I was not your typical middle school girl. I was more into books and studying than I was into boys. At fourteen I was already reading Sproul, Calvin, and Packer. I could explain the five points of Calvinism and discuss the paradox of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. Needless to say my head grew large and I needed to be humbled.
At eighteen I went on my first short term missions trip alone. I was meeting up with a missionary couple, Scott and Melissa, in Peru. The first few days into the trip Scott told me Melissa would be starting seminary soon.
He said, "The reason she's going to seminary is to love Jesus more."
My big theological young head was deflated by his piercing words. Love? I learn and study to love? His words were Sunday school simple, but exactly what I needed to hear.
Complexity is expressed in simplicity. Complex truths in Scripture are learned for the purpose of fulfilling the royal law of our King – to love God and neighbor. Our study of theology can be expressed in three simple everyday truths.
1.) Theology changes us
The devil knows theology, but it doesn't change who he is. Yet for those who belong to Christ their theology will be supported by submission to the Holy Spirit, who ministers truth to hearts and minds. Theology should change our view of God, our view of ourselves, and our view of the world. It should even change how we think and act everyday.
The resurrection power of Christ enables theology to change us. We must not sever the work of the Spirit from learning truth. He opens our eyes, enlightens our hearts, and awakens our minds, and by this process we are changed.
2.) Theology leads us to love
Theology becomes old and dusty in the attic of our minds unless it feeds the life of the heart. When our study of God is motivated by love for Christ and his people it transforms how theology affects us. Because our minds and our hearts will be expanding at the same time.
If love is our mission then our study of God fulfills the entire law, which is encapsulated in the love of God and neighbor. The way theology informs our affections is again through the work of the Holy Spirit. We must ask for these desires and affections, because our desires are often too weak. The Spirit will help us love and treasure Christ and his Church more as we study his Word.
3.) Theology helps us suffer well
I can't help but think of these lines from the hymn "How Firm a Foundation:"
"How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord
Is laid for your faith in his excellent Word."
Our study of God is the backbone that will support us in times of suffering. We'll be held straight and sturdy when we feel like we will break in our bending. Our firm foundation is a sure footed place for us when our whole house shakes in suspense.
Knowing who God is and how he interacts with us and his world will give us assurance in the wilderness of the soul. His revelatory Word is his very presence. Moses refused to go into the promised land without the presence of God (Exodus 33:1-2). So the Lord replied, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest" (Exodus 33:14). When we read God's Word and develop a strong theology we are entering the presence of God. And his presence in the Word will be with us – giving us rest – even in suffering and pain.