So, I want to start with a question today…and while it’s a very important question, it’s also one that hopefully challenges us and makes us think, because how you answer this question is actually reflected out in how you are living your life.  Now, I’m just going to warn you that it has a big word in it that some people would get excited to hear and discuss in a church setting, while others would hear this word, and have an immediate reaction consisting of their eyes rolling back in their head and getting either tired or maybe a little intimidated by this word.  The word is theology and the reason some get excited is because they like thinking, talking and debating theology…which is great for some…and the reason some don’t like it is they don’t really see themselves as a theologian, especially in the complicated world of spirituality (which isn’t and should not be complicated according to Jesus…but I digress!)  But here’s the reality of us as people.  We are all theologians!  Ha, this may be the first time someone has ever accused you of being a theologian, but I want you to think about this, you have a belief system.  Those beliefs are actually playing a massive role in the direction your life is taking.  Those beliefs come out in the choices and decisions you are making, and how you relate to people and live your life.  This means you have a theology to how you live, and today we are going to discuss how important what you believe actually is…but it’s a challenging subject to process, so we really need to be thinking today.  So, as we get warmed up here, I want you to really think this all through.  Did you ever consider yourself a theologian?  That may be a new thought today!   What is your theology?   What do you believe?  Ok, just for fun I will ask you one more question and it’s this.  Do you see how your beliefs or faith is shaping your life and the direction your life is heading?

A few years ago, I was talking with a young man about the very concepts of what we believe and why it matters.  I would often press in on him about what he believes, and I will admit it, I would press in pretty hard.  I wanted him to think and would never stop with asking him what he believes but would also ask him why he believes it.  This would frustrate him, but I wanted him to be able to think for himself and come to his own conclusions, not someone else’s conclusions on a specific Scripture, or line of thinking, or just faith in general.  We can all memorize other people’s thoughts, and regurgitate them to people and look holy or Spiritual, but what I believe is shaping who I am.  We all have a belief system.  And what I was seeing in his actions was that he had a theology, and it wasn’t quite lining up with what he wanted it to be or at least what he wanted others to see.  I saw it in his actions, decisions, and things he would say…which is why I would push in on him, challenging him to think, but he couldn’t see it.  This all culminated one day with him saying, “Why don’t you just tell me what to believe, and I will believe that.”  I frustrated him a little more by answering with another statement about how it doesn’t work that way, and well, we will just call it a tense exchange.  I know I can be frustrating at times, but this was an important moment because I could see his belief system in his actions and how he was living, but he just couldn’t, and what he was advertising to the world and what I was seeing just weren’t lining up.

Our belief system is a really big deal.  It directs how we live our lives.  If you want to know your theology just look at your values, decisions, and the direction your life is taking.  I wonder if you ever realized before today that you are a theologian.  This also stands to reason then, that where we go to find our belief system is important.  Actually, it’s very important that we are getting a good Biblical foundation to base that belief system on, or it can go a different direction…probably one that we would not want the direction of our lives to go.  So, before we go any further, let’s look at some examples of people who lived out their faith.

  • How about Mother Teresa?  I think we would all say Mother Teresa lived out her beliefs. 
  • How about Billy Graham?  I think we could all say that Billy Graham lived out his faith.
  • How about Martin Luther King Jr?  I think we would say he also lived out his faith. 

So those are great examples of people who lived out their faith or beliefs.  Just for fun, and to keep you thinking, let’s look at a few more examples of people who lived out their beliefs, and ask the same question.

  • How about Adolph Hitler?  Whoa, this took a turn, but did he live out his belief system or faith?
  • How about Osama Bin Laden?  Yikes, do you think he lived out his faith?
  • Let’s get away from murderous war criminals and go to music.  How about Rock and Roll legends like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix?  I would say they all actually lived out their beliefs…and ironically as much as young people look up to these stars, they all died young, living out their theology.

