“At that time Jesus declared, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to Me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” Matthew 11:25-27)
“…You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)[As the Methodists where I began my life of ministry become the next denomination to go through a painful division over the issue of scriptural authority, I feel led to share this column from 2009.]
Soon after my return to the Lord in 1991, I heard a very helpful statement: “It’s not about religion – it’s about relationship!”
I do not remember who first spoke this truth to me, but I heard it often, and I am so grateful. As a warning, it saved me from falling into several “religious” traps. As a focus, it directed me into my own experience of fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus through the Holy Spirit. (1 John 1:3)
Now there is another statement flowing through my spirit: “It’s not theology – it’s reality!” This truth also provides some useful warnings and focus to help us grow as God’s people.
The word, “theology”, comes from the ancient Greek word, “theologia”, which brings together the word for God (“theos”) and the word for reasoned discourse or analysis (“logos”). A traditional definition for theology would be the reasoned analysis of who God is and how God relates to humanity and creation.
This obviously sounds like a worthy enterprise but be aware of the trap. As we should expect from the culture of Plato and Aristotle, theology’s emphasis was even then on human intellect and observation. Man figures out who God is. This can easily lead to a violation of the 2nd Commandment by creating God in the image we want Him to be. (Exodus 20:3; 2 Timothy 4:3)
In modern times, the problem gets even worse. Three factors have dramatically impacted the traditional concept of theology: (1) the pride of scientific thought; (2) political sensitivity to the world’s religious diversity; and (3) the confusion created by competing doctrines within each religion, including Christianity.
A modern definition for theology would be the rational study of different religious belief systems and practices. These theologians are no longer trying to figure out who God really is. They are simply studying what different groups choose to believe about God, and thus a second trap is sprung – pluralism. You figure out who God is for you, and I will figure out who God is for me. Our beliefs have equal merit.
Now compare these definitions of theology to the definition of “reality”: the state of things as they actually exist.
What is the reality of God? Is God whoever various groups believe Him to be? Is God whoever my intellect and experience determine He should be? Or is there a God who actually and “really” is? An “I AM” who reveals Himself to us! (Exodus 3:14)
My friends, our heavenly Father did not send Jesus Christ to start a religion. Jesus was sent to reveal reality – truth about God that only the Son of God could know. (Matthew 11:27) Jesus revealed them during His earthly ministry and continues to reveal them through the Holy Spirit, who inspired all scripture and leads us into all truth. (John 16:13-15; 2 Timothy 3:14-17)
And Jesus did not come to appeal to our intellect. The truths Jesus reveals are far beyond what earth-bound mankind could ever intellectualize. Creation speaks to God’s power and majesty. (Psalm 19) The law given to Moses set forth fundamentals of right behavior already suggested, at least in part, by the natural conscience built into humanity. (Romans 2:1-23) But only Jesus could reveal the reality of a heavenly Father’s unconditional love and grace. (John 1:1-18) Only Jesus could show us what creation in the image and likeness of God really means.
Every morning we wake up as a Christian, the greatest reality in our life should be the reality of God! More real than my house is the fact I live in Christ and Christ lives in me. More real than my shortcomings is God’s unconditional love for me every moment of every day.
More real than TV’s bad news is God’s good news: Jesus has paid the price for all sin of all people for all time. More real than political strife is the fact Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. More real than evil is the ability of good to defeat evil – because God is for us and with us.
It’s not theology – it’s reality! Praise the Lord!
God bless you, and God bless our community.