How Does Theology Impact Our Lives?

The core message of the “Theology Matters” series is focused on the importance of studying theology, rejoicing in theology, and applying theology. The process begins by studying theology, but I believe the other two steps are inevitable responses of true experiential knowledge.

All of this allows us to conclude that the [believer’s] correct understanding of God’s nature leads to delight in God (rather than merely in the gifts that come from God), which inevitably leads to a correct expression of praise to God, obedience to God’s commands, and a passion for the proclamation of the gospel. –An Introduction to Theology Matters

In the same way that theology has a direct impact on our joy, it has an effect on our entire lives. This joy-filled, correct theology leads us to doxology, a change in personal holiness, and a heart for evangelism.

In his “Doxology Intro” to Lyrical Theology Pt. 2, Pastor and Christian Rapper, Shai Linne said, All theology should ultimately lead to doxology. If theology doesn’t lead to doxology, then we’ve actually missed the point of theology. Too often, theology becomes a mere academic or intellectual pursuit and we forget the heart of theology. The reason we study God is to know God and we believe that to know God is to love God. When we truly come to an experiential knowledge of God, we respond with an expression of praise. Accurate theology leads to accurate doxology. It is important that our praise to God is informed by truth. It is important that when we worship God, we are declaring truth about him. Linne goes on to say,

So if you have theology without doxology, you just have dead, cold orthodoxy; Which is horrible, right? On the other side, we have people who say: “Ugh! Forget theology; I just wanna praise!” Right? But, if we have doxology without theology, we actually have idolatry! Because it’s just a random expression of praise; but it’s not actually informed by the Truth of who God is.

God has not called us to merely study him or merely praise him. He’s called us to do both. He’s called us to study him in such a way that leads us to praise him. I truly believe that as we dive into the Word, we will see the truths of the gospel clearly and praise God because of the mercy and grace that he has shown on us despite our inherent sinfulness.

Although doxology is an important part of how we apply theology, it is not the only effect of it. At the 2012 TGC Women’s Conference, Nancy Leigh Demoss said, Sound theology should always lead us to doxology and transformation.” Since we have already covered the doxology aspect, we will now shift towards the focus of transformation. As we study the nature of God, there will be a change in our desires, thoughts and inevitably actions. In simpler terms, this is a change of personal holiness. During his sermon entitled Justification by Grace, Charles Spurgeon said, If he gives you the grace to make you believe, he will give you the grace to live a holy life afterwards. God does not leave us on our own. The same God that justifies us also sanctifies us. There is a reason why I said there will be a change in our desires, thoughts and inevitably actions. Unlike justification, this change in personal holiness or process of sanctification is progressive. It takes places over a long period of time, but inevitably the Spirit of God will make us look more and more like the Son of God.

The final effect that I will highlight in this short article is our desire for the nations to glorify God and enjoy him forever. In simpler terms, this is missions and evangelism. If you read my Joy in Truth article or are familiar with the Westminster Shorter Catechism, you will notice that this effect is directly tied to joy. If we have not experienced this joy, we cannot share it. Too often, I have been on mission trips where students, who have not come to an experiential knowledge of the gospel, attempt to share the gospel with others. In the first chapter of John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad!, he writes, Missions is the overflow of our delight in God because missions is the overflow of God’s delight in being God. What a profound statement! The entire reason that missions exist is because God delighted in being God and displayed his mercy upon us.

Earlier in this book, Piper writes,

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory.

The truth is that all of these effects are intertwined. We are simply trying to know God, delight in God, praise God, look more like God, while desiring for others to do the same. Missions is not ultimately about missions. It is about God. It is about seeing others delight in God.

The goal of this entire series is that you would realize that theology is not something to be scared of. My prayer is that you would dive into your Bible daily and that you would grow in your knowledge of the nature of God and the nature of man and that all of this would lead to a correct expression of praise to God, a change in your desires, thoughts, and actions, and a desire for the nations to glorify God and enjoy him forever. May God be the center of it all and may his gospel be the cornerstone of your theology.

EDITORS’ NOTE: See also the rest of Cole Shiflet‘s series Theology Matters.

Joy in Truth

I began the “Theology Matters” series with an introductory article focusing on the importance of studying theology and we will continue this series by focusing on the rejoicing that comes from knowing truth about God.

All of this allows us to conclude that the [believer’s] correct understanding of God’s nature leads to delight in God (rather than merely in the gifts that come from God)…

Theology Impacts our Joy

Theology has a direct impact on our joy. If you have spent much time at all listening to John Piper or reading resources from Desiring God, you will have surely been influenced by Piper’s so-called “Christian Hedonism.” Piper sums up this doctrine with the concise yet profound statement: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

Glorifying God and finding satisfaction in him are intertwined. In the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Piper’s summary of Christian Hedonism parallels the words of Westminster Assembly in 1647. In his statement, Piper argues that man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. Essentially, he believes that satisfaction is the inevitable avenue through which we glorify God. When we find our joy and satisfaction in God, we are glorifying Him.

We are caught up in what seems like a never ending battle for our joy. We are constantly offered products and services that promise to bring us the lasting joy that we so earnestly desire. It would be unfair to say that all of these “products” and “services” are evil within themselves; rather, when we treat them as ultimate things and think that they can satisfy us out of them,.

