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A DECLARATION OF FAITH OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (USA)


CHAPTER 1 — THE LIVING GOD

  1. We believe in one true and living God. We acknowledge one God alone, whose demands on us are absolute, whose help for us is sufficient. That One is the Lord, whom we worship, serve, and love.

  2. God is greater than our understanding. We do not fully comprehend who God is or how he works. God’s reality far exceeds all our words can say. The Lord’s requirements are not always what we think is best. The Lord’s care for us is not always what we want. God comes to us on his own terms and is able to do far more than we ask or think.

  3. God makes himself known in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ involvement in the human condition is God’s involvement. His compassion for all kinds of people is God’s compassion. His demand for justice, truth, and faithfulness is God’s demand. His willingness to suffer rejection is God’s willingness. Jesus’ love for the very people who reject him is God’s love.

  4. God moves in history with his people. Jesus Christ stands at the center of the biblical record. The Bible is the account of God’s word and action in history, together with his people’s response in faith. It tells how the Lord has moved with Israel and the church towards the kingdom of God, his just and loving rule over all. It is the story of the one God, who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That story is still unfolding and in faith we make it our own. It forms our memory and our hope. It tells us who we are and what we are to do. To retell it is to declare what we believe.

  5. We acknowledge no other God. We must not set our ultimate reliance on any other help. We must not yield unconditional obedience to any other power. We must not love anyone or anything more than we love God.

  6. We praise and enjoy God. To worship God is highest joy. To serve God is perfect freedom.


CHAPTER 2 — THE MAKER AND RULER OF ALL

  1. God created and rules in love. God created all the worlds that are and upholds and rules everything.We affirm that the universe exists by the power of God’s Word and Spirit. God has chosen to give it reality out of the love we have come to know in Christ. God still works through the processes that shape and change the earth and the living things upon it. We acknowledge God’s care and control in the regularity of the universe as well as in apparently random happenings. There is no event from which God is absent and his ultimate purpose in all events is just and loving. That purpose embraces our choices and will surely be accomplished. The Creator works in all things toward the new creation that is promised in Christ.

  2. God sustains the goodness of creation. God called all he had made good.We declare that the universe of matter, energy, and life is God’s good creation in all its parts. Even though evil has emerged within God’s creation, we may work and play in it and explore it with wonder and joy. Evil is whatever works against the loving purpose of God for human beings and all creation. Natural forces may have evil effects. Sinful human choices produce evil results. Evil may become institutionalized in our social structures. The power of evil to hurt and destroy, to cut off the possibilities of full human life, calls into question the power and goodness of God. Whether we understand evil personally or impersonally, we cannot explain how it originated in a world made good. But we can affirm that evil is God’s enemy as well as ours. In Christ, God shared our agony over evil and broke the back of its power by bearing the worst it could do. God works continually to overcome evil. In the end it will be utterly defeated. Therefore we have courage to endure evil, to learn from it, and combat it.

  3. God made us to care for other created things. God made human beings along with all the other creatures and charged them to care for the earth and all that lives on it. We acknowledge we share in the interdependence that binds together all God’s creation. Yet God gives us power to rule and tame, to order and reshape the world. We hold the earth in trust for future generations of living things. The Lord forbids us to plunder, foul, and destroy the earth. The Lord expects us to produce, to consume, to reproduce in ways that make earth’s goodness available to all people and reflect God’s love for all creatures. The Lord bids us use our technical skills for beauty, order, health, and peace.

  4. The human race has rejected its Maker. Though they were made to be like God, man and woman broke community with God, refusing to trust and obey him. Their community with each other was broken by shame and murder, lust and pride.We confess that in all generations men and women have rejected God again and again. At times we seek in pride to become gods, denying the good limits that define us as creatures. At other times we draw back in apathy, refusing to fulfill our human responsibilities. The antagonisms between races, nations, and neighbors, between women and men, children and parents, between human beings and the natural order, are manifestations of our sin against God.


CHAPTER 3 — GOD IN CHRIST

  1. God sent the promised Deliverer to his people. Jesus, the long expected Savior, came into the world as a child, descended from David, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of Mary. He lived as a Jew among Jews. He announced to his people the coming of God’s kingdom of justice and peace on earth.We affirm that Jesus was born of woman as is every child, yet born of God’s power as was no other child. In the person and work of Jesus, God himself and a human life are united but not confused, distinguished but not separated. The coming of Jesus was itself the coming of God’s promised rule. Through his birth, life, death, and resurrection, he brings about the relationship between God and humanity that God always intended.

