All About Jesus
“Faith and Family”
by Marcus J. Carlson
We come to our second issue of Connections on the Apostles’ Creed and article two. It is
the longest article, and in my opinion, the most important. It is not the most important in the sense that it has more value than the other articles, but without the Christ, there is no Christianity.
The second article of the Apostles’ Creed is all about Jesus. It tells the story of Jesus with the key events that we all know, events upon which holidays are celebrated inside and outside of the church. They are the powerful moments in the story of Jesus. While it does not mention the life and ministry of Jesus or the teachings of Jesus, it does not ignore them. They are central to who Jesus is, and Jesus’ identity on earth as being fully God and fully man. I know I will never fully understand what that really means until I come face to face with Jesus. I embrace the mystery while living in the power of the truth I know: the power of the story of Jesus. Without the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, this is not a good news story or a life changing story. It is a bad news story; it is a dead faith.
For all of the beliefs, practices, traditions, and aspects of Christianity, it all comes down to Jesus. Certainly our other doctrines, beliefs, practices, and traditions have great value, but they have no value at all if they do not point us back to the Gospel. The Gospel is the good news of Jesus.
I have had the privilege to travel the world and speak and teach in a variety of places. I have been in places of spiritual desolation and spiritual abundance. I have had the opportunity to teach and do ministry in the first, second, and third world. There are a handful of things that are universal in these experiences: siblings fighting, an emphasis on relationship, and the Word of God, but the one that trumps it all, is Jesus. Whether in the spiritual dry cities of Europe, the less than 1% Christian country of Bangladesh, or the slums of Africa, everyone wants, needs, and can relate to and embrace Jesus. I have seen this in over 20 countries outside of the United States and 39 of our 50 states and one thing always remains: Jesus.
The story of Jesus is the Christian faith. It is the Gospel. It is our story; the story of the world. It is a story to be shared. I always wondered why we are so afraid to share the greatest story ever told. In part two of the Creed, we are reminded that this Creed is more than a rote set of beliefs. In article two, we see the story of Jesus and are reminded that the Apostles’ Creed does not speak about life; it is life. We are so used to the story (and the Creed) that we take it for granted. In our regular reciting of the Creed, it can lose its meaning. This is a tragedy because in the Creed we find more than just a list of beliefs.
We find life now and for eternity. In the Creed, we find Jesus. In the Creed, we find the Gospel, the good news of Jesus that brings abundant life now, and life with Jesus for eternity.
In Romans 1, Paul talks about his ministry and his preaching. It is for both the Gentiles and the Greeks; it was for the wise and the foolish. Phew; that includes all of us. This was and remains controversial. For the Jews, God was only for the select, for the religious, for those born into the church. Then this Jesus guy shows up and says, Wait a minute, time out.This is for everyone and, by everyone, Jesus meant everyone. The Gospel was and is also for the wise and the foolish. It is for those who have it together, those who think they have it together but do not, and for those that, at best, are a hot mess. It is for the well-dressed and for the people with untucked shirts. It is for the wealthy and the poor. It is for the educated and those who do not care about education. It is for the people in your church who come regularly. Like it or not, realize it or not, live it or not, it is also for those people you would never invite into your home and church.
Paul was eager to preach that message. He was eager to be in this big place of great influ-ence: Rome. It was a hub. It was filled with people that had been excluded from faith. Romans 1:16 is one of those pinnacle, quotable, very much worth memorizing verses. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to eve-ryone who believes, first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (NIV). I memorized that verse in 1997. It still gives me chills. Hear it again, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Everyone. Salvation for everyone. The gospel is the power of God of which we are never to be ashamed. If we are honest, we hide the Gospel. We are afraid to talk about the Gospel, and in that way, we are perhaps ashamed. Let’s be even more honest. How in the world can anyone be ashamed of a message that says God loves and accepts everyone without condition, and offers them salvation? What in the world do we have to be ashamed of? That we might be rejected? That God might let some in that we do not think deserve it? That God would love and accept and save the “those people” in our life? Guess what? You and I are “those people.” Even with our smiles and nice beliefs and good church attendance. In spite of our imperfections, our sin and our selfishness, the Gospel is still for us.
It is still for you—in spite of yourself. It is still for me in spite of my rough edges. So, what could ever possess us to take a message like the Gospel and keep it quiet, hold it for our-selves? For crying out loud, we share with the world on social media what we had for lunch, and yet, are afraid to tell people what we know and love about the greatest news, the greatest story ever: the Gospel of God’s love and grace.
This brings us to our children. We might raise our kids in church, take them to Vacation Bible School, confirmation, and other church events. We might even get them a Bible to keep on the shelf. But do we really give them Jesus? After all, it turns out that this faith thing, this thing we call Christianity is all about Jesus. Church attendance, confirmation, Bibles, and VBS are all great things, but they are all secondary to the one thing that
matters, the one thing that is univer- sal, the one thing upon which all
of Christianity hinges: Jesus. When parents ask me what the most important thing they can do for their kids as it relates to their faith, I simply tell them, “Give them Jesus.” When I think about my work as a pastor and especially the sermons I preach, I remind myself that my job is simple. Preach the word. Point people to the Kingdom of God and give them Jesus, because when it is all said and done, it’s all about Jesus.
Marcus J. Carlson is an ordained pastor (LCMC & NALC), with a Doctor of Ministry focused in family ministry. He currently serves as Senior Pastor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Auburn, Indiana. He and his wife, Jessica, have two children. You may reach Marcus through his website at revdrorange.com.