Have you ever had the experience of mingling with fellow Christians and then suddenly overhearing a small group of people talking with fancy words and having grand theological discussions? Did that ever make you feel a little-bit out of the loop? Maybe even, dare I say it, stupid?
I have. And I know I'm not the only one. People who participate in those deeper discussions generally don't mean to make the rest of us feel small. They simply have a passion for deeper studies of the Bible. But many times there seems to be a rift between theologians and non- theologians. Why? I think the problem is two-fold. The non-theologians do not realize how people become theologians. And certain individuals become theologians for the wrong reasons.
Here are some of the questions that were on my mind this morning. Is it wrong not to be a theologian? Are they just a group of know-it-alls who try to out-wit other people in how much they know about the Bible? Or are they the standard that all Christians should strive for? And what if you never reach that higher level of discussion even with years of study? Do the "ordinary" Christians have nothing to offer?
I asked God to help me out on these questions because I wanted to know the truth. And the first thing He helped me realize was the following: theologians did not begin as theologians. They were, and are, ordinary people like you and I who followed a pattern of growth that anyone can accomplish. I thought about this and came up with a few points of growth that seem to be the most common amongst theologians.
- They came to a saving knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ as they're savior.
- They made it a priority in their lives to have a personal relationship with God.
- They read and studied the Bible every day, allowing the Holy Spirit to teach them.
- They asked God to give them wisdom and understanding.
- They applied what they learned to their own lives.
- They repeated steps 2-5 over and over again.
So is it wrong not to be a theologian? That depends. If you are studying the Bible and in God's word every day then... no. It is true that there should be spiritual growth in every Christian life but I don't think its a bad thing to not have a degree in theology or to be speaking with big, fancy words. In my opinion not everyone will become a theologian. God doesn't see excess Biblical knowledge as more important than faith or love. In fact, the Bible shows over and over again that God favors using the ordinary individual to do extraordinary things. He even takes ordinary people and gives them extraordinary understanding! And those individuals were chosen by God because of their love for Him, not by how much they knew either by knowledge or experience.
But if I had to offer an example of how I think a Christian should be, or at least strive to be, then the apostle Paul would be who I point towards. He is, in my opinion, a perfect example of a successful Christian life. He knew a lot and could carry discourse with the most regarded scholars of his time! But Paul was also able to talk and relate to ordinary Christians too. He took to heart everything he learned. He applied his knowledge to his own life. And even then he said in I Corinthians 13:2 "And if I have prophecy, and know all mystery and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." Knowledge alone is useless.
God is not impressed by proud people. He is not impressed with how many degrees we have to our credit or how many books we published or how popular we are. What impresses Him is if we obey His word and truly desire to spend time with Him. God looks at our hearts. Do we really love Him or do we just say we do?
If someone is a Christian but doesn't make time to study, not just read, their Bible then that's a problem. Why? Because God wants us to grow! It should be a natural desire in us if we love Him! And it makes sense because when we really like somebody or something we tend to spend lots of time with that person or thing, right? What we spend most of our time thinking about and doing is where our hearts truly lay. There is no spiritual growth if we don't do our part to nurture it.
Studying the Bible doesn't have to be complicated. Just start simple. Focus on a topic that interests you and search for as much as you can find about it in the Bible. We now have great tools to aid us on the web like the Net Bible: Home of Net Bible on-line. There are also fantastic books such as "Living By The Book" by Howard G. and William D. Hendricks to give you great pointers! If you really want to grow God will be happy to help you out!
But for any of you out there who are wondering if you can be successful at this, be encouraged. Yes you can do it! You already have the greatest teacher with you... the Holy Spirit! Don't compare yourself to others. Don't worry whether-or-not you are as "knowledgeable" as the theologians. Just learn as much as you can. Pick up your Bible and grow!