The Most Important Paragraph

You may have noticed that when you are reading the Bible, sometimes a chapter division seems arbitrary or out of place. Perhaps you have felt that it interrupts the flow of the discussion. Well, you may be right. It is good to remember that the chapter and verse divisions were not part of the original inspired text of scripture. They were added in the 13th-16th centuries by editors for the convenience of Bible readers.

Most of the time chapter and verse divisions are helpful to us in locating and remembering Bible passages. We rely upon them to help us find our way around in the Bible. Sometimes, however, we wonder why an editor put the chapter division where he put it. It feels awkward in relation to the context.

Romans chapters two and three are such a context. In chapter two, Paul has been arguing forcefully that the religious person, no matter how pious, is no better off than the untaught pagan. In chapter three the discussion continues: in the eyes of God all people are morally guilty and in need of God’s gift of righteousness. The chapter division might lead someone to think that Paul is changing the subject. He is not. The argument flows from chapter two right on into chapter three.

In Romans 3:1-8, Paul imagines a verbal opponent who wants to claim that his teaching on universal human guilt undermines God’s justice. “If we are all guilty and our sin magnifies God’s righteousness, wouldn’t he be unjust to punish us?” His imaginary debate partner might go on to say something like, “We might as well go on sinning because God looks good when he forgives us!” “No way!” Paul answers. Human sin never brings glory to God.

Paul rejects these distortions of his teaching. He calls them slanderous. He wants his readers to understand that God is both just (in judging sin) and merciful (in providing a remedy). His doctrine of universal human guilt is reasonable and consistent with scripture (Romans 3:9-20). Paul here quotes seven Old Testament scriptures to support this point. We are all sinners and guilty before a holy God.

To be sure, the apostle is not teaching that every person is a bad as he or she could possibly be. What he is saying is that sin affects us all, in every part of our being. There are no exceptions. God’s law pronounces us guilty. The law cannot deliver us. It cannot forgive us. It cannot redeem us. That is not the law’s purpose. The law upholds God’s standard of righteousness and shows us how far short if it we have fallen. “Through the law we become conscious of our sin” (Romans 3:20).

What Paul says next is the best news the world has ever heard. It has been suggested that Romans 3:21-26 may be the single most important paragraph ever written! It states the central theme of the book of Romans: that although we are all sinners and deserving of God’s judgment, it is possible to be declared righteous though faith in Jesus Christ.

I invite you to read these verses, to believe their truth, and to receive the free gift they offer. The gift is justification. What is that? It means to be declared righteous by the grace of God. It is more than forgiveness. It is positive acceptance, freedom from guilt, a new status credited to you freely, at no cost to you (Romans 3:24).

How is that possible? It is because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood”(Romans 3:25). Paul refers to this as “redemption,” a term taken from the Roman slave market. It is obtaining a release by the payment of a ransom. By his death, Jesus paid the ransom to set us free from sin’s ultimate penalty. His death satisfied the demands of God’s justice on our behalf.

The only way to receive the gift of justification is through faith in what Christ has done. Paul repeats this several times (verses 22, 25, 26 and 28). “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (Romans 3:28). Someone has said that faith is simply the hand of a beggar reaching out to accept a gift from a king.

The awkward chapter division between Romans two and three was not in Paul’s original letter. It is important to understand the entire scope and range of his argument taken together. In Romans one the Gentile pagan world is guilty before God. In chapters two and three the religious Jews are also said to be guilty before God. The only solution to this universal human predicament is the good news found in Romans 3:21-31.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Hypocrisy Exposed

One of the reasons it is such a bracing experience to read the book of Romans is that Paul the apostle had no patience with hypocrisy. He exposed it with clear-eyed precision right at the beginning of his letter. Right after dealing with the moral degeneracy of Roman society in chapter one, he launched into an imaginary dialogue with people who are quick to judge the faults in others without examining their own actions and motives.

The morality police in Romans chapter two may have been arrogant philosophers who considered themselves to be morally superior to the masses. They may have been religious legalists who attempted to make themselves righteous by trying to please God, not by faith, but by religious works. They were the ones who scorned bad behavior in others but but failed to recognize it in themselves.

