I grew up as a huge fan of professional wresting. This was long before the product had become vulgar with swearing and vulgarity. Wrestling in the 80’s was basically a comic book that had come to life. There was nothing better than to wake up on Saturday mornings, turn on the television, and seeing Hulk Hogan preaching the importance of hard works and taking your vitamins. Or Rowdy Roddy Piper being put in his place by the charismatic Macho Man Randy Savage. To a twelve year old boy this was entertainment at its finest. These larger than life characters with their amazing athletic abilities and feats of strength constantly amazed me. And I was pro wrestlings biggest fan.
So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that the middle school I was attending holding wrestling practice for anyone who wanted to attend after school. I remember bursting through the door when I got home from school in a rush to tell my parents about wrestling practice. They were fully supportive. However, they asked if I would do a little research on exactly what middle school wrestling would entail. “Attend a collegiate wrestling match” my father said.
But being asked to study up on the sport that I loved was almost an insult to me. I saw no need to learn about collegiate wrestling, because I knew what to expect! The school would most likely have a wrestling ring like the ones on television, the coaches would give us cool character names, and we’d be taught the art of the body slam as well as how to fly off of the top rope like Super Fly Jimmy Snuka. I didn’t need to study any more about wrestling. I loved wrestling. And I knew all I needed to know about it, or so I thought.
When I finally attended my very first wrestling practice at the middle school, I was extremely perplexed. There were no wrestling rings with turnbuckles to jump off of. There were no announcers sitting in the corner with microphones ready to call the action. And there were no theatrics and cool costumes for us to put on. Instead, we were all gathered into a room with foam mats on the floor.
These dingy, blue wrestling mats had many circles strewn about in which served as our wrestling ring. We were not taught how to do pile drivers or power bombs, but rather how to take your opponent to the floor and pin him to the mat for a count of one.
I knew wrestling. I loved wrestling. But I soon realized I knew nothing about real wrestling. I only knew the popular commercialized version that was so popular among my friends at school.
As I begin to really study the sport, I saw that it had been around for hundreds of years. That the ancient Roman and Greek cultures would hold Olympic type games where wrestling was highlight of the event. The more I learned and participated in the real version of wrestling, the more I grew to love it even more than I did professional wrestling.
Claiming to possess any knowledge without a desire to study its truths is ignorance.
One of the most pervasive statements that I hear from many evangelicals when it comes to the topic of theology and doctrine is, “We don’t need all that theology, all that matters is that we love Jesus.”
Theology is the study of God’s Word. And doctrine is orthodox, Biblical teachings found all throughout scripture. To neglect the need for a deeper study of the attributes of God and claim that all we need is to love Jesus is a grievous error. It is a wonderful thing to love Jesus. But without knowing Him through a more intensive study of the Word can leave us worshipping a very popular and commercialized Jesus, but not the Jesus of scripture.
Sadly there are many professing believers that are enamored with the idea of loving Jesus, but they have no desire to know Him through a study of Biblical doctrine.
Without being grounded in Biblical theology, the Jesus we claim to love can easily become a God of our own creation. There are even churches that refuse to have a definitive statement of faith on their websites and instead state their beliefs as, “We love Jesus, We love People.”
Although these are fine statements, they tell me nothing regarding what they believe about God. It tells me nothing about what they believe about the perseverance of the saints. It tells me nothing about their view of the trinity. It says nothing of their view of the atonement of our sins through the cross of Christ. It tells me nothing of their view of the infallibility of the Word of God. Nothing about the depravity of man and the sovereignty of God. Nothing about their view of Grace.
It is not enough to know that a church or a person loves Jesus. We must know what they believe about Him through the scriptures in order to discern properly.
Without knowing the theology and grasp of doctrine that a church or person has, we are left to ask the question, “What Jesus are you referring to?” It is quite possible to profess a love for a Jesus that is loosely based on the teachings of the Bible, and to be so passionate about this Jesus that we neglect to see that we have in fact believe in a false Gospel.