We are called to glorify God by placing our joy and satisfaction in Him and in His truth rather than in the fleeting pleasures of this world. We know from experience that the human heart is like an “idol factory,” as John Calvin puts it, and therefore we must examine ourselves and put our joy and hope in God rather than in created things. Whether it is an idol such as your academic, athletic, social, or financial success or an addiction such as pornography or alcohol, it is dangerous to your soul and it rips away your joy. Thankfully, God has equipped us to fight these temptations by giving us his Word.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is the cornerstone of the Biblical case for this fight for joy. In this letter, there are fifteen references to joy with the most famous passage found in Philippians 4.

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:10-13

We must remember that joy should not be based on our circumstances. True joy is not something that we only put on when everything is going as planned or only when we feel comfortable. True joy is evidence that the Spirit is at work in your heart, but it is also a direct effect of the truth found in the gospel. The truth that reveals our depravity, describes the holiness of God, and reminds us that our salvation is not dependent upon our actions, but on Christ’s action. This is the root of true joy. We are redeemed sinners called to a holy life and our joy is a result of truth.

I leave you with a quote from prolific author and pastor, Tim Keller.

Suppose you had a habit in your old life. Back in the old warfare. And you used to fall into it and you used to get out of it, and you used to be upset and then you would pummel yourself and then you would do better for a while and then you would make resolutions and then you would fall back into it. But now you are a Christian and here’s one of the things that goes wrong: sometimes, as a Christian, you go back into that habit. You fall back into it. It happens. Immediately you are going to say, “nothing has changed, same old thing.” Wrong. It’s a different battle. You are now in a battle you cannot lose, and in the old days, that habit was expressive of your real self. That’s not true. That is no longer you. Try it. You’ll never get the same kind of pleasure. If you’re a real Christian you go back into that sin and say, “Why doesn’t it taste as good as it used to? Why doesn’t it satisfy me the way it used to?” Because it is not expressive of your real self anymore. In my innermost being, I delight in the Law of God. You are now in a battle you cannot lose. You used to be in a battle you cannot win. You make that transition from a battle you cannot win to a battle you cannot lose is when you’re willing to say, “I see what Jesus Christ did for me.

EDITORS’ NOTE: See also the rest of Cole Shiflet‘s series Theology Matters.

An Introduction to Theology Matters

We might ask ourselves if studying theology really matters. What effect, if any, does studying theology have on our lives? If we’re honest, many of us subconsciously believe that theological studies are reserved for a select group of Christians who “have it all together”. This notion could not be farther from the truth. Theology is for all of those who are in Christ, but what does that look like? Let’s begin by defining theology. Theology, in its most basic form, is the study of the nature of God. A.W. Tozer, a prolific American pastor and author during the 20th century, begins his most famous book, Knowledge of the Holy, by saying,

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

If Tozer is correct, then this radically changes our lives. This implies that every aspect of our lives is affected by our beliefs concerning the nature of God. If Tozer is incorrect, then we are forced to answer what the most important thing about us really is. These answers are often full of fleeting identities that merely reflect our current season of life and we will discuss that issue in a later article.

Assuming Tozer is correct, the inevitable result is to take our view of God seriously. Due to this, we must ensure that our view of God is grounded in a firm foundation, rather than on ever-evolving cultural norms or feelings. Our lives need to be grounded in the never-changing, infallible Word of God. In Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts, the late Jerry Bridges wrote:

We must not allow our emotions to hold sway over our minds. Rather, we must seek to let the truth of God rule our minds. Our emotions must become subservient to the truth.

The only way to ensure that our theology is correct and is not corrupted by sin, man-centered tendencies, feelings, political agendas, cultural preferences, or even the Devil himself is to know the Bible and make its teachings the center of our theology. Furthermore, we must not only know the Word of God, but we are to delight in it. In Psalm 1, the psalmist writes,

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. -Psalm 1:1-2

Not only does this ‘man’ know the Word, he delights in it. His joy is found in the Word of the Lord and it is that joy and satisfaction in Christ which leads him to obey God. We should never apologize for what the Word of God says, rather delight in it. Later in the book of Psalms, the psalmist writes,

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. -Psalm 119:97-104

All of this allows us to conclude that the author’s correct understanding of God’s nature leads to delight in God (rather than merely in the gifts that come from God), which inevitably leads to a correct expression of praise to God, obedience to God’s commands, and a passion for others to “glorify God and enjoy him forever”. We will discuss these effects in greater detail throughout this series as we continue to dive into God’s Word.

Throughout this series, we will examine a variety of topics such as submission to Christ in both our doctrine and our lives, the nature of God, the nature of man, the Biblical Gospel, differences between theological distinctives and heresies, and, of course, the inevitable effects of theological study. Our hope, in all of this, is that young adults would grow in their desire to study the Word and grow in their awareness of the importance of Biblical discernment. The lack of Biblical literacy, as well as discernment, is a growing issue in the church today and this series is focused on discussing the importance of theology.

EDITORS’ NOTE: See also the rest of Cole Shiflet‘s series Theology Matters.