Contending for the Faith

The 7

Do you ever find yourself in arguments over the dumbest things? What about arguments over things of the faith? The truth is, sometimes, we argue about some of the most ridiculous things. There are inconsequential things that we should never argue about, and there are some important things that we need to take a stand on. In this start to a new series, “The 7,” Blake Holmes teaches about the essentials and the non-essentials of the Christian faith, and how to discern between the two.

Blake HolmesAug 5, 2018Jude 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-5; Romans 12:1-2; Jude 1:3


Do you ever find yourself in arguments over the dumbest things? What about arguments over things of the faith? The truth is, sometimes, we argue about some of the most ridiculous things. There are some things that don’t matter that we should never argue about, and there are some things that do matter that we need to take a stand on. As we start a new series, “The 7,” Blake Holmes teaches about the essentials and the non-essentials of the Christian faith, and how to discern between the two.

Key Takeaways

What is the faith we are to contend for?

The “faith” refers to the essential beliefs (or doctrines) of Christianity: The Trinity, depravity of man, deity and humanity of Jesus, salvation by grace through faith, resurrection of Christ, & second coming of Christ.

The essential doctrines answers these three questions, the answers of which separate Christians from non-Christians:

  • Who is Jesus?
  • What was He doing on the cross?
  • Did He rise again?

Convictions are the beliefs that separate denominations and impact the health and vitality of a church.

Think of these four categories as concentric circles, with essentials starting in the middle and questions being on the outside:

What’s confusing to an outside world is when we make convictions, opinions and questions out to be essentials.

Why are we to contend for the faith?

Doctrine protects from error.

Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have victims.” –John Stonestreet

Doctrine provides instruction for living.

Belief drives behavior:

* If I really believe the Bible is the Word of God, then how could I not read it?

* If I really believe that I am saved by grace through faith, then how could I not forgive others?

* If I really believe Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation, then how could I not tell others?

* There is a difference between accidental belief (said faith) and evidential belief (saving faith).

Doctrine promotes unity.

Christians have been united around the historic confessions of the faith throughout the centuries

How are we to contend for the faith?

Similar to the concentric circles for essentials, convictions, opinions, and questions, we are to contend for the faith in four ways, with boldly being in the middle and wisely being on the outside: Boldly, Humbly, Respectfully, Wisely.

  • The liberal church questions essentials and convictions.
  • The fundamentalist church makes opinions and questions essentials.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  • What was the last thing you got in an argument over? In hindsight, was it worth arguing for? Identify the top three areas you are most likely to argue, and if they are not essentials of the Christian faith, put some guard rails in place to prevent yourself from going there.
  • Which of the three things that doctrine does—protects from error, provides instruction for living, promotes unity—do you need the most help and growth in? Share this with your community group, and then memorize the Scripture that corresponds with that area (protects from error: 2 Timothy 4:3-4; provides instruction for living: Romans 12:1-2; promotes unity: Ephesians 4:1-6).
  • Are you more prone to drift toward theological liberalism (questioning the essentials) or fundamentalism (making questions essential)? Ask five people in your life what they think, and then ask the same five people to help you identify one way you can stay closer to the middle.

Good morning. I'm curious. How many of you know what this is? Anybody know what this is? I hear a few ideas out there. No, no. This is not only a scrub brush; this is the latest source of conflict between my wife and me this week. You see, she has a very ridiculous idea that this should go into the dishwasher every time you do the dishes. No, no. Last night did the same thing, and we didn't get off to a good start.

I imagine the men in here would agree with me. This is what you scrape with, and then you just wash it off and put it down, and the dishwasher cleans the dishes. We don't need to clean this every time. She's even particular about how you load the dishwasher: what goes on top, what goes on bottom. I'm like, "I just don't even care about that." We argue over that. What she needs to care about is what I care really deeply about.

I hate these things. You don't even know what they are, but these are blooms from my crepe myrtle in the backyard. I have four kids, and they go in and out of our back door often, and what inevitably happens is they track these stinking blooms into our house all the time or the wind blows them in. There's just something when you come home from work and you're trying to relax and you know you have to do the dishes later and you see these blooms all over your carpet.

