The Faith part 1
Know What You Believe
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
January 11, 2009
Main Passage: Acts 17:1–9 (NLT)
morning we’re beginning a new series based on a book written by Chuck
Colson called, The Faith: Given Once, for All. In case you’re
unfamiliar with who Chuck Colson is, let me give you a bit of his
Before He became a follower of Jesus, Chuck Colson
was a former counsel to President Richard Nixon and became known as
Nixon’s hatchet man. Well, he got caught up in the whole Watergate
Scandal, and although he was never indicted in that, he worked out a
deal with the prosecution to plead guilty to some unrelated charges and
he spent some time in prison because of it. And it was about that time
while he was awaiting sentencing that a friend gave him a book written
by C.S. Lewis called “Mere Christianity” which Colson read and was
radically transformed by the grace and forgiveness of a loving God. And
since that day, Colson has become one of the most respected and
influential Christian leaders in the world.
Well, since spending
that time in prison himself, Colson has devoted the past 34 years of
his life to ministering to prisoners, reforming the prison system, and
using his own story to spread the message of the grace and forgiveness
of Jesus. He’s the founder of Prison Fellowship, and also has a daily
radio broadcast called Breakpoint which is basically a four minute
commentary on our culture from a Christian worldview. I subscribe to
the podcast and listen to every one.
Plus, he’s the author of
more than 20 books, including this one, The Faith. This book is all
about what Christians believe, why they believe it, and why it matters.
And the reason we want to know what we believe, why we believe it, and
why is matters is so we can live it out in real life.
mentioned over the past few weeks, I first read this book almost a year
ago and I immediately knew that I wanted us to go through this as a
church. I think it’s a tremendous book based on biblical truths that
identifies the foundational beliefs of Christians throughout the
centuries. And he does a great job of illustrating these beliefs with
personal stories and historical events.
I’m going to sound like a salesman right now, but I want to let you know what others are saying about this book…
biblical Christianity is often mischaracterized by the media, misused
by politicians, and mistaught by academics, making it misunderstood…
That’s why everyone will benefit from reading this book—whether you are
a skeptic, a seeker, a new believer, or a long-time follower of Christ.”
Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, Saddleback Church
book reads like a novel and packs the wallop of a sledge hammer. I
think it is quite possibly the most important book Chuck has ever
Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church
is vintage Charles Colson—carefully reasoned and passionately argued.
His chapter on how the gospel comes to prisoners is, by itself, enough
to make your mind stretch and your heart sing.”
John Ortberg, pastor and author, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church
an incredibly interesting read! The Faith is as stirring as it is
necessary for this critical hour.... This book is a must read for all
who have any concern for what is taking place in our world today.”
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., former President,. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
“This is a must read for every serious Christ follower!”
Dr. Bob Reccord, former President of the North American Mission Board for the Southern Baptist Convention
Colson reminds us that not only has orthodoxy stood the test of time,
but it has also been defended by reason, confirmed by revelation, and
validated by experience.”
Everett Piper, President, Oklahoma Wesleyan University
of you have already bought a copy of this book, and I hope you’ll take
the time to read through it as we proceed through this series. If you
don’t have a copy and want one, I think I have a couple copies left.
And if I run out, you should be able to pick it up at Maritime
Christian Bookstore or at Indigo.
Now, I’m not requiring you to
read it, because I know money’s tight and you might not be in a
position to afford it right now. But I would still encourage you to
participate fully in our Worship Celebrations over these seven Sundays
and in our LIFE Groups. Our LIFE Groups begin this week, and we’ll talk
more about that in a bit.
Now, why is this the stuff in this book important? Why is it important to know what you believe and why you believe it?
Why Should I Know What I Believe and Why I Believe It?
A. For my own growth and discipleship
the Christian life, and perhaps in every area of life, you are either
growing or you’re dying. You’re improving or your degrading. You
develop your skills or you lose your skills.
That means that as
a Christ-follower, your desire must be to grow. As Jesus described in
one of His parables, if you don’t take what you have and invest it and
let it grow, then even what you have will be taken away from you.
how do you grow? Well, how does a plant grow? A plant grows by basking
in the sun, being refreshed by water, and absorbing the rich nutrients
that lie below the surface. And they do that, they’re going to grow
taller and deeper at the same time. They’re going to establish deep
roots which will enable them to survive even if they are beaten by the
weather or trampled underfoot. They more they grow, the stronger
they’ll get and the healthier they’ll be, so that even weeds will begin
to lose their power over them.
It’s the same way for a
Christ-follower. You grow by basking in the presence of the Son, by
being refreshed by the streams of His mercy and grace, and by absorbing
the rich nutrients of His Word. As you grow, you’ll establish roots
that will make you stronger. You’ll be able to withstand times of
trial. And eventually those things that once seemed so threatening to
your faith won’t hold so much power over you anymore.
on in the existence of the Christian Church, the believers understood
this. They understood that they needed to know what they believed and
why they believed it. So they got together often to talk about it, to
look into Scripture, and even to debate it.