Just as the pagans (1:20) are without excuse, Paul says to them, “You, therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment are doing the same things” (Romans 2:1).

Paul is not speaking against judging as such, but against hypocritical judging. It is truly hypocritical to pretend to be virtuous when you do the same things you condemn in others. The fact is, when people (no matter how apparently virtuous) condemn others, they at the same time condemn themselves.

God’s standard applies to all and he knows the truth about every one of us (Romans 2:2-3). What Paul is saying is that the morally degenerate reprobate, the morally superior philosopher, and the morally righteous Jew are equally susceptible to God’s judgment which is based upon truth. The day is coming when “God’s righteous judgment will be revealed”(Romans 2:5). It will apply equally to all.

Therefore, Paul is insistent that a double standard of judgment, a high bar for others and a low bar for oneself, is out of the question. God sees us as we really are and he will judge us all according to our deeds. “God will repay each person according to what they have done” (Romans 2:6). This principle is repeated throughout scripture and is a basis of God’s justice. This means that hypocrites will have no place to stand in the day of God’s righteous wrath.

In all of his writings Paul emphasizes that people are saved not by what they do but by faith in what Christ has done on the cross. He is teaching here, however, that “persistence in doing good” (2:7) is the evidence, or fruit, of sincere, genuine faith (Galatians 5:6; James 2:14-16). “Each person” (2:6), “every human being” (2:9), “everyone” (2:10) will be judged according to their deeds. God’s judgments will be perfectly fair and impartial.

The religious person who knows what the scriptures teach but does not obey them has no advantage over the person who has no knowledge of scripture. In fact the irreligious person who follows the light of conscience to do what is morally or ethically right has just as much moral awareness as the religious hypocrite (Romans 2:12-15).

In the second half of the chapter, Paul goes deeper. He has an imaginary debate with a pious person who regards himself as privileged, and is proud of it. He trusts in ancestral traditions, ceremonies, rituals and external signs of religious identification. Was Paul remembering his own past attitudes as a devout Jew before he believed in Jesus? He recognizes all these religious advantages, but then shows how if a person does not practice what he preaches, he is a hypocrite.  He is no better off than the Gentile who was not brought up with the word of God.

Someday God will judge the secrets of the hearts of all people. This will be in accordance with the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 2:16). The gospel message is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written, the righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17).

Pastor Randy Faulkner

A God-centered Worldview

Everyone has a worldview. It is a way of thinking and acting based upon one’s assumptions about life. Worldview is the architecture of ideas that influence our behavior and decisions, our relationships and values.

Our worldview involves our attitudes toward other people, it shapes our  ethical standards, and it guides the pursuit of our goals in life. Worldview influences how we think about everything from human nature, to the environment, politics, economics, and religion. One’s worldview may be formed by parents, teachers, spiritual leaders, friends, books, or the media. Worldview is our way of making sense of life.

I want to recommend a God-centered worldview. I believe it is a reasonable and coherent way of making sense of life. As a guide to forming a God-centered worldview, I recommend the book of Romans, the epistle that Martin Luther called, “the chief part of the New Testament, and . . . truly the purest gospel.” Luther went on to recommend that Christians should be intimately familiar with Romans and read it every day.

This is because the book is about God, what to know about him, how to be in a right relationship to him, and how to live for him. It has been said that “God” is the most important word in the epistle. Every teaching and topic in the book of Romans is related in some way to God. The book is showing us the way to a life centered in God and his will for us.

The writer of Romans, Paul, was “a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, and set apart for the gospel of God” (1:1). His worldview and life’s calling were centered in God. He was saying that his message, the gospel, came directly from God himself. This gospel (good news) concerned the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and his death and resurrection.

Furthermore, the gospel of God is for people of all nations. Paul’s worldview included the whole world! He wrote that he had “received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith” (1:5). The Gentiles in this passage were the multi-ethnic populations of the Roman empire. The gospel was for them. Paul said he felt an obligation to bring the gospel to all kinds of people, Gentiles, as well as Jews (1 :15-16).

