Drawing from the Well, 2/14/17

For an introduction to the series, read this.

Today I will begin working through the Nicene Creed, offering suggestions for how to teach its contents to children. This creed, in its final form, is a revision of the Creed of the Council of Nicea (AD 325) that was updated by the Council of Constantinople (AD 381), the council that settled the boundaries of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. From the latter part of the fourth century to this day, the Nicene Creed has been the primary theological statement of all branches of the Christian church: Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant. Those who deny its teachings cannot rightly be deemed orthodox Christians, at least in any historical sense. Like the Apostles’ Creed, it has a follows a Trinitarian structure.

Memorization for the Week

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth…

Thoughts for Discussion with Children

How many gods are there? That’s right: there is only one true God. He alone is the Creator of all things who was never created by anyone else, because he just always was. So that means everything else that was made depends on him, but he doesn’t depend on anyone or anything else at all. That’s what makes him the only true God.

But notice how the Nicene Creed refers to him: “the Father Almighty.” Was there ever a time when he was not “the Father,” or has he always been Father? That’s an interesting question, because when we follow the Bible’s teaching and say that he was indeed always God the Father, that means there must have always been God the Son with him. He wouldn’t be Father without having a Son. So, the Creed is telling us that there is only one God, and yet this one God always had someone with him. The Father always had the Son with him. There was never a time when the Father was without the Son (and, as we know as well, there was never a time when the Father and the Son did not have the Holy Spirit with them).

So, if the Son was always there, it means that he was never created, just like the Father was never created. Does that mean we really have two (or three) gods instead of one? No! There is only one God, but this one God has always been Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is one thing but three persons: one “what” but three “who’s”. That’s something we can’t fully understand, but we shouldn’t expect to be able to understand God completely anyway, or else he wouldn’t really be God.

The wonderful thing about the Bible’s teaching that God has always been Father is that it means he has always loved the Son. He never had to learn how to love. When he created us, he loved us already because love is his very nature. If he had been all alone before creation, we couldn’t really say that about him. But the Bible’s teaching on the Trinity shows us that he was not all alone. The Father has always loved the Son, and the Son has always loved the Father, in the Holy Spirit.

 

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Drawing from the Well, 1/24/17

For an introduction to the series, read this.

We come today to the final article in my church’s statement of faith, based on the Baptist Faith and Message. It is focused on eschatology, or the doctrine of last things.

Statement of Faith Article for the Week

VIII. LAST THINGS

God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.

Thoughts for Discussion with Children

No story is complete without a proper ending. The Bible tells us that we are living in a story that is headed toward a very happy ending. Actually, it is a very happy ending for some, but not for others. And that’s how most stories go: at the end, the hero and his friends celebrate victory, and the villains have fallen to defeat.

But everything in this story is focused on one Man: Jesus Christ. He is the hero. At his first coming, he was born as a baby to a poor family, and he came to be put to death by his enemies so that he could save us from our sins. When he comes again, he will come in power and glory, with his mighty angels, to judge all who oppose him and rescue all who love him. The Bible teaches that God will judge all people through Jesus Christ, the God-man, dividing us all up into two groups of believers and unbelievers. So, in the end, there are two places we can go: some will have life forever with God in Heaven, and some will suffer under punishment for their sins forever in Hell. There is no other option.

So there is nothing more important than knowing, trusting, loving, and following Jesus right now. That is what determines how this story will end for you. That is what will make all the difference between Heaven and Hell. And yet, when we finally come to the end of the story, we will find that it is really just another beginning, the beginning of a joyful life beyond anything we have ever imagined. And because God never ends, our life with him will never end. Praise him for that hope, and live for that coming day.

Suggested Readings for the Week: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 19:1-22:8

Drawing from the Well, 1/17/17

For an introduction to the series, read this.

This week we continue working through my church’s statement of faith, based on the Baptist Faith and Message.

Statement of Faith Article for the Week

VII. BAPTISM AND THE LORD’S SUPPER

Christian baptism, being the believer’s profession of faith, is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, the believer’s cleansing from sin and death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is to be done in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and it should be done by immersion. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership. The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the cup, remember the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.

