Its is a shame that “theology” seems to get a bad press among Christians. The study of theology is something that most Christians resist engaging in. This seems to be wrong.
To start to get to grips with this matter we need a definition. A basic definition is that theology is the study of the nature of God. So on the basis of that definition stop and think who should the study of theology be for. And whilst thinking ponder upon the words of our Lord Jesus who said to His Father: Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent (John 17:3). At the heart of our existence is this priority to know God and His Son Jesus. Implicitly then we should all be theologians because our calling is to be studiers of God.Our calling is to know God.
Moreover the logic of love gives full justification for the study of theology. When we love someone we are impulsively driven to find out more about the one we love, As Christians we are brought into a situation whereby we are structured to love God. Our whole default heart position is to have a passionate desire for our God. God’s intervening grace in our lives drives us to respond with love for him. Out of this love we become theologians because we are driven to find out more of the God we love. And then when we learn of how glorious our God is we are drawn to love Him. Out of this love we become studiers of God. It is a virtuous circle. It is those who are true theologians who grow in the love and worship of God.
When we get this perspective on theology we start to think differently. We start to think that every devotional time with the Lord should be a theology time. Every sermon should be a theology sermon. And as we discover more and more of our God we will want to know more of our glorious God. And thereby theology becomes a passion and not a drudgery.
Oh may I love theology!
(Originally posted on Venabling on 5/8/2014)
In Mark 6 we find the Lord and His disciples busy in serving the Lord. Amidst such busyness the Lord counselled that they should go to a place of quiet to rest and be refreshed. Many saw what was happening though, and followed them to where they would alight. Whereupon we read these words. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things (Mark 6:34).
The next verse reads By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. ‘This is a remote place,’ they said, ‘and it’s already very late (Mark 6:35). This would indicate that time was getting on and that it would be best to disperse the crowd as soon as possible. Being aware of this brings the Lord’s approach into sharper relief. Rather than send them away, he chose to teach them. His priority was getting the Word into their lives.
It is as if he saw them wandering through life without true knowledge of how to live. Accordingly, they were, in His sight, sheep without a Shepherd. But how could they find a shepherd? It was through the teaching of God’s Word that they would find out about the Shepherd and the way to find life and live life.
It is further interesting that He taught them many things. He was prepared to stretch them with much from the Word so as to maximise the benefit into their lives.
It would have been so easy to have prioritised getting them home or getting them food, but his priority was getting the Word to them. We must remember this. People need the Words of life that are in Scripture. The world is filled with harassed sheep wandering through life with no shepherd. And we need to teach them.
When the Lord was resisting the devil in the desert He said that “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matt. 4:4). Man lives by the Word of the Lord and not by slogans. This is a principle which so important for church leaders to be cognisant of. Their responsibility is not to devise pithy statements which galvanise the church. Rather, their responsibility is to teach the Word.
A church will not grow through slogans, but there will be growth when the wholesome Word of truth is declared accurately, faithfully and in the power of the Spirit. Accordingly, we must be aware that the Word should be presented in a way that the truth comes in a digestible form for people. So in declaring the Word we can carefully craft our words so the Word impacts lives. Philippians 2:5-11 would be an example of this, i suggest.
This all leads us on to consider that the church does not prosper through the contrived schemes of man. This may give the appearance of progress, but in the end it is an empty shell. True progress comes when the church has been built on the true foundation of the Christ who is revealed in the Word.
Without contradicting what I have said, I do feel though, that having “focus phrases” which help give direction to the church can be used acceptably by church leaderships. however, they must make sure taht the congregation knows that such statements emerge from God’s thoughts not man’s thoughts. William Carey’s dictum Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God would be an example of this.
(This post follows-on from my post of June 20th about Mrs May and Leadership – see here)
Here is our church newsletter for May 2017.
It is one of the great travesties of how the Bible is commonly appreciated by people that the account of Noah and the Flood is represented to be a fairy story about animals and boats. In Scripture it is not so. It is an utterly frightening event and when we read it we should be shocked to our core. And we should be provoked to be asking lots of questions.
Consider this scripture in Genesis 7:20-23:
The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. Every living thing that moved on land perished – birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.
Please ponder that scripture and be sobered by it. If you had not entered the ark then you were wiped out: Every living thing (including mankind) that moved on the earth perished. Ponder the account as it developed in Genesis 6-7:
- The Earth was wicked
- Noah sought to follow the Lord and was found to be in His favour.
- The Lord promised judgment.
- The Lord commands Noah to build an ark
- The requisite animals and birds went in the ark
- Noah and his sons and the four wives went in to the ark
- The Lord shut the door.
- Then the rain came.
- Then utter total devastation.
If you went into the ark, you had salvation! If you did not go in you perished! Today if you respond to the gospel and go into Christ you are saved. If not, if you refuse the gospel offer, you face a greater perishing event than those in Noah’s day; an eternal perishing.
Please ponder that.
If you have been preaching in a certain church (or other situation) for a lengthy period of time then you are very likely to have built up significant capital with the people. That capital does not accrue automatically of course. It accrues through accurately, faithfully and appropriately bringing the Word to the people. It also builds up through continual prayerful care for the people. It is good that people have learned to trust you over that period and you have built up a significant capital of trust.
However, the accrual of capital does have its dangers. These largely stem from being complacent. When you start off in a ministry there are very few liberties you can take. This is because if you do err in any way, you are likely to make people wary of you. But after a period, when trust has been built, there can be a tendency to complacency.
One way I have been thinking of how this can be manifest is with regards to becoming casual in preaching. If you have preached faithfully over many years the people are likely to trust what you say. This can mean that you can start to cut corners in your preparation and in particular in your exegesis of the text. “No-one will notice” is your conclusion and no harm will be done.
However, to allow such an attitude to encroach upon your soul is most dangerous. It means that you lose that care in dealing with God’s Word. And if that continues a rot can set in which can lead to all kinds of havoc. Accordingly, we must make sure we can take our stand with Paul who, on the verge of glory said I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. ( 2 Tim. 4:7). We should always be hearing Paul’s injunction to Timothy to Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
So you have someone who professes to be a Christian. However, over a period of time they have either refused to be baptised or refused to become a member of a church. They have received teaching that this is the normal way for the Christian, but have refused to respond to that teaching. So my question is why should they be now treated as a Christian?
This picks up something I considered here. Where there is no evidence of being a Christian why should we allow someone the dignity of being treated as a Christian?
Let’s run at this another way. There are two realms in which people exist. There is the church and the world. The church is the place where God is honoured and His people are committed to Him. The world is the place where God is ignored and “me” reigns”. In Matthew 18:15-17 we see there how someone who refuses to repent of their ungodly behaviour is put outside the church and the church is to treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector (Matt. 18:17b). In this instance someone is placed outside the church because of their behaviour and in view of that they are to be treated as a non-Christian. In a similar way those who refuse to be baptised or become a church member are displaying that they don’t want the way of God. So upon persistent refusal to be baptised and join a church surely we should start to treat them as “a pagan and a tax collector”.
There are obviously exceptions here. Someone maybe in very restricted circumstances such as being in a closed Islamic country. Or someone maybe in a new church planting or missionary situation. But these exceptions do not take away from the persuasiveness of the general principle.