The ones who believe this good news message are “loved by God and called to be saints” (1:7). The word “saints” refers, not to an exalted class of spiritual heroes, but to all Christians, through faith in Jesus. They are called the holy people of God. This privileged identity surely helps them form a God-centered worldview.

What of those who do not believe? They cannot claim ignorance of God’s existence, Paul says. God reveals himself in all his glory and power in the beauty, immensity, and complexity of creation. “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (1:18-20).

Obviously, a God-centered worldview begins with an acknowledgement of God’s existence. Those who reject that are left to explore atheism, naturalism,, nihilism, or hedonism, as alternatives. In the last half of Romans chapter one, Paul discusses the tragic consequences of rejecting a  God-centered worldview. Sadly, those who reject God exchange the truth for a lie (1:25).

He describes the Roman world of the first century. In speaking about Roman society, Paul describes our own. In the clearest language, he leaves no doubt about God’s righteous antagonism to evil in all its forms: ingratitude, sexual perversion, idolatry, greed, envy, murder, strife, deceit, slander, arrogance, boastfulness, to select a few items from Paul’s long list. “They invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy” (1:28-31).

For these reasons “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness”(1:18). A permissive society such as ours, which not only condones perversion, but promotes and encourages it, sows the seeds of its own destruction. This is one of the indications of God’s “wrath,” his holy revulsion against what is contrary to his revealed will.

This picture of a guilty humanity is a dark background against which the light of the gospel shines brightly. The good news is good because the bad news is bad. The message of Romans shows us the attraction of Gods’ good news as the foundation for a worldview with him at the center.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Four Reasons to Read Romans

I enjoy my early morning quiet time with the Lord with my first cup of coffee. Lately my Bible readings have been from the book of Romans. This has reminded me of the book’s importance. Here are four reasons why it is good to read Romans.

1. It is a comprehensive summary of the gospel. The apostle Paul wrote to the Roman believers to help them become grounded in their faith in the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ. Paul said that his entire life was dedicated to the ministry of the gospel, which, he said, originated with God himself. It was centered in Jesus Christ, who died for sinners and was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is through belief in the gospel that people are delivered from the power of sin and made right with God, according to Romans. That is very good news.

2. The gospel saves. Romans 1:16 says that the gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” The book of Romans develops this theme in the magnificent doctrine of justification. This tells us how sinners can have their guilt removed and be declared righteous before a holy God entirely by grace. No wonder John Newton called it amazing grace!

To illustrate, the gospel message in Romans changed the lives of some well-known people. Augustine famously told the story of his conversion to Christian faith in his Confessions. Influenced by the teaching of Ambrose, the prayers of his mother Monica, and a child’s voice saying, “pick up and read,” he was convicted by a reading of Romans 13:13-14, which led him to Christ.

Martin Luther was studying the Greek text of Romans 1:17 which gave him the understanding that he could be justified before God by faith alone, apart from good works. Over 200 years later, John Wesley was given assurance of his own salvation in a Christian meeting in which someone was reading aloud from Luther’s commentary on the book of Romans. Wesley later wrote in his journal, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt that I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given to me that he had taken away my sins.”

3. The gospel is for everyone. It is equally applicable and effective in all nations, languages and cultures. It is not exclusively for one race over another. “There is no difference,” Paul wrote. All are sinners, and all need Christ to save them, whatever their cultural background. When Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, he knew it would be read by Jews as well as Gentiles, by cultured Greeks as well as by those who were considered barbarians, by free people and by slaves. The gospel is for all people.

