Riverchase United Methodist Church
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Sharing the Joy of Christ
What We Believe
Riverchase United Methodist Church’s Key Values
Our United Methodist Discipline states that:
"As United Methodists, we have an obligation to bear a faithful Christian witness to Jesus Christ, the living reality at the center of the Church’s life and witness. To fulfill this obligation we must reflect on our biblical and theological inheritance, striving to express faithfully the witness we make."
John Wesley, a founder of Methodism, believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. (1)
1. Scripture. The Bible is the primary source for what we believe!
2. Tradition. Our Christian tradition is rooted in the lives, works and testimony of those who have gone before us.
3. Christian experience. Our personal experience of God’s pardoning and healing love is radically different from intellectual agreement with the message of the Bible or to doctrines set forth in our creeds.
4. Reason. We believe all truth comes from God. Doctrines that are developed by the study of scripture are submitted to critical analysis. Our beliefs must take into account scientific knowledge and practical experience, and avoid self-contradiction.
Our Essential Beliefs
You will want to think through these essential beliefs for yourself. You will have your own statements of faith to make in your own words.
1. God. We believe in one God who is infinite in wisdom, power, and love. We affirm our trust in God as the Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of all things, the One who comes to us as the Holy Spirit. We believe that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ give us a clear, full, and true revelation of God. We believe that God is Spirit (John 4:24). No one has ever seen God. God is love. “If we love one another, God abides in us” (I John 4:7-21). We believe that God is all-merciful, righteous, and just. Through prayer, and in fellowship with God, we grow in our understanding of the divine purpose and will for our lives.
2. Jesus Christ. We believe in Jesus, the Christ – the promised Messiah and Deliverer, our Savior and the Savior of the world, “the world’s true light.” We believe that Jesus lived a life that was truly human and truly divine. He was tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning (Heb. 4:15-16). He lived in a perfect obedience to God. The unmatched depth of God’s love is revealed within the life and ministry of Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and healing, and in his suffering, death, and resurrection. We affirm the faith of the early Christians that Jesus Christ is the Lord. We believe the living Christ is present with us and that through faith in Christ we experience the joy of salvation.
3. Holy Spirit. We believe in the Holy Spirit as God present with us for guidance, comfort, and strength. We affirm the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, inspiring those qualities known in the New Testament as “the fruits of the Spirit” - “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Likewise, the Holy Spirit inspires gifts that are to be used to build each other up: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (I Cor. 12:4-7). “The Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Rom. 8:26) and keeps us in perpetual remembrance of the truth of Christ.
4. Forgiveness. We believe in the reality of sin and forgiveness of sin. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. When we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:8-9). We confess that we have alienated ourselves from God by our self-centeredness and disobedience. Our estrangement thwarts our hope of achieving what is good. We believe the Holy Spirit quickens our conscience, and prompts us toward righteous ness. Our repentance is matched by God’s gracious love and enables us to begin again. Since God forgives us, we are expected to forgive others.
5. Scripture. We believe the Word of God contained in the Old and New Testaments directs both our faith and our practice. Although God is revealed in many ways, we believe the testimony of the Bible is crucial in helping us to live in terms of God’s will. We believe the Bible was written by persons who were inspired and challenged by the Spirit of God. The Bible is a record of the experiences men and women had on their journeys of faith: faithfulness and disobedience; commitments and broken promises; affirmation and doubt. We believe that God speaks to us through the Scripture when we interpret it in light of both its original meaning and its message for us today.
6. Church. We believe in the Church as a community of faith and love, and as a fellowship for worship, study, and service of all who are united to the living Lord. The Church is more than a place, a building, and an institution. The Church is present when we come together as a gathered community, as well as when we express our faith in witness and service in the world about us. We confess that “the Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.” We affirm our belief in the Church universal – the fellowship of Christians around the world. This is what The Apostle’s Creed means when it refers to “the holy catholic Church .” We recognize that within the fellowship of the Church are those who have lived and died before us, who have finished their course in faith, and who now rest from their labors.
