I Believe | In God, the Father Almighty
There are roughly 7.9 billion people in the world today. And out of these 7.9 billion people, about thirty percent - or roughly 2.3 billion people - call themselves Christians. These 2.3 billion Christians are a part of roughly 45,000 different denominations. Some of these denominations you’re familiar with - like the Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists, or United Methodists - but others are a little more obscure - like the French Coptic Orthodox Church, which only has about 10,000 members worldwide.
And, based on these sheer numbers alone, it would seem almost impossible that everyone that calls themselves a Christians could possibly agree on anything. I mean, there are far fewer than 2.3 billion people worshiping with us right now, but we’d be hard pressed to find something that we could all agree on. Because some of you worshiping with us right now prefer Coke and some of you prefer Pepsi. Some of you like your tea sweet and some of you like it unsweet. Some of you would rather read a book and some of you prefer watching TV. Some of you cheer for the Kentucky Wildcats, some of you cheer for the Louisville Cardinals, and some of you don’t like sports at all.
And if we can’t agree on minor things - like what beverages we like to drink, or how we like to spend our free time, or the teams we cheer for - then how could we ever agree on the big things? But in spite of all the diversity that makes up our faith, there are a few basic beliefs that every Christian has. So, over the next few weeks, that’s what we’re going to be talking about. We’re going to be talking about what Christians believe and why these beliefs matter.
But before we dive in and start talking about what some of these beliefs are, I think it’s worth noting that we are far from the first people who have tried to wrap our minds around the essential beliefs of our faith. The truth is that from almost the beginning of our faith, Christians have made attempts to summarize what these essential beliefs are. And these attempts to summarize our essential beliefs are typically called creeds.
Now the word creed comes from the Latin word credo which literally means “I believe”. So a creed is simply a statement of beliefs. And even though there is no creed that could ever fully capture exactly what we believe - because the essence of our faith is belief in a person, Jesus Christ, and not simply a system of ideas - creeds can be helpful as we try to understand what we, as Christians, believe.
So, as we explore what Christians believe and why these beliefs matter, we’re actually going to use the words of a creed to help us along the way. And the specific creed that we’ll be using throughout this series of sermons is commonly referred to as the Apostle’s Creed. Now this creed isn’t called the Apostle’s Creed because it was written by Jesus’ first followers, the same people that Jesus himself sent out to spread the good news about him, because it wasn’t. It’s actually called the Apostle’s Creed because this statement of beliefs is an accurate summary of what the apostles taught us about Jesus.
So, let’s take a look at what this creed actually says. And, as I read it, I have a feeling that some of it will feel pretty familiar to you. So here’s what the Apostle’s Creed says:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy universal church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
As we get started talking about what we, as Christians, believe, I don’t think there’s any better place to start than with the very first statement from the Apostle’s Creed. As a Christian, I believe in God.
I believe in God.
Why don’t you say that with me? Ready? I believe in God.
But why do we believe in God? Now, thirty years ago that would’ve been a pretty ridiculous question to ask because just about everyone believed in God. Even today, 88% of Americans say that they believe in God. But over the last thirty years, there has been a rise in what’s called New Atheism. And new atheists have tried to demonstrate that believing in God is absurd, anti-intellectual, and even dangerous.
Steven Weinberg, who is a theoretical physicist and part of the New Atheism movement, has said:
[T]he world needs to wake up from the long nightmare of religion. Anything we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization.
Now, that’s probably not a quote you ever thought you’d hear during a sermon. And as someone who believes in God, I have to say that Weinberg’s words feel kinda harsh. But, if I’m being honest, I can also see where he’s coming from. I mean when you run into certain groups of Christians that insist on reading the creation accounts in Genesis as science, and that by adding up the genealogies we find in the Bible assert that the universe is only a few thousand years old instead of billions of years old, it spits in the face of everything that Steven Weinberg and his scientific colleagues have spent their entire careers learning about our universe.
But the truth is that denying science is kinda low on the list of things that people who believe in God have done to give faith a bad name. There are religious extremists out there who cry out “God is great” right before they detonate a suicide bomb. And there are people who cherry-pick particular passages from their scripture to deny the equality of women or people of color or to demonize people because of who they love.
But even though there are plenty of people out there that believe in God while denying every scientific theory or advancement from the Big Bang Theory to evolution to the COVID-19 vaccine, just because you believe in God that doesn’t mean you don’t believe in science.
Just because you believe in God that doesn’t mean you don’t believe in science.
The simple fact is that history is filled with countless scholars and scientists who were all Christians. And we’re not just talking about any scientists here. We’re talking about everyone from Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, and Galileo all the way to Max Plank (who’s the father of quantum theory) and George Lamaitre (who was the father of the Big Bang Theory). And they were all Christians.
And rather than seeing their discoveries as proof that there is no God, each of these scientists saw their work as further proof that there had to be someone that both created and held our universe together. And they see this proof because, as the astronomer Fred Hoyle has suggested, the chances of life on earth organizing on its own are about the same as having a tornado blow through a junkyard and put together a fully functional Boeing 747. And, of course, this is something that our faith teaches us. In passages like Psalm 19:1 we’re told:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
But even though some of us can look at everything from supernovas to sub-atomic particles and see the work of God’s hands; there still isn’t anything we can do to completely prove the existence of God. But there’s also nothing that anyone can do to completely disprove the existence of God. Because, as Adam Hamilton - who is a Methodist pastor and popular author - explains it:
When the atheist considers the universe, our planet, and life on the planet, there will always be a natural explanation that does not require God…[but] to the theist, the truth inevitably lies one layer beyond these explanations, because every solution proposed by the scientific community points to the needs for another x-factor. For Christians this x-factor, this unseen force behind the existence and development of the universe, is God.
