At the core of what we believe is the gospel of Jesus Christ—the glorious truth that Jesus Christ died and was raised so that sinners would be reconciled to God. The gospel is our primary passion and the driving influence in our church’s preaching, worship, small groups, and outreach.
“Biblical, not Trendy” – Submission to the Word
2 Timothy 3:13-14 contrast the “evil people and impostors [who] go on from bad to worse” with faithful believers who continue in what [they] have learned and have firmly believed” from Scripture. The word “continue” means to “remain” or “stay.” When the world moves on from the Bible, graduates from the Bible on to “loftier” studies and speculations, progresses beyond the Bible to follow the newest trends, we are to remain in the Word, stay in the Word, abide in the Word.
The surest way to stay relevant is to be synced to the unchanging Word rather than to the ever-changing world. As William Ralph Inge once said, “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.”
“Loving, not Tolerant” – Love from the Father
1 John 4:8 tells us that “God is love.” It does not say “Love is God.” It is God who defines love; we do not define God by our own flawed understanding of love. And how does God define love? 1 John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God loves us first while we are still his enemies and do not deserve his love, but God’s love for us does not tolerate our sins. He sent Jesus to atone for our sins and appease God’s wrath. As those who have been loved by God in this way, we now try to love one another. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Nothing can be more cruel than that leniency which abandons others to sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than that severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.”
A church that tolerates all manner of sins among its members because it claims to be “tolerant” is not practicing compassionate interest, but cruel indifference! It’s people we care nothing about that we leave alone to live however they want. It’s phony friends that are content to watch us ruin our lives with bad decisions. It’s the illegitimate children who are left to their own devices. As a church, we exhort, admonish, and rebuke one another in love. We seek to be much more than tolerant. We seek to be loving.
“Humble, not Smug” – Faith in the Son
God saved us not because of our own merit, but because of his love, grace, and mercy. Our salvation is “the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:9). Can you imagine getting a gift from someone only to receive a bill on the following day? That totally contradicts the idea of a gift. The very definition of a gift is that you don’t pay to receive it. Sometimes people say that “God helps those who help themselves,” but this is an unbiblical statement when applied to our salvation.
God saves those who can’t save themselves, “so that no one may boast.” If God saved us because of our intelligence, morality, or sincerity, then we would have cause to be prideful. We could look down on others who fail to attain salvation. But because we have been saved by grace, we ought to be humble, not smug.
“Hopeful, not Wishful” – Hope in the Spirit
The false prophets in Jeremiah’s day “healed the wound of [God’s] people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 8:11). Like putting a band-aid over skin cancer, positive thinking gurus offer cosmetic solutions to people who need surgeries. As G.K. Chesterton writes, “The optimist, wishing to defend the honour of this world, will defend the indefensible … He will not wash the world, but whitewash the world.” But Christians are not characterized by such wishful thinking, but by abiding hope. “[W]e rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:2-5). Our hope is not in this world, but in the world to come, and the Spirit guarantees and assures us that our hope will not be disappointed (Eph. 1:13-14).
“Committed, not Consumeristic” – Commitment to the Church
Nowadays, everyone likes to throw around the word “family.” Schools say that they’re a “family.” Sports teams say that they’re a “family.” Companies say that they’re a “family.” But at the end of the day, we know that they’re not families by the way they treat their members. If you don’t make the grade, you lose your scholarship and have to drop out. If you don’t play well, you get cut. If you don’t generate enough profit, you get fired. But the church really is the family of God! We are one body! So we stick with each other through thick and thin, good times and bad. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Cor. 12:25).
When we pull a muscle in one leg, we walk with a limp and the other parts of the body compensate. When we have a toothache on one side, we chew from the other side until we could go to the dentist. When our body gets dirty, we wash it. When it’s sore, we massage it. That’s how we take care of our bodies. And likewise, we should “have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:25). We celebrate with one another, mourn with one another, suffer with one another. We are not clients or customers of the church, but members of the church. Our worship services are not for individual consumption, but for communal edification. We’re not in it for ourselves, but for each other.
“Interdependent, not Interchangeable” – Interdependence in Ministry
Have you ever listened to a song whose blend of melody and harmony is so beautiful that it gives you the shivers? A sublime harmony can lift a fantastic melody to transcendent beauty. Similarly, God designed man and woman in marriage to be interdependent, not interchangeable. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” The male-female relationship is patterned after our Triune God. The headship of the man reveals the headship of the Father; the submission of the woman reveals the submission of Christ. This truth goes beyond the physical family and applies also to the spiritual family. Paul calls the church “the body of Christ,” and says in 1 Corinthians 12:17-19, “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?
But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?” Every part of the body has its own function, and as such, it is necessary for the body. Imagine a whole face made up of eyes, or a whole body made up of arms. What a monstrosity! God has made each of us uniquely, gifted each of us specifically, and placed each of us intentionally in our particular local church. For this reason, all of us serve interdependently in our respective ministries and spheres of influence.
“Faithful, not Successful” – Faithfulness in Mission
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29). He also said, “‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor.
Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor” (John 4:37-38). We can sow, but we cannot make the grain grow, nor do we always reap what we sow. For this reason, our goal isn’t to produce a “successful” harvest through glitzy programs and slick marketing campaigns, but to be faithful in our evangelism.