“to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13, NIV).
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OK, so that isn’t the most concise purpose statement. Our “We exist…” principle is a quote from the Bible that describes why God puts various people in leadership roles in His churches throughout the world. The leadership at Harlandale Christian Church chose these verses of Scripture because we think they truly define what we’re striving to achieve.
Like Christians everywhere (“the body of Christ”), we want to become everything God intends for His people: to become complete, whole, dare we say, perfect (“the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”). God doesn’t want people simply to sit in the pews on Sunday mornings (pleasant as that may be) only to struggle through their existence the rest of the week. Instead, God wants people to put their faith into active, loving practice every day and live life to the fullest by serving God and by helping each other (“works of service”). Together we at Harlandale Christian Church seek to “build up” each other by encouraging, correcting and supporting one another as guided by what we learn from the Bible and as empowered by the Spirit of Christ living in us. That’s “unity”: unity in the faith and unity in our understanding of who Jesus is and how He helps us become all that God created us to be.
- in the Deity and Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God
- that salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ
- that the Scriptures are inspired by God and that these Scriptures serve as the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice
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These concepts are quite frankly too profound to describe in just a few words. Indeed, how can any words ever fully describe the inconceivable truth that God became a man? But that’s exactly what He did. The ever-existing God of the Universe chose to contain Himself in human skin. Fully God, yet fully human. Fully sovereign, yet one of us. His name is “Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
This One and Only Son of God became a man because He knows that we’ve got a problem—a big problem. Although deep down in our hearts we all know that God exists and that we need Him in our lives, somewhere along the way our perceptions got distorted and priorities became skewed. Somewhere along the way we lost touch with life’s true meaning and made choices that displeased God and messed up our lives. Instead of living the way God created us to live, somewhere along the way every one of us has chosen to disobey God and do things that we knew were wrong. That’s a problem. Here’s why.
God is so good and so perfect and so pure that He cannot—and He will not—permit anyone or anything impure to remain in His presence. Not one little fib, not one evil thought, not even one hurtful word. God excludes from His presence anyone guilty of any such impurity and pronounces upon them the penalty of death. You can see why this is such a problem, because if we’re honest with ourselves we realize that we’re all guilty of even these seemingly smallest of sins. Our own poor choices exclude us from God’s pure presence; our own disobedience condemns us to death.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became a man to solve our problem. Not only did Jesus come to show us the way to live like God wants us to live, but also and most importantly Jesus came to save us from our own condemnation. Jesus lived a perfect life as an absolutely pure human being, and then He surrendered that life to pay the penalty for our poor choices. We deserve to die as punishment for our sins. Jesus took our punishment instead by offering His perfect life as a sacrifice for ours and dying a criminal’s death on a Roman cross. But then Jesus miraculously rose again from the dead to prove that His sacrifice was sufficient to pay our penalty in full and thus enable us to remain in God’s presence. Also, because Jesus came back to life, we know that Jesus is powerful enough to help us live like God wants us to live.
That’s what we mean when we say “salvation by grace.” The “salvation” part is when Jesus saves us from God’s punishment, saves us from the penalty of our poor choices, and then enables us to remain in God’s presence, enjoying God and enjoying life. The “grace” part means that God does this all out of the goodness of His heart. We can’t earn or buy or merit this salvation. We simply have to accept it and receive it according to God’s terms. And his terms are pretty simple, as simple as ABC:
- A cknowledge that we have sinned against God and admit that we don’t ever want to sin again
- B elieve that by His sacrificial death Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paid the penalty that we deserved, and that because of His resurrection Jesus will help us to live like God wants us to live
- C ommit to follow Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as both Savior and Lord by uniting our life with His life through baptism (see the “We practice…” section below)
No one but God knows exactly how all this works. But that’s how God said He has taken care of our problem and how He has promised to help us live full, abundant lives. And because God constantly proves Himself to be reliable, we believe that He will continue to be reliable and continue to do what He says He will do. That’s the “faith” part.
We know all about this because that’s what God has said in the Bible. In fact we believe that everything God wants us to know about Him and salvation and the way to live the lives God wants us to live is written down for us in Scripture. We believe that God Himself prompted (“inspired”) various people to write each of the sixty-six books of the Bible (all the “Scriptures” from Genesis to Revelation) and guided them to write exactly what God wanted to be written.
Again if we’re honest with ourselves, we all understand that God exists. If we open our eyes and look without blinders on we can all know a little bit about Him from the universe that He created. However, the only way to know more details about God is from the Bible. Each of those sixty-six books of Scripture that God caused to be written can teach us something about Him, about ourselves and about the loving relationship that God wants to have with each of us. The Bible is the only true, reliable source of this information. The more we read it and study it, the more we meditate on its contents and consider its meaning, then the more we will know about how to live and enjoy our life with God and with each other.
Sadly, far too many people think that the Bible is outdated and doesn’t apply to their modern lives. So instead of reading the Bible and learning from it, they invent their own way of running their lives. Other people (often people with some religious background) might read the Bible, but based on their own opinions and preconceptions they think that the Bible has too many errors to be trustworthy. Such people pick and choose whatever they think is true, and the rest they either alter or explain away or disregard entirely. Other people, often with good intentions, think that the Bible doesn’t contain enough truth about God and how we can know and love Him. So they add to the Bible a bunch of religious regulations and then try to impose them on others.
