Sunday, August 28, 2011

Why I Study

When evangelical Christians say the word "doctrine," they may get a number of tacit reactions, including, but not limited to,

  • Immediate boredom
  • Thorough revulsion
  • Cavalier dismissal
  • Polite apathy
I used to be in the last category, but have done a 180 over the last few years. When I say doctrine, I'm talking about a deep and systematic study of the person of God, and the Biblical reasons for why we, as Christ-followers, do believe and must believe what we believe. 

This goes deeper than rote memorization that could fit inside a children's Sunday School song -- it's persistent and careful study of the Bible, understanding of the beautiful implications of the Trinity, caring about the topics that the Word -- and therefore, God! -- cares about, and more.

Not that I claim to have studied the whole Bible thoroughly, or that I "understand the beautiful implications of the Trinity." Goodness, no. If you claim that, you either need to start teaching others how to do what you did, or let the Spirit convict you of your blatant lying problem. I kid, of course. Kind of. 

But, I digress, dear reader! As I was saying, I don't claim any of those things, but I do make the acquisition a closer knowledge of God an ongoing pursuit. Doing that doesn't mean I have to become a major theological scholar, reading N.T. Wright books thicker than Oklahoma air on a warm and humid morning (in other words, it doesn't mean I have to become my sweet husband!). 

It just means a lifelong study of GOD. It's not a study of the things that we choose to focus on about God, but on God Himself, who is infinitely multifaceted so that we never, ever, ever run out of new, amazing and breathtaking things to learn about him. 

I'll admit -- the kind of Bible reading and spiritual study I did in 6th grade was easy, and extremely comfortable, most of the time. Getting from "polite apathy" to passion about doctrine was a long, and sometimes arduous or painful, process. It required many days of wrestling with what I thought I understood about God. It required some disagreement with other believers, and forced me to revisit basic topics. 

I think some people are afraid of going through those things, as if they're bad. They're difficult, but as you know, that's not the same thing as bad! For some, maybe the journey won't be as difficult as it was for me, but it will at least stretch you. At the end of the day, though, when the fruit of your labor blossoms into a new depth of intimacy with Christ and a new, soul-deep passion and adoration of the Gospel of Christ, you will say, "That was SO worth it."

Friends, that's why I study, and why I hope you will, too.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Self-pity is not the same as repentance.

I think it's easy to see our chronic sin problems as pests and nothing more. When they buzz in our faces, showing themselves for what they are, we swat them away and feel sorry for ourselves that we have to deal with them.

For instance, I've had the following thought: "It's unfair that I have to dress so modestly. It's hard to do, and I don't look nearly as good."

I didn't recognize the sin of knowingly causing temptation, and of treating my body, which is "the temple of the Holy Spirit," with disrespect. I pitied myself instead, because it can be difficult and "uncool" not to conform to the world. Though I dressed differently, I didn't address my heart in the matter, so I didn't repent. I treated the symptoms instead of the root problem.

This is only one of a million examples, of course. The point is --

Repentance is a direct confrontation of the root problem.

When we truly repent, we will first recognize the seriousness of our sin. Action flows from recognition - our behavior will change once we see sin as God sees it. Recognition of sin demands a response, and we are in active rebellion when we choose to ignore the issue rather than go to God about it.

Oh, and I can already tell you what God is going to say - come to me, confess, repent, and be made more whole and more holy by the blood of Christ. Though we are already washed clean by Christ's blood so that we have spiritual life, we are being sanctified day by day while we are on this earth. Repentance is a huge part of sanctification. Let us embrace it, because only in Christ can something be simultaneously so difficult and so beautiful...