By the way, five other people live with me. I'm like, "Hey, guys, I've been gone all day, and it's like y'all are just living like this all day long while I'm gone. It's like you don't even see them. Can anybody grab the vacuum and clean up the blooms?" It drives me crazy. My wife is like, "Hey, it's more important to have clean dishes," and I'm like, "Maybe. I just don't think we're going to die."

Isn't it funny what we tend to argue over? If you stop and think about the last thing you got in a fight over, you look back now and just go, "That was just silly. That was just downright stupid." Or how about this? Be honest. How many of you have been in an argument before and you get so far down the road, and then you look at each other and go, "Remind me. What are we arguing about right now? I need to know. What position am I supposed to take?" I've literally been there before where I go, "I think I forgot what we're arguing about."

Truth be told, in this room there are probably two extremes. I know there are some people in the middle, but truth be told, there are some of us who love to argue about everything. Candidly, that's a little bit of me. Often wrong, never in doubt. Then there are others of us who are on the other extreme and don't like to argue about anything. We just avoid conflict. We avoid arguing. We don't want to get into it, when probably there are some things we should take a stand on.

What about issues of faith? Biblically speaking, are there some things that are worth contending for? Are there some things where we should say, as believers, "Hey, you know that one right there? I can't overlook that. That one is one of those that I need to speak up." Today we're going to talk about what we, as believers, need to boldly stand for versus silly arguments that, candidly, we just need to let go of and how to discern the difference between the two.

Turn in your Bibles to the book of Jude. Jude only has one chapter. It's at the very end of your Bible. You might miss it if you go too fast. Jude, verse 3. We're going to look at only one verse, and out of that one verse we're going to simply look at a phrase. Notice what he says.

"Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith…" Underline that. "I found it necessary to write to you that you would contend for the faith." Quite literally, that you would wrestle, that you would stand for the faith. "…that was once for all delivered to the saints."

Inherently, Jude seems to be arguing, and there are many other passages of Scripture in which Paul and others will argue, "Hey, there are some issues where we need to be willing to contend for the faith." We're going to answer this morning these questions: What is the faith once for all delivered to the saints that we are to contend for? What's he referring to? Why are we to contend for it? And, just as importantly, How do we contend for it?

Is it through Facebook? Is it through Twitter? Do we send out texts? How do we contend for the faith in a way that honors people and glorifies God? Quite candidly, this is one of those messages… There are times where I give messages that I'm like, "All right. I'm ready. Let's roll." It's straightforward. Then there are other messages I give and I go, "Okay, this is a very nuanced message."

I'm going to ask you to hang with me here, because we're going to talk about the essential beliefs of the Christian faith. I want to walk you through the difference between the essentials, convictions, opinions, and questions. I'm going to lay this out for you as clearly as I can. I know there's going to be room for confusion, and I want to do my best to avoid that, but hang with me before you send me an email. Wait to the very end. Let's address each one of these questions, because I think it's so important and vital for today.

1._ What is the faith we are to contend for?_ The faith Jude is referring to refers to the essential beliefs of Christianity, or, to use a church word, doctrines, the essential doctrines, the historic teachings of the Christian faith. What you may not know, which is pretty cool to see, is that from the time of the apostles, the beginning of the church, the original Twelve… If you look at 1 Corinthians 15, you're going to see, scholars believe, Paul quotes a creed, a doctrine, a belief. Notice what he says. He writes 1 Corinthians about 20 years after Christ's ascension.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 he says, "For I delivered to you as of first importance…" Notice those words: first importance. "…what I also received…" Notice what he says. What was of first importance to Paul? What was it that Christians in the early church were already quoting and believing to be true? "…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve."

The faith we are to contend for, take a stand for, remain firm in are the essential beliefs of the Christian faith, which are summarized right here in verses 3-5. These beliefs include the doctrine of the Trinity, where in the Godhead you see unity, equality, and distinction. The depravity of man. Our basic need is because we're sinful people. We've rebelled against God. All of us have. The wages of sin is death. We don't just experience a physical death; we experience a spiritual death. There's nothing we can do in and of ourselves to merit God's favor. Christians have always believed this since the time of Paul.

The deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, that Jesus was fully God and fully man. As fully God he is without sin. As fully man he can serve as our substitute on the cross and be the bridge between a sinful people and a holy God. Salvation by grace through faith alone, that if you trust in what Christ did for you you can be rightly related to God once again, not based on what you do but simply receiving the gift. The belief that Jesus Christ not only died but rose again, validating all that he claimed, said, and did; that we serve a living God who defeated death. Finally, that he's coming back.

Those are the essentials that have united believers throughout history. They are what could be summarized as simply: Who is Jesus? What was he doing on the cross? And, Is he coming back? What should we contend for, at the very least? The essentials. Take away one of those and you no longer have Christianity. The essentials are what separate Christian from non-Christian. This, candidly, is why the Mormon doctrine is un-Christian. Regardless if it says church, regardless if Jesus Christ is in its name, it is unorthodox, unbiblical, and counter to the historic claims of the faith.

This is why Jehovah's Witnesses are un-Christian: they deny the essentials of the faith. You have to realize that. You have to know that there are those who use the same words we use, but they have a different dictionary. When they speak of Jesus, they think of something different than we think of, and it's counter to the historic claims the Bible teaches.

The essentials are the beliefs upon which the historic creeds of the faith were built. Perhaps you grew up in churches where the creeds were recited every single week, or here sometimes we'll recite the Apostles' Creed. What are those essentials? Just what I said: the Trinity, the need of man, who Jesus is, what he was doing on the cross, his resurrection, and his return.

It's not that you have to understand each of these fully. I mean, all of us are still sitting around the mystery of the Trinity and going, "I know that's what Scripture teaches. I know it to be true. I will take a stand for that boldly. I can't fully understand unity, equality, and distinction, but I believe it to be true, wholeheartedly believe it to be true." It's not that you have to fully understand that in order to be Christian, but you must not refute it.

My oldest daughter is looking at colleges. We were walking across one particular campus, and there was this large church marquee that said, "Freedom of belief" in all capital red letters. "The Church of…" Then it said, "Freedom of belief." Freedom of belief? What in the world? Think about that. Freedom of belief. Essentially, what it said was, "Come here, and you can believe whatever you want to believe. There is no absolute truth." I want to walk in and go, "Isn't that a self-refuting statement? 'There is no absolute truth,' and yet you're claiming that to be true." Just think about that for a second.

I just looked at it and said, "Hey, Avery. You're going to go to college, and there are going to be certain ministries and churches surrounding every campus we look at, and they're all going to say, 'Hey, come here. We want to love. We want to welcome you,' but you'd better be careful. You'd better be discerning, because not all of them hold to the essentials that have united Christians since the beginning of the early church. Don't be mistaken. Read. Discern. Understand doctrine. It's vitally important."

If essentials are what define Christian from non-Christian, the next rung on this little target is what I would call convictions. Although not essentials, they're vitally important. Convictions are the beliefs that separate denominations. What's a denomination? It's a family of faith…a Baptist, a Presbyterian, an Episcopalian. Convictions are the beliefs that separate denominations (listen carefully) and impact the health and vitality of a church. Although not essential, of great importance.

Historically, Christians have disagreed. Reading the same Bible, they've disagreed over how a church should be run. There's congregationally led. That would be a Baptist church. There's elder led. That would be a Presbyterian church. They've disagreed over baptism, the mode of baptism. You walk in and speak to a Presbyterian minister about baptism, and you'll see a baby being baptized. If you walk into a Baptist church, you'll never see that. They agree on the essentials, but their convictions…

Reading the same Bible, they go, "Wait a minute," and the other guy is going, "I think you're wrong." The reality is one is wrong and one is right. One is biblical and one is unbiblical. They can't both be right. That is why we have a separation in denominations. Not only that. People have disagreed over the relationship between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. Historically, it has been called Calvinism versus Arminianism. You may be familiar with that or heard of that. They disagree over the end times. There are premillennialists and amillennialists. I could go on and on.

More recently, which is so important to realize, there have come even more divisions of belief and thought within the church that has radically impacted the health and vitality of the church. There are some who are kind of like, "It's not that big of a deal. Let's just all get along. Group hug. We agree with the essentials, so it's okay. Really, what's the big deal about it?" It's a huge deal.

