This summer we spent several weeks exploring the Apostles’ Creed because it is a universally accepted outline of our Christian faith. The Apostle’s Creed shapes what we believe about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and it gives us direction on things like forgiveness, how we live together as a church and what we believe about life after death. While the Apostles’ Creed outlines what we believe, it is not a single guiding principle –which is another definition of a creed. A creed can also be a short principle or saying that gives shape and direction to everything we do. Some people might say that they live by the creed, family first and they do everything they can to make their family a priority. When I was growing up we had this creed on our refrigerator:
This creed told me every day that my life had meaning and value and that I needed to make the most of it.
Not all creeds that people live by are good ones. In the 1987 movie Wall Street, Gordon Gekko lived by this creed – Greed is good and the reality is that there are still many people today who live by this creed and they do everything they can to get everything they can.
Many creeds come to us from movies and they are the phrases that drive the characters and shape the heroes. Here is a creed from one such hero.
With great power comes great responsibility, This is a creed we all should live by because in our world today we are the ones who have been given great power and we need to use it wisely, responsibly and for God’s purpose and glory. There are creeds all around us. What are the creeds by which you live? What creeds guide you at home or work or school or as part of a sports team or volunteer organization?
In high school one of my first leadership positions was in my youth group where I was the person responsible for organizing all the transportation for our group trips and I had to make sure that every facility we used was clean when we were done. The creed I made our group live by was this: we will leave every place cleaner than how we found it. I made sure every camp or church we stayed at or any room we used in our church on a Sunday night was cleaner than how we found it. I’ll be honest, this is still a creed I try to live by today. I’ll wipe down counters in public restrooms or pick up trash on the floor in the store because the creed is to leave every place cleaner than how I found it.
Creeds shape our thoughts which shape our actions. In time, creeds shape our hearts and lives which means that the creeds we choose to believe, trust, listen to and follow are important. Jesus had a creed by which he lived and this creed shaped everything in his life. The creed shaped Jesus’ teaching and prayers, his movements and actions and it slowly shaped all the people around him. This creed reveals to us what Jesus believed was the most important thing in life and the only thing we should give ourselves to. The creed is revealed when a man approached Jesus and asked him which of all the commandments God had given was the greatest.
Jesus begins his answer by quoting what every faithful Jewish person knew was the greatest commandment of all. Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all our soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. This statement comes from Deuteronomy 6:4 and was given at the time of the 10 commandments and this one command to love God was so important that it was taught to children at a very young age. This law was to be repeated by everyone in the morning and evening every day and it was to be written out and placed in little boxes on people’s foreheads and their door posts so they would remember it and live it every moment of every day. The phrase became known as the Shema, which means hear, the first word of the command. This was the greatest commandment, the one that tops all others and the one that in some sense guided everything else that God said and did and taught. All of the Torah, or God’s law, was based on this command to love.
But when Jesus was asked about the greatest command, he didn’t stop with the Shema, he added to it another verse that the people would have known; it comes from the second half of Leviticus 19:18 – Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus adds these 5 words to the Shema and gives us the creed by which he lives, what Scot McKnight has called The Jesus Creed.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
This was the creed that gave shape to everything Jesus did. Jesus loved God fully, always being willing to submit himself to God’s will, always lifting up God’s name and always teaching God’s truth and Jesus always loved his neighbor. Jesus reached out to the rich and poor, young and old, Jew and Gentile, powerful and powerless, men and women, and people of all ethnic backgrounds. He loved all people and he taught those who followed him to love all people.
While Jesus gets the creed from God’s word, it was also a creed he saw lived out at home. We will talk more about them next week, but think about what Jesus witnessed in his mother Mary and his father Joseph. Mary truly loved God with all her heart and soul and strength. It was Mary who said, Luke 1:46 – My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoiced in God my Savior. Mary loved God with all her heart and soul and mind and strength, she loved God enough to surrender herself fully to God’s plan and be used by God.
Joseph loved his neighbor as himself. Think of what Joseph was asked to do when he found out that his fiancé Mary was pregnant. He wasn’t to have her shamed or put to death and he was not to divorce her publically or privately, he was to love her and take her to be his wife and raise the child as his own. He was to love her. So in his parents Jesus saw this creed lived out which helped him make it his own. This is important for us to understand because children will embrace the creeds they see in their parents and families. While our words and actions play a big part in how children’s hearts and minds and lives are shaped, what we do has to live up with what we say. Jesus embraced what he saw in his parents and mixed that with what he learned about his Heavenly Father in the scriptures and together those words and actions formed the creed by which he lived.
