Sunday, January 1, 2012

Why Becoming a Bible Scholar Matters

The·ol·o·gy. The study of God. Of faith. Of religion.

Not for you? Don't be so sure.

It's easy to brush aside lack of knowledge about God and Scripture by saying, "Well, I'm not a theologian. Theology and big words like that are for professors. Besides, God doesn't expect me to understand all that hard stuff anyway." Sorry. That couldn't be further from the truth.

For others of us, it's the opposite. We think we're theologians just because we know the lingo, because words like "grace," "holiness," "justification," "regeneration" and "sanctification" roll off the tongue with ease. Yet, if asked to define these terms, we likely couldn't...or even if we could, we've never consulted the Scripture to see if what the pastor or our parents said is actually true.

The terminology is just part of our religious vocabulary, part of being a nominal Christian in America where Christian is more like one's race or gender that we check off on some questionnaire rather than something we choose to live moment by moment.

Whichever camp you fall into, searching the Scriptures is for you. Living off someone else's message from God just isn't enough to satisfy. Worse? Solely living off someone else's message from or about God is dangerous.

It's all about foundation. And a foundation can only be laid by the Word.

When speaking to His Disciples, Christ said, "'Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great'” (Luke 6:46-49).

Even in Jesus' day, He saw the problem with nominal Christianity. And He pointed to the person's foundation as the problem--they spoke the religious lingo but their hearts didn't understand the "words" of Christ.

Here in this space, I generally try to insight into God's Word, sometimes something simple, other times a bit deeper in the hopes that you will dwell on the Word during the week, that the few verses I give will make you crave it yourself, send you hungry to its wafer thin pages.

With the start of this New Year, I have felt drawn to encourage you to dig deep, yourself, to make 2012 a year when you determine that the fundamentals of Christianity are worth your time to firm up in your mind and heart.

If you're presently where I was several years ago, you've been calling yourself a Christian so long that you feel like you've always known everything about God, Christ, and the church. You may have even become numb to the religious language, wonder what the big deal is for others to believe differently if they attend to a moral code and believe in "a" God, too.

It matters. Your foundation. Theology.

Joshua Harris says in Dug Down Deep: Building Your Life on Truths That Last," Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong...We're either building our lives on the reality of what God is truly like and what he's about, or we're basing our lives on our own imagination and misconceptions. We're all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true."

Although Harris' book is not earth shaking in the slightest, its intent is to "tak[e] doctrinal ideas off the high shelf...and put them to work in [our] everyday lives" (25). He attempts to show through Scripture how knowing God's personal attributes is imperative, why Jesus had to be made flesh, why the Cross is necessary for salvation, what is the difference between salvation and self reformation, how holiness isn't just a list of rules to keep unbroken, why fellowship with a church body is important.

Where some authors forget to say why he believes something, Harris litters the text with Scripture references, sending you scampering back to God's Word to check it yourself. It's worth tracking down his book if after reading this, that little nagging voice in the back of your head says you don't have a firm a grasp on the foundational truths as you come across to others as having.

My call for you, for me this upcoming year is nothing groundbreaking. It's simple, for Christians to get back to the basics and quit nit picking over the peripheral issues. I challenge you and me both to make sure our understanding of the basic Christian tenets are Scriptural truths we understand down deep versus mere surface traditions.

I am convinced if each Christian will take the time to build his individual faith's firm foundation, America will see a unity in the church and revival across the land. But first, we must get back to the truth found only in the Word...and understand it firsthand.

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