We believe in Jesus.
This one statement, more than anything else, sums up what we believe. But even a statement as simple and straight-forward as that gives rise to more questions.
Most people asking the questions want to determine whether we conform with certain doctrines/traditions associated with that statement. But–at the risk of seeming unnecessarily uncooperative–we’re more concerned about whether or not we conform to the Word of God who is being referred to in that statement (Mark 7:13).
The Bible tells us that Jesus was the Word of God in human form (John 1:14). It says that the Word of God created the world (John 1:3). It also tells us that the Word of God was not only “with God”, but He also “was God” (John 1:1). Jesus repeatedly referred to God as his “Father”. The Bible tells us that Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), and “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30).
However, the Bible also tells us that Jesus said, “My Father is greater than me” (John 14:28). Jesus also said of himself, “The Son can do nothing of himself” (John 5:19), and “I can of my own self do nothing” (John 5:30).
The “Trinity doctrine” was an attempt to reconcile these two positions, and, as such, it does a reasonable job. However, we can understand that people might arrive at different conclusions with regard to the relative strengths of these two aspects of Jesus’ personality: his divinity and his humanity. So we do not feel that it is ultimately important whether or not a person subscribes to the traditional explanation (i.e. the Trinity doctrine) as the only explanation of what Jesus was saying in the above statements.
Before you go into cardiac arrest over such a shocking, almost heretical statement, we should repeat what we said at the start. We believe in Jesus, and because of this, we believe (and try to understand) what Jesus said about himself more than we try to believe and understand what followers of Jesus have said about his divinity or lack of it. As wise and sincere as these followers might be, they will never be able to hold a candle to the brightness of the truth that is in Jesus himself!
We believe in Jesus. Or, to put it another way, we believe in the teachings of Jesus more than we believe in the teachings of the church. Theological statements aimed at expressing conformity with orthodox religious jargon have little to do with genuine faith in the historical Jesus of the Bible.
Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, but refuse to obey the things that I have said?” (Luke 6:46) Jesus said that a person could be forgiven for not believing that he is the Son of God, but that we cannot be forgiven for rejecting the Spirit of God in what he said (Matthew 12:31-32). It is on the basis of his teachings that we have become most convinced of his divinity; whereas it appears that most people who argue only from the premise of his divinity never get around to believing his teachings.
We believe in Jesus. Believing in Jesus is impossible if we don’t believe him. So we believe in Jesus and we believe Jesus. This means that we try to follow and obey everything that he taught his disciples/followers/Christians to do. We do this in the face of–and often in contradiction to–popular teachings of the church which can be used as an excuse to do anything other than obey Jesus.
We are most concerned that the biggest reason people give today for rejecting the teachings of Jesus is a false tradition of the church that says it is heretical to attempt to obey Jesus, i.e. that it amounts to “working your way to heaven”.
Faith in Jesus naturally inspires obedience to Jesus (John 14:21; 2 John 1:6). The Bible says that anyone who “disobeys and does not stay within the teachings of Jesus does not have God; whereas anyone who does stay in the teachings of Jesus has both the Father and the Son. ” (2 John 1:9)
According to the Bible, the grace of God is only given to those who have faith (Ephesians 2:8); and, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). In other words, without works there is no faith and without faith there is no grace. Or, to put it yet another way, faith is not the end-all-be-all; it is simply the way in which we direct our lives (i.e. our actions, our works) that is pleasing to God.
This being said, it is important to understand that our works do not make us “worthy” to receive God’s grace; but by the same token neither does not working make anyone worthy to receive God’s grace. The more important question is which teaching shows greater evidence of faith in Jesus, since this is what God is looking for.
We believe in Jesus, and we believe Jesus. Because of this, we call ourselves Christians. We are not Paulians, Marians, Lutherans, Wesleyans, Calvinists, or followers of any other human being. We are disciples of Jesus.
We have, however, been frustrated at times by the misconception that the world in general has about the term “Christian”. It is usually equated with the traditions of the visible, institutional “church” which has, over the centuries, been called “Christian”. On the other hand, we have found that when we use the word “Jesus” (especially in conjunction with “disciple”) people immediately associate it with the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus contained in the Bible. For that reason, we have resorted to calling ourselves disciples of Jesus as a way of underlining this difference in emphasis.
Why the semantics? Too often and for too long, the so-called Christian church has strayed far away from (even in direct contradiction to) Jesus’ actual teachings, the Way of life that he taught his followers to practice. It is important to note here that we believe there are sincere people in the churches; but, as a whole, the institution is willfully rebellious against God, and as such, it is apostate. Therefore, we feel that it is important to make a distinction between ourselves and the institutional church because of all the confusion that arises as a result of this apostasy.
We believe that we are living in one of the darkest times in the spiritual history of the world. It is our job to point people back to Jesus in all that we do. By patterning our lives on his teachings, we become “lights on a hill” (Matthew 5:14), the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13).
Jesus promises us that this Way of life will cost us everything we have, and eventually our lives, to do this (Matthew 5:10-12, Matthew 10:25). In a world which has rejected Jesus, we cannot hope to be popular; for we will share his fate if we are faithful to his message.
Now, we’ve reached the end of our statement of beliefs, which has probably left many of your questions unanswered. We haven’t even touched the virgin birth, the resurrection, or salvation, and we’ve only just barely mentioned the Holy Spirit. As we said at the beginning of this article, we are willing to risk appearing to be unnecessarily uncooperative when it comes to speaking about the classic doctrines associated with Christianity. We do this in preference to a heavy emphasis on Jesus’ life, Jesus’ ministry, Jesus’ teaching. Our faith in Jesus is so great that we believe all other matters (whether they are about Jesus or about any other theological subject) will be naturally answered and resolved in our childlike obedience to what Jesus said.