Our children are looking at us today to see how we live. Do our actions match up with our words? It doesn’t matter what we are saying; what are we doing? How are we living? If we want our children to love God – are we truly loving God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength? Are we making the worship of God a priority, are we loving God with all that we have and all that we are?
And are we truly loving our neighbor as ourselves? Are we extending grace and forgiveness to those who have hurt us? Are we being gracious and generous to those in need? What kind of response are our children seeing us make when it comes to our neighbors in Florida, Texas and the Caribbean? What do our children see and hear from us as we talk about and address the social and political situation of our day? Jesus embraced a creed he didn’t just hear but saw and so we need to make sure that the Jesus Creed isn’t just something we say but something we practice for the sake of our children and grandchildren.
The creed that Jesus gave to the teacher of the law wasn’t something that he just made up or pulled out of the air, this was truly the one guiding principle of his life. This was what Jesus recited every morning and evening and this shaped Jesus’ own prayers. We know this because we see the creed expressed in the prayer Jesus gave us to pray.
In his book, The Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight points out that the Lord’s Prayer is based on an ancient Jewish prayer called the Kaddish, but just as Jesus added to the Shema, he also added to the Kaddish. The Kaddish goes like this:
Magnified and sanctified be His great name in the world He created according to His will.
May He establish His Kingdom during your life and during your days,
and during the life of all the house of Israel,
speedily and in the near future. Amen.
Do you see the similarities of this well-established prayer to the prayer Jesus gave his followers? Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name sounds very much like – magnified and sanctified be your name.
And Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven sounds very much like – May he establish His kingdom during your life and during your days. So the first part of Jesus prayer mirrors the Kaddish, but then just as Jesus added something to the Shema, Jesus adds to the Kaddish. And here is what Jesus adds: Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
What Jesus added to the Kaddish is exactly what he added to the Shema, a call to love others. In the Lord’s Prayer, the call to love others is spelled out in asking God to give us all food – which implies that we help make sure others are able to eat. There is a call to love others as we forgive and as we ask God to deliver all of us from evil and into the fullness of life. The prayer Jesus prays and the prayer he teaches us to pray comes from the Kaddish which is a call to love God but then he adds to the prayer some specifics on what it means to love others.
So this creed shaped Jesus prayers because it shaped his heart and it shaped his heart because he made an ongoing focus of his life. This creed became the rhythm of Jesus’ life because it was read and prayed and repeated multiple times a day. The way that Jesus and others in his day were formed spiritually was that they read the word of God many times during the day. The Shema was to be recited in the morning and evening. It was to be written on the door posts of the home so people would think of it and recite it as they would go out into the world and then return home. The creed was to be placed in boxes that would be tied to the forehead so that the message would go with them everywhere and remind them of how they needed to live their lives.
One way we can begin to start making the Jesus Creed our creed is by memorizing it and reciting and praying it multiple times a day. That is why we have given you the cards with the creed printed out. I want to challenge you to put this creed in a place where you will see it multiple times a day and then every time you see it – say it. Put it on your bathroom mirror so in the morning or evening you will see it and say it. Put it on the fridge so every time you get something to eat you will see it and say it. Put in on the visor of your car so every time you get in and get out you will see it and say it.
This constant repetition is what shapes our hearts, guides our thoughts and gives direction to our decisions and actions. We need this constant repetition because #1 we forget so easily and #2 we are daily bombarded by messages that tell us not to love God but ourselves and not to love our neighbors but ourselves. To break that cycle we need to interject another message. We can be shaped by this message, this Jesus Creed, if we read it and pray it multiple times a day. This is how Jesus’ heart was formed. He said this multiple times a day and he saw it lived out in his family and it became the creed for his life. I want to invite over these next 6 weeks to make this creed, the Jesus Creed, the foundation and the focus of your life.
The Jesus Creed – What is the Jesus Creed?
1. Identify some of the creeds that have shaped your life.
• What creeds did you learn as a child?
• In sports?
• At work?
• At home?
• As part of your faith?
2. Read where the Jesus Creed comes from.
• Love the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 6:4-9
• Love your neighbor as yourself. Leviticus 19:18
• Jesus shares the creed. Mark 12:28-34
3. This week, how can you love God with ALL your
4. What can you do this week to love your neighbor?
• What neighbor are you struggling to love?
• Pray the Jesus Creed and then look for a changed heart and an opportunity to love this person.
5. God told on the people of Israel to recite the Shema every morning and evening. This kind of repetition helps shape our hearts, minds and lives. Place your Jesus Creed card in a place where you will see it daily (bedroom, bathroom, car, fridge)
• Say the Jesus Creed out loud twice a day.
• Say the Jesus Creed together as a family at meal time.
• Say the Jesus Creed for the next 40 days.