LJCC Essential Doctrines
God: Through the Bible, God shows us that He is personal and has created us for relationship with Himself. We see that His attributes and His actions are perfectly consistent, congruent and coherent. He is so different from us that we can’t help but realize the gulf that exists between us and this holy God. We see that He loves us and has a plan for us. He gives us commands, instructions and inspiration. Who is He? The witness of the ancient church is that He who reveals Himself to Israel is the one and only God. There is only one, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection. He has sovereign dominion over all of His creation. He works all things according to the counsel of His own unchanging and perfectly righteous will. God is complete in Himself and all-sufficient. God reveals Himself as a trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the unity of the one God there are three persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Father is of no one, neither begotten, nor proceeding: the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit is eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. Within the limits of language and logic we attempt to describe the awesome uniqueness of God who makes Himself known in Jesus. Apart from God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ, we cannot fully know him.
Creation: The world and everything in it was created by God. We live in a world that bears the imprint of a creator. It is a world of sublime order, beauty and complexity. The Bible teaches us that in the beginning God created the world and everything in it whether visible or invisible out of nothing, and it was good. God’s creation reflects His invisible qualities, His eternal power and His divine nature so that humankind is without excuse in knowing God. God created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness after His own image, having the law of God written in their hearts, and the power to fulfill it. In His infinite love God gave humankind liberty of will to choose whom they would serve.
People: Are created to be in harmonious relation with God, one another and nature. This is our birthright and deep within us we yearn to experience harmony in life. But something has gone horribly wrong. We see the effects of disharmony within us, among us, and between us. This is true in every culture and in every human community. We see daily the unfortunate effect it has in the environment and in how people and nations relate to one another. Yet, we also see the beautiful potential in people. That potential is a sign that we bear in our humanity the image of God. Distorted though it is we still see something that inspires us and causes us to hope for a better world. That is because we were made for a better world. The good news is that God is at work in this world calling out to people. He wants us to come home and enter into a transforming relationship with Him and with others in His name. This is for all people, in all places, in all periods of time. We will never outgrow our longing for God, and we will not be at peace until we know Him.
Sin: Describes the distortion of God’s creation through prideful human rebellion. Sin is the outcome and consequence of humankind defying the word and will of God. Humankind chose to disobey the commandment of God and thereby fell out of communion with God who is righteous, just and loving. The world-created “good” became distorted and continues to suffer the effects of sin in the world. Sin is part of our nature and therefore part of our behavior. We are subject to spiritual death. Though we aspire to the good, the beautiful and the true we inevitably compromise and corrupt these God-given aspirations. God’s grace through Jesus Christ is the only known antidote to the reality and ravages of sin. God calls all people to confess their sin, repent of their sin, and receive forgiveness for their sin. God’s grace in Jesus Christ is sufficient to deliver us from the penalty of sin.
Scripture: God has revealed His will for humankind and all creation in the Bible, which is the Word of God containing all of the books of the Old and New Testaments. Each book is given by the inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and of life. The authority of the Holy Scripture depends not on the testimony of man or the Church but wholly upon God. We acknowledge the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of His Word. The Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, being immediately inspired by God and by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself, and therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture, it must be searched and known by other places in Scripture that speak more clearly.
Salvation: Is the gracious gift of God through Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and reign. Jesus came to earth in order to redeem His creation. This decisive act of redemption through His death on the cross, His burial, His resurrection from the dead, and the gift of His Holy Spirit make salvation available to each person who receives Him by faith. Apart from receiving His gracious forgiveness and His gracious presence we will miss the meaning of our life, and we will perish under the crushing weight and penalty of our sins. There is no salvation apart from a personal saving knowledge of God’s love and grace through Jesus Christ. This is His gift to us. How do you do this? Acknowledge your need for Jesus. Ask Him to come into your life and to fill you with His Spirit. Thank Him for loving you and dying on your behalf. With the help of others begin growing in a relationship with Jesus through prayer, Bible study, worship, fellowship with fellow believers and service to others in Jesus’ name. Let others know about your decision to follow Jesus.