All throughout the scriptures, the apostles were adamant that our faith be grounded not some untethered idea of love, but in truth. They were never proponents of basing our affections of God on what we feel, but rather what we know. When the Apostle Paul was training up Titus to be a pastor on the island of Crete, one of the first things he impressed him was the need for knowing sound doctrine.
“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Titus 2:1.
Notice Paul didn’t tell Titus to just rely on his love for Jesus. Paul knew that it is impossible to truly love Jesus unless we know Him through a proper study of biblical theology. Furthermore we are to teach our families doctrine. It is impossible for men to lead our families or even disciple our children properly unless we are teaching them theology and not just fluffy stories about the cute animals in Noah’s ark.
“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Titus 1:9.
On this side note of discipling our children, it boils down to asking what we want them to know about God. Do we want them to know the commercialized Jesus of the world that is all butterflies and love? Or do we desire that our children know the Christ of the Bible. Sadly, parents that neglect the study of theology do so because having a generic love of Jesus is not offensive to them. The belief in a Jesus void of theology makes us feel better about ourselves and makes for a cute bedtime story for the kids.
However, when study and teach Biblical theology, there will be blood. There will be God’s wrath. And we will begin to see ourselves as not only sinners, but heinous transgressors who rightly deserve the fires of Hell.
These are not popular views of God nor man. Many people avoid the study of theology because they prefer a version of Jesus that is all love but no wrath and a Christ that is begging sinners to repent instead of sovereignly demanding and brining to pass their conversion.
There is no doubt, a study of theology strips us of fluffy, man centered views of God. But when we begin to see God rightly through the Bible, our understanding of grace abounds. And our love for Christ is now anchored to solid truth and extreme gratitude.
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13.
Again, it is impossible to stand firm in our faith if we are not students of the Word ourselves. If we profess a love for God, to have a disdain for the study of theology is a contradiction. It stands to reason that if we love something, we want to know all there is to know about it. This holds true in relationships, hobbies, and everything that sparks a passion in our hearts.
It is very troubling that in the world, the things that we love we pursue in knowledge. However for some reason some believe it should not apply to our love for Christ. To claim we love Jesus yet have no desire for theology is to prove ourselves to be liars. Because that line of reasoning does not apply to any other passions in our lives.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean you have no ideas about God, rather it will mean you have a lot of wrong ones.” When it comes to your daily study of God’s Word, is it attained from reading uplifting devotions that stimulate positive feelings? Or is it grounded in the scriptures and in Biblical theology? When you are choosing a church to attend, is the deciding factor made based how relevant and funny the sermons are or how hip the worship band appears to be? Or is your decision based on the theological truths that are sung and preached?
It is a fine thing to love Jesus. But as Christians, we need to be able to tell the world which Jesus we love. If we claim to love Jesus yet believe things that are not found in scripture, then our version of Him is a modern-day golden calf.
“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15.
An untethered, etherial, love of some generic Christ was never outlined in Bible. Rather, Peter writes that we are to have a doctrinal knowledge of the scriptures so that we are able to give a defense to those who oppose it and a reason for our love for those that are curious.
The late R.C. Sproul once said, “Everyone is a theologian. Some people just aren’t very good ones.” All people have ideas about Jesus. But the only ones that will point us to the real Jesus are those ideas that are reamed from the scriptures. If you truly love Jesus, be sure that you are able to give reasoning that goes deeper than merely saying “He forgave me.”
Begin to emerge your study of God into topics such as propitiation and regeneration. Find a book on the attributes of God that will drive you to the scriptures. Contemplate the Biblical meaning of Holiness. Pick up a resource on typology. These may sound like scary academic words, but once you begin to study these doctrines, the scriptures will come to life in a whole new way.
True love for Christ begins with a knowledge of what He has done. I pray your love for Him is rooted in your study of theology, so that you may be equipped to give a reason for the hope that is within you.
Below I have placed links to some wonderful and easy to digest resources for anyone seeking to go deeper in their knowledge and love of Christ. As with any resource, these are never to take the place of your study of scripture, but instead be used to drive you to the Word and expand your understanding of it’s truths.