What We Believe
The leadership of Catalyst of Austin believes that God, as revealed in Scripture (the Bible), is the creator of all things visible and invisible. God created humanity in his image to be in relationship with Him and one another and to rule the earth. In what theologians label “The Fall”, humanity chose to live independently of God. This independence from God has led to brokenness in our lives, relationships, communities, and world at large.
The Scriptures describe a plan to redeem, reconcile and restore humanity’s relationship with God. The beginnings of this plan involved God calling a people through which to reveal himself. The Old Testament (Creation and the Story of Israel), through different genres of literature including history and poetry, takes us from the beginnings of creation through the history of the people of Israel. God established a Law for the people of Israel to be distinct and set apart from the other civilizations of the Ancient Near East. Through judges, kings, prophets, wise men, poets, and chroniclers, we trace the story of the Israelites ups and downs in their relationship with God.
Ultimately, though God had revealed himself to Israel and protected, guided and instructed them, they were unable to remain faithful to Him. Their inability to trust and love God revealed that humanity is indeed broken and unable to live out the very purpose for which we were made: to live in close relationship with God and one another. Brokenness, despair, insignificance, strife, fighting with one another, pride, self-centeredness, and independence from God would inevitably be our fate.
The New Testament Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) begin with the birth of Jesus in approximately 6 B.C and inform us that throughout the entire Old Testament timeframe, God was indeed unravelling a plan for our redemption, reconciliation and restoration. This plan would culminate in the person of Jesus. Jesus was born through supernatural events and his Jewish lineage reflected that he was the one spoken of by several Old Testament prophets. Through his life and teachings it would become evident that he was not a mere man. He was fully man and fully God. The Apostle John describes Jesus like this:
In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
In essence, Jesus is God incarnated in human flesh. In order to redeem, reconcile and restore humanity, God became one of us to live the life he created us to live; a life of relating to God and one another in love. Jesus performed miracles, healings, and even raised individuals back from the dead, illustrating his divine nature. Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God, the ultimate return of humanity and all creation back to God’s original desire. Jesus taught about an adversarial “spirit being” referred to as the devil (accuser) or Satan (adversary). Jesus recruited and trained disciples who he could reveal himself to and invest in to advance the Kingdom of God after his physical departure.
Jesus’ greatest accomplishment was also the greatest paradox in human history: his triumphant death. Due to his opposition to the hollow religion of the Jewish leadership in the first century A.D under the Roman Empire, Jesus was ultimately sentenced to a criminal’s death in the most torturous and humiliating fashion – Roman Crucifixion. Ironically, he was put to death on the same calendar date as a Jewish festival called Passover in which the Jews celebrated escape from death due to the shed blood of a lamb. Three days later, Jesus triumphed over death and proved that he was who he said he was by coming back to life. His resurrection is what Christians celebrate thousands of years later on Easter. Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus ascended back to heaven to be with the Father.
The events of Jesus’ life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension ushered in a new era of humanity’s relationship with God. Jesus created a way for us to be redeemed, reconciled and restored back to God and one another. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” Jesus is our substitute that allows for our atonement. This amazingly good news is what Christians refer to as “The Gospel”. The word gospel itself means good news. God, through Jesus, has created a way for us to reconnect with his original desire for creation. Despite our brokenness and sinful nature, we can be forgiven and realigned with God’s purpose for us.
Before Jesus’ physical departure, he told his disciples that God’s Spirit, referred to in Scripture as the “Holy Spirit” would come to them and help them to begin Jesus’ church. The word “church” simply means a “called out” community. The Book of Acts in the New Testament describes the arrival of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the church. As the Apostles began sharing about the true nature of Jesus’ person and death, burial and resurrection, people began to respond and place their faith in Jesus. As they placed their faith in Jesus, they were welcomed into the church. The church became the faith community that would meet their physical and spiritual needs. The church also served as the community commissioned to advance the Kingdom of God. The church was called to help as many as possible to be redeemed, reconciled and restored to God and each other through Jesus.
Through the Book of Acts we see men of God like Philip, Peter and Paul advancing God’s Kingdom through starting new churches and sharing Jesus with people from all backgrounds. Scripture and history detail Christianity’s spread throughout the Roman Empire in the first few centuries A.D.
In letters inspired by the Holy Spirit written to the early churches and Christians by men of God such as Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude, we see God shaping the theology and missiology of the church. People individually responded to God’s gracious gospel of redemption, reconciliation and restoration through faith in Jesus. Faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross ushers us into the Kingdom of God. The New Testament writers highlight aspects of this response to the gospel that fall under the overriding umbrella of faith. Under this umbrella of a faithful response to the gospel we find belief in Jesus as the Son of God; belief that he died, was buried and did indeed resurrect; a confession that “Jesus is Lord;” an acceptance of Jesus as Savior/Messiah/Christ; repentance (a paradigm shift, a thinking anew about your life and relationship with God); baptism (an identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus through being immersed and raised out of a body of water); and a commitment to a life of being a follower/disciple of Jesus.
Having responded to the gospel through faith, believers are placed in Christ and personally given the Holy Spirit to live within them and help them to live the life God intended for them, free from brokenness and filled with purpose. Believers are also added to the body of Christ, his church, where they receive encouragement and instruction for living a renewed life that reflects their redemption, reconciliation and restoration with God and others.
Scripture, the Holy Spirit and the church are integral for believers as even though we are redeemed, reconciled and restored, we are still plagued by our brokenness/sinful nature. Much of the New Testament letters are an encouragement to live a life that reflects our new relationship with God. Christian ethics thereby reflect God’s original desire for how we are to relate to him and one another. At the heart of the Christian ethic is love. Love is self-sacrificial commitment and service to others. At the heart of our brokenness/sinful nature is self-centeredness but true love denies self to love others. No one exemplified this more than Jesus.
Living out the Christian ethic is not possible on our own strength. It is not a matter of will power but a matter of being in Christ, having the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and being motivated by God’s grace. Someone not in Christ, due to our overall brokenness as a result of being independent of God, is simply unable to display the morality God intended for humanity. The goal therefore is not to chastise people on their morality but to get them into Christ so that they can become new creations. Through God’s power they are then led into living out the morals and ethics God originally desired.
Through lives of individual and collective love, we are able to reflect God to those around us – our families, communities, nations and the world at large. This is the ultimate mission of Jesus’ church. Through redeeming, reconciling and restoring humanity to God and one another through Jesus, we shatter self-centeredness and facilitate relationships of true love.
The Kingdom of God has been growing through the agency of Jesus’ church for two millennia. The Kingdom is not fully realized however until Jesus’ return. Christians and creation itself eagerly await Jesus’ return as it is then that all things will be fully restored. The New Testament writers paint a picture of all things being new. A state of complete union, harmony and peace with God will be realized once again. There will be no more brokenness or pain or tears or death. The church, inclusive of Catalyst of Austin, seeks to be on the frontlines of advancing the Kingdom of God until Jesus’ return. We, the Church, are the most important change agents in creation.
This is a divine mission worth being a part of!
(What has been discussed above is the narrative of Judeo-Christian Scripture (The Bible): Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. Specific bible quotations were not provided for every point because the entire Bible was essentially overviewed. The entire narrative of the Bible was highlighted instead of specific aspects of a systematic theology)