Doctrine and Devotion
by MW Cook
I can remember way back before I went to KLBC. I remember a dear brother who had been there talking excitedly about some of the stuff he was learning. He talked about a weird system of thought I had never heard of before called Calvinism. He outlined the points and started telling me how wonderful yet controversial it was. I rolled my eyes. “What’s the point of all this?” I asked. It seemed so silly to cause conflict because of petty theological issues. Why make an issue? Why not just follow God? How can this sort of study actually help me? My friend looked at me blankly for a moment. “It helps you worship God better.”
I had such noble dreams about ‘cleaning up’ the theological community. I thought I’d enter it and show them that the words on a page didn’t matter. What matters is what you do with your life. How you help people. Stuff like that. I couldn’t see how a systematic study of the Bible or doctrine could be useful.
Until I really met God.
There is a lethal trend these days away from serious Bible study. I can’t imagine why. Perhaps in our consumer-based, fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants, Big-mac-and-fries culture we’ve lost interest in things that are difficult to understand. Out with the systematic theology and in with the flashy, two minute devotional books.
I have found something. I get much more encouragement from meditating on the amazing doctrines God has revealed than from reading quirky, encouraging stories. The truth still stands that the easy things rarely benefit us much. If we want great encouragement in our faith we need to dig for it.
So back to what my buddy was talking about. A few years after the conversation I started to see evidence of his beliefs scattered throughout the whole Bible. It shocked me at first, but when the truth of it sank in it became a beautiful and precious thing. Think about it!
I was born with a broken heart (total depravity). From the time I could put a thought together my heart was trying to steer me down a path to destruction. I was born sinful in my entire person. I couldn’t even choose God if I wanted to. I hated him without knowing it. Every choice I made was an insult to his divine glory. Nevertheless he broke down the stony door of my heart (irresistible grace) and made it anew out of spirit and flesh. The scales fell off my eyes and I believed in what I could never have understood on my own. But it didn’t just end there, because every time I came near the brink of falling away to my old nature he was there to stop me (preservation of the saints). He has always and always will stop me from falling away, not because I am good, but because he has sealed me. I know that I’m secure because before the universe was made God said to himself, “I want Matthew Cook as my son” (election). Before the foundations were laid he saw the end from the beginning. He saw the day when I sinned the most and he still choose me and made me his own. Not because of anything that I have done, but according to his great mercy he saved me.
Am I a calvinist? I don’t rightly know what that word means. Nor do I really care. But I do believe that certain doctrines of grace like depravity, election, preservation, grace and atonement are true and beautiful things.
So what is the use of theology? What is the use of doctrine? How can we even know who God is without it? Without a thorough study of the Word he end up with a God of our own making. And the imagined God is far weaker and far less beautiful than the one who wrote us his autobiography. So read, study, write and dig. Be encouraged by hard doctrines, because easy things are rarely good.