Now you see churches that are giving ground on issues around sexuality and marriage, sanctity of life, and I just sit there and go, "Hey, gang…" There are areas where you look at the Bible and I go, "I can see how you may disagree," and there are other areas I sit there and go, "If you hold to the Word of God, I don't see any way you can get there." Again, although not considered essentials, these issues impact the vitality and the health of a church, and we cannot be glib and simply pass over these differences just in the effort to all get along.

Al Mohler, who is the president of Southern Seminary, a man I respect a lot, wrote, "A structure of [theology] does not imply that Christians may take any biblical truth with less than full seriousness. We are charged to embrace and to teach the comprehensive truthfulness of the Christian faith as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. There are no insignificant doctrines revealed in the Bible, but there is an essential foundation of truth that undergirds the entire system of biblical truth."

He's saying, "Yes, we acknowledge there are essentials, but there are convictions we can't just simply pass over." We want to remain firm where the Bible is firm. We want to remain flexible where the Bible is flexible. The reason I'm giving this message today is over the next seven weeks we're going to look at seven essential beliefs. To be a member at Watermark, this is what we believe. This is where we stand. These are the beliefs upon which our elders have drawn a very strong red line. This is where we, as a family, are going to stand.

People come to me often, because I help with the Equipping ministry, and want to join our church, yet what they believe is counter to what we hold in our convictions. I simply tell them, "Listen. I love you. I respect your belief. I wholeheartedly disagree, and to be a member here, this is what we hold to." There's always this sense of, "Yeah, but can I talk to the elders? Can I go above your head?" I'm like, "You can talk to them, but let me just tell you something. These are nonnegotiable for us."

Now we acknowledge the essentials, and you may believe the essentials. God bless you. But there is a strong red line here that is important to understand. As believers at Watermark, as a family of believers, every year we affirm these essentials on our 4B form. When you become a member we say, "Hey, as a family, this is what we agree to."

We are strong that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. We're strong in believing the Trinity. We're strong that God created us in his image, male and female. We believe in marriage that's a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman. You're going to hear about all of these in the next seven weeks: what we believe and why we believe it and why it's significant.

Notice this. I told you there's a strong red line right here. The mistake of the liberal church is they've taken what is core, what is in the center, and have driven it out, and then they have questioned each of these. This is no longer what is essential. This is no longer what is historic Christian faith. Many liberal churches have taken that and rejected it and now deny what Christians have held to for years. It's tragic and confusing and unbiblical and wrong.

The next little rung is what I refer to as opinions. These are issues that are less clear and, candidly, not worth dividing over but something Christians, folks who go to Watermark, fight over. It's okay to disagree over these, but I think you need to stop and go, "Let's just acknowledge this isn't a conviction, this isn't an essential." I know you disagree with these things, because I've been a part of these conversations.

Let me give you an example: how to educate our kids. There are some of you who are sitting there going, "Send your kid to public school. Sink or swim. Go in there. Wrestle with ideas. Train them up. Public school." There are others of you who hold another opinion. It's like, "No, it is only a Christian education. Are you throwing your kids out to the wolves? Are you crazy?" Then there are others of you who are like, "No, it is a homeschool education. There is no other education. I feel called by God to educate my kids, to homeschool them."

You've been there before, because you're in Community Groups, and your Community Group is divided over that. I know that to be true. I've heard some of you. I've talked to some of you. I just sit there when people ask me that and go, "Tell me about your kid. Tell me about your family life. Tell me about why you're making the decision you're making. Let's talk about it. What would wisdom have us do?"

Let's be clear, though. This is an opinion. This doesn't make you un-Christian, but it sure is confusing, because some of us argue these positions of opinion as fiercely and as vehemently as we do the essentials and the convictions. I'm like, "Bro, do you feel that strongly about the resurrection of Christ? Come on. When was the last time you argued that strongly for the resurrection as you are right now about how you educate your kids?"

We disagree over matters of conscience. "Should I see this movie?" You see the movie; I don't see the movie. You have a glass of wine; I don't have a glass of wine. Then we're like, "I don't know what to do." There are differences of opinion. Where it gets even more muddied is some people go, "Well, you're saying that's an opinion issue; I think that's a conviction issue." Some people go, "No, that's a conviction issue." You know what? It leads to good conversation. That's why this is helpful; a conversation to sit there and go, "Hey, where do you put this?" Or who to vote for.

