Friday, February 24, 2017

Theology Matters

Theology Matters
     Theology is a necessity in the Christian life. Christians are to study their God. This is what theology is, studying the Lord of Glory. God is to be studied through the revelation that he has provided. God has revealed himself in creation, providence, and his holy word. Scripture is the primary source for knowing God. The Bible is God's word to man, it is his revelation of himself and his mighty works.
     Creation tells us much about God, but it does not have the clarity of the scriptures, nor the scope. Creation does not reveal all of God, our sinfulness, or the gospel. Natural revelation, or creation, is important, however. It often serves as a commentary to the truths of Scripture. It does in some sense reveal God (Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:18-20).
     Theology, then is the study of Scripture in order to know and learn about God and to be edified in the Christian faith. Said another way, theology is Scripture applied. It is applied to every area of life. After all, believers do live in this world, have problems, face difficulties, are tempted, have questions, and need guidance. Scripture, among other things, reveals God to the believer, assures them, fills them with hope, makes known the various promises of God, and tells of the Savior who lived and died for sinners.
     This means that theology is for the people. It is for every believer. The sheep need to know the Bible and the God of the Bible. Theology is not just for pastors and academics. Theology is to be preached and taught. It is to be learned, studied, known, and applied by all Christians.
Necessity of Theology
     So, why is theology necessary? First, theology provides clarity and unity to the entire body of biblical material. Theology summarizes or compartmentalizes vast amount of biblical data. This makes it easier to learn, digest, know, teach, preach, and apply.
     Second, theology responds to the changing challenges of Christianity in a fallen world and culture. Theology is needed because the Bible simply does not address every issue that believers face in our differing cultures. Examples include: abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, etc. Theology takes what is written in Scripture and applies it to the many areas and concerns that plague us.
     Third, theology is part of the discipleship of believers and a witness of the truth to a lost world. Theology teaches Christians what the Bible says in order for them to grow in the grace and knowledge of the truth. It formulates what is believed and stands as a witness of God's truth against a lost and dying world.
     Fourth, theology maintains the integrity of the faith and repels attacks from inside and outside the church. Theology documents what is believed and held uniformly over against the different ideas and doctrines of others who call themselves “Christians” but believe contrary teachings. It is also an arsenal to be utilized when assaulted by untruth, sinful culture, or other enemies of God and the gospel.
     Fifth, theology tells the narrative of God, how man fits into that narrative, and how to live within God's narrative appropriately. The church was given the privilege of communicating the message of God, the Fall of man, God's redemption, and man's responsibility to respond to the gospel. Having this responsibility, the church must be faithful in teaching and proclaiming God's message, but also living out the truth and showing that it does make a difference in every area of life.
Goals of Theology
     The goals of theology are many. People study theology in order to know God better, increase their love for and intimacy with God, deepen their relationship with God by heightening knowledge of his person and work, and to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. Also, theology is studied to build up the body of Christ, unify the faith and knowledge of Christ, encourage spiritual maturity and Christlikeness, and stimulates discernment and faithfulness. Finally, theology is studied to evoke truthful and loving speech, kindle growth of the entire person, and to conjure progress in development and love.
     Theology is important. It cannot be avoided. If you are a Christian and read or hear the word of God, you are a theologian. Hopefully, you are a good one. Upon reading the Bible, you learn doctrine and summarize the information that has been learned. This summarizing is theology. This learning of doctrine is theology. When you read the word of God, you are learning about God. This, again, is theology. You are a theologian. Please strive to be a responsible, biblical, and Christlike theologian.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

