In short: Jesus and people!
We have found that God's story -- the story of his love, our rebellion, his redemption, and his restoration -- makes the best sense of both why we long for meaning, goodness, and love -- and why they all can seem so elusive. Why we so deeply fight with and distrust each other even as we need each other and long to be at peace. In his story, God shows that he is personal, and he is good. He is the source of all true love and goodness, and he communicates his goodness through his actions and through his word, and most of all through Jesus.
This story has all kinds of implications for how we see God, ourselves, other people, and our place in the world. Here, we lift up just four: we are Jesus-centered, other-focused, grace-anchored, scriptural, and confessional.
Because God is personal, he speaks. And he doesn't just send messages. No! When you love, you always come yourself. And in Jesus of Nazareth, God himself came in love to make us a part of his story. Through Jesus, our great, good, glorious, and good God frees us to live and love rightly, finding our true and full identity in him and him alone.
If God himself has 'emptied himself of all but love' (as both the old hymn and Philippians 2 put it), than how can we not give ourselves to the people around us? We are finite - we do not have God's infinite resources in ourselves. But with the Holy Spirit himself among and in us...actually, we do. Therefore we look to live out God's generosity, God's befriending, God's self-giving, and God's inter-relationship in our lives with whomever God has placed there, trusting that God himself will give us what we need. Most of all, himself.
Both our self-identity and love for others is anchored by God's grace: None of us were good enough for God -- but he came and found us anyway. So how can any of us justly look at any other person with any kind of pride?
At the same time, if God loves us -- what hold can shame have over us?
God's grace frees us to simply be ourselves AND postured for love towards others. All others.
The bible isn't really a rulebook, though God does give instruction for how life works best. And it isn't primarily a book of heroes, though there are some amazing (and amazingly bad) people. Instead, says Jesus, the bible is about him. The bible is a record of God's story. And when read and heard rightly, it leads us to Jesus, and leads us into life and love.
This means both that we make no secret of what we believe, and are glad to stand in full continuity with our sisters and brothers from the past 2000 years. We believe we will grow more, love more, and do justice more by becoming more Christian, not less so. (And speaking historically, the Church has most dramatically failed to love at the times when it has become less Christian.) In our life together as IPC we particularly lift up the Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, and the Heidelberg Catechism as reliable and authoritative expositions of what we understand Scripture to be telling us about God.
And aside from scripture itself, few words can match the beauty and depth of these (from the Heidelberg Catechism):
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own,
but belong — body and soul, in life and in death
— to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.