Theology is the study of the nature of God. The interesting thing is, we will never know the true nature of God until we reach heaven (if then). Even with that being the case, there are things we can know about God because he dictated it to various people across a few centuries and it was made into a book.
It’s called the Bible. It has even outsold the Harry Potter series.
One of the prime responsibilities of a minister is to have some facility with theology. The church is founded on sound theological principles, and it is incumbent upon the minister to make sure the church adheres to these theological fundamentals. For example:
God – God is the creator of the universe. His love is available to all people and his desire is that every one of us becomes his child and ultimately a part of his kingdom. God is omnipotent and omnipresent. And God is holy. And since God is holy, he is not associated with sin. When we sin, God still loves us, but we are separated from him until we repent, and then we are restored to a holy state and can have a relationship with him. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other words, God created everything that has ever been. And when his creation turned away from him through sin, he sent part of himself to the world in the form of Jesus (the Son of God) who was born, killed, and resurrected. God is still active in the life of every believer in the form of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that guides and directs the Christian. The Holy Spirit is the cause of holiness within us and the force which guides us to a fuller relationship with God,
The Church – the people who assemble together to worship God and his son Jesus the Christ. The church is not relegated to a single location or series of locations. The church is comprised of all who worship God and Jesus anywhere in the world. [Note: Christ is not Jesus’ last name. It comes from the Greek and Hebrew mashiach (messiah), and means “anointed.”]
Salvation – Salvation is the work of God in our lives. A gift given by God that cannot be earned. It is through the grace of God that our sins are taken away and we are made acceptable to God. We are made holy. Salvation is both instantaneous and a process. (Yeah…God is funny like that. He’s even a trinity; three beings yet one being. Sometimes he makes my head hurt).
Salvation begins when we realize we have sinned against God and we have a desire to have a better relationship with him (also known as prevenient grace). Then we are restored to favor with God. Through the death and resurrection of Christ we are able, because of his sacrifice on our behalf, to renew (or begin) our relationship with God (also known as justification). As Paul wrote in 2nd Corinthians, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). And in Romans “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Then begins the lifelong process of growing and maturing in our ability to live as Jesus lived. We pray, study the Scriptures, fast, worship, and share in fellowship with other Christians, as we deepen our knowledge of and love for God.This is the third part of the process. Sanctification. And whenever we sin and realize our sin, the process starts over. God forgives immediately and we continue our journey to be the people he wants us to be.
Understand, this is not the complete theological foundation of the church. Not by a long shot. But these three elements are a good place to start because they outline the theological problems your pastor faces on a regular basis in the form of these statements:
I’m a good person, so I’m already going to heaven.
No. That’s not the basis for “getting into heaven.” First, the only way to salvation is through belief in Jesus as the Son of God. And that means murderers, pedophiles, and all manner of “undesirables” might just make it into heaven if they realize their sin, repent, and accept Christ as their savior. It’s not a matter of being a good person. It’s a matter of belief in Christ and leading a holy life. Not in an attempt to “get into heaven” but as a true desire to grow closer to God. So being a good person doesn’t make you a Christian any more than hanging around the garage makes you spark plug.
I had a bad experience in church as a child so I don’t go.
Let me tell you something your pastor won’t tell you. That is the most pitiful excuse I have ever heard. You’re either lazy, or you just don’t want to go. If you have a bad experience at work do you just stay home for a few years? If you have a bad experience with a car do you quit driving? No. The fact is, sometimes we get lazy. we’d rather fish, sleep in, go to the races, play golf, watch TV, go on a trip, or any number of things. It becomes about what we want. Church is where we go to worship God with other like-minded folks. And don’t hand me that, “I can worship anywhere” crap because the fact of the matter is you can…but you don’t. If you love God, you’ll worship God. Now there are people who have had bad experiences, granted. And we as believers should find those folks and take them to a place where they can have a good experience.
The church is full of hypocrites.
Well one more won’t hurt. Since when did that argument hold water? It is closely related to the one above. Just another variation because THE WHOLE WORLD is full of hypocrites. So maybe together we can learn to be less hypocritical. And we stand a better chance in church than we do watching Bill Dance pull another one out of Santee Cooper Lake or cussing a blue streak when we four-putt that stupid par 5 on the back nine. (My favorite response to this one was, “Have you never been hypocritical?” or “Then maybe you can come be a good example to the others.”)
It’s private. I have my own relationship with God.
Really? Describe it. How did you develop it? What can you tell me about God?How can I have a relationship like that? These questions will bring out the REAL answer to that question.
The relationship may be private to some extent, but developing it can’t be. On our own we just don’t know it all.
[Note: I am not politically correct. I still refer to God as he and Father. And if that offends you, I can deal with that.]
Next Time: The Pastor’s Real Job