So ultimately, we, as Christians, don’t belive in God because we have definitive proof of God’s existence. Rather, we believe in God because of our personal experience with God.
We believe in God because of our personal experience with God.
And that’s because the God that we believe in is not a far off and distant God. The God that we believe in did not simply create the universe and set it in motion and then step away to let it run its course. No, we believe in a God that is still hands-on in the universe and in our lives. We believe in a God that cares deeply about each of us and wants the best for us.
And that’s why the Apostle’s Creed doesn’t stop with just saying that “I believe in God.” It goes on to say that:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth.
Now, we’ve already touched on the creator of heaven and earth part. So the part I really want to focus on here is the Father part. And that’s because our belief that God is our Father is one of the things that truly sets Christianity apart from other faiths. And that’s because prior to Jesus coming and refering to God as Father, no one else ever really did that.
They may have believed in God the creator. But because God was the creator, it meant that God was so much greater than we as human beings are that we are completely unworthy of God. This is why there are some faiths that will not even speak God’s name.
But we, as Christians, believe that God is more than just our creator. We believe that God is our Father, or as Jesus himself put it, when he referred to God as Abba Father, we believe that God is our daddy. And that entails an entirely different relationship. Because our daddies iare not just big and powerful, our daddies are also up close, personal, and involved in our lives. Our daddies care when we fall down and scrape our knees. Our daddies are there to cheer us on during a baseball game. Our daddies are there to tuck us in at night and scare off any monsters hiding under the bed.
And this is the kind of God that the apostle Paul - who is the foremost missionary and theologian of the first century - wanted people to understand that Christians believed in. So this is the kind of God that Paul told people about as he traveled around the world to share the good news of Jesus. And, we find stories about Paul’s travels in the book of Acts. So today, I want you to listen to the way that Paul describes God in Acts 17.
Acts 17, we’ll start reading in verse 22. Here’s what Paul says:
17:22 Paul stood up in the middle of the council on Mars Hill and said, “People of Athens, I see that you are very religious in every way. 23 As I was walking through town and carefully observing your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown God.’ What you worship as unknown, I now proclaim to you. 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, is Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn’t live in temples made with human hands. 25 Nor is God served by human hands, as though he needed something, since he is the one who gives life, breath, and everything else. 26 From one person God created every human nation to live on the whole earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God made the nations so they would seek him, perhaps even reach out to him and find him. In fact, God isn’t far away from any of us. 28 In God we live, move, and exist. As some of your own poets said, ‘We are his offspring.’”
Acts 17:22-28 (Common English Bible)
So this is the God that we believe in. We believe in God, the Father Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth. But, at the beginning of this sermon, I didn’t just tell you that we were going to be talking about what we, as Christians, believe. I also told you that we’d be talking about why these beliefs matter to us.
So, why does it matter that we believe in God, the Father Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth. What difference does believing in God make in our lives?
Well, the unfortunate answer for a lot of people is that believing in God doesn’t make much difference in their lives at all. And that’s because these people may look at the universe and think that it makes sense to believe in a God that created it all...but they don’t live their daily lives like there is a God who loves them and cares about them.
But that’s not the kind of belief that we’ve been talking about today, that’s not the kind of belief that the Apostle’s Creed is based on, and that’s not the kind of belief that we, as Christians have. Because our belief is about more than just agreeing with a particular idea. Rather, when we say that we believe - or when you say that I believe - what we’re really saying is that these beliefs will shape who we are and how we behave in our lives. Or to put it more bluntly, what we believe leads to how we act.
What we believe leads to how we act.
So, if we are really followers of Jesus, what we believe will change the way we see the world and it will change the way that we live our lives. So how does believing in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth change the way we see our world and the way we live our lives?
Well, I think there are a few ways that believing in God shapes us. First, believing in God keeps things in the proper perspective.
Believing in God keeps things in the proper perspective.
When we believe in God, we realize that we are not the center of the universe and everything doesn’t revolve around us. The truth is that we are a relatively small and insignificant part of creation...but we are a small and insignificant part of creation that matters to God.
And that’s the second way that believing in God shapes us. Believing in God reminds us that we are created with infinite value and worth.
Believing in God reminds us that we are created with infinite value and worth.
Now, we live in a world that will try to tell us differently. We live in a world that will try to tell us that if we don’t wear the right clothes, drive the right car, or look the right way that we’re not important. But the very fact that God made you tells you something different. When God made you, God did not make a mistake. God created you to be exactly who you are because God knows that the world needs you.
But this also means that God didn’t make a mistake when he created anyone else either. So this is the third way that believing in God should shape us.
Believing in God means that we love everyone God created.
Believing in God means that we love everyone God created...and, since God created everyone, it means we’re supposed to love everyone.
And I know that that isn’t always easy to do. But it does lead us into the final way that believing in God should shape our lives. Believing in God means that we have to live the way that God wants us to live.
Believing in God means that we have to live the way that God wants us to live.
And living the way that God wants you to live isn’t easy. It’s not easy to love other people. It’s not easy to put God first and yourself last. It’s not easy to commit your life to follow a God that you will never see on this side of eternity.
But it is worth it. Because when you believe in God it will change your life forever.
But believing in God is just the beginning of what we, as Christians, believe. Next week, we’ll be talking about what we believe about Jesus Christ and why those beliefs matter as well. So we hope that you’ll come back and join us as we continue to explore what we believe, as Christians.
But remember the most basic thing that we believe is that God, the Father Almighty, created the heavens and the earth. And that means that we believe in a God that is bigger than we could ever understand but we also believe in a God that loves each of us more than we’ll ever know.