From time to time I will hear from congregants something they love about God or their Christian faith. Believe it or not, seldom do I hear, “I love doctrine!” Actually, you probably can believe that without any difficulty! Why do you suppose that is? Over the next three weeks or so I wish to take some time in our e-bulletin to encourage you to consider the importance of knowing and cherishing biblical doctrine. I will try to address some misconceptions along the way as well.
To start, it is important to know what doctrine actually is. Too often we think of doctrine as nit picky details theologians concern themselves with that only has the effect of dividing Christians and churches. It is something inaccessible to “regular” Christians, or at least boring and irrelevant. What if I suggested to you that learning doctrine is the same thing as learning about God? Does that not cast the learning of doctrine differently? Firstly in terms of importance, and secondly in terms of interest. Each week I will look at a couple of benefits to learning more about God (“gee pastor, when you put it that way, that this is really about God and not dusty books, maybe I should think again about doctrine). Yes, that’s the Spirit (pun intended)!
1) Doctrine improves your love life
How about that as an opener? It is true, your love for God is limited by your knowledge of him. In so far as you truly know God, you will love God.
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)
Knowing doctrine leads to greater love because knowing doctrine leads to a greater knowledge of God. Do you desire to love others more regularly, more fully, more unconditionally? Then hunger and thirst for a greater knowledge of the Lord. Paul prayed desperately: “That I may know him (Phil 3:10a). Do you know him as your forgiver? Jesus said that those who recognize the depth of God’s forgiveness of themselves love with a greater depth of love (cf Luke 7:47. To know God is to know love. To know and receive God’s love, his deep abiding love, is to equip yourself with the kind of transformative love that radically alters hearts – starting with yours. Studying doctrine is not the study of facts, but of a person. Do you not long to know more of those you choose to love?
2) Doctrine puts you in your place
That is to say, knowing doctrine leads to true Christian humility. Most of you know I enjoy running. As my health has improved I have resumed a very active and regular running routine. I can relate to the Eric Little character in Chariots of Fire who says: “When I run, I feel his pleasure.” Just this past week I was doing some reading and video review of one of the greatest middle distance runners, Sebastian Coe. His running workouts present a staggering challenge to even the best milers of today, even after nearly four decades. To a mere miling mortal like me it is deeply humbling. The gulf between the quality of his workouts and mine are truly insurmountable, no matter how much time and effort I put into training. My estimation of his gifting and dedication increases the more I read of him, whilst the awareness of my weakness grows. It is no different with the Lord. The more we know him in nature, character and actions, the more distant we recognize we are. In fact the distance between God and his creation is infinite. He is all powerful, whilst we are weak. He is all knowing, whilst we are blind. He is perfectly holy, whilst we are sinful. He is steadfast, whilst we are fickle. To know God is to be humbled; you cannot see God for who he is and be proud.
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6b)
True Christian humility elevates us through the realty and sufficiency of God’s grace, not the feeble attempts of a proud man.
Over the next few Sundays we will continue to work through the five key biblical doctrines so important to the Reformation: Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and To the Glory of God Alone. I trust you will be blessed as we learn more of our great God!
As we gather for Sunday worship, we want you to meet with God and be transformed by the Word. Prepare your heart by reading the passage and listening to the songs for Sunday.