Our theology is more important that we think it is. It may be because we somehow came to the conclusion that we “get it”. Especially those of us who have been raised in the church, we learned about Jesus from a young age on colorful Sunday School felt boards, asked Him into our heart and now all is well. We feel like we “get” who Jesus is which allows us to move onto other things like serving in the church and being nice to our neighbor. Not that any of those things are bad within themselves but if we have moved past Jesus than we have completely missed the point. If our theology (especially our Christology) simply motivations us to have better quiet times then it certainly won’t ask us to lay our life down. So let me dare to ask a complex question that many of us have made far too simple:
Who is Jesus?
Was he a moral teacher who taught us how to live well? (“What would Jesus do?”)
Is He our ticket to heaven?
Our way to a content and fulfilling life?
Our divine counselor that is always there to listen?
Someone who makes me happy when I am sad?
Or is He God in the flesh? Fully God, fully human? Is He the Jesus we read about in the scriptures or someone our American culture has created him to be?
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:14-18)
Theology matters because it’s ultimately what fuels our affections. If our heart is not captured by the truth of Jesus (as revealed to us in the scriptures) then our heart is captured by something else. Honestly, if the teachings of Jesus are hard for us to swallow at times then we are on the right track! We so often take the parts of Jesus we like and discard the rest. Think about that for a bit…
Jesus said that he WAS God, not a god but God! “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) Okay so some of us might be able to accept this…but then He states: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Whoa, so that seems a bit narrow: He is the ONLY way? Then He is crucified on a cross between two thieves… WWHHAATT??!! Wait. A. Minute… That was God’s plan?! If you don’t think this plan is a bit ludicrous, then you’re not really taking it seriously – this goes for me as well. (Luke 23:33; 1 Corinthians 1:23) Here lies the problem:
“We don’t take Jesus seriously enough.” – Dr. Paul Metzger
If Jesus was just a moral teacher, then we don’t “get” Jesus, the God-Man who came to abolish the law of sin and death (Romans 8:3, 4). Instead, we get a list of rules and a lifetime of trying to win God’s approval – how exhausting!
If Jesus is just our ticket to heaven, then we don’t “get” the personal Jesus who longs to be in a relationship that transforms our lives inviting us to participate in His grand plan. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19). Instead, we partake in an impersonal exchange that leaves us hanging after we have initially believed.
If Jesus was sent for the mere purpose of making sure we have a happy and content life, then we don’t “get” the Jesus who said “You will have trouble in this life but take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) Instead we get a self-made idol meant only to serve our need for happiness. How do you think this would affect our love of neighbor?
If Jesus is our divine counselor, then we don’t “get” the true Counselor who is the Spirit of God that is an outpouring of His divine love for us (Romans 5:5). Instead, we get an impotent god that is more like a friend who is great at listening but powerless to heal our deepest wounds.
The Christian Theologian J.I. Packer teaches that theology when done correctly, should lead to doxology: “Theology is for doxology – that is, the praise of God and the practice of godliness”. Theology matters because it’s what fuels our affections and our affections drive our actions.
“Every time we mention God we become Theologians, the only question is whether we are going to be good ones or bad ones.” – J.I Packer