Posts Tagged With: theology

Does Theology Matter?

Does theology matter?

When Darkened Glass Reflections was born, the articles were primarily devotional. The “reflections” part of the name referred to the fact that most of the particles came out of reflection and meditation on the Word of God rather than academic theological research. Even though the posts have become more “theological” recently, this blog remains committed to being written on a somewhat devotional level. People who are eager to grapple with heavy-duty scholarly theological questions will have to look elsewhere. Even when writing about theology, I hope the reader comes away with encouragement, insight, or inspiration to walk closely with the Lord. Whether they can explain, compare, and contrast amillennialism, premillennialism, historism, and full preterism is irrelevant to me.

Nevertheless, theology does matter. Since Christianity is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we need to know who He is and what He is like. You cannot have a genuine relationship with someone if you do not know who he or she is, where that person is from, what they are like, etc.

The entire Gospel, the Christian faith, has its roots in the nature of God. The Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds answer questions like these: Who is God? What is He like? Who is Jesus? What is His relationship with God? How is He the Son of God? The creeds say little about mankind. They start and end with God. Scripture begins and ends with God:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1; unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version).

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Revelation 22:20–21).

(Emphasis added in both passages.)

The Bible begins and ends with the Alpha and the Omega: God, who revealed Himself most visibly through His Son, Jesus Christ. The person and nature of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are central to the faith. The answers to questions about who God is affect every doctrinal or theological statement that churches or pastors can make.

If you forget to begin with God, you will eventually reach wrong answers. Most heresies, cults, and false religions build upon a foundation of false views about who God is. Recently, fellow blogger Shofar/Liz shared the following quote by an unnamed “religious leader” in a post on God’s Enduring Love, in which she spoke of the dangers of deception within the church:

“My understanding of a loving, compassionate God supports the basic right of all loving couples to have the full benefits of marriage.”

I will point out two errors that are rampant in modern American Christianity, which are reflected in the quoted speaker’s thinking:

  • Preachers like this quoted “leader” frequently emphasize “my understanding” with limited or no reference to Scripture. If they do quote Scripture, it is generally taken out of context. To them, “my understanding” takes precedence over Scripture and doctrine. The committed follower of Jesus will say “yes” to God and His Word even when it goes against the believer’s wishes or desires.
  • Preachers like this one will focus on one or two aspects of God’s nature and ignore those that make them uncomfortable. The committed follower of Jesus acknowledges and accepts the complexities of God’s nature. I do not deny that God is loving and compassionate: Actually, my spiritual survival depends on those qualities. If I forget God’s love and compassion, I will quickly spiral into despair. However, the true disciple will also recognize that God is holy and righteous. You cannot ignore any aspects of God’s nature without becoming spiritually imbalanced or thoroughly heretical.

Therefore, over the next few months (only an omniscient God knows how many at this time) I will share a series of meditations and devotions about different aspects of God’s person and nature. My prayer and goal is that you not only become more theologically balanced, but that you grow to love God more as you come to know Him more. Perhaps together we can grow beyond merely recognizing those attributes of God that we are tempted to ignore and thoroughly embrace Him in His fullness.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A Few Thoughts About the Trinity

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

—Matthew 28:16–20, NASB

Shamrock

Legend claims that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Happy Trinity Sunday! Sorry I did not buy anybody a card.

On the liturgical calendars of several denominations, Trinity Sunday occurs one week after Pentecost. Having celebrated the resurrection of the Son of God and His ascension to the right hand of the Father over the past few weeks, the church commemorates its birthday on Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit filled the earliest believers. One week later, it devotes a day to reflect on the Triune nature of God.

Falling on the heels of such an active time on the church calendar, Trinity Sunday can easily be lost in the mix. Many denominations, even those that believe in the Trinity, do not observe the day. Perhaps the biggest reason for this oversight may be the nature of the doctrine. How many pastors want to devote a Sunday to teaching a doctrine they have a hard time explaining? It is tempting to avoid what we do not fully understand.

So, with that in mind, I will not try to prove the Trinity. I merely seek to affirm my belief that this is true: there is one God who eternally exists in three persons—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. Just for the record, I think that term “persons” may create some of the confusion: it does not precisely describe their nature, but we really do not have a better word to use in its place.

