Do Christians ever outgrow the Gospel? I mean isn’t the Gospel what you heard in Sunday school or vacation Bible school when you were a kid? Surely we are beyond that now right? Nope–not if we really understand how wonderful and radical the Gospel truly is.
Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.
Sometimes theology and doctrine get a bad rap. And sometimes for good reason! Cold, long, dry lectures on theology as if someone were attempting to solve a particularly tricky geometry problem. Ugh. But doctrine does not exist for us to “solve” God. We are called to know God.
“Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.” – Jer. 9:23-24
Knowing God means learning about him (who he has revealed himself to be) and experiencing relationship with him. Both are vital.
Sometimes in our heart of hearts we wonder…could this really be true? Is God really this good? This wonderful? Am I really this loved and accepted?
The sweetness of doctrine says yes. And it is the sweetness of this understanding that allows us to press more deeply into God and experience his love. Trusting that he is who he says he is. That is walking by faith in the every day of life. Because of God’s past faithfulness, we can trust him for an unseen future.
Recently as I have been walking through circumstances that are painful and sad I have been reminded again and again of God’s goodness.
No matter what happens, I am an adopted son. And my heavenly Father loves me more than I could ever know. My status as an adopted son is the basis for and the lens through which I should view my relationship with him.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16
Theologian J.I. Packer captures the heart of adoption this way:
“Justification is the basic blessing, on which adoption is founded; adoption is the crowning blessing, to which justification clears the way. Adopted status belongs to all who receive Christ (John 1:12). The adopted status of believers means that in and through Christ God loves them as he loves his only-begotten Son and will share with them all the glory that is Christ’s now (Rom. 8:17, 38–39).” (emphasis mine)
Wow. That is sweet. Knowing God in Christ is essential for thinking Christianly and walking in wisdom.
If you enjoyed this post, you would enjoy this podcast episode on the importance of doctrine.
Who wants to be foolish? I don’t. I suspect you don’t either. Recently I was reading in the Psalms and came across some encouraging and challenging words I wanted to share with you. This is a prayer of David that we can all learn from.
Teach me how to live, O Lord.
Lead me along the right path,
for my enemies are waiting for me. – Ps. 27:11
Three Observations to Help Us Walk in Wisdom
(1) We must invite God to teach us how to live. This makes the obvious and sometimes uncomfortable assumption that we need to learn–we don’t know everything. Ouch.
Recently our dishwasher started leaking. That’s a problem because if something breaks around the house, I’m not the guy you want fixing it! But in this case I was the best (and only) solution and our budget agreed. So I recognized very quickly that I needed to learn something about how dishwashers worked. Thankfully dishwasher experts left a trail of YouTube videos for me to follow and my ignorance on this particular problem evaporated. You will be happy to know that we are no longer hand washing all the dishes!
(2) We need a reliable guide. This observation is equally humbling. We don’t always know where we are going. In fact, truth be told, we often don’t know where we are going. We’re too stubborn to ask for directions when we know (and everyone else around us knows) that we’re truly lost. We think we are on the right path because it feels good to us. But this approach can be very dangerous. As the book of Proverbs reminds us:
“There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death” (14:12)
Ps. 27:11 clearly teaches that there is a “right” path and by definition this also means there is a wrong path. Whether we happen to believe it or not, there are paths that are spiritual dead ends, morally and relationally toxic, physically harmful, and intellectually dangerous.
Because God loves us he doesn’t want us to take those paths. We need someone who has been there and knows the paths and can coach us in navigating harmful and helpful paths. “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful” (Prov. 29:18). We need someone who can give us knowledge of how to truly live.
(3) We have real enemies that are trying to harm us. It is easy to forget this truth. Sometimes we are too busy to notice or we are naive when it comes to knowing our own hearts. But there are enemies we need to be aware of waiting to attack from within and from without. God’s Word is clear on this:
“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
What we watch, listen to, think about. How we spend our time. Who we spend our time with. Who we invite to teach us. What we say yes and no to–all are leading us toward life or death. And we need to remember that we have an enemy that is actively trying to destroy us. We don’t need to walk in fear, but we do need to be alert so that we don’t blindly step into traps.
One of the first steps to walking in wisdom is to take the truths contained in David’s prayer recorded in Psalm 27:11 seriously. Pray them and apply them. We need to invite God to teach and guide us while we are on the look out for the enemies that seek to destroy us.
Tests. Ugh. Sometimes I wish I had finished with them when I graduated from school. No more homework. No more tests. Sounds great right? Unless there is more to it than that when it comes to the spiritual life.
Recently I re-read some words from The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard that helped me rethink this approach again:
“First we must accept the circumstances we constantly find ourselves in as a place of God’s kingdom and blessing. God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are, and if we faithlessly discard situation after situation, moment after moment, as not being “right,” we will simply have no place to receive his kingdom into our life. For those situations and moments are our life.”
These tests and situations are opportunities. Though well stated, Willard did not come up with this idea. The brother of Jesus did:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4 (NASB)
Comfort is not God’s goal for my life–wow that is even painful to type! Being a disciple means doing homework and taking tests–not to earn God’s favor or merit his grace, but to grow. Growth is not comfortable but it is good, necessary, and what we were made for. This is another reason why theology matters.
God help me receive todays’s circumstances–as husband, father, friend, co-worker–as an opportunity to grow. Help me pass the test for your glory and my ultimate benefit. Help change my perspective.
Sign up to receive our free blog updates.
How have you experienced receiving circumstances as opportunities in your life? Share how God has met you in them below in the comments section to encourage one another.