Sunday, January 22, 2006

Theology Matters... Huh?

In response to this important question as to whether or not Theology really matters I am posting the following article for your guidance.

by Brent Detwiler

Does doctrine matter in the Christian life? Should Christians continually pursue an ever deeper and more detailed understanding of the comprehensive truth of Scripture, so that we may grow in holiness, in knowledge and enjoyment of God, in dedication to the local church, in compassion for the lost, and in love and service toward one another? Do you realize that these two questions are basically the same? You can't say "Yes" to one but "No" to the other! Yet today many Christians, even within evangelical churches, dismiss doctrine and its application as an area of primary concern.

Not so with Paul the Apostle. Paul knew that any Christian who denies the centrality of sound doctrine harms himself, his family, the church, and the reputation of our Savior. He earnestly exhorted Timothy, a man of exceptional gifting and maturity, "watch your life and doctrine closely" (1Ti 4:16). If Timothy, who had already been working with Paul for some 15 to 18 years, needed to be reminded to pay close attention to his life and doctrine, how much more do we?

But what are many Christians and Christian leaders paying close attention to today? They're paying close attention to dreams, visions, and prophecy; to conferences, reports of revival, and unusual physical manifestations. They're paying close attention to trends, marketing techniques, and principles of church growth. They're paying close attention to the size of their church, budget, staff, and building. They're paying close attention to sociology, psychology, and psychiatry. They're paying close attention to the latest hot Christian band. But they are not paying equally close attention either to their lives or their doctrine.

Because we daily absorb unbiblical influences from both the secular and Christian cultures, each of us will gradually de-emphasize the issues of life and doctrine that Paul declared to be central - unless we purpose and act to keep them central. Here are a few guidelines for obeying the scriptural command of 1 Timothy 4:16.

Attention to Your DoctrineBecause your life and doctrine are intertwined, start with squarely facing and continually reminding yourself of the truth about yourself.

Understand the doctrine of Pervasive Depravity. God has done a wonderful work — he has given us his Holy Spirit. Every Christian has a new heart and a new nature; we have been recreated in his image. And yet there remains in us something evil that will not be eradicated or annihilated until we are with the Lord. I speak of indwelling sin — our sin nature, the flesh.

Our flesh is ever seeking to seduce, influence, exert itself, and deceive us. Simultaneously, the Spirit of God working through our new nature is ever seeking to influence, inspire, lead, guide, direct, and promote greater godliness. Scripture makes clear that the Spirit of God is the far superior combatant, yet the combat is real and constant. The battle against sin is waged every day of our lives. It's a war we can surely win, but it's a war we must fight. If we don't fight using the weapons God provides, we can't win.

Remember that the heart is exceedingly deceitful above all things (Jer 17:9). I wonder how the greatest scientists of our day would respond to the question, "What is the most difficult problem to solve?" Scripture provides us the definitive answer: the deceitfulness of our hearts. What phenomenal power and ability is within the human heart to deceive us!

Our self-righteousness (a product of our sin nature) continually seeks to assure us that this is not the case. But, rather than buying that lie, we would be well-advised to heed Jeremiah and simply expect that at every opportunity our own hearts will do everything possible to deceive us into committing sin. We should regularly ask God by his grace to help us pay close attention whenever we are faced with a temptation to be selfish, possessive, resentful, bitter, or anything else. And when you see that temptation, often with the help of others and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, you can identify that sin, repent of it, and walk forward in the Lord.

Also, because of the deceitfulness of our hearts, we must ever be suspicious of our own motives. Why do you do what you do, and say what you say? To serve, or to be served? To glorify yourself, or to glorify God? Pay close attention to these things.

Don't overestimate your own maturity. Years ago, when the men on the PDI leadership team began in our messages to regularly say things like "I am capable of any sin," I'm sure a lot of folks were somewhat shocked. But over the years, by God's grace through teaching, prayer, and study, a great many more of these shocked listeners have come to see how true this is — of themselves and indeed of every believer. A popular saying in the Charlotte church these days is a variation on that idea: "The seeds of every man's sins are in my heart." It's something of which we must all continually remind ourselves and one another. The person who declares any given sin to be impossible for him or her has just increased the likelihood of committing it.

Attention to Your LifeArmed with a clear understanding of the daily battle we face, we can begin to wage that battle wisely.

Pay close attention to your words. Listen to what you say. Your speech reveals something about your heart. Imagine if the Lord recorded for you, each day, everything you said. And then at the end of each day you could play back the tape. You'd be amazed, I'm sure, at how much you complain and grumble, how unkind and impatient you are. Well, we can't do that, but we can listen to ourselves, be accountable to one another for our words, and ask God to help us be more sensitive to both the content and the manner of our speech — what we say and how we say it.

Pay close attention to your actions, especially when someone sins against you. Do you, in turn, report the offense to others so that they, too, will take up your offense against that individual? Such gossip and slander — seemingly innocent activities to those who do not yet grasp the depth of their own sinfulness — are primary ways by which relationships and even entire churches are quickly destroyed. (See James 3:3-8)

Instead of a temptation to gossip, perhaps you tend to become bitter and resentful when sinned against. Suddenly you find yourself pulling back a little, distancing yourself from the person who offended you. The next time you see him or her, you just sort of drift to another part of the room, maybe without even realizing it. Why? You're not paying close attention to your life.

A third possibility when you are sinned against is to react in pride, self-righteousness, and anger. But there are only two biblical responses to being sinned against. First, we may often overlook the offense. In light of how frequently you have sinned against others, this is usually a small matter. In cases of more serious sin or a pattern of sin, however, we are called to go — in love and in great humility — to serve that fellow believer to help him or her see the sin. (But as you do so, remember to examine your own motives.)

Pay close attention to your thoughts and feelings — about your spouse, pastors, small-group leader, boss, relatives, friends, neighbors, and others. Do you see any jealousy or selfish ambition at work? If so, repent ind root it out. Again, remember how loosely your thoughts and feelings can be tied to your sin nature, your deceitful heart, and your suspect motives.

Identify the areas of greatest temptation in your life. What better way to know where you must exercise the greatest prayer and caution? The primary source of temptation in the Christian life is not Satan or worldly education (as real as both those things are), but our own sin nature (Gas 4:1-3). What are your favorite idols? What areas are most difficult for you? In an effort to humble yourself, enlist help, and seek accountability, have you told anyone about these areas of weakness?

Puritan pastor John Owen wrote, "Be killing sin, or it will be killing you." To the extent that we faithfully obey the command of Scripture to pay close attention to our lives and our doctrine, we will be far better quipped to heed John Owen's wise exhortation.


  • Praise the Lord Jeff for posting things such as these, Doctrine as posted in this article is important and should not be tossed aside for the vaguery of our feelings and desires of our heart which is deceitful above all else.

    In Christ Rick

    By Anonymous Rick, at 11:46 AM  

  • This is a wonderful and inspired reflection. Thanks for that. I will like to deepen it more and use it for confrences

    By Anonymous John Bank, at 4:03 AM  

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