We see the Trinity mentioned in the Great Commission, in Matthew 28:16–20. First, Jesus told His disciples that “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” Who else could have all authority in heaven except God?

They are mentioned together in Jesus’ last instruction in Matthew; they also appeared together at the beginning of His ministry, when He was baptized:

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

—Matthew 3:16–17

The Son had been baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, and the Father proclaimed His approval of Jesus. Three persons were present, yet it was the one God worshiped by the Jewish people. Jesus Himself, who (as we saw earlier) claimed to be God, reaffirmed the Jewish belief in monotheism by referring to Judaism’s statement of faith, the “Shema,” as the greatest commandment: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:29–30).

Since the earliest centuries of Christianity, believers have wrestled to explain how one God can be three persons. Tertullian wrote the following:

“We define that there are two, the Father and the Son, and three with the Holy Spirit, and this number is made by the pattern of salvation . . . [which] brings about unity in trinity, interrelating the three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are three, not in dignity, but in degree, not in substance but in form, not in power but in kind. They are of one substance and power, because there is one God from whom these degrees, forms and kinds devolve in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (from Early Trinitarian Quotes).

Perhaps nobody can explain the mystery of how one God can be three persons. Some have attempted to illustrate it by pointing to three-in-one objects in nature. For example, an egg contains a yolk, a white, and a shell. Legend claims that St. Patrick used a three-leafed clover, a shamrock, to illustrate the Trinity (one clover, three leaves).

This is part of walking by faith: We trust God and believe Him to be Who He says He is, even when we do not fully understand it. When I was a small child, I had faith that my mother and father were my parents, long before I learned what that meant or how we all ended up in that relationship. Likewise, I can trust and worship God even though He is beyond my comprehension, trusting that someday I shall see Him as He is and understand more fully than I can in this life.

Some doubt the truth about the Trinity because it defies our understanding. They claim it is irrational or illogical. I believe it would be more appropriate to call it super-rational or super-logical: It exceeds our ability to comprehend.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

We serve a God who is beyond our comprehension, and that gives us even more reason to worship and praise Him with awe.

 

The doctrine of the Trinity...is truth for the heart. The fact that it can not be satisfactorily explained, instead of being against it, is in its favor. Such a truth had to be revealed; no one could imagine it. - Aiden Wilson Tozer
Quote by A. W. Tozer. Image from http://www.azquotes.com.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Scripture Sabbath | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Repentance: More than a Feeling

 

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears” (Hebrews 12:14-17, ESV).

Probably most Christians have this problem: We think we have gained victory in an area of our lives and, before we know it, we fall right back into the old sin. Maybe we have avoided it for a few days, weeks, or months. Sometimes, we overcame it for a few hours, only to falter after the fourth or fifth temptation.
We thought our deliverance was complete. Could God have failed us? Never: God is perfect, and He is more eager to see our lives transformed than we are. Scripture continually reminds us that God’s will is for our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:2; Philippians 1:6). He does not enjoy our sin; He wants us free from its chains; and He is willing to do His part by giving us His Holy Spirit. God did not fail us.
So, let us admit that, when we sin, we are the ones who failed. Often, though, we were so sincere about making a fresh start and beginning anew. Why do we fail?
One biblical term that comes to mind is repentance. The path to freedom from sin begins at confession (admitting that we have sinned) and journeys through repentance.
Many of us have a false notion of repentance. We think we have “repented” because we feel guilty or ashamed about our sins. Perhaps we feel bad because we were caught in the act. We have had a genuine, strong feeling, but feelings are fleeting. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Repentance runs deeper than sorrow. The Greek word for repentance is “metanoia,” which most accurately translates as “a change of mind.” It’s not just being sorry about sin, or regretting the consequences. In involves changing your entire perspective on sin. Many of us stop committing certain sins from a mindset that says: “I’m a Christian and Christians don’t do that; but those were the good old days when I used to get away with it!” While we may try to stop acting like we did in the past, we regret that we can no longer enjoy those antics. It seems like God is just trying to spoil our fun.
Repentance says, “God is right about this: It never was good for me, no matter how much I thought I enjoyed it.” Repentance realizes that God always has your best interests in mind, and that there is a real reward in following His ways.

 

Categories: Bible meditations | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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