As believers in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are called to bear witness to Him in thought, word and deed. Our lifestyle – the way we live, what we purchase with our money, how we invest (or waste) our time, who we hang around with, what we do for entertainment – should all speak of our loyalty to Jesus Christ and the fact that we are a follower or disciple of His. We are to be living testimonies of His grace and His goodness. And, our words, our attitude toward others and our actions should be telling others the night-and-day difference that Jesus has made (and is making) in our lives (1 Peter 2:9 The Message).
There are some basic core beliefs of the Christian faith. This summer I have been preaching weekly on “The Basics” (these sermons are posted on-line and are free to listen to. As well, the written text is also available for download). The list of basic beliefs keeps growing so the series will not end when the summer weather does. But, it has been fun to revisit some of the basic beliefs and to share them in a simple way so that they are understood and can be applied instantly. I have discovered that many Christians do not know what it is they are suppose to believe nor how to apply the things they do believe to their lifestyle. These basic beliefs are suppose to be foundational to our lives. But they can’t be if we don’t know them – really know them deep in our hearts as well as understand them mentally. Afterall, it is upon these foundational, basic truths that we are to build and consciously design a lifestyle that speaks to and reveals our beliefs and the Savior we follow.
From these core basic beliefs we then determine our personal core values – what it is that we, as an individual follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, hold to be foundational to our personal life. What is it that we are doing with the core basic beliefs of the faith? How are we applying them to our own personal lives? They have to be more than a philosophy of life. They have to be more than something held at arms length that we pay lip service to. They have to be more than a comfortable thing to trust when we are approaching the end of our lives (eternal fire insurance). What we believe as Christians must help to determine and shape the way we are going to live our lives and what we are hoping to accomplish with our short time on Earth.
Most believers that I relate to could not tell you their ‘core values’ or the building blocks upon which they are building their lives. They have not internalized the basic beliefs of the faith. Some – dare I say most – could not even tell you the basic core beliefs of the faith they claim to follow. I don’t blame the followers. I think it is the direct result of too much pop theology from the pulpit mixed with self-help psychology. The Church is in sad shape.
When a believer knows the basic beliefs of the faith and have allowed them to form the foundation of their daily life – creating their own personal core values based upon what the Bible-believer knows to be truth – their core values then help them to form life principles. A life principle is the actual way that they are going to live their lives which of course then determines what others see and hear.
A personal example of a “life principle” that I live by is what I call “My LAF Principle”. This means that one of the guiding life principles of my daily life is that I “Love,” “Accept,” and “Forgive” people all of the time. I try to express love towards everyone – the love of God that I have personally experienced. I love them by the way I act, talk, and respond. I accept them just as they are. I do not judge them. I do not form a preconceived idea of how they are going to react or respond. I don’t judge how they look or dress. I simply accept them as Jesus would (unconditionally). Afterall, that is how Jesus accepted me. And, I determine ahead of time and on a daily basis to forgive anyone who hurts me or offends me – a decision and not a feeling. I do this even when they don’t deserve it. Did I deserve to be forgiven? Absolutely not! So, I live my life based on three life principles that determine what others see in me and hear from me. Of course, there are many other life principles by which I form my lifestyle. This is simply one of many.
When all of this comes together – and it must for the believer – then we live a life of integrity. People should be able to look at how we live our lives and what we are doing in our lives and recognize and know that we are believers…. our words, attitudes and actions should line up with our core values which are based on the foundational truths we have determined to personally embrace. Of course, all of this must, for the Christian, be rooted in the essential, non-negotiable, doctrines of the Christian faith. Our basic beliefs.