So this took a turn here huh, and I will say, I’m pretty confident in the fact that this is my first time ever writing a sermon with this combination of people being used as examples, but I want you to see something.  Each and everyone of these people lived out their faith, they all had a belief system, or theology…and so do you.  So, as we get started here today, I want you thinking this all through and I want you to understand something very important.  What you believe is a really big deal.  It directs your life, so whether you realize it or not you have a belief system and you are living it out.  Whether your belief system is like that of Mother Teresa living a life of love, humility, and serving others completely devoted to God’s will, or that like that of the rock star Jim Morrison, living each day like it’s his last, indulging all the fleshly desires of his life, and dying way too young while indulging those desires…we all have a faith that is coming out in our lives.  This makes me think of those people the writer of Hebrews lists out, and how they lived their lives by their faith…and by that faith different things happened.

Hebrews 11:2 Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. 3 By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.4 It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith. 5 It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—”he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. 6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. 7 It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith. 8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. 9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. 11 It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. 12 And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them. 13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. NLT

Do you see what I’m pushing in on here today?  What these people believed came out in how they lived their lives.  I love verse two there that says their faith, earned them a good reputation among the people.  Why would that be?  It’s because your faith is coming out in how you live your life.  It’s the driver of your decisions, actions, and it’s your belief system that is shaping the direction your life takes.

So here we are already halfway through this talk, and I haven’t even gone to our big Truth Statement of the day yet!  If you remember we are in this big spring series called The Christian Atheist because we are seeing more and more people who would say they believe in God, who aren’t living like God exists and is part of their lives.  This whole conversation is on truth, and how we are watching the world and our culture pushing back truth, literally wearing out many Christians, and churches.  We are seeing the world and our culture influencing the church more so than the church is influencing our culture which is tough to watch unfold and is leading more and more Christians and churches to adopt unbiblical beliefs.

So, this series really has centered around a study done last year by the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University which surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults from four major groups: Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Mainline Protestants, and Catholics.  They surveyed them on a lot of different topics and the results were something we wanted to discuss with you, and to do that we are walking through the different Truth Statements, each Sunday.  So, I have really been pushing in on you today about what you believe, your faith, and the idea that you have a theology which actually makes you a theologian whether your realized it or not…so my hope is your already thinking this all through…let’s look at our truth statement of the day.

Truth – Which faith you embrace matters as much or more than simply having faith.  What do you think about this statement?  This is one of the truth statements that takes a minute or two to think through.   Is what you believe and why you believe it when it comes to God, who He is, and what He does or doesn’t do important?  Or do you feel that just believing in God is enough?  I want you thinking about this.  While you are processing this question, let’s go to our survey and see what the 2,000 Christians surveyed had to say about this.

Over 2,000 people surveyed said the following. Evangelicals 38% agree, 62% reject.  Pentecostal 29% agree, 71% reject.  Mainline Protestant 24% agree, 76% reject.  Catholic 16% agree, 84% reject. [Source:]

According to the survey we find that around 25% of Christians surveyed agree with this idea that which faith you embrace matters more than just believing in God.  This to me is a great reflection of our culture today.  We live in a world where who we are doesn’t matter as much as what we look like.  We are not necessarily looking for depth, and character and who someone really is…no, as long as it looks good in the public eye we are fine.  We live lives in the world of social media, where we just put out the best images possible, without ever really worrying about the substance.  As long as it looks good, I’m good…and I think that is a very real, strategic, and intentional push by this world and culture against Christians and our churches as much as it is in every other area of our lives…and the survey backs us up here.  Over three quarters of those surveyed really don’t think theology matters…they aren’t worried about what you believe as long as you believe in God.  Think about that…and let’s go back to what we spoke of early.

What you believe does matter.  What you believe is driving your actions and determining the direction of your life…each and everyone of us is following a belief system, which is leading us somewhere.  Billy Graham had a belief system that he followed.  So did Osama Bin Laden.  So did Janis Joplin…and Martin Luther King Jr, and so do you.  What you need to ask is not only what do I believe?  But also, where is your belief system leading you?  These are important questions with life altering eternal ramifications.