What the Church Needs: Jesus

What The Church Needs: Jesus
     There are many examples in Scripture of godly men fulfilling their call and glorifying God. They serve as models; albeit, they are imperfect ones. However, they can teach us many truths both by their positive and even their negative actions. We look to these men only in an effort to project their emulative characteristics back onto us, realizing all the time that they are mere men, and sinful men at that (except, of course, Christ Jesus). We can learn; we must learn from those who have gone before. We look at these men and examples of the past in order to reform the present. Ultimately, however, we must look to Christ. We know looking back throughout the Bible that Christ was active within his people. As we look back on them, we are actually focused on Christ and his work then to better our now. So, what do we need?
Jesus (Philippians 2:1-11)
     We need Christlike humility, obedience, submission, and ministry founded on love, mercy, truth, and sacrifice. I mean our Lord no disrespect by grouping him with mere men. I am simply continuing and touching on characteristics drawn from godly men in an effort to glean truths that may be applied to the church as a whole today. Jesus was a man, and he is the perfect example. Of course, I acknowledge that he is not just a man; he is the God Man. However, he lived life on this earth as a man; therefore, we can and should learn from him. Paul did not have a problem in alluding to his flesh and earthly existence. Neither shall we.
     In the passage before us, Paul uses Christ Jesus as an example of humility. He taught the Philippian believers to have the same mind as Christ. What was this mindset? What were these believers (and us) supposed to emulate?
     Jesus humbled himself. He became a servant. King Jesus stepped down from heaven and served others. That's humility. He, who ought to be served, ministered to sinful and fallen people. We, on the other hand, remain prideful and act as if people should serve us. We may minister, but part of us thinks that we ought to be served by the people we serve. Some serve and enjoy doing it, but some serve only to gain. Whether it is financially or numerically; whether it is in the eyes of the people or in their egos, some serve only to benefit. That is not humble service and ministry. That is not done sacrificially and lovingly. That is definitely not Christlike.
     Jesus not only humbled himself, but he was also obedient. Additionally, he was not just obedient, but he was obedient even to the point of death. Jesus completely submitted to the will of the Father and obeyed. His will, being the same as the Father's, was to live humbly, submissively, and obediently to the law in order to carry out and fulfill the plan of redemption. He was to live a perfect life and offer himself as the perfect, final, and complete sacrifice. Mission accomplished!
     We need ministries founded on the love, mercy, truth, and sacrifice of Christ. We would do well to seek to be obedient and humble like our Savior. Should we not serve our people humbly and out of love and not under compulsion or for gain? Where are our hearts and our motives? Is our ministry patterned after Christ, or does the world or corporate America dictate and characterize our ministries? Paul said that this “mind” was to be among us. This is a mindset. If it is a mindset, then it should be in our thoughts. We know that whatever we think makes up who we are (what are our thoughts but the desires and inclinations of our hearts? What is in the heart manifests itself in the mind and thoughts). We need to identify what dominates our thoughts. What has our attention? What are we focused on? Who or what are we serving?
     The Christian is called to be Christlike. Everything about us (ministries, work ethic, home, etc.) should also resemble Christ. He is our perfect standard and example. By God's grace, we are being conformed into the image of Christ. Things ought to look differently than they do. Where is the humility? Where is the love? Where is the putting others first? Where is the joy, affection, and sympathy? Where indeed.
     Christ needs to be put back in Christianity; he needs to be the primary focus (Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5-6). Many who call themselves Christian and name the name of Christ have very little to do with Christ. They neither know him nor serve him. Even more frightening is the fact that he does not know them if they are unregenerate. Oh, that God would shed his grace on us and send another reformation (Hos. 6:1-3; Ps. 80:18-19; Rom. 12:2). Pray for God's mercy; may he not give us what we deserve (Ps. 86:5, 103:8; Mi. 7:18-19). Ask God to dress you in his armor and train you how to use it (1 Thess. 5:8; Eph. 6:10-19). Finally, pray that God grants you discernment and awareness; beg for the wherewithal to beware of dangers, snares, and entrapments (2 Pet. 3:17-18; 1 Pet. 5:8; Phil. 1:9-10; Col. 1:9-10).
     The church needs the grace of God to become more like Christ. That is the greatest need of the day. Why? To summarize, let us turn to Jonathan Edwards:
Christ said to his disciples, 'Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven:” so the Spirit of Christ, in his apostle James, does in effect say, ...Except what you experience in your souls go beyond the experiences of devils, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of God. (Jonathan Edwards, “True Grace Distinguished From the Experience of Devils” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2 vols. (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2004), 2:47)

      We need grace because without it, we are damned. Without the grace of God, there is no conversion, hope, growth, conviction, truth, faith and repentance, regeneration, joy, or worship. Without the grace of God, life would be unbearable and unlivable. The world would be a barren wasteland not fit to support life. We need grace. Everything begins and ends with grace—grace permeates throughout the middle. It's the grace of God that gives us God. It is the grace of God that gives us Christ and the Spirit. Marvelous and matchless grace!
     Pray for it, desire it, beg God for it, thank God for it, meditate on it, relish it, cherish it, long for it, live in it and for it. Grace! God, we need your grace. Drink it, dine on it, breathe it, speak it, pray it, think it, sing it, love it, anticipate it, grow in it, and wait for it. It is the grace of God that distinguishes the truth from falsehoods and the light from darkness. Grace differentiates devils from angels and saints.
     No grace equals all hell. Be warned. Be mindful. Be aware. Be examining and praying. Be diligent. Be repenting and trusting. Soli Deo Gloria!