4. The gospel is relevant to contemporary life. In the preface to his commentary on Romans, John Stott observed, “how many contemporary issues are touched on by Paul in Romans: enthusiasm for evangelism in general and the propriety of Jewish evangelism in particular; whether homosexual relationships are ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’; whether we can still believe in such unfashionable concepts as God’s ‘wrath’ and ‘propitiation’; the historicity of Adam’s fall and the origin of human death; what are the fundamental means of living a holy life; the place of law and of the Spirit in Christian discipleship; the distinction between assurance and presumption; the relation between divine sovereignty and human responsibility in salvation; the tension between ethnic identity and the solidarity of the body of Christ; relations between church and state; the respective duties of the individual citizen and the body politic; and how to handle differences of opinion within the Christian community. And this list is only a sample of the modern questions which, directly or indirectly, Romans raises and addresses.”

So, for these reasons, it is good for us to do what Augustine did back in the fourth century: to pick up the book of Romans and read it. It could change our lives!

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Change and Thanksgiving

Since it has been three weeks since my last post, perhaps I should explain why I have not been writing. Connie and I have been undergoing a major move to a new city. We are now living in Valdosta, Georgia, near our daughter, son-in-law, and five grandchildren. It has felt like an upheaval in our lifestyle and circumstances. At our age, a change of this magnitude is not easy.

But we are not the only ones experiencing profound change. Today I had a conversation with a neighbor, Steve, who described his feelings about gradually losing his eyesight. He is learning to adjust to some unpleasant realities because the doctors have told him there is no cure for his condition.

My son Michael and his wife Lulu are grieving the unexpected illness and death of their beloved golden retriever, Sampson. He was a beautiful creature and a gentle and faithful companion. My wife and I cried too, when we got the sad news.

Yesterday I read a Facebook post from my friend Jason whose lovely wife Lori has entered a memory care facility because of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Even though they both knew this change was coming, it was painfully difficult. Jason expressed his grief in a sensitive and beautiful lament.

Each of these people in their own way coupled their sense of loss with expressions of thanksgiving. Steve thanked God for his grace in helping him  navigate with limited vision. Michael wrote a touching Facebook tribute to his dog, whom he called his best friend for eleven years.

Jason thanked his “angels,” friends who have been present to help him and Lori. He expressed gratitude for the 24 years he and Lori have been married and for her written words in a journal, which continue to speak to him now. He described feeling a “profound sadness and overwhelming gratefulness.”

Change is hard. It just is. I am experiencing the change of saying goodbye to a great network of friends, leaving the beautiful house we loved, and trading familiar surroundings for a different environment. But like the others, I do this with thanksgiving.

I am thankful that I get to do this with Connie. She and I are thankful for our apartment in the very nice retirement community where we have chosen to live. It is smaller, much smaller, than our house was. But she and I agree that setting up housekeeping here has been fun, sort of like when we were newlyweds getting established in our first place.

We are very thankful for our children who lovingly helped us with the move. All five of them received some of our furniture. Our two sons, Jay and Michael, transported it all to Kentucky, Virginia, Alabama, and here by UHaul. When we arrived in Georgia, Carrie, John Mark and Michael had our furniture in the apartment, set up and ready for us.  Our kids are our heroes!

One more thing. Connie and I are thankful that we get to live near our Georgia grandchildren and closer to the others also. I look forward to playing golf and pickle ball, and fishing with my grandsons. I anticipate attending my granddaughters’ volleyball, basketball, and soccer games.

Last week, my granddaughters, Charis and Lizzy, brought Chic-fil-a to our apartment and we had supper and board games together. It was great! Lizzy and I spent four hours another afternoon putting together a 3-D puzzle of the Neuschwanstein Castle. Grandchildren are grand! How could I not be grateful?

So yes, change is hard. But I am thankful.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

 

Lessons Learned Discarding Stuff

Picture me sitting on a stool in front of three file cabinets in my garage. I am sorting through files representing almost fifty years of pastoral ministry. The files contain schedules of events, mementoes, photos, and letters from church members and friends. I know I must discard all of it. I cannot take it with me when I leave Oklahoma. There simply will not be room in the apartment where Connie and I will be living, beginning next week.

Picture me with tears running down my face as I read notes of appreciation from people who say they have been helped in some way by my ministry. I can’t help the tears and I am not ashamed to admit that reading these letters again is an emotional experience.