Acts 2:42 (NLT)
the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to
fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.
They didn’t just want to hear it; they wanted to understand it. They
wanted to internalize it. They wanted to be able to explain it.
Jesus Himself said this was critical if you want to be His follower. You have to understand His teachings.
John 8:31-32 (NIV)
said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then
you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
And on the banner behind me you see some other words of Jesus…
Mark 12:30 (NLT)
“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”
your notes, underline the word “mind,” because that’s what we’re
talking about this morning. A lot of people think that being a
Christian is just about loving God with your heart and committing your
very soul to Him. Others think it’s about serving Him with all your
strength. But when it comes to the mind, they think you have to close
your mind. You have to just believe whatever you’re supposed to believe
and that’s it.
But loving God with all your mind means you
open your mind and explore truth and you examine the evidence and you
base your faith upon well thought out reasons.
2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)
your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who
does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
B. So I won’t be deceived by lies
Because if you don’t understand what your believe, it’s easy to be deceived.
heard a story this week about a child who died because the child was
given the wrong medication. Now, my wife’s the pharmacist, not me. To
me, all the names sound the same. So I don’t remember the exact name of
the medication that the child was supposed to be given and what he was
actually given, but I do remember that the names were almost identical.
So the pills just got mixed up, and the child died because of it.
when you don’t understand what you believe and you don’t know the
truth, something that sounds like the truth can be very easy to accept.
That’s why you need to know what you believe and why you believe it… so
you won’t be deceived by something that sounds true but is a lie.
today, when you look across the Christian Church, you’ll see different
branches. You’ll see the Eastern Orthodox Church, you’ll see the Roman
Catholic Church, you’ll see the Protestant Church… and within these
major branches you’ll see smaller offshoots. You’ll find hundreds of
different denominations. And most of the time, what you’ll find is that
each denomination holds to some slightly different doctrinal
distinctives. But while we may not agree on those minor issues, and we
can debate them reasonably, we all hold to the same core beliefs and
it’s those core beliefs… those core beliefs… that we’re going to be
talking about through this series.
But every once in a while
you’ll find some offshoot that is so far out there and so far removed
from what Scripture teaches and from what logic and reason dictates
that they move into the realm of being a cult. People are misled,
perhaps intentionally or unintentionally, they wind up believing lies,
and the results can be tragic. And it’s all because people don’t know
what they believe, why they believe it, and why it matters.
Let me show you a few different passages…
1 Timothy 4:13, 16 (NLT)
I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging
the believers, and teaching them… Keep a close watch on how you live
and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your
own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.
Ephesians 4:11-15 (NLT)
these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the
prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their
responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the
church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to
such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be
mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of
Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t
be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be
influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound
like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in
every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the
And then there’s what Luke wrote at the beginning of his Gospel…
Luke 1:3-4 (NLT)
carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have
decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus,
so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.
talked about this recently… Luke examined the evidence, and he wrote a
careful account of it so that his reader then and readers today can be
certain of the truth and will not be deceived by lies.
C. So I can respond confidently to today’s attacks on the Christian faith
1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
• Why do bad things happen to good people?
• Would a loving God actually send anyone to hell?
• How can you say your way is true and others are false? Aren’t all religions basically the same?
• What’s right for you may not be right for me.
• Hasn’t religion done a lot more harm than good?
How do you know the Bible isn’t just a made-up storybook? And even if
it’s not, how do you know the copy you have today is reliable? After
all, it was written thousands of years ago. How do you know it hasn’t
• If God is really all powerful and all loving, then why does evil exist? Doesn’t that disprove God?
• And what about the Trinity? Isn’t that a contradiction?
• Faith and science are incompatible. To believe in God, you have to check your brain at the door.
• Christians are homophobic, anti-women, and anti-intellectual.
• How do I know God even exists?
do you respond to questions like those? Do you have answers? Do you
know how to respond when someone says something like that? And let me
tell you, if you haven’t faced questions like that yet, you will.
the past four or five years, I have seen an incredible escalation of
antagonistic attacks against Christianity. I’ve seen it on TV and in
movies and in documentaries and in news broadcasts. I’ve seen
celebrities aggressively attacking Christianity, I’ve read some of the
best-selling books written by today’s atheists, I’ve had conversations
with friends and with strangers who question if faith has any value
And I think one of the greatest weaknesses we have
in the Church today is that we don’t know how to respond. We’re not
really connected to our faith. We’re not sure what’s essential. We
don’t understand that faith in God is not a blind faith; it’s a
reasonable faith. We don’t realize that every question I just mentioned
has a logical, reasonable response.
One of the things Colson
does very well in this book is, he responds to the modern day crop of
atheists like Richard Dawkins who wrote “The God Delusion” and
Christopher Hitchens who wrote “God Is Not Great” and he gives a sound
defense and reasonable answers to their objections.