So, you may be tracking with this talk today and thinking “Ok Sam.  I get it.  I maybe never would have thought of myself as a theologian, but I do see why what I believe matters so much.  But I get confused, it seems a bit complicated when I try to talk about Spirituality or theology it’s overwhelming and seems to be really complex.”  Which is really interesting since Jesus was constantly confronting the religious leaders of that time for making Spirituality so complex while challenging us to just do two things…love God, and love others.  Remember Jesus told us this about his teaching?

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” NIV

Jesus says take my teaching upon you as your belief system, and learn from him…and what does Jesus say about his teaching?  He says that it is easy and light.  So, let’s talk some.  Now I want to add that if you want to know where we as a church come out on this whole belief system, you can go to our website and read through our “What we believe” page.  It will list out everything for you…but I want to just talk to you about what is at the heart of it all…it is Jesus.  It’s Jesus as all, and enough, and more than we could ever need.  It all focuses on Jesus, and He is enough.

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”  NIV

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  NIV

Listen, different churches and people do have different beliefs and theology.  It’s why we see so many different churches.  I’m not here to sell you on one over the other, but I will just tell you our heart for our church family here at MRC.  We want everything we do to center on and around and in Jesus.

Philippians 3:3 For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort. NLT

It’s all about Jesus.  This is what we believe, and it shapes the direction of our lives, our churches, what we do, how we worship, and what we focus on…so keep asking yourself what you believe because your faith system, your theology is shaping and directing your life.  If Christ is enough, you live a certain way.  If Christ is enough you make certain decisions.  Is Christ enough for you?  Is what you believe important to you?  Do you see what I’m driving at today?  This leads me into the Scripture that I really wanted to get into your hearts.  Listen to Paul’s words here and we will talk for a bit…because when I say it’s all about Jesus and He is enough, it’s the Bible that led us to this faith that we embrace.

Colossians 1:26 This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. 27 God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. 28 We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. 29 That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me. MSG

I love this and I want you to not only understand this but push in on this thinking, line it up with your own belief system here today.  Is Christ enough?  Should we add to it?  If so, what needs added to this belief that Christ is enough?  This is a very important moment for you to process about your own personal theology or belief system.  Remember what you believe is driving the way you live your life.

You know, Ken and I talk a lot about what really matters in Spiritual Leadership.  If we really had one goal for you, one wish, or desire for you here at MRC, it would be that you would know God intimately.  Not that you would know of Him.  Not that you could quote things about Him.  Not that you would follow all the good religious practices possible, but that you would really know Him.  We learned just two weeks ago that truly is God’s heart for us…remember how he spoke through Hosea?

Hosea 6:6 I’m after love that lasts, not more religion.  I want you to know God, not go to more prayer meetings. MSG

There is something so refreshing and good about statements like these that we find all through our Bibles.  There are so many things around us that block or distract us from that true, close relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Things from the busyness of life to sin, to just pure religious clutter, to our pride.  These things that block us from walking in a true, pure, free, energy-giving relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Here at MRC, it’s our biggest goal for our church family that you would find Jesus and wrap your heart and mind around the idea that He is enough.

So, if that is the goal, the question has to be asked, how do we help people get there?  Well, we do this by stripping away all the distractions, and focusing on Jesus.  We bring the Word of God to you, with no bells, no whistles, no distractions…just Jesus… because He is our belief system that we embrace…and He is enough. But only if you choose to engage Him, and walk in that same confident belief, that same faith, that same theology that it is all about Him…if you don’t, you will probably always wonder what else there could be to help you find that “life to the full” that Jesus told you He came to give you.  You will always need more, if you do not believe that He is enough, and I try to warn you often that anytime we minimize Jesus, who He is and what He has done for us on the Cross, we are wandering away from God’s love and into The Spirit of Religion.  Please ask yourself where you come out on this, because while over 75% of Christians surveyed would say it doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you believe something in God, we know that what we believe is extremely important and is driving the way you live your life, from the decisions you make, to your ability to find a true relationship with God or not.  If you believe Jesus is enough, if you engage Him, and submit to Him…it comes out in the way you live your life, and you find that abundant life Jesus told you He was her to provide for you all along.   Let’s go back to Paul for a moment and just keep thinking this all through, since we now know we are all theologians here today…