  2. Jesus lived a truly human life. Jesus was what we are. He grew up in a family and a society troubled by the common problems of the world. His knowledge was limited by his time and place in history. He felt deeply the joy of friendship and the hurt of being rejected. Jesus prayed, struggled with temptation, knew anger, and was subject to suffering and death. He was like us in every way except sin. Jesus was what we should be. He served his Father with complete trust and unwavering obedience. He loved all kinds of people and accepted their love. In constant dependence upon the Holy Spirit, Jesus allowed no temptation or threat to keep him from loving God with his whole being and his neighbor as himself.We recognize in Jesus what God created us to be. He exposes our failure to live as he lived. He demonstrates the new humanity God promises to give us through him.

  3. Jesus was God in the flesh. Jesus Christ overthrew evil powers that enslaved and degraded people, yet he made no use of power to protect himself. He healed those who were sick in body and mind, yet he did not avoid pain and suffering for himself. He commanded his followers to place loyalty to him above loyalty to family and country, yet he lived among them as a servant Jesus taught with authority, challenging many time-honored customs and ideas, yet he submitted to humiliation and death without a word on his own behalf. He forgave sinners, yet he was counted among sinners. We recognize the work of God in Jesus’ power and authority. He did what only God can do.We also recognize the work of God in Jesus’ lowliness. When he lives as a servant and went humbly to his death the greatness that belongs only to God was manifest. In both his majesty and lowliness Jesus is the eternal Son of God, God himself with us.

  4. Jesus died for sinful humanity. Religious leaders hated Jesus because he criticized their hypocrisy and reproved their neglect of justice and mercy. They charged him with blasphemy and sedition when he claimed to speak and act with God’s authority. One of Jesus’ followers betrayed him. Others abandoned and denied him because they were afraid to stand with him. Civil authorities condemned him because he provoked unrest among the people. He was sentenced, mocked, beaten, and crucified as a common criminal.We confess that in the execution of Jesus the sin of the human race reached its depths. The only innocent One was condemned and put to death, not by the sinfulness of one nation, but by the sinfulness of us all. In the presence of Jesus, who lived out what God wants us all to be, we were threatened beyond endurance. We believe that in the death of Jesus on the cross God achieved and demonstrated once for all the costly forgiveness of our sins. Jesus Christ is the Reconciler between God and the world. In his lonely agony on the cross Jesus felt forsaken by God and thus experienced hell itself for us. Yet the Son was never more in accord with the Father is will. He was acting on behalf of God, manifesting the Father’s love that takes on itself the loneliness, pain, and death that result from our waywardness. In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself. 

  5. Jesus is our living Lord. Jesus was dead and buried, but God raised him from the dead. The risen Lord appeared to his followers. They recognized him as their Master who had been crucified. Before Jesus left them, he commissioned them to proclaim to all people the good news of his victory over death, and promised to be with them always. We are certain that Jesus lives. He lives as God with us, touching all of human life with the presence of God. He lives as one of us with God. Because he shares our humanity and has bound us to himself in love, we have an advocate in the innermost life of God. We declare that Jesus is Lord. His resurrection is a decisive victory over the powers that deform and destroy human life. His lordship is hidden. The world appears to be dominated by people and systems that do not acknowledge his rule. But his lordship is real. It demands our loyalty and sets us free from the fear of all lesser lords who threaten us. We maintain that ultimate sovereignty now belongs to Jesus Christ in every sphere of life. Jesus is Lord’ He has been Lord from the beginning. He will be Lord at the end. Even now he is Lord.


CHAPTER 4 — GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT

  1. The Holy Spirit is God active in the world. By the Spirit God raised up leaders and prophets in Israel. By the Spirit Jesus was conceived, baptized, and empowered. By the Spirit the risen Christ is present with his church.We affirm that the Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of life, the Renewer and Perfecter of God’s people, the One who makes real in us what God has done for us.