And one of
the things I want you to realize is that we don’t have to be afraid of
these attacks. We don’t have to feel ashamed or embarrassed. We don’t
have to think of faith as being something for the weakminded. Because
it’s not. And you can have a faith in God that is rooted in logic, in
history and personal experience that cannot be shaken by these empty
attacks. You can realize that even though it may sound like they’ve got
some devastating ammunition, they’re really just shooting blanks.
in our Worship Celebration this morning, we read about a time that Paul
was telling people in the city of Thessalonica about Jesus. And we read…
Acts 17:2-3 (NLT)
was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three
Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people. He
explained the prophecies and proved that the Messiah must suffer and
rise from the dead.
He didn’t just shout it until people agreed
with him, and he didn’t just repeat it over and over again until
everyone was brainwashed. He proved it. Well, a lot of people believed
Paul, including some Greeks who were there (who you remember were known
as being great thinkers). But some of the Jews felt threatened by what
Paul was saying and stirred up some trouble. So Paul moved on to the
city of Berea…
Acts 17:11-12 (NLT)
And the people of Berea
were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened
eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day
to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. As a result, many
Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.
heard what Paul said, and it sounded good. But they weren’t satisfied
with that. So the searched the Scriptures and they studied and they
wanted to know if what Paul was saying was really true. And as they
discovered, it was. And then later in the chapter…
Acts 17:16-22 (NLT)
Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the
idols he saw everywhere in the city. He went to the synagogue to reason
with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the
public square to all who happened to be there.
He also had a debate with some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers…
they took him to the high council of the city. “Come and tell us about
this new teaching,” they said. “You are saying some rather strange
things, and we want to know what it’s all about.” (It should be
explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens
seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.)
So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them…
then Paul went on to give a well-thought out, reasonable argument to
support what He was saying about Jesus. As a Christ-follower, you can
be confident that your faith is defendable and you can find answers to
all of the objections and attacks that people are hurling today.
one of the things that Colson does that I really love is, he responds
to these kinds of attacks. He shows that there’s a rationality to
faith. Faith has it’s reasons.
Listen, when you don’t know
what you believe and why you believe it and why it matters, what you
end up with is a meaningless religion, full of empty ritual, it’s
anti-intellectual, it’s arrogant and judgmental, it can’t stand up
under scrutiny, it has no purpose, and it does no good for anybody.
when you come to understand as a follower of Jesus what you believe,
why you believe it and why it matters, you find yourself in a wonderful
relationship with the Living God. You discover true meaning and purpose
in life. You experience new levels of compassion and humility and
generosity. You experience a newfound confidence and courage. You
realize that faith in God can be defended, it does have reason, and it
really does matter. It matters to you and to those around you, it
matters for now and for right on into eternity. Now isn’t that the kind
of faith you want to have?
That’s why we’re taking the time to
talk about these things and to go through this book together. That’s
why you should get involved in a LIFE Group and, if you haven’t done it
in the past, start now to really discover your faith.
right, that was all by way of introduction for this series. Our LIFE
Groups will be starting this week to work their way through a DVD and
some discussions to go along with this series. And you see in your
Sunrise Update that you have three options. There will be one group
meeting on Monday evenings at Jim and Lynn’s over in Stratford. There
will be another group meeting at our place on Wednesday evenings. And
on Saturday afternoons, there will be a third group (a ladies’ group)
and it meets at a different location each week (this week at our place).
want to encourage you to plug in and get involved in a group, even if
you only attend during this series. Session 1 will go along with the
prologue through chapter four in the book, and you’ll be talking about
what Christianity it. It’s not just a system of beliefs, it’s not just
a collection of Bible verses, it’s not even just a relationship with
Jesus. It’s a complete worldview that affects everything. That’s been
true for every generation of believers throughout the centuries.
Bonus material included in bulletin:
Terms you should know:
Agnostic – Doesn’t think you can know if there’s a God or not
– No, it’s not someone who says “sorry” a lot. This is someone who
defends the Christian faith. Apologetics is the branch of theology
concerned with defending and proving Christian doctrine.
Canon – A body of writings recognized as authoritative, specifically the books included in our Bible.
– A Greek word translated to mean “The Word.” Refers to Jesus as “The
Word” or expression of God. As in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the
Word (logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Orthodoxy – means “right belief”, specifically about God
Theism – belief in a the existence of God
Atheism – Denies the existence of God
Anti-Theism – Being against those who believe in God
– An approximation of the name of God. Written as four letters in
Hebrew – YHWH – it is expanded in English to Yahweh, or sometimes
Extra Resources for Understanding the Reasons for Faith:
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
The Case for Faith by Lee Stobel
Can Man Live Without God by Ravi Zacharias
The End of Reason by Ravi Zacharias
Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias
Letters from a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father’s Questions about Christianity by Gregory Boyd and Edward Boyd
The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark
Does God Exist? The Craig-Flew Debate edited by Stan W. Wallace
Hard Questions, Real Answers by William Lane Craig
The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus by William Lane Craig
Websites (with articles, videos and/or podcasts):