I had a good chat to a friend of mine, who is the lead pastor at his church, about his experience involving preparation to preach at church. One of his main points was that, from his experience, he spends more time in discerning appropriate application for the truth being taught than teaching the truth itself. The reason for this is that people need to see that knowing God’s truth isn’t enough. It needs to permeate our lives and change us within.
Christianity isn’t just an intellectual exercise on knowing deep theology, but it is about applying that theology and biblical teaching to our lives so that we can become more like Christ in how we think, act and approach life. This is the goal God has for us when He sent Jesus to reconcile us to Him – to be transformed into the likeness of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18).
In listening to my friend talk about this, I pondered how easy it is to gravitate too far in one direction. One can look at Christianity as an exercise in learning and knowing biblical truth and theology. It becomes predominantly an intellectual process where ones faith is measured on how much they may know.
Don’t get me wrong, constantly learning biblical truth is spiritual food that is crucial and precious to our maturity in our faith. How can we get to know our Father in heaven and grow in our relationship with Him if we don’t learn about His character and what matters to Him? On the other hand one can get caught up in wanting to ‘experience’ God and His love, but not be grounded in biblical truth. Sure you may read the bible and learn some good points, but the focus is more based on subjective feelings and perceptions with regard to knowing God and discerning our spiritual health. Biblical truth/teaching must always be the foundational and driving influence in our understanding of God and how to live as Christians, not our subjective feelings and experiences that will vary from day to day.
I think Romans 5:1-11 is a great example of truth leading to experience. The joy and hope we experience as we perseverance in our faith, despite the struggles, is a result of the fact that God loved us by sacrificing Christ for our sins. Our hope and joy is grounded in the fact that we are justified, or made right with God, and redeemed by Him solely because of the work and sacrifice of Jesus. Our hope is grounded in the biblical truth, not subjective feelings or life circumstances. As we learn more from the Bible as to who we are as Christians, we discover what it means to be set apart by God to enjoy Him and live for Him (1 Peter 1:15). Our experiences as Christians should outpour from our understanding and application of biblical truth.
So let’s be sure to ground and fuel our experiences on the Word of God. Let’s not allow our hearts to be rudderless; tossed around by all the persuasive and seductive influences of this world, no matter how good it may sound. Our joy and hope is primarily grounded in God’s Word, not some clever and articulate speaker. But let’s not allow learning biblical truth/teachings to become an intellectual exercise alone, but allow God to transform our hearts with that truth so that we can better love Him and those around us, thus bringing glory to His name.