When I reflect on my Christian life in the church, some of my most discouraging times have come after receiving dumb advice. Proverbs tells us to give “wise counsel,” not just any counsel. In order to serve the people in your church, to give good advice, to bear burdens, to provide wisdom, to be an example of gratitude and of joy — you’ll simply have to know some things about the Bible and about God. This is a non-negotiable.
Don’t care about theology? That may also mean you don’t care about the church. Yet, I understand desire may be an issue. So you if lack the desire in your heart to study theology,pray that God would change your heart and give you the desire to study theology. This will better equip you to serve the people God’s placed around you.
2. For God’s glory.
You want to glorify God with your life. You want to make him know. You desire to bring him pleasure, honor, and, of course, glory. This is very good. The question becomes: Is the pursuit of theology relevant for this endeavor?
J.I. Packer put it this way:
The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you.
How do you glorify God? By enjoying him.
How do you enjoy God? By glorifying him.
What is a prerequisite for both? Knowledge of him.
Sure, head knowledge is not enough. It’s not good to have a brilliant mind but a diseased heart. Worse, it’s not good to know right things but live wrong. But the mind is not a bad place to start.
You can’t have right living without right thinking.2 And you certainly can’t glorify God without right living. Theology may start in the head, but should be accompanied with prayer and meditation, which will transform your heart and life.
Don’t settle for cheerleader, chippy kind of Christianity. Know your God, and know him well. “Doxology without theology is idolatry,” says Shai Linne. Celebrate, yes, but know Whom and why you are celebrating.
3. For your joy.
My first year of undergraduate school was a nightmare. I could hardly sleep at night, was constantly depressed, and had no joy even though I was a Christian. The reason? Money, grades, and relationships — I was anxious about everything.
But that all changed my sophomore year when I learned about the doctrine of God’s providence. I learned through Scripture, Calvin’s Institutes, and listening to a lot of John Piper that God predestines all things that come to pass, and that he is both sovereign and good. Nothing can come way unless divine Providence says so. As a result, I slept better at night, wasn’t as anxious, and walked around campus overflowing with joy because I knew Providence determined everything. Understanding Providence, as they say, set me free.
Time would fail to mention justification by grace through faith, the doctrine of God, the perseverance of the saints, and all the other beautiful doctrines of the Christian faith. This knowledge, if combined with prayer, mediation, and obedience — will bring joy – lots of it. Indeed, your joy in God will not be high if your knowledge of God is low.
So, Christian, read. And read a lot. And then some more. And stop every 10-15 minutes to pray and meditate over what you read, and ask God to help you apply the truths to you life. You must if you want to honor God. As John Piper once said, “God is not honored when people get excited about how little them know of him.”
Note: This article has been slightly modified, and originally appeared on Blogging Theologically.