Which pastor would not want their people to become knowledgeable about Biblical facts and post-biblical church history and thereby grow to become theologically astute people! In an age of relativism where there is an increasing abandonment of absolute truth, and where differing ideas in our cultures inform and shape our people’s worldviews, who would not want our churches to become biblically literate? In an age of information technology, we truly rejoice over the fact that people in our congregation have easy accessibility to some of the best resources that they can feed on. While over-abundance of information is indeed a blessing, it can also be a curse depending on the nature of the reliability of resources out there.
The Mind Works Faster Than The Heart.
The real danger comes if we think biblical maturity is about precision of theological knowledge and biblical literacy. Spiritual maturity is not primarily something we do with our minds while sitting on our couches in front of the computer (although we’re commanded to love God with our minds). Maturity is about how you live your life in light of the Gospel. It is easier to intellectually apprehend truth than it is for us to actually embrace it wholeheartedly. What you truly believe, you will commend well with your whole life (not just with your mind or mouth). Adam and Eve didn’t disobey God because they were intellectually ignorant of God’s command. They wanted to “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Imagine wanting to be “like God” with easy accessibility and over-abundance of information “knowing good and evil.” They knowingly disobeyed because they quested for knowledge, power, and God’s position.
This is why life on life discipleship makes complete sense. In my ministry, I’ve been confused most by people who appear to be biblically literate and convince me into thinking they are spiritually mature, because they can give theological talks. But as they live in community they are dramatically spiritually immature, often living in continual disobedience. To be fair, none of us have arrived. We’re all learning. But many can sing Christian songs, and know their Bibles almost like the back of their hands, but are not living Christian lives. A parrot can learn to say the same things over and over again, but that does not mean the parrot has drastically changed. What impresses me, as a pastor, today is the people who tell me they know honey is sweet not only because Mama told them, but they know honey is sweet because they’ve tasted it and they show how sweet it is by the lives they share with others. By God’s grace, I’ve come to a point where I like to encourage our people to pursue biblical literacy along with personal holiness and humility in the context of discipleship (obedience to Jesus’ commission). Missional Communties call this Story-Formed.
Personal Heart-Change: Growing in Grace and Holiness.
Personal heart-change takes place in the little moments of life. Nothing like suffering reveals whether or not you believe in the Gospel. Sin and weaknesses gets exposed, and God’s grace meets us in our suffering and life in the mundane. As I noted in an earlier post, there is a difference between what we assume to believe and what we actually believe. What we assume to believe about God vertically will display itself horizontally in our sociological environment. It is one thing to preach a theology of grace, and it is another thing to show grace in the way we treat one another in the church and society. All spiritual growth ought to result in growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus ( 2 Peter 3:18).
As Tripp writes,
“….it’s not just my mind that needs to renewed by sound biblical teaching, but my heart needs to be reclaimed by the powerful grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The reclamation of my heart is both an event (justification) and a process (sanctification). Seminary, therefore, won’t solve my deepest problem—sin. It can contribute to the solution, but it may also blind me to my true condition by its tendency to redefine maturity. Biblical maturity is never just about what you know but always about how grace has employed what you have come to know to transform the way you live.“
“You can be theologically astute and
be dramatically spiritually immature.”
“Our heads learn faster than our hearts, and that means danger. Just because you can communicate an idea does not mean you have submitted yourself to it. And if we are not careful, we will mistake the communication part as the barometer of our maturity. Paul Tripp calls it “academizing” the faith — when we define our spiritual growth by our biblical literacy.”