“Beliefs” is an often misconstrued word; “Understanding” is more apt. The Christian Faith isn’t a “belief” system; it’s an understanding of the world and the way things are, an understanding about what is true and what the story of the world really is.
As a member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Valley Hope subscribes to the Westminster Confession of Faith and it’s Larger and Shorter Catechisms as the system of theology which best reflects the revelation of the Scriptures, and hence the story of history. To research in detail the Confession, click here. But in short, below you’ll find our basic understanding of God and the world.
Valley Hope is a people who understand reality, who understand the true story of the world. That story goes something like this:
God created the world a really long time ago, and humankind was the final and crowning achievement of that Creation. Humankind is unique in Creation; we are the only thing made in God’s own image, and the only thing tasked with taking care of the rest of Creation after God’s designs [Gen. 1:26-31].
But the first humans [the Bible calls them Adam and Eve] screwed all that up by distrusting God and His design; they brought sin into the world, passed it onto every human as their birth inheritance, and as a result saw everything spin completely out of control–mankind died spiritually and everything around them too. But that isn’t the end of the story. God launched His plan to redeem humankind and His Creation as soon as Adam and Eve sinned. And that plan climaxed in the life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18)
Jesus calls together a people for himself out of the blinded world and gives them sight [Luke 4:18], enables them to see through the forgiveness of sins only he can offer on the Cross. Through the Cross our old life is put to death with Jesus, and just as He was raised from death, we are raised from death, spared from the right wrath of God [John 3:36; Rom. 2:5, 5:9], and made alive in spiritual rebirth through the forgiveness of our sins.
Those to whom this has happened become a part of a very unique community in the world; one book of the Bible, Hebrews, calls it the “community of the Firstborn”. In the Bible, Jesus is called “the Firstborn over all Creation”, which is a title of honor, indicating that the world belongs to Jesus, that He is the true King of the Universe. We belong now to His Kingdom; we are citizens of a way of life yet to come in fullness.
Before Jesus ascended into the heavens and to the Father, he promised that he would return, and that when he did he would bring his kingdom with him in full. We have very little idea of what that looks like; the Bible gives us more of a Monet than a digital photo–it’s more blurry and less precise than we’d probably like. What we do know is that Jesus will return, and that when he does, he will resurrect the Living and the Dead. The Living, those who hold to the testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ [Rev. 19:10] will live eternally with God and reign with Him over the newly recreated earth and heavens; the Dead inherit eternal death, separation from God and enternal torment in Hell.
But in the meantime, Jesus told us to be his witnesses and proclaim this Gospel of forgiveness of sins in His name, and “make disciples of all peoples of the world, teaching them to obey all that he commanded.” And Valley Hope makes it its aim to do just that to our own joy and to the glory of God.
Who We Are Instead
Valley Hope is learning to live as this people who’ve been given sight in Jesus [2 Pet. 1:9], learning to put off our old self with its old loves in favor of loving and enjoying Jesus above and before all other things [Col. 3:5]. It’s weird, it’s contrary to everything our world tells us. You have to have been given sight in Christ to be able to see anything beautiful or sensible in this. This isn’t by our design; we didn’t choose this, we were chosen by Him, and for Him, and for this.
For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. (2 Pet. 1:9)
Along those lines, we realize we can’t do this alone, that there is no such thing as individual Christianity. Though we are individual Christians, our faith is not a private affair. We are called into a new way of life, not just new personal beliefs. That implies by necessity other people. Valley Hope is practicing the life of Jesus together, and working out the implications of His ministry as we subject ourselves to the following: His Holy Spirit, His authority, His authoritative Word found in the Bible, to the spiritual leaders He’s given to us in our local church and our denomination, and to one another as well [Eph. 4:12-16].
We study, pray, eat, minister, party and share life together, and hope that as we do we will reach many of the people Jesus brought us together to reach [Eph. 3:10], and that we will bless each other richly along the way, helping one another grow into completeness and holiness in Jesus Christ. Amen!