Picture me sifting and sorting though files of Bible study materials, notes of countless sermons, and the fruits of years of exegetical study. Much of it has to go. I must reduce everything to only one file cabinet to take with me. In this one cabinet will be the Bible study resources I hope to use in the future if the Lord allows me to continue to teach or preach.

The files and notebooks I discard end up filling two curbside trash bins. I have to let go of all of it, letters, photos, journals, and memories, memories, memories. Moving soon to a retirement community in another state has proven to be the intervention that I thought would come much later. I had thought (foolishly I realize now) that there would be time in retirement to savor these memories in a more leisurely fashion. It is not to be.

I have learned a few things from this experience.

Lesson one: Keep the memories in your heart. My sensible wife said, “If you haven’t looked at it in 25 years it’s not important.” She is right, of course. When I ask her how she can find the courage to throw away our wedding pictures and family photo albums, she points to her heart and says, “I have them all in here!” I happen to know she has them in her phone too.

Lesson two: God encourages us through people. Some of the letters I found in my files were from people who have been dead for years. I remember them with fondness. They took the time to write to their pastor to let him know what his preaching, his visits, his counsel, or his prayers meant to them. I was blessed to have many friends who were nicer to me than I deserved.

Reading those notes and letters was, for me, a little taste of what I think heaven may be like when the Lord pulls back the curtain and shows us more of the impact we have had in the lives of his people. It was really thoughtful of those friends to write to me. There were times when an encouraging note provided just the lift I needed to keep going in the ministry.

Lesson three: Travel light. This lesson, a reminder from my experience in backpacking, applies as well to life’s pilgrimage. We don’t need all the stuff that fills our attics, closets, garages, and storage units. The Bible tells us what is going to happen to it anyway. It’s all going away. It is people, not things, who have an eternal destiny and infinite worth in the sight of the Creator.

The attic up above is empty. The garage is cleaner than it has been in 22 years. Bookshelves are vacant. The furniture has been transported to our new home, or distributed to the homes of our children. I will now admit, that it is something of a relief not to be carrying the emotional weight of all that stuff.

The patriarch Job put it well: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).

Pastor Randy Faulkner

 

Come to Jesus

Occasionally you may hear someone flippantly say, “We had a come to Jesus meeting at work today!” What is implied is a confrontation in which a supervisor admonished a subordinate to correct a problem, or change a behavior. The phrase has become a secular cliche, borrowed from the church.

Behind the expression is the ritual of the altar call. It comes out of the revivalist tradition in America, in which preachers would issue fervent invitations to their listeners to come forward at the end of the sermon and make a public commitment to believe in Jesus as savior. Hence, the expression, “Come to Jesus.”

That’s not a bad idea. In fact, that is exactly what Jesus himself invites us all to do, whether we are in a church service or not. His words in Matthew 11:28 are called the “comfortable words” in that they offer comfort and rest for the soul. They are often read in liturgical worship services after the confession of sin. These words convey the timeless promise of forgiveness and acceptance.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” 

The Scope of the Invitation

The Lord’s invitation is for all kinds of people to come to him. The scope of the invitation is immeasurable. His words imply that Jesus welcomes all those who are burdened with the weight of guilt, with the shame of sin. That is all of us. Sin is the reason life is frustrating and unsatisfying. Sin is the reason we lack peace of heart. So Jesus is speaking to all of us sinners who know we have fallen short. All have sinned. All are invited to come.

The Promise in the Invitation

Here is a magnificent promise for those who are weary in their minds and hearts. It is the promise of rest. I had the joy of praying with an inmate in the Oklahoma County Detention Center not long ago. He asked God to forgive him for his sins and in simple faith he opened his heart to Jesus. After we prayed together he smiled and said, “I feel like a ten thousand pound weight has been lifted from my shoulders.”

