here, Jesus Christ, Son of God, eternal, incarnate, sinless, crucified, dead, buried, raised, ascended, seated, returning, reigning. Anybody getting that? I'mma tell y'all something. And this is not insulting. This is for all of us. None of us in these days of social media want to think, we just don't want to. We just go through, just like this, we don't wanna go to any trouble. We don't read, we swear to articles like I agree with this article, we haven't read it. We don't even know, we don't even really know how to say the title of it, but what I'm saying is what if we were willing to learn? What if we were willing to memorize? What if we got where we could say these words right after one another?
Listen to me, you can do it. You can think, and think in order. He's got to be eternal. He was not a created being. Does everybody understand that? That's crucial to our faith. So I want you thinkin' first thing we gotta know about him is he's the Son of God, amen? He's the Son of God. So, we've got this S. So think, I'm not gonna go fast, but think here, Jesus Christ, what's S? Son of God. What's E? Eternal, incarnate, sinless, crucified, dead, buried, raised, ascended, seated, returning, reigning. You are my dream class! Y'all, we can do it! Look at one another and say, "You can do this". Don't we do everything else? How many people's email addresses do you know by memory? How many people's Instagram? Use your brain for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
There is nothing more important than us knowing who we believe in and what the fundamentals of our faith are. Do you know of the Maasai people? These are people who live out, I mean rural people that just live out in these fields far away from any kind of urban areas in Africa, and so, in collaboration with some missionaries from the congregation of the Holy Ghost, they comprised their own creed that helped them understand in a world they know what Jesus had done for them. And I wanna read it to you. This is their credo, their "I believe," their "we believe".
"We believe in the One High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created man and wanted man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the earth. We have known this High God in the darkness, and now we know Him in the light. God promised in the book of His Word, the Bible, that He would save the world and all nations and tribes. We believe that God made good His promise by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left His home and was always on safari," isn't that fabulous?
"Always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing that the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by His people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He was buried in the grave," do you hear the first things? "He was buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch Him, and on the third day, He rose from that grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord. We believe that all our sins are forgiven through Him. All who have faith in Him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love, and share the bread together in love, to announce the good news to others until Jesus Christ comes again. We are waiting for Him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. AMEN".
There's something so powerful about confessing what we believe, and to my knowledge, I don't know of anything personally that expresses that better than the Nicene creed. And so, I wanna say it with you, and as we say it... this may be very new to you. It's going to say when it talks about the church catholic, that means the church universal. It doesn't mean that you've just joined the Catholic church. These are just, these are things that are so helpful to know. But to just say these things and let 'em sink in. I've not been in a church that has said creeds until the last year, and again, I'm not proposing any denomination. I'm an interdenominational teacher and that's what I love. That's what I want. I didn't try to do that with the denomination I was raised in, and I won't do it now. But I wanna tell you, it's meant something to me in a time of such personal pain and brokenness over these last years, and such, just like, just feeling unmoored in so many ways, to go back to the fundamentals, to look around the room at fellow believers and go, this we believe.
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and all that is, visible and invisible. We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven, was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered death and was buried. On the third day He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, Who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. (Somebody say amen. This is what we believe.)