I recently spoke at a retreat entitled – "The Ology." The idea was that of all our learning, studying and knowing God is most critical to all of life. God is the most important thing we can study, the most important "ology". In 2 Timothy 4, Paul presents this as he talks about the importance of “being trained” in “good doctrine." He directly connects theology to growing in godliness. Theology is not just book knowledge or head knowledge, it is heart and life knowledge. It is not just about what you know about God, but living in a way that is dictated by what you know. In their book, Let the Reader Understand, Dan McCartney and Charles Clayton say, “Doctrine has not been known properly until it has been lived out.” Wayne Grudem agrees in his definition of Systematic Theology when he says, “Defining Systematic Theology to include 'what the whole Bible teaches us today' implies that application to life is a necessary part of the proper pursuit of systematic theology (emphasis mine).” For Paul, having “good doctrine” is important because it causes us to grow in godliness – it affects the way we live.
Then in the familiar passage to not allow people to look down on Timothy’s youth, Paul calls him (and us) to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12). Paul says when we believe rightly it should cause us to live in such a way that we are examples to other believers. There should not be anyone looking down on us because of our age, but rather they should find themselves impressed, challenged, encouraged, and inspired by our speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. Paul is telling Timothy that even though he is young, his pursuit of God and passion for the Savior should be an example for those around him. And, in like manner our pursuit of God and passion for the Savior should be an example for those around us.
I see this everyday in the college students I serve.
Colin is a guy I know who is determined to spend time daily in the scriptures to study hard and know God. When I see him lead a morning prayer meeting on campus at 7am every Wednesday, I know he is not just doing it because he is a morning person. He knows that in the gospel, Christ has not only redeemed him but given him access to the Father in prayer. He knows God gives us prayer as an essential part of life and that God will answer our prayers (1 Thes 5:16-18; John 14:13). And so he prays and leads others to pray. When he takes a few hours on a Tuesday evening going out on campus to specifically start conversations about the gospel, it is not because he is finished all of his studying or has nothing better to do. He knows that eternity is at stake for students on the campus of West Chester University—that Christ died to save them in their rebellion and that hearing the Gospel can bring them from death to life (Rom 1:16-18; 2:5; 5:8 ;1 Cor 1:17-24). He does these things because of what he knows about God!
Another guy, Mike, has done a great job of honoring his Dad as he makes decisions about everything from jobs to school to how to spend his free time. As Mike looks at the gospel he realizes that Christ’s death for his sin frees him to honor God by honoring his father and provides him with the grace to do so. Even when his Dad’s perspective has differed from what Mike was hoping, it has not only been Mike’s keen sense of humor that has helped him to cope. Mike has also been able to see how his heart, though free from the dominion of sin, is still influenced by remaining sin. Knowing this helps him to seek God’s grace to be humble and receive input from his dad. This has served Mike all the more in his relationship with his girlfriend as he is not only open to his own father’s perspective, but also the thoughts and perspective of his girlfriend’s father.
Eszter is an au pair from Hungry. As she grown in her understanding and experience of the gospel, she sees how Christ’s blood has purchased her to be included among the people of God. Becoming more involved in her local church, she is constantly telling me how she finds joy in the word of God preached, in her friendships and in seeking to serve. Because coming to America can be a big adjustment, Eszter is often contacted by other au pairs who are moving to the Philadelphia area. What Eszter has learned about God in the gospel gets lived out not only in her own involvement, but in her enthusiasm to bring other au pairs to experience the same thing. Because she knows God has called her to be part of a local body of Christians, she wants others to experience the blessings of this kind of community.
Like so many other students I serve, what Colin, Mike and Eszter have learned in studying God (theology) has affected the way that they live (i.e. prayer, submission to parents, commitment to a local church). And this is an example to me and to our whole church!
The same needs to be true in every area of our lives: the way we run after godliness, the way we choose entertainment, the way we serve a friend, the things we say or don’t say, the way we give money or time to help those who are hungry, or sick or in need. How we live must be rooted in what we know about God. Knowing God will affect the way we live. Getting to know God is not about performing a divine autopsy; rather, it is the Living God making Himself known to us and then changing us by his grace to live out what we know. Study hard.
Joseph Stigora serves Covenant Fellowship Church as the College-Age Pastor as well as by overseeing music and leading worship.