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Christian Living

How Important Is It to Have the Right Theology?

God Doesn’t Want Us to Study Him; He Wants Us to Know Him

When people first learn that I have a PhD and where I did my postgrad work, they assume I’m into theology. Imagine their disappointment to find out I don’t care about the concept or want to pursue a right theology, that I can’t engage in a meaningful discussion about the topic—at least not as they perceive it.

At its most basic level, theology is the study of God. I like that. But as nuances of finding a right theology layer on top of this basic understanding, the subject gets murky.

The result is too many long, multi-syllable words that few people can pronounce and even fewer can comprehend. Turning God into an academic pursuit of the right theology pushes him away and keeps us from truly knowing him.

Relationship Is Key

For many people, their spouse is their most important relationship.

Imagine if I went to my wife and said, “I’m going to devote the rest of my life to studying you.

“I’ll watch you and make notes. I’ll catalog who you are and categorize what you do. Next, I’ll read books to help me better understand you. I’ll also talk with others to gain their insights about who you are. Then I’ll tell others what I’ve learned.”

How would she react? Not well. My singular commitment to focus on her would not win me her appreciation. Instead it would stir up her ire. She would rightfully complain, “Why can’t we hang out instead? I just want you to spend time with me.”

So it is with God. He doesn’t want us to study him. He wants a relationship (Hosea 6:6). Theology keeps God at a distance when what he really wants is for us to know him.

Knowledge Puffs Up

As people pursue theology, they amass a great deal of information. Much of this forms a theoretical construct, turning God into an abstract spiritual entity.

In doing so they gather much knowledge but risk pushing God further away. This knowledge of who God is generates pride. It puffs up. Instead of knowledge, we should pursue love, which builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1).

Pursuing theology isn’t necessarily bad, but it can distract us from what is most important: being in a relationship with Jesus. Click To Tweet

Education Distracts

The pursuit of higher learning is a noble task, but it’s not the goal. Chasing after a theology of God isn’t the end. It’s the means to the end: to know who God is in an intimate, personal way.

Jesus routinely criticized the Pharisees and Sadducees—who we could equate to ancient theologians. Instead he embraced a simple message when he said “follow me” (John 10:27).

Pursing a Right Theology

Though pursuing a right theology and even having a Bible study aren’t necessarily bad, they can distract us from what’s most important: to follow Jesus and be in relationship with him.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Why Do We Love God? When Do We Love Him?

We Must Adore the Almighty Regardless of Our Circumstances

It’s easy to love God when things go well. When our lives are great and we receive his blessings, we can thank him, praise him, and appreciate his goodness. It’s easy to love him when life is good.

However, life isn’t always so good. Sometimes our lives are a mess. When we don’t receive God’s blessings or experience his favor, do we still love him? We should, but our situation makes it much harder. In fact, for some people hardship turns their love of the Almighty into blaming him.

Although understandable, this isn’t right.

Love God Because

When we love our Creator during the good times, we may be loving him because of what he’s done for us. We love him for his favor. We love him for his blessings. We love him because he’s benevolent.

Love God Despite

But when we’re going through difficult times, we must love him too. This is much harder to do, but we must press forward to love him, despite our circumstances. He deserves our love regardless of our situation.

How Does Job Relate to God?

In the Bible, Job, at first, has every reason to love his Creator because of what he did for Job. And when it’s all taken away from Job, he has every reason to turn from God and blame him. But he doesn’t.

Despite what Job goes through, he doesn’t blame God. Click To Tweet

Though the Bible doesn’t say that Job loves God, it does imply this when we see Job steadfastly affirming God for who he is, despite the turmoil he undergoes. This isn’t a gushy, emotional love.

It’s an intentional, push-through-the-hard-times effort to give God what he deserves: our resolute devotion despite our circumstances.

Job’s wife condemns him for maintaining his affirmation of God, his love for his creator. She says, “To end your suffering, just curse God and then die (Job 2:9). Job doesn’t agree. Despite what he’s going through, he doesn’t blame God (Job 1:22 and Job 2:10).

