Lent | Know the Gospel
March 25, 2017
Have you ever been angry with someone only to find out that they did not even do the thing you were angry over? When you learn the truth, your anger seems misplaced and wrong. Why? Well, new knowledge or corrected knowledge leads your emotional response differently now. Remember when you were angry with that person though. Did you allow your anger to interpret their future actions in a way they never intended? Did you misread their facial expressions and other non-verbals in a way that supported your anger because you were filtering their actions though your own misunderstanding? Then, when knowledge of the truth came, did you immediately start asking, “But why did you do this and that?” And with each explanation, did you find yourself saying, “Oh, wow. I was totally misreading that whole situation.”? This new knowledge has completely changed your emotional filter and perspective of the whole event, thus changing your emotional response.
IS THEOLOGY PRACTICAL?
This is what I think about when people ask me if theology is practical or worse when people claim that theology is not practical. That is, the practice of our faith, the emotional responses which come out of our faith and the filters through which we view and experience life in general are directly driven by our theological knowledge.
In an attempt to soften the assumed divide between theology and practicality, people will claim that it is merely the difference between head-knowledge and something called "heart-knowledge". Honestly, at the risk of accusing myself of being completely heartless, I’ll admit that I’m not even sure what "heart-knowledge" is. Of course, we are accustomed to using the word ‘heart’ to reference emotional perspective, emotional reaction, or the emotional filter through which we experience life events, but to call any of this "knowledge" just seems to be a bit much. In my own experience, emotional perspective, reaction, and filter follow after what is known rather than establish it. The problem comes when one is wrong about what they believe they know, like in the earlier example. In this case, the emotional filters and perspectives produce reactions that are based on false knowledge. Things only get worse and more complex when we allow our emotional filters to begin informing and even determining what we think about facts thus establishing "knowledge" of a thing based on emotion, or "heart-knowledge". No, the practicality of theology cannot be explained by a mere difference between head-knowledge and "heart-knowledge". The connection from theology to practice is much more direct than that. If our theology is wrong, our understanding of the world around us, our responses to life circumstances and our practice will be wrong. And so, the first of three phrases in the Summit Crossing Vision Statement is theological not practical: “Know the gospel.” It comes first, because it must. Without it, our connections become merely social and our living becomes wholly self-centered. We have put a lot in place structurally to enable and encourage gospel connections and gospel living, and we want to do even more to establish and build up gospel knowledge. Let’s start with this Resurrection Day, also known as Easter.
If our theology is wrong, our understanding of the world around us, our responses to life circumstances and our practice will be wrong.
THEOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE WORK OF JESUS
As we approach Resurrection Day, I encourage you to study the theological implications of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Allow the richness of your understanding of His saving work to inform and guide your celebration this year. How can a study like this be practical? You may find that with a proper focus and understanding of the work of Christ, your celebration may look less and less like a family celebration of spring and new life and instead begin to look more like a celebration of a cosmic victory over sin and death. As you contemplate the truth of Him who knew no sin becoming sin, your celebration may become less about your love of family gatherings and more about your hate of sin. As you contemplate the truth of His sacrificial death, your celebration may become less about a basket of gifts and more about the gift of grace. As you contemplate the truth of His bodily resurrection, your celebration may become less about hunting for eggs and more about the disciples’ search for Christ encouraging us all to seek Him. As you contemplate the day when Christ ascended from earth to His seat at the right hand of the Father, your celebration may become less about the anticipation of the coming of a bunny and more about the anticipation of the coming of the Lord!
When our theology is shallow, we have incomplete celebrations of the single most important event in world history. What we know about the gospel is practical, for what you know directs how you respond; that is the whole point. In light of this knowledge, how will you celebrate Resurrection Day this year?
Brooke and I have some special things we have always done that we would love to share in more detail. Feel free to ask. Here are a few of them: one night during Holy Week, the week leading up to Resurrection Day, we will have a full Seder meal in our home explaining the gospel and discussing sin. The whole family loves the empty tomb rolls Brooke makes for breakfast Sunday morning. (I am still amazed at how that marshmallow becomes a flat, folded cloth inside that empty roll!) Of course, we give gifts to our children (yes, in baskets) to express the graciousness of our gift-giving God, and we make it a point to talk about it in those terms. We even hunt eggs in our yard as an illustration of searching for life in Christ (Brooke used to have a special set of plastic eggs that contained pieces to the gospel story when the kids were young.) There are several other little traditions that our family enjoys, but the point here is not to pass on our traditions. Rather, I simply encourage you to let your head-knowledge of the gospel practically impact your own celebrations this year.
- Ask the Spirit to renew your mind and empower you to meditate on the theological implications of the work of Jesus.
- Thank Jesus for His work and for bringing you from death to life.
- Ask the Father for your brothers and sisters in the faith along with yourself to be led and directed by the truth of the gospel.
*Reminder: Day of corporate fasting and prayer is Thursday, March 30th.
*Read the Lent Season overview for more details.