7. Kingdom of God. We believe in the kingdom of God as the divine rule in human society. One of Jesus’ favorite themes was “the kingdom of God.” It represented for him God’s reign, the manifestation of God’s purpose and will. Any number of his parables about the kingdom depict God as One who searches for us. Jesus spoke of the kingdom in various ways: within us, around us, among us, beyond us. The kingdom is already here and it is yet to come. It is a present reality; it is a future hope. We are called into fellowship with God and with one another to the end that the divine will can be expressed in and through us. We pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
8. Eternal life. We believe in the final triumph of righteousness and in the life everlasting. We have here, through faith in Christ, a glimpse of that which shall be revealed. We believe that eternal life is not simply an extension of life beyond death, but also a quality of life in Christ lived here and now. To live ‘in Christ” is to know eternal life. Even though we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” we fear no evil. Although we may have questions about what life after death may be like, we are confident that the promise of Christ is trustworthy and that God will be with us and sustain us.
Emphasis of Special Importance for United Methodists
In addition to the foregoing statements of faith, there are other emphases that have a special significance for United Methodists.
9. Human dignity. We believe that God endows each person with dignity and moral responsibility. The alienation and discrimination many individuals feel is painful to them and to us. We seek to be sensitive to each person’s longing for self-respect and the desire of all people to share in a good life. Our clearest insight into what human dignity means is found in Jesus Christ, who brings together into one life the truly human and the truly divine. We recognize our responsibility to God and to one another, and confess that “to worship rightly is to love each other.”
10. Grace. We believe in the primacy of grace. Grace is God’s self-giving love bestowed upon us quite apart from having deserved it. God’s love is freely given to us, not because we have earned it, but because we need it. In keeping with our Wesleyan heritage we believe in ‘prevenient grace,’ the divine love that anticipates all our conscious impulses and that moves the heart toward faith. (4). We believe that God’s love is always with us and encourages us to be faithful in the midst of the temptations and problems we face.
11. Conversion. We believe that a decisive change in our lives can and does occur, prompted by grace and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This new birth, or conversion, may be sudden or dramatic, gradual or cumulative. It marks the beginning of a new life in Christ. The personal transformation that comes about through a faithful response to God’s love can express itself in various thought forms and lifestyles. (5). We may look back into our lives and identify a time, or place, or a series of experiences that we recognize as a turning point or as transforming moments – our conversion. There is also a sense in which we need to be daily transformed and renewed by the Spirit of Christ. Our salvation is not static. It is not simply an experience of the past. When conversion is viewed as a dynamic encounter with the Living God, we can say, “I was saved, I am being saved, I shall always need to be saved.” We must always be receptive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
12. Faith and works. We believe that faith and good works belong together. What we believe must be confirmed by what we do. Personal salvation must be expressed in ministry and mission in the world. We believe that Christian doctrine and Christian ethics are inseparable, that faith should inspire service. We affirm the biblical precept that “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17).
13. Inclusive church. The United Methodist Church is part of the Church universal and includes people of all races and cultures, people with handicapping conditions, people of all ages – children, youth, and adults. “Therefore all persons, without regard to race, color, national origin, disability, or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, to participate in its programs, and, when they take the appropriate vows, to be admitted into its membership in any local church in the United Methodist Church.” (6).
14. Sacraments. The United Methodist Church recognizes with many other protestant churches the two sacraments ordained by Christ – Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. “Sacraments ordained of Christ are not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they are certain signs of grace, and God’s good will toward us, by which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm, our faith in him.” (7). Baptism celebrates God’s grace bestowed upon us and our initiation into Christ’s holy Church. Baptism marks the beginning of our new life in Christ and points us toward a life of Christian discipleship (see section on When Methodists Baptize). Holy Communion – or the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist – celebrates God’s love freely given to us in the life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Supper is God’s invitation to “commune” and to be in fellowship with Christ. It also symbolizes our fellowship with other Christians. Holy Communion is the central act in our corporate worship experience. The United Methodist Church practices open Communion. This means that all who “truly and earnestly repent of [their] sins, are in love and charity with [their] neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God” are invited to the table of the Lord. Everyone is invited to remember the Lord’s Supper with us and take it together. Some churches require membership. We open the Lord’s Supper to all who believe in Christ.