There is only one true and living God who exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. God is eternal: there has never been a time when he did not exist nor will there ever be a time when he will cease to exist. He is the all-knowing, all-powerful and all-present Creator. God is perfect and holy in every aspect of his being and though endlessly active he never changes. His wisdom is far above ours.
In his love he has reached out to people to make it possible for them to know him and have life with him. We can’t know and understand God by ourselves. Our human logic, nice ideas, good intentions and the way we interpret the world would all produce a flawed understanding. We don’t naturally know God; he reveals himself. He has done this through his written word (the Bible) and supremely through his Son, the Word made flesh.
He made all things for his own glory: there is no place or time, no activity or creature, nothing anywhere that should not worship him and serve his loving, totally good purposes. The Bible says that all things were made by God and for God.
People and Sin: Paradise Lost
Humanity was made in his image: to live in a way that constantly reflects the love, the creativity, the care and purpose of our Creator. But ever since humanity was tested in the Garden of Eden and failed the test, we have been born with a sinful nature that makes it impossible for us to know God or please God. We live in alienation from him.
Sin is best understood as falling short of God’s mark; his mark is that we love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We were made to love what he loves and hate what he hates. Sin begins in the heart, with a love for anything – including ourselves – that nudges out total love for God. That wayward love creates the attitude that ‘I’ll do my own thing’. Thus we aren’t sinners because at some point in life we’ve ‘done something wrong’ and it’s blotted our record. It’s the other way round and a far deeper problem: we sin because we’re sinners. We sin by nature.
This sin-nature erects a barrier of natural animosity between us and God that we are not capable of overcoming. By nature, we do not love God. In fact we actively rebel against Him, suppressing the truth about God and rebelling against both his love and his authority. Rather than serving his good and wise purposes we naturally prefer to serve our own, which even at their best are immeasurably less good and wise than God’s. So we inevitably make a mess of creation, of relationships, of economies, of nations, of cities, of creativity, of – you name it. What we do might be splendid in parts, but even at its best it’s nothing like as good as it should be. This total impact of sin is our fault, and wanting to blame God instead is part of the sin. It brings death, by which the Bible means total and eternal separation from God.
People and Salvation: Paradise Regained
A person becomes a Christian as they trust Jesus Christ to forgive their sins because of what he did on the cross and to save them from eternal condemnation; and as they acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and put themselves under his loving authority.
We’re saved from our sin by the work of God. We don’t deserve it and we can’t earn it. We aren’t saved from God’s judgement of our sin because of our track record but because of Jesus’ track record – not because we are good but because he is good. There’s no room for self-righteousness in the gospel. That’s why we become right with God through trusting Jesus rather than ourselves. Hence, ‘through faith’.
God doesn’t have to save anyone; he is under no obligation that’s imposed upon him by some superior force to which he’s answerable. He saves because he wants to and he wants to because he loves sinners. Hence ‘by grace’.
God deals with our sins not by turning a blind eye, which would be falsehood not forgiveness; nor by saying that they’re not really that bad, which would be morally dubious not good. He has dealt with our sin by carrying it himself, which is sacrificial love.
But of course if it’s our human sin, one of us has to carry it. So God the Son became a human being. While never ceasing to be fully God he became one of us (which is what Christmas is about).
As one of us, and on our behalf, he carried our sin, our guilt and our penalty on the cross (which is what Good Friday is about).
He rose from the dead to return to heaven as the victorious Lord, to receive the glory that he deserves and to share his eternal life with us (which is what Easter Day is about)
We believe Jesus when he said ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me’ (John’s Gospel, chapter 14 verse 6) Believing, we acknowledge that he is Lord of all things and we gladly submit to him as the Lord of our own lives
So we’re saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
People Together with God: The Church
God saves people individually but he has called them to live in a community, a family, which is his church. It’s like a body with many different parts and with Jesus as the head.
Christians join together in a local church to worship God, to grow in their knowledge of God, to reach people with the gospel of salvation and to cultivate their relationship with him and with each other.
God has promised that his church will be made up of people from every nation, tribe, language, and people. As well as being a local family, it’s growing into a global one.
That family increasingly reflects the Creator in the way that we live the whole of life. So just as every part of us was affected by falling away from God, so every part of us is affected by being brought back to God through Jesus. Our character and our behaviour, our hopes and fears, what we want for ourselves and for our children are all increasingly re-shaped by being reconciled with God. The arts and literature, our relation to the environment, business and commerce, politics and civic life, community involvement, our homes and families, are all remade in God’s image.
So the Church is not a holy huddle but a movement for change: thoroughly in the world and for the world, but not ‘of’ this world’.
People of the Book: The Bible
The Bible is the Word of God and is totally true. We also believe that God used people to write it as He inspired them by the Spirit. It is God’s revelation of himself, not to be taken away from nor added to. It isn’t people’s ideas about God. It comes from the top down.
Because it is God’s word and not ours, the Bible is ‘authoritative’. It is our supreme authority in all matters of belief and behaviour. So we don’t stand over it judging what it says or deciding what we like. Our attitude is to submit to it, because this is how God speaks to us by his Holy Spirit.
The Bible contains many different types of writing, so that we need to understand it with sensitivity to what we’re reading. Properly read, it gives us an absolutely trustworthy account of God and of ourselves. It is not a book to be read disinterestedly as if it were on a par with any other book. Everyone always has a personal attitude to it of one kind or another, since if we believe it we have to yield to the God who it reveals. In one vital sense, there is no neutrality.
It is a book to be lived, since it claims that every part is useful. It is a guide for our path through life. The Bible shows us what God is like, what we are like and what life becomes if we reject him or if we love him.
Future-minded People: Jesus is Coming Back
Our Lord’s return will be personal, visible, universal and surprising. When He comes, He will bring an end to history as we know it, and usher in his eternal reign. Those who have died believing in him will rise from the dead and be given new bodies, together with believers who are alive at the time. Death is not the end: we are made for more than this life. We were made for the new creation, where we will enjoy unbroken friendship with God in a physical world. The joy and intimacy of this is pictured as a wedding feast, with Jesus as the bridegroom and his people as his bride.
The return of Jesus is spoken about many, many times in the Bible as a day when a judgement will be made by God.
That judgement will be based on our own choice to believe or not believe in Jesus. God will accept ‘our final answer’. For those who accept Jesus there is eternal, unending acceptance; for those who reject him there is eternal, unending rejection – heaven or hell.
This has to be one of the most culturally offensive aspects of Christian belief, but would we really want to call a God ‘good’ who at the end of the day turned a blind eye to evil? Don’t we really want to see justice done? If we’ve spent our lives decidedly rejecting God, it’s not unreasonable to expect that one day he will say ‘Okay, have it your own way’? Isn’t that precisely what we’ve spent our lives wanting: our own way?