How I Got Theology Part 3

American evangelical churches have worked hard to reach younger generations over the past few decades. It’s not gone that well. Sure, more mega-churches dot the landscape, but many people, especially younger ones, left the organized church or the Christian faith altogether.

Much effort has gone into attracting and drawing people into the church, while others focus on being missional. Sadly, these efforts neglected to build a solid foundation for people’s faith.

Aristotle is credited with the postulate that nature abhors a vacuum. A vacuum existed in the mid-sixties—a lack of spiritual integrity and substance. So, people filled this vacuum with philosophy, religion, and other cultural trends.

Organized churches made an assumption in the years preceding the Jesus People Movement. Many assumed that young people had no interest in studying the Bible. I see a similar assumption at present. It was a wrong assumption 50+ years ago, and it’s wrong now. The opposite is true. Many young people are seeking the truth and are interested in the Bible. Many people want mentoring but reject the authoritarian stance of many churches.

A great biblical ignorance exists today. Not a lack of Bible knowledge or resources but ignorance. Why? Because those who receive what is presented and promoted do not process it thoughtfully and spiritually. The truth of God needs to be processed in our minds and meditated on in our hearts.

A great hunger and interest in the truth existed when I came to faith over 50 years ago. Yep, I’m old. I’m a holdover from the Jesus Generation, as it was called. I remember hours of shared engagement in studying the Bible with other people of my generation. We did it in churches, often sitting on the floor, in homes, on our own, or outside in public. We couldn’t get enough. I couldn’t get enough. It was a good hunger.

It wasn’t listening to well-crafted messages from the Bible. It was a personal encounter with Jesus. He (Jesus) has a lot to say about the value of digging into the Scriptures—

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them, you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me (John 5:39 NIV)

It is the Spirit that gives life. The flesh doesn’t give life. The words I told you are spirit, and they give life. (John 6:63 NCV)

“If you continue to obey my teaching, you are truly my followers. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:3132 NCV)

 “Use the truth to make them holy. Your words are true. (John 17:17 GW)

Is there a difference between attending a Bible study and studying the Bible? Yes. I’ve seen many people attend a Bible study and take in what the teacher said as valuable information. But, if that information doesn’t become life-giving truth for them, it is simply Bible knowledge. Bible knowledge isn’t a bad thing, but it doesn’t transform a person, it informs them.

If our study of the Bible isn’t a personal encounter with Jesus but only a pursuit of truth, we miss the most important thing. As Jesus said, “These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.” (John 5:39 NIV)

So, how does Bible study become a spiritual encounter with Jesus? Here are some things that help build a good foundation for your personal theology to develop—

  • Prayer—perhaps this is too obvious, yet it’s so vital it must be mentioned. We need to ask God to reveal His truth to us (Matthew 16:17).
  • The Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16-17). How can we receive God’s revelation apart from His Spirit?
  • Reading and listening to the Scriptures. There is nothing that can replace this. No one else can do this for us (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Regular study of the Bible—if not daily, weekly. A consistent digging into the Scriptures so you build your faith on a solid foundation (Matthew 7:24-27)

This is the final of a 3-part series that began with How I Got Theology– Part 1. It’s my personal answer to three questions posed in a previous post called Got Theology? where I look at how we all develop a personal theology.

If you’d like more guidance on how to study the Bible in a personal yet systematic and objective way, you can download my 7-page Primer on Inductive Bible Study. It is a simple guide to Inductive Bible Study (IBS) developed from many years of training pastors, leaders, and other followers of Jesus here in the US and overseas.

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