Back in ’09 a popular band who is known for hooky songs and inch deep lyrics had a big pop hit with ‘I Gotta Feeling’. The band is/was known as the Black Eyed Peas. In the song they start out by singing that they gotta feeling that they are gonna have a good time tonight and the rest of the song is about that good time played out. But the foundation for that good night played out was based upon their feelings. Feelings dictated expectations. Feelings were the foundation for truth.
We are looking at the second mark of moving churches towards health and it is biblical theology. The broad definition of biblical theology would simply be ‘drawing from Scripture the truth about God’ but many slip into black eyed peas theology. I know I have. Their feelings about God will trump Scripture. I know what Scripture says or I think I know what it says but I would prefer to see God another way. I would like to see God as someone who doesn’t know absolutely everything about the future that there is to know. I would like to think of God as someone who will make my life a cake walk since I have started following Him. I would like to think of God as someone who lets everyone into Heaven. Some will mix Christianity with another religious belief system and see God in light of those two beliefs blended.
The pastor preaches his little heart out and tells what the text means and what it doesn’t mean and up strolls a sincere new believer at the end of the sermon. She asks the pastor if it’s okay that if she holds to this verse of Scripture that he just preached on to mean something that it clearly doesn’t mean. How does a pastor present the truth in love? ‘I like this verse and I am going to ignore the context of the passage and I am going to ignore the theologians that God has so blessed us with from the past and you too after spending ten to twenty hours hunkering down in the study, and I am going to hold onto something that doesn’t jive with the truth because I like what I want it to mean.’
A. W. Tozer wrote ‘What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.’ We want to think rightly about God. We want our beliefs to flow from His Word and the more we believe rightly about God the more our lives will start to line up. What we believe about God flows into how we live. That’s why in both Romans and Ephesians Paul lays the groundwork in what to believe before he gets into how you behave, by His grace. And in light of that, more glory to Him right? The better we are living for Jesus the better He looks.
It would be easy to point you to the good authors that teach biblical theology. It would be tempting to give you a reading list of MacArthur and Piper and Dever and Grudem and Boice and a good ‘long gone guys’ list like Edwards and Spurgeon and Calvin. And those are two good lists but the best place to start is with the Bible. A number of years ago I was introduced to a Bible reading plan by Grant Horner. It was a pretty hard core plan that had you reading ten chapters a day from various places in the Word. When I dug into the Word, faithfully, consistently, over time, it was amazing to see how my theology started to shape biblically. It was also cool to see that the gang of authors that I just mentioned had their theology lining up with the things I was discovering in the Word. And our theology continues to shape through the Word…we ain’t there yet. What we believe is always growing and always to be reforming to the truth.
Think about this quote from a well-known pastor:
‘You have been told that God is a loving, gracious, merciful, kind, compassionate, wonderful, and good sky fairy who runs a day care in the sky and has a bucket of suckers for everyone because we’re all good people., That is a lie…God looks down and says, ‘I hate you, you are my enemy, and I will crush you, and we say that is deserved, right and just, and then God says ‘Because of Jesus I will love you and forgive you. This is a miracle.’
That quote is pretty biblically on-target but if we have bought into the modern god of our culture who is nothing but a god of love, we read a quote like that and it may chap us. A book to respond to that would be D.A. Carson’s little book ‘The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God’.
Unfortunately a lot of what we hear from the modern pulpit doesn’t square with biblical theology…and that’s sad. My encouragement is become a student of Scripture. You will not become an expert over night. You will never become an expert. But as you faithfully read and study the Word, your theology will be molded by the Word and that will prep you for next week’s sermon because when you hear it your beliefs will have been shaped by the Word. And you will know if the theology is backed up from the Bible or just based on a feeling.