Thoughts for Discussion with Children

Imagine that one day you become such a great basketball player that you make it to the NBA. If that happened, there would come a day when you would first put on your team’s jersey and play in your first game as a member of that team. Putting on that jersey for the first time would no doubt be an amazing experience; it would be the moment when you could say, “I made it. I’m part of this team.”

But of course, you wouldn’t just put on your jersey for the first game, take it off, and never put it on again. No, you would put it on for every game after that, as long as you were on that team. The jersey would mark you out every time you wore it as a member of your basketball team. If you ever left that team, you wouldn’t wear their jersey anymore. Perhaps you would wear the jersey of another team, or you would stop wearing jerseys altogether because you had retired from basketball. Team jerseys show who belongs to a team and who doesn’t when that team gathers to play basketball.

The ordinances that Jesus gave to the church are similar to jerseys. Getting baptized is like putting on your jersey for the first time. It is what marks you publicly as a disciple of Jesus, as part of his church, and therefore it is a very important step of obedience in the Christian life. In baptism, we are put under the water to show that we have died with Christ to sin (in other words, sin is not master of us anymore, even though it still affects us as long as we are in this world); then we are raised up out of the water to show that we have been raised to spiritual life with Christ, and that spiritual life will one day blossom into new life of resurrection from the dead, just as Jesus himself was raised. When a person is baptized, he is declaring publicly that he has trusted in Jesus and has been through a death and resurrection, marking a change from serving sin to serving Jesus.

But is baptism the only way we show that we belong to Jesus? No, it isn’t. Just as a basketball player keeps putting on his jersey for game after game after game, Christians also are commanded by Jesus to do something that shows over and over and over that we are still trusting in Jesus alone to save us and still following him as disciples. But unlike putting on a jersey, baptism is not something that should be done more than once. Baptism marks the beginning of our life in Christ, but Jesus gave us something else to do over and over and over to show our ongoing life in Christ: the Lord’s Supper.

So, after we have been baptized into the church, we eat and drink the Lord’s Supper as often as the church serves it to us in order to show that we are still following Jesus and trusting in him alone to save us. The bread, representing his broken body, and the cup, representing his spilled blood, are things we take into our bodies by eating and drinking to show that we don’t trust in what we have done, but in his death for us.

Both baptism and the Lord’s Supper are acts of obedience for us as followers of Jesus. But they are also acts of obedience for the church who baptizes and serves us the bread and cup. By giving these signs (or “jerseys”) only to those who show they are believers in Jesus, the church shows the difference between Christians and the world. Christians get to wear the jersey, but non-Christians don’t. That is why these two acts are so special and important.

Suggested readings for the week: Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 6; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Drawing from the Well, 12/13/16

For an introduction to the series, read this.

Today we continue our series through my church’s statement of faith, based on the Baptist Faith and Message.

Statement of Faith Article for the Week

V. GOD’S PURPOSE OF GRACE

Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility. All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. Those who profess faith but do not persevere, thereby show themselves to be unregenerate. Continue reading

Drawing from the Well, 12/6/16

For an introduction to the series, read this.

Today we continue unpacking the article on salvation in my church’s statement of faith, based on the Baptist Faith and Message:

State of Faith Article for the Week

GLORIFICATION

Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed. At the point of glorification, being achieved only after this life, the believer will be perfectly righteous, like his Lord. Thus, he will dwell with his Creator and Lord for all eternity.

Thoughts for Discussion with Children

You have heard before that we should glorify God. In fact, that is what we were made for: to give glory to God. God made all things for his own glory, and so everything we do should ultimately be for that greatest of all purposes.

But did you know that God also glorifies us? Several verses in the Bible teach this, one of which is Romans 8:28-29. Read those verses. What do you think it means for God to glorify us?

It doesn’t mean exactly the same thing that it means for us to glorify God. For example, we glorify God by worshiping him, but God does not glorify us by worshiping us! How then does he glorify us? Here’s the difference: we glorify God when we praise him for how wonderful he is; God glorifies us by making us like his Son Jesus. And when he makes us like Jesus, he takes great joy in what he has done. He makes us glorious so that we will be able to praise him forever. He glorifies us, in other words, so that we may glorify him.

And that means, if we are believers, we will be like Jesus one day, and that includes being raised from the dead like Jesus. Just as he has overcome death and has a new body that will never be touched by sickness, pain, weakness, or death again, so will we one day. What God started in us through regeneration, he will complete through glorification.