The 3 P's Plus One!
Last week we talked about the 3 "P's - Perspective, Position & Preference. In case you were thinking that I might be leaning toward being double-minded - it's OK - I'm not! I'm talking about preferences, not core beliefs. Core beliefs are the foundation of our life. While core beliefs may be adjusted, they are generally not changed in any major way. We are to be steadfast in our faith. I grew up reciting the Apostle's Creed every Sunday and it is an expression of what my faith is based on. It built a foundation in me. Here it is:
"I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended to hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic* church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen." *that is, the true Christian church of all times and all places. (This was not pointing to a denomination - it pointed to the church in general.)
That is the foundation of what I believe. For me, it is unchangeable. There are also beliefs I hold that others do not. They are things that are true for me. For instance, we can have various beliefs about baptism. What I believe is what is right for me. What others believe is right for them. I have no need to argue about it. I will simply live what I believe and respond if asked.
I am going to add one more P - Presentation. For over 2,000 years, Christians have argued, fought and split over beliefs they held. It will continue to happen. However, in my little part of the world, I know that "how I present my beliefs and preferences" can make all the difference. If something is very settled within me, I don't have to be defensive and angry or demanding and divisive. In fact, silence is often the best presentation! There are certain things I believe are wrong to do. They are wrong for me. I don't really think they are right for any Christian, but I am not their conscience, judge or God. They aren't particularly hurting anyone with what they do and they believe they are correct in what they are doing. If asked, I would tell them what I believe is correct for me. That's it. There is no need to fight over it or to impose my conscience on someone else. Again, please don't think that I am advocating that we ignore sin. What I am saying, is that there are things that are a sin for me, but may not be a sin for you. Read through Romans 14. It really sums up everything I'm saying here. The title of the chapter is - "Principles of Conscience." Paul is talking to the Roman Christians regarding a series of things causing division, including what you can or cannot eat. Verse 13 says, "Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this - not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way." Verse 17, "For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Verse 22, "The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves." Read the entire chapter so that you have the context for what Paul is saying here.
What I'm asking you to really think about is how you present your beliefs to others - core beliefs, preferences, positions, and perspectives. Present them in the way that is best for the other person, not for you. There is no need to present them in anger or empty conceit - re-read Phillipians. Don't create separation and anger because you disagree with how the Pastor preaches, how the choir leader sings, what a church is not doing, what color the carpet is, who someone voted for, what church they attend, etc. Do they preach Jesus as the Savior? If so, as Paul said, "Some to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice." He knew that motives will be revealed. He knew that Christ's name was being proclaimed. He didn't need to argue - instead he rejoiced!
Each day, I try to do a self-check. Am I perfect? No. Am I sinless? No. Am I doing everything exactly like Christ? No. Am I in need of a Savior? Every moment. Am I in need of forgiveness? If not right now, I will be before the day is over. Having settled those questions, I proceed with my day, knowing that I have my work cut out for me just keeping myself in His image. Each day, I also try to remember to be thankful for everything - I have shoes, a car, a home, food, friends, family, money in my pocket, etc. Most of all - I have Jesus living in me.
If I can remember to humble myself and live in gratitude each day, perhaps I can also remember that my life is not about me. "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own interests (preferences, positions, perspectives, conscience), but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was in also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross," Phill. 2:3-8 NASB.
I must strive each day to be humble in every way, remembering that I am the least of these. So are my opinions! In that, we can be joy-filled, encouraging and lifting one another up in His love. I can stand on my core beliefs; maintain my preferences, positions, and perspectives; change them when necessary as I learn and live life; and then, live my life humbly and truly before God who sees and knows my heart, motives, intentions and thoughts. "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." Romans 12:18 NASB Be at peace with yourself as well.