The last little area I titled questions. We just have questions. The best example of questions is "What about the dinosaurs?" If I get another email or question about the… I just go, "Oh my gosh." People care so much about the dinosaurs. We have this ministry called Great Questions on Monday nights, and people literally walk in and are like, "Hey, man. What about the dinosaurs?"

This is where it's helpful to go, "Hey, you know what? I want to give you a grid in which to think about this. You don't have to even agree with me about the dinosaurs. I have an opinion. I'll respect your opinion, but let's return again to this thing called the resurrection. Let's talk about what is essential." Gang, you don't have to have everybody agree with you on every single point in order for them to become a Christian.

Let me see if I can say this a whole other way. Let's change this. If you're from the South, you take pride in being from the South. People from the South take pride in being from the South. When you think about what you consider Southern, well, an essential belief if you are Southern is that you love barbecue. That's just true. That is an essential. I place it there, as a good Southern boy, that you have to love barbecue.

Now I recognize that we are from the great state of Texas where everything is bigger and better. Therefore, I hold the conviction that brisket is real barbecue. There are some people who although they are from the South…granted, I will give them that…they're from this little state called Tennessee, and they hold to Memphis barbecue, or pulled pork. Now that's great, but that's not real barbecue. It's pulled pork.

We all understand as good Southerners, as Texans, there is a love for barbecue. We all agree with that. Convictions. We're sitting there going, "Memphis, Texas barbecue. There's a difference. I'll recognize you're from the South, but we divide over this. One is right; one is definitely wrong." Then we have opinions. This is where even as Texans we disagree. You may like sweet barbecue sauce. I might like spicy or hot barbecue sauce. That's okay.

Or there may be some of you, if you're truly, truly Southern Texas brisket, who are like, "Man, I don't even want any sauce." That's fine. Then there are the questions. Like, my wife and I have had discussions like, "Is the onion ring a vegetable? Does that count? How about if we put the onion ring on green bean casserole? Certainly then it counts as a vegetable." You see, they're silly examples that there's a priority of belief. We do this all the time.

I mentioned the mistake of the liberal church is to forgo the essentials and the convictions. The mistake of the fundamentalist is to take what's on the outside, the questions and the opinions, and drive everything to the essential. That's another mistake. I literally was stopped at Baylor University… I'm a freshman at Baylor. I'm on the top of a parking garage with about 20 people.

Convertible down, stereo blaring country music, a bunch of people, zero alcohol, and we're dancing, and no kidding: campus police come and tell us, "You can't dance on this property." That's how long ago I went to Baylor. Now you can dance all you want. A bunch of liberals. No, I'm just kidding. I just sit there and go, "I can't believe it." Of all of the things I could call my mom about.

"Hey, Mom. I got in trouble with the police tonight."

"Oh no!"

"Yeah, I was caught dancing with a bunch of friends." It seems ridiculous.

2._ Why are we to contend for the faith?_ There are some things we need to be strong and stand for, and why should we stand for them so strongly? Why do we want to talk about the essentials? Why do we want to talk about our convictions and go, "Hey, on that one I'm not moving"?

A. Doctrine protects us from error. Those convictions, those beliefs protect us from error. You see so many warnings in Scripture. Second Timothy 4. What does he say? "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort…" Do you see that? Some things are worth standing on. Reprove, rebuke, exhort. Take a stand. Contend for the faith.

"…with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." We have to teach doctrine. We have to understand our faith. It's worth coming for the next seven weeks to understand what we believe, because it protects us from error.

The Bible is made up of 66 books. There are history books, poetical books, prophetical books, letters, gospels, apocalyptic books, but all 66 books tell one story. It's the story of reality. Hang with me. A little philosophical. It's the story of reality. It's not just a story about spirituality. It speaks to every area of our lives. This is why Proverbs starts by saying, "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God." Get the God question right, and everything else makes sense.

The Bible helps us understand who we are, where we came from, why we are here, where we find meaning, where we're going. It teaches us we're created in the image of God, that our sin is what has separated from him. That's the problem, but there is a solution, and it's found in Christ. Everybody who trusts in him will find healing. They will one day be freed from the burden of sin.