Though the way we show God we love him may vary with our circumstances, we must always love him. It’s easy to love him because of what he does for us, but we must also love him despite what we’re going through.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Job 1-4, and today’s post is on Job 2:9.]

Discover more about Job in Peter’s book I Hope in Him: 40 Insights about Moving from Despair to Deliverance through the Life of Job. In it, we compare the text of Job to a modern screenplay.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Bible Verses That Give Us Comfort When the World Gives Fear

Consider These Passages about God’s Provisions for Us

Over the past few weeks, I’ve shared verses with my friends through my email newsletter. These passages can encourage us during challenging times. And readers have responded by sending me their verses that they find especially helpful in the world today.

Here’s the list of these verses.

God Overcomes

“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NKJV, from Gabe).

God Renews Our Strength

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31-32, KJV, from Jebesa).

God Gives Wisdom

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12, NIV, from Brett)

God Provides Refuge

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1, NIV, from Shara).

God Offers Peace

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27, NIV, from Robyn).

God Is with Us

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze (Isaiah 43:2, NIV, from Rachel).

God Has a Plan

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16, NIV, from Brett).

God Bestows Joy

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy” (Psalm 94:19, NIV, from Jeri).

God Removes Fear

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV). This is the first verse I shared. Then I encouraged others to share their verses.

We must focus on what God offers instead of what the world fears. This starts when we read the Bible. Click To Tweet

God Is the Answer to Fear from the World

We must focus on what God offers instead of what the world fears. This starts with studying his Word and continues by listening to his Spirit.

May it be so.

This list of comforting verses is far from complete. Please add your favorite passages in the comments section below.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Jesus Comes to Lead a Spiritual Rebellion

The First Reformation Happened 2000 Years Ago

As the time for Jesus’s sacrificial death approaches, his enemies come to arrest him. They’re armed. This might be as a show of force or maybe because they expect trouble. I imagine Jesus smiling a bit at this weapon-wielding mob. “Do you think I’m leading a rebellion?” he asks (Luke 22:52).

For sure they view him as a troublemaker. They see his teaching as a threat to their way of life and their tenuous position in the Roman empire. Yes, they may think he is leading a rebellion.

However, Jesus isn’t leading a physical rebellion. But in a spiritual sense he is ushering in a spiritual rebellion, a great reformation.

Jesus Reforms Religion

Jesus comes to fulfill the Old Testament Law. This means a change in perspective and practice from what was to something new. Instead of following a bunch of rules — some that came from God and a whole lot that men made up—Jesus turns their religion into a relationship with God.

No longer do we need to act a certain way to become right with God. Gone is a requirement that we must earn our right standing with God. He gives it to us freely. We only need to accept it. Personal change occurs after we’re in a right relationship with him.

No longer is good behavior a prerequisite. (Check out Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus Reforms Our Connection with God

Two views of our understanding of God occur in the Bible. One is to fear him, and the other is to love him. Though both perspectives occur throughout the Bible, we see the Old Testament as more fear-based and the New Testament is more love based.

Yes, we must still fear God and love him, but Jesus reforms our perspective and we can now focus on God’s love for us and our love for him. Because he first loved us, we can now love him. (Check out 1 John 4:19.)

Jesus Reforms Our View of Others

The Old Testament Law resulted in societal isolation. On the national level, God wanted his people to segregate themselves from other nations. He feared the practices of other countries would negatively influence his own people. He was right.

On a individual level, God wanted his people to separate themselves from those who were unclean, those who didn’t conform to his high standards. This showed them there are people to associate with and not to associate with, but they went overboard with it.

They ended up judging everyone in looking down on those who they felt didn’t measure up to God’s (and their) standards.

Jesus turned this thinking on its head. He reformed how we should view others. Jesus loved the people on the fringes of society, and so should we. Instead of judging others, Jesus showed grace and mercy, and so should we.