Faith: Is the God-given capacity to receive salvation and be restored to fellowship with God. ”What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see … So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” Hebrews 11:1,6 (NLT) God has given us the gift of faith without which we might simply shake our heads in amazement with the realization that we are wholly undeserving of a relationship with our sovereign God, the Creator of all that is, has been, and will be. That we might have eternal life with Him, a life of praise and worship, is beyond our own ability to comprehend or even believe. God, however, gives us the gift of faith that we might rejoice, have hope, and be driven to action to share the Good News with the world around us. God moves us beyond our comfort zone to do things that even seem impossible or impractical to build our faith, to bless others and to glorify Him. He challenges us to do things that demonstrate and stretch our faith. Ultimately, as the Apostle James reminds us, authentic faith is about what we do in Jesus’ name.
Church: God has established the Church to serve His purposes in the world. In practical terms, the Church is called to be the hands and feet of God. In Jesus, God was incarnate in the world. The Church, the people of God, also called the body of Christ, is charged with spreading the Gospel, the Good News, to the whole world. God’s purpose or plan is to restore His creation to that perfect relationship that existed before Adam and Eve disobeyed God in Eden. Jesus came to initiate an intimate relationship with people, a relationship based on love and grace. He established His church from the core group of early believers who experienced first-hand Christ’s example in word and deed. They in turn were then sent out in the power of the Holy Spirit to serve His purposes by caring about people in His name. Through the succeeding generations the Church today is heir to the Church of the disciples’ era and bears the privilege and responsibility of serving God and His purposes in the world today.
Baptism: Is a sign and seal of God’s redemptive work in Jesus Christ. Baptism is the outward, public expression of the inward, personal work of God in the life of a believer. Baptism is a symbol and seal of what God does in bringing salvation to each person who receives Him by faith. The mode of baptism is less important than what it means for those being baptized. LJCC will baptize by immersion or by sprinkling those who confess their faith in Jesus Christ. Believers need only be baptized once, though some believers find it meaningful to commemorate their baptism if they were originally baptized as infants. In the case of infants, we will baptize or dedicate depending on the wishes of the parents. One parent must be a believer in order for us to baptize or dedicate their child since this act is a commitment by the parent on behalf of the child.
Holy Communion: Is the commemoration and celebration of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. At His final meal with His disciples Jesus instituted what is called Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper. It is an ongoing celebration of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. God is present in the bread and the cup. It reminds us that it is no less a mystery that He inhabits His people by faith. Holy Communion is for believers, and each one who receives the bread and the cup does so in repentance, gratitude and faith.
Sanctification: Describes the development and deepening of God’s work in believers. When we are born again by the grace of God, we are filled with His Holy Spirit who helps us grow by grace into maturity in Christ. This is called sanctification, the ongoing work of God in the life of every believer who desires to grow. Sadly, it is possible to frustrate or quench the work of the Holy Spirit. As our roots grow deep in Christ and as we abide in Him, He will nurture us, prune us and allow us to bear fruit for Him. This fruit is apparent in who we are and in what we do. The fruits of the Spirit reflect God’s character in our character, and the gifts of the Spirit reflect His equipping for our mission in life.
Discipleship: Followers of Jesus are called to grow into maturity expressed in service. Discipleship is our personal commitment to God’s sanctifying work of grace in and through us. Accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is the first milestone in a journey of growing in Him. Initially we are like infants as they begin their journey in life. We are utterly dependent; we crawl and walk and become progressively active and mobile; we grow in our range of motion, expression and interaction with the world around us. Even as we do not expect infants to remain infants, but rather to mature through childhood and adolescence to young adulthood, middle age, and beyond, our Heavenly Father expects that we will mature in our faith and relationship with Him. Just as we learn and grow and take on more responsibilities as we grow physically through the stages of life, God’s design is that young believers make a similar progression. We might start by learning to worship and pray and read His Word. As we mature, we start to help others in their journey. We might teach adults, children or youth. We might serve the Lord in a variety of ways or do varieties of things that help people grow in their faith or demonstrate God’s love to the world. We start to serve by recognizing and employing one or more of the gifts He has given us.