All three of these positions (ignoring the Bible entirely, picking and choosing what parts of the Bible to believe, adding rules to the Bible) can only get in the way of the relationship that God wants us to have with Him. The Bible contains all the information we need in order to know God and love God and to live the lives that God intends for us to live. It is sufficient. It is enough.
(Note: you may be asking, “If the Bible is enough, why write this article?” Good question. Our intent and desire at Harlandale Christian Church is to teach only that which the Scriptures teach. We believe that what we’re saying here and throughout this website is scripturally sound. We have prayerfully examined, studied and considered the Scriptures and have written our explanations and positions according to what we have learned. But what we have written IS NO SUBSTITUTION FOR GOD’S WORD as recorded in Scripture. We claim no special revelation or miraculous insight except that which the Holy Spirit gives us to help us understand what God has already said through Scripture. This article and this website are simply tools to help us tell you about what we believe and what we hope to achieve by living according to what God has revealed in the Bible. We hope that this and other articles will stimulate your interest in Scripture and thus help you draw closer to God. If you discover any errors, any teaching that is clearly contrary to Scripture, won’t you please contact us so that we can examine our positions and make necessary corrections.)
- baptism (water immersion) into the name of Christ for the remission of sins and for the gift of the Holy Spirit
- assembling for worship on the first day of the week
- weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper (Communion)
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The words “baptism” and “baptize” come from the ancient Greek word baptizo which simply means “to immerse.” (The New Testament, the last twenty-seven books of the Bible, was originally written in an ancient Greek dialect.) Scripturally speaking, “the name of Christ” is not simply the name “Jesus,” but everything that His name stands for. “The name of Christ” includes everything about Him and His person: His life, character, actions and attributes. Thus “baptism into the name of Christ” means to be submerged in water in order to unite oneself with the person of Jesus and commit to all that Jesus stands for.
Ever since Jesus Christ died for our sins (see “We believe…” above), the Bible teaches that the only way to receive God’s promised salvation is to “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38, NIV). This baptism, this immersion into water, is not only a sign and a symbol of what happens when acknowledge our sin, believe in Jesus and commit to following Jesus the rest of our lives, it is also the point at which God grants us forgiveness and enables us to live without sinning. The sign and symbolism have to do with cleansing (the washing away of sins) and rising out of water into new life (like coming out of a grave of water and leaving the past behind). But baptism is more than just a sign or symbol. It is very similar to a marriage ceremony, the point at which spouses who love each other commit to spending the rest of their lives together. Baptism is exactly that sort of commitment. People may well acknowledge their sin and believe in Jesus and truly love Him deeply, but unless and until they commit their lives to him in baptism, their connection with Christ is not complete.
Clearly only those who know what they are doing can make such a commitment. Therefore the man-made tradition of sprinkling or immersing infants and babies is not true baptism. We’re grateful to parents who want their children to grow up knowing Jesus, but the practice of “infant baptism” is not supported by Scripture. Only the grace of God’s forgiveness when received by faith in baptism has the power save us from our sins. And we believe that only those old enough to have such faith can be baptized.
God’s grace granted in baptism doesn’t end with His forgiveness. Acts 2:38 also includes the promise for those who repent and are baptized, “And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit (just like Jesus Christ) is God himself. Somehow He’s exactly the same, but somehow He’s a different person. And somehow this Holy Spirit lives simultaneously in everyone who believes in Jesus and is baptized into His name. That’s what “the gift of the Holy Spirit” means. This precious gift is the unfathomable reality that God Himself chooses to take up residence within those who commit their lives to Jesus in baptism. When we become Christians through baptism, God graciously gives His Spirit, this Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, Counselor and Comforter are some of His other names) to help us live like God wants us to live.
One of the ways God wants us to live is to gather regularly in order to worship God together. From the Bible’s example we choose to hold a major assembly on the first day of the week (Sunday on the modern calendar). It is on this day that the Bible says Jesus Christ rose from the dead after having sacrificed His life to pay for our sins. What a great day to celebrate God and celebrate the life that God has given us! We also have other meetings at other times (see the “Our Gatherings” page) when we meet for Bible study, prayer, service opportunities and various other events during which we can continue to encourage one another and worship God together.
The central focus of our weekly Sunday worship service is the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Again by example from the Bible we recognize weekly remembrances of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. During communion (another name for the Lord’s Supper) we use the two symbols that Jesus used to teach the significance of His sacrifice on the cross: unleavened bread (bread without yeast) and “the fruit of the vine” (we use grape juice). The bread represents Jesus’ physical body which He willingly gave up to pay the death penalty that we ourselves deserve to pay because of our disobedience to God. The juice represents Christ’s blood which He shed on the cross to cleanse us from sin, to remove the guilt of sin, and to establish firmly God’s promise to forgive us and accept us and include us in His family. The Bible records that the early church thought it was important enough to celebrate every week. So do we.
If you have any questions or comments about our beliefs and practices, please feel free to contact us so we can discuss them further. Better still, why don’t you come to one of our gatherings and we can talk about it in person!