That kind of spiritual rest of mind and conscience is for those who come to Jesus. If you are weighed down by regret, shame, grief, guilt, you may be released from the burden of a guilty conscience if you come to Jesus. You cannot change the past, but Jesus can forgive you and restore your soul if you come to him. “The blood of Jesus, his Son purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

The One who Offers the Invitation

“Come to me,” Jesus said. We are not invited to come to a preacher, or to a therapist, or to a philosopher, or to a church, or to the waters of baptism, or to the bread and wine of communion. These all have their place, but they all agree that first we must come, in faith, to Jesus, and only to Jesus. He alone is the Savior, the Son of God, the Mediator, the Redeemer, the coming King. He is “the way, and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

He says “I will give you rest.” He always keeps his promises, He promised to die for sinners and he did. He promised to rise from the grave and he did. His promise is a promise of free grace. “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

He does not say, “do,” or “join,” or “pay,” or “work,” to save yourself. Instead, he says simply, “Come to me.” Only God’s Son could make a promise like that and have the power to fulfill it. He promises the gift of eternal life. He died on the cross of Calvary to purchase this life for those who come to him. His gift is undeserved and freely offered.

What Will You Do?

I invite you to come to him now. Do not wait until Sunday. Come now. The spiritual rest he offers is for you today, not only after you die. Come to him. Pray to him. Confess to him, Lean on him. Trust in him. His yoke, he says, is easy. That means you can let him do the heavy lifting. He is ready and willing to receive you. He is not too busy, preoccupied, or distracted to listen to your prayer.

If you come to him in life, he will be with you in death. What will you do? To refuse his gracious offer is to reject him and devalue his word. To neglect his promise is to rebel against his invitation. The consequences of rebellion against God are dreadful and eternal. Surely you do not want to do that. So please come to Jesus and enter into his rest.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

 

The Arrogance of Jesus

Who does he think he is? He calls himself the Son of God. Really? Who talks like that? He says God gave him all authority in heaven and on earth, to raise the dead, to judge the world, to rule as King, to give eternal life to those who believe in him.

Readers of the four gospels in the New Testament are forced to come to the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth made himself the center of his teaching. He brazenly claimed to be the only way for human beings to reach God.

Who does that? What kind of person would say as Jesus did, “No one can come to the Father except through me?” Religious propagandists and cultists maybe. Mentally unstable people with delusions of grandeur perhaps. But such egomaniacs are worthy only of our contempt, or pity.

Surely Jesus’ statements about himself seem to be supremely arrogant!

That is, unless they are true.

If Jesus’ statements about himself are true, that means he is more than a human teacher. If he is right, he is contradicting the idea that all faiths are valid pathways to God. If he is speaking truth, then he is not a dangerous religious shyster, or a pathetic, unbalanced narcissist.

If he is right, then the apostle Peter was correct when he preached, “There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them’ (Acts 4:12 NLT).  If he is right, then he really is the Son of God who gave his life on the cross to save us from our sins.

The renowned Christian intellectual C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. he would either be a lunatic — on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

“You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Read the New Testament and come to your own conclusion. Did Jesus speak with arrogance, or with divine authority?

Pastor Randy Faulkner

 

I Believe in Jesus

The Apostles’ Creed says “I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord.” The creed is an ancient, concise statement of basic Christian belief. To sincerely recite the creed is to testify to one’s faith.

When I affirm my faith in Jesus, I am saying that I accept the authority of his word. I trust the testimonies of those who were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, his teachings, his death on the cross, and his resurrection. I can see the effects of his influence in the world.

Let me tell you why I believe in Jesus. The apostles of Jesus recorded his acts and teachings. Their testimony is reliable. They describe him as speaking with divine authority and wisdom. He forgave people’s sins. He claimed to have been sent by God. He said God had entrusted to him the power to raise the dead in the last day. Then he actually did it. He raised people from the dead in the presence of eyewitnesses.

His moral life was impeccable. No one could prove him guilty of sin. He referred to himself as “the Son of Man” a title used of Messiah. He called himself “Lord” and “I Am,” names reserved for God. On more than one occasion, he accepted worship from people. He told people that to believe in him as savior would be to receive eternal life. He claimed to be the only way to God. He made himself the focal point of scripture, saying that the scriptures testified about him.