The only people Jesus confronted were the religious elite who made a mess of the rules that God originally gave to Moses. We too should confront religious leaders who pervert our relationship of God and what the Bible teaches about it.

We can reform the religious status quo and embark on a fresh new way of understanding God and our relationship to him. Click To Tweet

Jesus’s Reforms Are a Spiritual Rebellion against the Religious Status Quo

In a spiritual sense, Jesus is leading a rebellion. And he invites us to join him in that. Together we can reform the religious status quo and embark on a fresh new way of understanding God and our relationship to him.

It’s time for another spiritual reformation.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

We Must Give God All Our Heart

Ten Things to Do Wholeheartedly for God

In our post Go All in For Jesus, we talked about the importance of giving God our whole heart, all our heart. The Bible repeatedly tells us to do things with “all your heart.”

This means to not do things halfheartedly, that is with a split allegiance or divided focus. Instead we must do everything with our whole heart, not half way but all the way.

This idea of doing things for God with our whole heart occurs in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Half of them appear in Deuteronomy, but the most significant times are in the New Testament, quoting the words of Jesus, when he tells us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Discover what the Bible tells us to do wholeheartedly:

1. Love God with All Our Heart

The most common thing we are to do whole heartedly is to love God. This is in both the Old and New Testament, first coming from God to Moses and even more importantly coming from the lips of Jesus.

We must love God fully (Deuteronomy 6:5, Deuteronomy 13:3, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, 33, and Luke 10:27).

2. Serve God with All Our Heart

Another frequently mentioned instruction is to serve God wholeheartedly. This means we’re to work for him, to do things for him.

When we do things wholeheartedly our actions become a witness to others of how important God is in our lives (Deuteronomy 10:12, Deuteronomy 11:13, Joshua 22:5, and 1 Samuel 12:20, 24).

3. Turn to Him with All Our Heart

The idea of turning to God wholeheartedly shows up in three forms: turn to God (Deuteronomy 30:10), returning to God (1 Samuel 7:3), and return to God (Joel 2:12).

This idea of turning to God ties in with repentance. When we think of repenting as making a U-turn to follow Jesus, we know that we must do so with our full heart.

4. Seek God with All Our Heart

We must look for God, to go after him wholeheartedly. Jeremiah says that we if do this with all of our heart, we will find God (Deuteronomy 4:29 and Jeremiah 29:13).

5. Observe His Commands with All Our Heart

The Bible tells us things that we must do, which we must pursue wholeheartedly (Deuteronomy 26:16). The context refers to the Old Testament Law, but is that the extent of the instruction, or does it apply to the whole Bible.

6. Obey God with All Our Heart

Connected with the idea of observing God’s commands is to obey them (Deuteronomy 30:2). Though this may be two words that look at the same action, is it possible to observe something without obeying it?

7. Trust Him with All Our Heart

One of the better-known verses about this subject is a proverb to trust God with every bit of our heart (Proverbs 3:5). If we trust God wholeheartedly, that means we aren’t putting trust in ourselves or our situation. We’re handing all our trust to God.

8. Take Hold of His Words with All Our Heart

Next we are to take hold of God’s words (Proverbs 4:4). In Proverbs, Solomon instructs his son, but in this verse, it isn’t Solomon’s advice. It’s God speaking to Solomon—and to us.

9. Be Glad and Rejoice with All Our Heart

We are also to praise God wholeheartedly, with happiness and joy (Zephaniah 3:14). This may be through our worship music, but even better is when it’s through our actions and our words in everyday life.

10. Work at It with All Our Heart

In all that we do we must work wholeheartedly, not just to gain the favor of others, but also as though our work—all of our work—is for God (Colossians 3:22-23).

Though this verse specifically addresses slaves and their relationships to their masters, shouldn’t it also apply to employees and their relationships to their bosses?

Discover what the Bible tells us to do wholeheartedly. Click To Tweet

God Deserves All Our Heart

These are ten things the Bible tells us to do with all our heart, not halfheartedly but wholeheartedly. In doing so we honor God with our words and our actions. He deserves nothing less.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.