I read Packer's words this past week as I prepared for my Sunday message. Packer reminded me that the key issue is not "belief in God" vs "believe in no God" but "belief in God" (as he reveals himself) vs "belief in god." So how does God reveal himself? We need only turn to Genesis:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 ESV
Commentators glean pages and pages of insight from that one verse. Briefly, here are three key aspects of his nature that God reveals to us:
- God is self-existent ("In the beginning, God") I had a birth and I will have a death. Not so with God. He has always existed. See Psalm 90:1-2 for more.
- God is all-powerful ("God created") The Hebrew verb for create (BARA) always has God for its subject. He created the world without preexisting materials (ex nilhilo). See Hebrews 11:3 for more.
- God has a rightful claim on the world, including everything and everyone in it ("God created the heavens and the earth"). As Abraham Kuyper said, "There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, 'This is mine! This belongs to me.'"
When the Apostles' Creed states, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth" it is reaffirming the essential teaching of Genesis 1:1. Reciting it, I affirm that what Genesis and the rest of Scripture says about God is true. I am also declaring that I believe in (I am trusting) the God of the Bible over any other so-called "gods."
But does it really matter? I have been thinking about this a lot. The more I reflect the more I am seeing how my belief in God impacts virtually every facet of my life.
- What I believe about God impacts how I relate to God. The French mathematician and Christian philosopher, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) said, "There is a God-shaped gap within us." If so, the question becomes, how do I fill that gap? Money, relationships, prestige, sex, titles, power ... none of this can ultimately fill that hole. Only Jesus. See John 14:6.
- What I believe about God impacts how I pray. Phillips Brooks said, "Pray the largest prayers. You cannot think a prayer so large that God, in answering it, will not wish you would had made it larger. Pray not for crutches, but for wings." I love that quote, but if I am not living it ... what am I saying about what I really believe about God. God is the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. He knows me, cares for me, and tells me to come to him in prayer (James 1:5-6). How foolish to neglect such an invitation.
- What I believe about God impacts my peace. Paul tells me that God--who is Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth--is working out everything for my good and his glory (Romans 8:26-39). If I truly believe that, while I may not like my circumstances, I can rest in God who is in control of them. God has not promised me "happily every after" by the weekend. He has promised to work all things for my good.
- What I believe about God impacts my confidence. Languishing in a Burmese dungeon, missionary Adoniram Judson remained incredibly confident. He said, "The prospects are as bright as the promises of God." If God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth is on my side (Psalm 56:9), for me (Romans 8:31), and fulfilling every promise he has made (Proverbs 30:5), I should be confident too.
- What I believe about God impacts my generosity. Richard Foster said, "Money is a rival god that seeks to dominate us, just like sex or fame." I can feel my grip on money lessen and hold my possessions more freely in outstretched hands as I remember that this world along with everything and everyone in it (including me) belongs to God (Psalm 24:1; 1 Corinthians 6:19). All "my stuff" is not mine; it is his!
- What I believe about God impacts my desire for payback. There are times I want to get even, until I rest in the fact that God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth has promised to right my wrongs (Romans 12:19).
- What I believe about God impacts my work. John Calvin has said, "Each individual has his own sort of living assigned to him as a sort of sentry post." My attitude at work along with my understanding of how my work contributes to God's purposes begins to change when I realize that God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth has put me there (1 Corinthians 7:17; Colossians 3:23).
- What I believe about God impacts my rest. At times sleep is elusive. Stress, worry, and a relentless pace can leave me believing the lie that I cannot devote the time I need to rest (in Sunday worship or in putting my head on the pillow). God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth tells me it is my vanity not his care that drives this belief. Sleep is his gift (Psalm 4:8; 127:2).
- What I believe about God impacts how I approach study.Ours is an age of entertainment. Study is taxing. It is "boring." Not when I understand that exercising my mind is one of the ways I show my love for God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth. Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God ... with all your mind" (Matthew 22:34-40).
- What I believe about God impact my ability to forgive myself. We all fail. I can wallow in my failure, continually rehearse it in my mind, or confessing it I can "let it go" knowing God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth has done the same (Psalm 103:12)
- What I believe about God impacts my worship. The Apostles' Creed paints the picture of God as Sovereign. It does so because this is the repeated message of Scripture. God is indeed large and in charge. Paul writes, "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever" (Romans 11:36). J.I. Packer notes, "Men treat God's sovereignty as a theme for controversy, but in Scripture it is a matter for worship." I worship -- in personal times of quiet and in weekly gathering with the people of God -- because God is worthy!
In his book, Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah shared the story of Sheila, a woman whose religion was very privatized, "just [her] own little voice" she said. Her creed: "Just try to love myself and be gentle with myself . . . You know, I guess, take care of each other. I think God would want us to take care of each other."
For Sheila, and many of her cohort, that she believed was more important than what she believed. God wants us to know that what we believe about Him matters. It does! I am seeing afresh how my belief in God impacts virtually every facet of my life.
How will your belief in God impact your life today?