His many miracles were signs of his deity, and were intended to stimulate our faith in him. The apostle John wrote, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

The gospel of Mark describes the authority of Jesus: his authority as the Son of God (1:11); his authority over demons (1 :26-27); his authority over disease (1:32-34); his authority to forgive sin (2:7); his authority to supersede the traditions of the Sabbath (2:28-3:6); his power over the forces of nature (4:35-41); his power to raise the dead (5:40-43).

In Mark’s gospel Jesus repeatedly and accurately prophesied the manner of his death and resurrection (8:31, 9:9-12, 10:32-34). In answer to his accusers at his trial, he replied that “I am” the Son of the Blessed One and “you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One” (14:62).

The apostle Paul wrote a magnificent statement of faith in his letter to the Colossians. There he said that Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). All things were created by him and for him (1:16). God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus (1:19). In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (2:3). In Christ the fullness of deity lives in bodily form (2:9). Christ is the head over every power and authority (2:10). Christ is now seated at the right hand of God (3:1).

The apostle also magnified Jesus in Ephesians 1:20-23. Jesus is raised from the dead. He is seated at God’s right hand. He is above all rulers and authorities, powers and dominions. He is above every title that can be given in present and  future ages. He is the head of the church which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything.

When I recite the Apostles’ Creed I am stating my belief that all these things are true. I am affirming my belief that “Christ died for (my) sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried and that he rose from the dead on the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

The creed begins with the words “I believe.” This is the way to receive eternal salvation. “It is by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). Because of this gift of grace, “In him (Jesus) and through faith in him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 2:13).

This is why I believe in Jesus.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

There Comes a Time

There comes a time in life when changes are necessary. My new situation with Parkinson’s Disease has accelerated the pace of change for Connie and me. We have decided to move from our home here in Oklahoma to a retirement community in South Georgia. We are trusting in the guidance of God as we relocate.

This disruption has involved the sale of our house. (It has sold quickly.) It has meant that we are engaged in a process of downsizing and letting go of familiar things. (Our children are coming next week to help us with that.) It means saying goodbye to many, many friends whom we love and with whom we have shared life for over thirty years. (We are going to miss you.)

Connie and I are exceedingly grateful for the people of Metropolitan Bible Church who supported and encouraged my ministry. In every season, we served the Lord together seeking to grow in his grace and knowledge. Metropolitan has been, and remains, a congregation committed to love, grace, and sacrificial service in the advancement of the gospel. I can never thank you enough for the privilege of being your pastor.

We are also thankful for the friendship of the members of Heritage Presbyterian Church who welcomed Connie and me, Baptists though we are, with kindness and affection. We will never forget you.

Moving away means I must say goodbye to my racquetball buddies at the Northside Y.  I have known some of them for many years. They have given me friendship, laughter, and some pretty fierce competition. It’s been good for my mind, body and spirit.

The deep fellowship of the Penlights, a small group of men who love to read, is special indeed. We have met monthly for over thirty years discussing books of biography, history, philosophy. politics, theology and fiction. We have prayed for and supported each other through life’s changes. I am sure these friends are going to be praying for me now.

There is another long-standing relationship which I doubt can ever again be duplicated this side of heaven. It is a monthly gathering of fellow pastors for prayer. This interdenominational prayer group has been for us a source of strength as we have faithfully prayed for each other, for our churches, and for our city.

I will miss making music to the Lord with the choir at Heritage. They graciously welcomed me, an aging wanna-be tenor. Singing harmoniously with these wonderful people has been a source of joy.

I will miss my quiet neighborhood, the bike trails around Lake Hefner, the arts festival, Braum’s ice cream, reading Berry Tramel’s columns in The Oklahoman, watching the OKC Dodgers play at Bricktown Ballpark, the Patience Latting Library, the Oklahoma City Thunder, classical music on KUCO, and two, count ’em, two NPR radio stations, KOSU and KGOU!

The wise man of Ecclesiastes wrote, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There comes a time to let go of the past and to embrace the future. That is what Connie and I are called to do now. And the future is as bright as the promises of God.

Pastor Randy Faulkner