Sunday, August 07, 2005

Theology/Personal – When Theology and Reality Collide

There is a dichotomy in the Christian life that is too often too true. It goes along with the worn out joke about my being a “cemetery” student. The assumption tends to be that seminary students get all filled up with theology and, as a result, become disconnected from reality. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the trend these days in seminaries such as CBTS, Master’s and the like. Local church oriented seminaries tend to be very strong in helping students live out the theology they learn in the classroom.

Sometimes it’s easy to “apply” theology. For instance, we believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Practically, then, we don’t try to earn our salvation through good works. Easy enough, right? It gets a little stickier though in some less than obvious situations. Recently I’ve had the opportunity to learn how to live out some of the most important theological truths that I have ever learned.

Here’s how it works. One of the foundational truths that supports all that I teach my teens is that we have been created for the glory of God and that we fulfill that purpose best when we find Christ to be our most satisfying treasure. It is a truth that God taught me several years ago in a very real way, and it is a truth that my teens are finding real in their own lives. But how does it work?

What do you do when the people you love the most betray you and turn on you? How do you react when you get the phone call that someone you love has terminal cancer? Can you really insist that a young couple find their joy in Christ when they just experienced a miscarriage? Can I, as a youth pastor, honestly counsel my teens with, “Rejoice in the Lord,” when their lives seem to be going all wrong? Does this theology really work when it collides with reality?

Absolutely! My teens and I have all had the privilege of seeing a deeply rooted delight in God change the most practical, down-to-earth things. Carrie and I get to rejoice with them and they get to rejoice with us even in the most difficult situations precisely because the theology is true. Hebrews 11:6 talks of the nature of true faith as being a belief that God exists and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him. We have seen him reward; we have seen him give us drinks from his river of delights (Ps. 36:8). When life seems to fall apart and when circumstances get seemingly impossible to bear, we show everyone around us that Christ is a greater treasure than anything we may have lost. This is the attitude of Job, of Paul, of Christ himself.

One of the tests of our theology is what happens to it when it collides with real life circumstances. I’m glad that this theology holds up well when “real life” strikes. Rutherford was right: Christ truly is a treasure worth rejoicing in more than anything…or anyone…else.

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