Colossians 1:27…It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. 28 We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. 29 That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me. MSG

I want you to see a couple things here as we close.  Paul says, at the very heart of all we teach is Jesus.  That’s it, we don’t add to it.  We do our best to preach it as clearly and plainly as we can…so while some may appear smarter or holier, or a little more important than Paul because they elevate things and make these Spiritual Concepts more complex, Paul understands the very thing Jesus was after, and that wasn’t too look more important or spiritual to others, or to elevate himself, but to keep it clear so people can grab hold of God’s word and apply it to their lives, the goal is to elevate and point to Christ and Christ alone.  Paul understands and believes that Jesus is enough and just does his best to stay out of the way and to connect people to Christ.

Paul also says something really interesting in vs 28 that we need to pick up on when it comes to Spiritual Maturity.  Did you see that?

vs 28 We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less.

Spiritual Maturity comes from Jesus and Jesus alone.  Paul says we preach clear and simple, not elevating ourselves or drawing attention to ourselves but elevating and pointing to Jesus in all things and warns us not to add anything to The Gospel, and then makes this statement about maturity that we have to look at as we close today.  He says that “to be mature is to be basic” which is interesting because for so many people, we look at many other things to define maturity…especially in a church setting.  I don’t know that we would describe it ‘as to be basic.’  So many good men and women of faith can feel like they “outgrow” what they view as basic teaching and need “deeper” or “more complex” teaching.  They think somehow that is spiritual growth when I think we would say Spiritual Growth, comes as we shift our focus off of ourselves and onto God and it begins to come out in our lives…which is so interesting to watch unfold in people’s lives…and if we are keeping score at home, that line of thinking would contradict Paul here!

So, when you think about Paul’s words here how do you feel?  Excited?  Shocked? Disappointed?  Is it refreshing?  Does it bug you?  If it bugs you, please, search your heart as to why that is…it may mean you take great pride in your spiritual standing.  Does it inspire you to think that Jesus Christ is the answer to every issue, thought, and question you may have?  Press in on this today!

When you think about our truth statement how do you feel about it?  Do you think you just need to believe in God or do you believe that what and how and the why you believe would actually matter as well?  We really saw today that our beliefs shape our lives, so this is a very important question for you to explore…it may be challenging but it’s so important.

Have you ever stopped to think about your belief system?  Did you ever really picture yourself as a theologian walking through life with a theology of your own?  Do you see it now?  I will tell you those around you know what you believe.  Remember that story of the guy I was meeting with years ago, who didn’t understand why I kept pressing him about why he believed what he believed, he just wanted me to tell him what to believe…it frustrated him, but it’s so important, because what he believed was already showing in how he was living and acting…as it does for us all.

Do you see how important what you believe is?  Do you see that what you believe drives your life and directs your actions, relationships, and decisions?

When you think about Spirituality is it complex and for the intellectual elite or something you and I can understand and apply to our lives?  When you picture a Spiritually Mature person what do you picture?  A deep-thinking theologian with a lot of big words and Scripture in their holster, or someone basic, who loves, serves, and humbles themselves while elevating Jesus instead of themselves?  What do you see?

Do you believe that Jesus is enough?  If He is enough, your life will be forever changed.  Why you do what you do will be forever changed.  Your motivations, decisions, and priorities will be forever changed.  You will find peace, freedom, and energy that can only come from this belief in Christ and Christ alone!  I will leave you with Paul’s words one more time as we close.

Colossians 1:27…It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. 28 We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. 29 That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me. MSG