Rev. Justin Lee Marple, Pastor of Niagara Presbyterian Church in the Presbytery of Western New York.
My calling to be a teaching shepherd is one way I am living out my calling to be one of the sheep of Jesus Christ. I was once one of His lambs, and it is a wonderful testimony to God's faithfulness from generation to generation that my wife and I can carry Jesus' little lambs, our son Josiah and daughter Arwen, to worship.
The True and Living God and Salvation
I believe in the one Triune God of the Christian faith: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In history, the Son became flesh and tabernacled among us. Tempted in every way, Jesus Christ lived in perfect submission to the Father all the way to the cross and the grave. Having been made sin for us, God declared the justification of Christ in his resurrection. It is this once for all work of Jesus Christ, who is fully divine and fully human, that has secured us as an inheritance for God and given us an inheritance. This was part of God's plan to bless humanity through the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, the seed of David. I can do nothing of my own initiative to earn this salvation: it is only the faith that God gives on the basis of his grace alone that secures this inheritance of eternal life. As part of God's inheritance only on account of his free and sovereign grace, I find myself desiring to be a living sacrifice before God presenting my mouth, hands, and feet to him as instruments for reconciliation.
The Spirit and Scripture
After the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, he sent the Spirit to continue his work. The Holy Spirit, the seal of the gospel of my salvation, provides my unity with Christ and those in Christ, sanctifies and renews my heart, and gives me access to the Father. The Spirit of the Son intercedes perfectly for me, crying out "Abba, Father." It is because of the Spirit who dwells in me that I can say, "Jesus is Lord." And it is the Holy Spirit who assures and persuades me that Scripture, fully the words of its various human authors, is the Word of God. All of Scripture points to Jesus Christ. In light of the salvation provided through Christ, I live to glorify God and find satisfaction in him. The motivation for my actions in the minutiae of everyday life rests in what he has done for me rather than aiming to satisfy myself. It is in union and communion with God through the Spirit that I find my identity and that shapes my decisions. The same is true for all who are in Christ.
Reconciliation and the Sacraments
Reconciliation with God necessarily entails reconciliation with one another. Baptism, the sign and seal of moving from alienation to reconciliation with God, is a public adoption ceremony as God the Father declares us his children, God the Son declares our covenant union with him in the death on the cross and resurrection to glory, and God the Holy Spirit prophetically signifies that we belong to the age to come. United to God through this covenant, we are united to everyone in the covenant community -- the church. Therefore, the Lord's Supper, the sign and seal of communion with God, is a covenant meal manifesting the unity of the community under Christ. And as members of the church, each and every man and woman works together as instruments in the hands of the Redeemer working for reconciliation. The reasons I have stressed this gospel facet of reconciliation are that I have personally witnessed how broken relationships fracture the body of Christ and that estrangement and isolation have too often described my own life. However, seeking and offering forgiveness and fellowship should characterize our lives in faith union with Christ. And it is through the unfolding of the meaning of my baptism that God nurtures my faith and through participating in the Lord's Supper that God further strengthens my faith so that I share and live the message of reconciliation.
Other Key Theological Issues
Faith and repentance are inseparable -- you do not find either alone. When you turn to Christ you turn away from and renounce sin. It is disturbing that many in the denomination want to call what is evil 'good.' In this sense, I am a conservative. Among the more controversial issues, this means that I work to promote life for the most vulnerable among us (like the unborn and the elderly) and that I am a conservative on the sexuality issues.
Some might say that I am a liberal on other issues like the environment. Simply put my position is that we should make a positive impact on the environment. That is, we should work to build roads and other things to proclaim the gospel in word and in deed. However, we need to reverse any negative impact we have made on the environment. We need to clean up the water, land, and air and work to keep it clean.
Thus I seek to be conservative where Scripture is considered conservative by our culture and liberal where Scripture is considered liberal by our culture.
One theological quiz online concluded that I am a Reformed Evangelical. This is probably a good way to describe my theology. I am Reformed, and that does not mean whatever we want it to mean, it means that I believe that the system of theology taught by the Reformers, like John Calvin and others, and our confessions accurately reflects the teaching of Scripture.