My wife is beautiful. Seriously….she’s really hot. Dark brown hair. Darker eyes. Dark complexion. Wonderful smile. She’s the real deal. I have no shame is saying that I get excited just typing about her.
And that’s just the outside. Her heart is just as wonderful, if not more so. She’s sweet, caring, compassionate, and an all-around fantabulous (yeah, I just used that word) wife and mother. She’s my best friend. She’s the one that has given me two beautiful babies. She keeps our house clean, makes me coffee, picks up my dirty underwear, rubs my neck, and cleans out my French Press (those things are such a pain, aren’t they?). She doesn’t divorce me when I trim my beard and leave the prickly little hairs in the sink. She frees me for ministry. And, she loves Jesus. All of that is to say that there are few things that I would rather do than be with her.
But on Thursday mornings I trade my warm bed that contains my beautiful wife for a table at a local coffee shop with five other hideous men. To be honest, they are nothing like my wife. As a matter of fact, they’re different from my wife in most ways. They’re boring, pale, and ugly. They’re hairy. They don’t groom themselves very well. It’s early enough that most of them still have eye boogers embedded in their eyelashes. I look around and sometimes I regret my decision to even get out of bed to meet them.
But, do you know what does propel me to meet with them? An increasing understanding of the importance of doctrine.
What is doctrine and how can it change me?
Doctrine might simply be defined as what we believe. More specifically the word translated “doctrine” means “instruction that brings about life change”. The Bible says about itself that it is profitable for doctrine (2 Tim 3:16) and that watching our life and doctrine closely are evidences that we’re really born again (1 Tim 4:16). Biblical doctrine is developed through the study of scripture. Essentially, all that is of eternal significance we learn about through the study of God’s Word and the doctrinal statements that come as a result.
Whether you like it or not our faith is built on doctrinal statements and convictions. Odds are that your position on Syrian refugees, abortion, Starbucks cups, church polity, and whether or not you should eat turkey, ham or brisket on Thanksgiving is based on some kind of a doctrinal conviction. Hopefully you’ve spent some amount of time in the scriptures and what you’ve learned has caused you to lean (sometimes heavily and sometimes lightly) in particular directions on particular issues. The question is whether your doctrine is guided by the Word of God or the Father of Lies.
But, let’s just assume that since you’re reading this blog you must be one of the people that cares. Let’s just assume that you realize the importance of having a worldview that mirrors the worldview that God desires for us. What now? How should I start developing a sound Biblical doctrine? And, how can God use Biblical doctrine to light a spiritual fire in my heart? Here are some suggestions that we would all do good to be reminded of that can help us to have a healthy love of doctrine.
- Don’t be so arrogant as to think you’ve got it all figured out. Now I know what you’re thinking: “I’m a smart dude (or dudette). Surely, with my super-charged, Holy Spirit-filled brain I’ve figured out everything that needs to be figured out.” Job reminds us in Job 36:26 that God is great and that He is beyond our understanding.
- Don’t be so lazy as to think that you shouldn’t try. Kill that voice in your head that says “There’s so much about God that I’ll never understand so I should just give up and spend my time doing other things.” That voice is not of God. It’s probably just the voice of your addiction to Call of Duty. Kill that voice.
- Read the Bible. It’s really that simple. Love the Word of God because it points us toward the Son of God.
- Ask the hard questions. Don’t shy away from that which is difficult. Many people are tired of being spiritually bottle-fed. Besides, if we could immediately understand everything about God, He wouldn’t be much of a God.
- Do it all in community. Iron sharpens iron. Studying the Bible in community helps to keep in check doctrinal convictions that might get a little bit out-of-whack. Find people who love the Bible like you do so that you can help to spur one another on in Christlikeness.
- Remember, good doctrine demands that we worship. Doctrine means that we’re talking, teaching, and learning about God. Good doctrine causes the wellspring of our hearts to flow forth with worship for God and God alone. Anything else is at the very best shallow and at the very worst heretical. John Piper put it this way: “…I have never been one of those who found the heart shrivel as God and His Word are better known. Putting more knowledge in my head about God and His ways is like throwing wood in the furnace of my worship.”
What it’s all about
I started out by telling you about my beautiful wife. To revisit that discussion for too long would become a little weird. At the same time I must, because the only thing more beautiful than my wife is our Savior. To imagine that there is one who knows me better than I even knew myself and loves me anyway is to stir my heart in worship. He indeed is wonderful and awe-inspiring. He causes kings to bow and hearts to flame. He died for us, conquered death, and He will return to judge the living and the dead. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Son of God, the Great I Am, the Messiah, the Savior, the Lamb of God, and the Beginning and the End. He is the one that confronted Paul on the road to Damascus. He’s the one that called Simon Peter and Andrew to follow him. He’s the head of the church, the author of the Sermon on the Mount, and the giver of life. All things were created by Him and for Him. My life matters not without Him and neither does yours. Frankly, He’s everything you and I will ever need. To speak of Him is to speak doctrine and to speak doctrine is to tell of your love for him.
Joshua Hartley serves as the Lead Pastor of Freshwater Church in Jefferson City, MO. He is a native of central Missouri and holds degrees from Lincoln University and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His family includes his best friend and wife of ten years, Shasta, as well as two princesses, Laynee Grace and Londyn Joy. Joshua’s passion in ministry is to see people of all ages, backgrounds, and nationalities being and making disciples here and abroad. Joshua enjoys spending his free time with his family as well as reading.