Spiritual Disciplines: Are the practices God gives us to help us grow in grace. These include public and private worship, Bible reading and study, meditation on scripture, prayer, fasting, giving, confession, repentance, baptism, the celebration of Holy Communion and other practices that the Bible and the Church have promoted to help believers make progress in faith by developing inner strength and discipline. The point of the disciplines is to set us free to be fully alive in Christ. They are not ends in themselves but rather means to experience and express our relationship with Christ.
Spiritual Fruits: Are the quality characteristics that reflect God’s work of grace in us. The Apostle Paul reminds us that the fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. This is what we observe in people who personally know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and who learn to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. As we grow in our faith, we should expect to see more and more fruit evidenced in our lives and in the way we live. Just as fruit can indicate the health of the plant, the fruit in our lives is an indicator of the health of our spiritual walk and faith and of how we are feeding our relationship with our Savior. Deep roots make for healthy fruit.
Spiritual Gifts: Those who receive God’s grace in Christ are given gifts to use for Him. The Apostle Paul reminds us that the Lord gives each of us gifts. Among the gifts he identifies are administration, hospitality, teaching, preaching, and encouragement. These, and the other gifts, are outward focused. They are not for our own benefit but for the benefit of God’s kingdom and for blessing people in His name. Just as God’s people are blessed to be a blessing, we are gifted by God to be a gift to others, the ultimate “other” being the Lord Himself. When we use our gifts to glorify God, we become a powerful force in the world. Discovering and using our spiritual gifts to honor God is a practical act of discipleship. The best way for us to leverage our gifts is by being part of a strategic team effort.
Suffering: Is an inevitable cost of identifying with Jesus Christ and His work in the world. Nobody likes to suffer, but we know that suffering is inevitable in this world. Suffering can be the result of death, decay, depravity or devotion. Suffering is inevitable if we follow the example of Jesus. Because He does not run away from this suffering world but embraces it in redemptive compassionate love, we do likewise. We will suffer as we seek to live faithfully under the rule of God. We will suffer as we represent Him in the world. We will suffer as we draw close to people in their problems and pain. But Jesus is with us in the midst of our suffering and will transform our suffering into something better. Do not be afraid to suffer for Christ but rather count it a privilege and look for His redemptive presence and purpose in it.
Hell: Is eternal separation from God, the consequence of rejecting God’s grace. It is somehow easier to describe heaven than hell, even though both are probably equally beyond our imagination. Everything that heaven is, hell is not! In hell, we would no longer feel the presence of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, or Jesus. The wholeness, health, and completion we will know in heaven will, in hell, be replaced by perpetual brokenness, illness and frailty. The joy and continuous state or attitude of worship that will be ours in heaven, will be replaced by sorrow and torment in hell. Whatever we know in our earthly lives that we find pleasing and fulfilling and worthwhile, will be missing in hell. Hell, if and when we stop to think about it, is such a disturbing, troubling image that many people deny and dismiss its existence. Yet, the Bible makes clear that hell is a real place where real people go. The choice between heaven and hell is ours. Each of us must decide for ourselves between life and death, between eternal presence with the Lord or eternal separation from Him. Nobody has to go to hell. God prefers we be with Him.
Heaven: Is a place of eternal fellowship with God and His redeemed creation. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9-10) The majesty of heaven and the glory of God defy our imaginations. And yet, through His word, God gives us a glimpse of the home He has prepared for His people. Filled with great beauty and splendor, heaven is a place of holiness, unity, perfection, and joy. There will be no tears, no sickness, no pain, no hunger and thirst, no death. But most importantly, we will live eternally in the company of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” (Rev. 21:3)
End Times: Jesus Christ will return to create a new heaven and earth. Both the Old and New Testament prophecies forewarn believers in God of the turmoil and persecution they will face. The escalation of those conflicts and the historical events that unfold will lead to the victorious second coming of Christ. When Jesus returns in His glory, He will judge the wicked and reward the righteous. His kingdom will be established… a new heaven and a new earth. Jesus warns us not to be concerned about the time and the day, but to live in readiness. Prepared by and equipped with His word, we are to live as Christ commanded: with perseverance, hope, and a determination to share the Gospel with others.