Empowering all people to become deeply committed Christians by offering Help, Hope and Healing in the name of Jesus Christ.
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Connect with God, Connect with Each Other, Put Faith into Action/Practice
What’s the bedrock of life for Christians? Is it Bible reading? Church participation? Prayer? Is it a belief that Jesus is God’s Son?
The foundation of Christian living is faith in Christ. Faith is the central loyalty that gives purpose and direction to our lives. Christian faith is grounding our lives in the living God as revealed especially in Jesus the Christ.
This faith does not happen overnight. It’s a journey. From birth to death we’re growing in faith. There are ups and downs — and sometimes long flat stretches where we seem to be stalled in our journey. But little by little, most of us deepen our relationship with God.
In part, this growth in faith is a gift. Through our participation in the community of faith, through our openness to God’s love, we receive this marvelous treasure. But faith is also a choice we make, an often difficult decision to put God and God’s reign first in our lives, no matter what the cost.
We cannot say that some people are “ahead” in the journey of faith and others “behind.” Faith is not something we possess by degrees. The journey is complex, different for each traveler.
In thinking about our faith, we put primary reliance on the Bible. It’s the unique testimony to God’s self-disclosure in the life of Israel; in the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ; and in the Spirit’s work in the early church. It’s our sacred canon and, thus, the decisive source of our Christian witness and the authoritative measure of the truth in our beliefs.
In our theological journey we study the Bible within the believing community. Even when we study it alone, we’re guided and corrected through dialogue with other Christians. We interpret individual texts in light of their place in the Bible as a whole. We use concordances, commentaries, and other aids prepared by the scholars. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we try to discern both the original intention of the text and its meaning for our own faith and life.
Grace is central to our understanding of Christian faith and life.
Grace can be defined as the love and mercy given to us by God because God wants us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it. We read in the Letter to the Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Our United Methodist heritage is rooted in a deep and profound understanding of God’s grace. This incredible grace flows from God’s great love for us. Did you have to memorize John 3:16 in Sunday school when you were a child? There was a good reason. This one verse summarizes the gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” The ability to call to mind God’s love and God’s gift of Jesus Christ is a rich resource for theology and faith.”
We receive our identity from others, from the expectations of friends and colleagues, from the labels society puts upon us, and from the influence of family.
To become Christian is to receive a new identity. You no longer allow others to tell you who you are. Christ now claims you and instructs you. A Christian is one who has “put on Christ.”
Baptism celebrates becoming that new person. That is why the church’s ritual begins with putting off the old, renouncing sin and the evil powers of the world, and pledging our loyalty to Christ.
God Initiates the Covenant
We also believe that in baptism God initiates a covenant with us, announced with the words, “The Holy Spirit works within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.” This is followed by the sign-act of laying hands on the head, or the signing of the cross on the forehead with oil. The word covenant is a biblical word describing God’s initiative in choosing Israel to be a people with a special mission in the world, and Israel’s response in a life of faithfulness. The baptismal covenant calls us to a similar vocation.
Baptism Is the Door
From the beginning, baptism has been the door through which one enters the church. It was inconceivable to many that one could respond to God’s grace by reciting the renunciations, affirming one’s faith in Christ and loyalty to the Kingdom, without joining the fellowship of those who are committed to mature in that faith. As the “Body of Christ” in the world, baptism commissions us to use our gifts to strengthen the church and to transform the world.