The naturalist holds a very different point of view. The naturalist holds the viewpoint, "No, we're not here because God created us in his image. We're here because of time plus matter plus chance." What an erroneous belief. One is right, and one is dead wrong. They believe the biggest problem is a lack of time, that we just haven't had the time to evolve, and the solution is found through greater education, greater health care, and more time.

Does history have a purpose? Is it going anywhere? What will happen after we die? There's nothing. That's the naturalist view. That is their belief. That is their doctrine. If you don't understand what Scripture says, then you're going to fall prone to what it is that the Bible would say is simply dead wrong.

One man I respect a lot, an author, John Stonestreet, said, "Ideas have consequences. Bad ideas have victims." That is true. These aren't just some nebulous ideas that are out there that have no impact. No, they have consequences, and bad ideas have victims. If you consider the naturalist worldview, it has had devastating effects on our country and the sanctity of life, both in the womb and the elderly. Devastating effects. Why are we to contend for the faith?

B. Doctrine provides instruction for living. Theology matters, gang. Every one of you is a theologian. Every one of you makes theological decisions every single day. You have to understand that. Stop thinking of theology as what the professor at seminary does. No, you make theological decisions every day.

Even the atheist makes a theological decision, because he rejects God, which is a theological decision. How you spend your money is a theological decision. How you care for the sick is a theological decision. How you view your neighbor, whether or not you resolve conflict… Each of these is informed by what you believe about God. Belief drives behavior.

The goal is not just to make smarter sinners. We don't stand up here so we can all have more intellectual understanding. "Oh, that's what the Bible says." No. The Bible was written so we would not just have an understanding of what's true but that it would impact our hearts and our hands and everything in the way in which we live. We're reading through the book of Romans right now, and in Romans 12:1-2, a familiar passage, Paul says:

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Notice this. Paul spends 11 chapters giving you belief before he ever addresses behavior. Eleven chapters, because belief drives behavior. The reason we have to understand doctrine and the essential beliefs and the convictions and why they are important and we have to be discerning is because belief drives behavior. If you really believe the Bible is the Word of God…I mean, if you really believe that…wouldn't you think you'd read it?

If you believe there's a God in heaven who loves you, who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and cares about you, don't you think you'd spend more time in prayer? If you believe that Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation, really believe that Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation, don't you think you would tell somebody?

We don't have a discipline problem. "I'm just not disciplined to get in God's Word." No, we have a belief, a faith problem. We have a theological problem. We don't really believe that prayer changes things, not like we say we do. Now we may sign the doctrinal statement, "I believe it," but too many of us live by an accidental faith.

Think about it like this. I grew up in a Christian home. If you would have asked me what I believed I would have told you what I believed by accident. It was more of a said faith, but when trials would come or temptations would come, I didn't know what to stand on. That's different than a saving faith, one that's based on evidence where I've investigated a matter and I go, "I believe that to be true to my core," and because of that it has fundamentally, radically changed my life.

C. Doctrine promotes unity. We have to know, as believers, as a family of faith at Watermark, what we believe and why. There's no way the elders of our church who are entrusted to lead our church can lead us effectively… Do you know that the Bible says they are going to give an account before God for how they lead this church?

Think about that responsibility. Stand before God on how they led this church. There's no way they can actually do that if it's just, "Believe what you want to believe." No, we have to have a unity of belief. We have to look and search the Scriptures and go, "Hey, this is what the Scriptures teach. This is what I'm standing on." In Ephesians 4:1-6, Paul says:

"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity…" Circle that word. "…of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

Ephesians 1-3: doctrine, belief. Ephesians 4-6: duty, response, behavior. Once you understand this, once you hold on to this, you're unified.

3._ How are we to contend for the faith?_ The way I would say it is you look at these structures again and think about the essentials. When it comes to the essentials, you are bold. We do not waver on the resurrection. We do not waver on the deity and humanity of Christ. We do not waver that we are saved by grace through faith alone. Period. I'm bold.