  2. The Holy Spirit renews the community of faith. Israel did not cease to be God’s people. Yet out of Israel a new people was formed.The Spirit came with power to the followers of Jesus. Led by the apostles they began to proclaim with boldness the new thing God had done in Christ. They began to experience in their fellowship a new quality of common life.We believe that by the power of the same Spirit the church can be set on its way again, even when it seems beyond hope of renewal. We are grateful heirs of reformations and awakenings. We are faithful to the reformers of the past when we hold ourselves open in the present to the reforming and renewing work of the Spirit.

  3. The Spirit enables people to become believers. The Spirit enabled people of all races, classes, and nations to accept the good news of what God had done in Christ, repent of their sins, and enter the community of faith.We testify that today this same Holy Spirit makes us able to respond in faith to the gospel and leads us into the Christian community. The Spirit brings us out of death into life, out of separation into fellowship. The Spirit makes us aware of our sinfulness and need, moves us to abandon our old way of life, persuades us to trust in Christ and adopt his way. In all these things we are responsible for our decisions. But after we have trusted and repented we recognize that the Spirit enabled us to hear and act. It is not our faith but God’s grace in Jesus Christ that justifies us and reconciles us to God. Yet it is only by faith that we accept God’s grace and live by it.

  4. The Spirit is one with the Father and the Son. In the presence of the Holy Spirit the first Christians experienced God’s own presence, not a power different from God or less than God. In Jesus Christ they met God himself, not a second God or one who is only like God. Yet they worshiped with the people of Israel one God alone. Reflecting on this mystery, the ancient church formulated the doctrine of the Trinity. We believe with the church through the centuries that God is what he has shown himself to be in his story with his people: One God who is the Creator and Sustainer, the Savior and Lord, the Giver of life within, among, and beyond us.We affirm the unity of God’s being and work. We may not separate the work of God as Creator from the work of God as Redeemer. We may not set the Son’s love against the Father’s justice. We may not value the Ho]y Spirit’s work above the work of the Father and Son. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God.We affirm richness and variety in God’s being and work. We may not deny the real distinctions in God’s unity. In his eternal being and in all his activity, the one God is always and at the same time the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


CHAPTER 5 — THE WORD OF GOD

  1. God makes himself known through his Word. God has not waited to be discovered. The Lord has taken the initiative and addressed his Word to humankind in many ways. Through the Word of God the world was created. The Word became flesh in Jesus Christ. Through the Word of God the New Creation is being formed. We believe God’s Word is God’s communication to us. Although God is free to speak to us in unexpected ways, we confidently listen for his Word in Jesus Christ, in holy Scripture, in preaching and the sacraments.

  2. The Bible is the written Word of God. Led by the Spirit of God the people of Israel and of the early church preserved and handed on the story of what God had said and done in their midst and how they had responded to him. These traditions were often shaped and reshaped by the uses to which the community put them. They were cherished, written down, and collected as the holy literature of the people of God.Through the inward witness of the same Spirit we acknowledge the authority of the Bible. We accept the Old and New Testaments as the canon, or authoritative standard of faith and life, to which no further writings need be added. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are necessary, sufficient, and reliable as witnesses to Jesus Christ, the living Word. We must test any word that comes to us from church, world, or inner experience by the Word of God in Scripture. We are subject to its judgment all our understanding of doctrine and practice, including this Declaration of Faith. We believe the Bible to be the Word of God as no other word written by human beings.Relying on the Holy Spirit, who opens our eyes and hearts, we affirm our freedom to interpret Scripture responsibly.God has chosen to address his inspired Word to us through diverse and varied human writings. Therefore we use the best available methods to understand them in their historical and cultural settings and the literary forms in which they are cast. When we encounter apparent tensions and conflicts in what Scripture teaches us to believe and do, the final appeal must be to the authority of Christ. Acknowledging that authority, comparing Scripture with Scripture, listening with respect to fellow-believers past and present, we anticipate that the Holy Spirit will enable us to interpret faithfully God’s Word for our time and place.

ABOUT US

La Mesa Presbyterian Church seeks to further Christ's unfolding reign of justice and compassion. Our name, La Mesa, symbolizes the vision of our life together. At this table, God is worshiped, barriers are broken down, children are nurtured, hospitality is extended, community is created, learning is valued, and all who come are fed. 

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