On the convictions I try to remain humble. I recognize that there are men like Tim Keller, who's a Presbyterian minister and a man I greatly respect, who has learned, understood, and forgotten more theology than I've ever known. I simply disagree with his view on baptism, but I'm humble before him in that regard. I go, "You know what? I could be wrong." I don't think I am, but I respect him. I learn from him. I'm grateful for him, very grateful for him, and I want to listen.

There are some convictions which, candidly, I put in another category and I go, "That's not a conviction; that's a sin issue." I'm going to be stronger on sexuality and marriage and issues like that that are confusing the church right now. Hopefully I'm always going to remain humble, but I'm going to be strong. On issues of opinion, I'm going to be respectful. I just realize there's room for disagreement. I respect the fact that you want to educate your kids like that, and I'd ask that you'd respect that my wife and I have prayerfully considered how we're educating our kids.

Maybe the way you educate one kid in your home is different than the way you educate the next kid. It's different for everybody, but I want to respect that. Then finally, there are just questions, and I want to be wise. I want to recognize what is truly just a question. I want to recognize that there is a difference between the outer ring and the inner ring. I don't want to look at the guy who comes to Great Questions and is all concerned about the dinosaurs and fight over that.

I remember not long ago one of my neighbors… This was when Watermark was meeting in a high school. We had just had a baptism service at Turtle Creek. If you're familiar with Turtle Creek, that is some nasty water. They dye it green because the natural color would probably be pretty bad. We just chose to go by faith no one would die getting baptized in that park and maybe by drinking the water. You may get gangrene or something like that, but we were doing these baptism services.

Rightfully so, my friend, who was my neighbor at the time… I just remember her standing over me. (She's taller than me.) She has this glass of wine, and she's like, "Blake! Blake! What are y'all doing in that park?" I'm like, "What do you mean?" She goes, "You're baptizing people in the park. That water is nasty! And you go to this church. You're in a high school. That's just weird. It's weird!"

I'm listening to her. I sit there and go, "You know what? She's attempting to love me." I remember her looking at me just going, "What are they going to say about your kids? People are going to invite your kids over to play. Then they're going to find out you're at that weird church that baptizes people in the park. You're going to invite them to go to a high school, which is a church. That's weird. You should be concerned about your kids." Just coming strong.

You know what? I did not look at this neighbor and go, "Let's talk about the merits of baptizing in the park." I just looked at her respectfully and went, "You know what? I respect your opinion. I think you're telling me that because you care about me and you have true questions, but let's do this. If you'll do me this favor, let's talk about this. Who do you believe Jesus is? Why was he on the cross? Do you think he rose again?" That changed our conversation.

I can't expect somebody who doesn't know the Lord to have the same theology and same worldview I have, and I shouldn't demand for her to have that or be understanding. I should look weird. That's what baptism is: a willingness to raise your hand and go, "I'm going to live differently because of what I believe."

What's crazy, though, is through time and through many conversations my same neighbor who looked at me and said, "That's so weird" came to trust Christ, and that same neighbor, within a year later, I baptized in that park, and I held her down just a little longer. Then I baptized her husband, and now her husband works on our staff.

Gang, I can't tell you how important it is to know your Bible, to realize that doctrine, that belief influences behavior. Understand who you're talking to when you're having conversations. Quit getting pulled offside on Facebook about the dinosaurs. Talk to people about Jesus. Don't capitulate the convictions. Don't just in an effort to… "Oh, we just all want to get along, so we should just… Okay." That's not healthy. It's not helpful. It's not biblical. Know your Bible. Love people. Point them to Christ.

Father in heaven, I want to thank you for your kindness toward us. Just thinking about my friend gets me emotional, because I realize you change lives. What we're talking about changes lives. There are people in here today who have been confused about what Christians believe because we've been focusing on dinosaurs. They're confused because churches are punting the historic convictions of the faith. Liberal churches are just acquiescing what is true.

O Lord, help us. Help us to live what we say we believe. Help us to walk faithfully, to be bold, to be humble, to be respectful, to be wise, to be clear in our thinking, to love people, Lord. Thank you that it is you who have given us the eyes to see and the ears to hear, that our lives are changed, that we're a new creation, that we have hope, that we don't live as the naturalist but we live as the Christian. We thank you. In Christ's name, amen.