The individual goal in this life is transformation into the image of Christ so that the life of Christ might be manifest in the earth. The goal is not “doctrine and Bible study.” Few things are more inoculating against the manifestation of the life and ethics of Christ, than listening to sermon upon sermon without any correlated obedience to the one we heard last week. It is like collecting coffee beans and believing you have a cup of coffee. We don’t. We have a potential cup of coffee.
Doctrine and Bible study are the guard rails and compass that point to the destination. They are NOT the destination. They are coffee beans: you can’t have a cup of coffee without them. If you want a cup of coffee, you must have beans. If you want coffee but only have apples, you can never have coffee. However, beans that are not crushed and processed by heat and water are no cup of coffee! They cannot be drunk.
It doesn’t matter how well you understand beans. It doesn’t matter how carefully they are grown. It doesn’t matter if you can explain the mysteries of the microbiology of beans. Stacking up more, and more, and more beans can fill a warehouse, but still won’t get you a cup of coffee. NONE OF THESE THINGS MATTER, if not processed, you will never have coffee. All these things serve only ONE purpose: the end game of a cup of coffee–something that someone wants to buy and consume. They represent the POTENTIAL for something consumable, nothing more.
Contrary to Luther who said: “doctrine is the main thing,” the image/life of Christ is the main thing. We have been suffering for 500 years of “doctrinitis.” Our spiritual warehouse is full of bags of beans and every week we seem more determined to add more beans to the warehouse, not noticing that last week’s beans have not even been processed, and that no one in our culture is drinking any coffee. We think if we take beans out of the warehouse and ram them down people’s throats, that this will somehow create an appetite for coffee in them. No, they will never develop an appetite and will resent the people cramming the beans.
Most Christians can not even remember three points from the last sermon they heard, let alone conform their lives to what was said. Don’t believe me? Ask folks who attend a church meeting regularly to tell you what their pastor preached about 6 weeks ago, 3 weeks ago, last week, and how they have applied it in their lives. You will be lucky to get one coherent thought. Endless sermonizing is one of the poorest ways to teach. Real learning happens in application, not just the eternal acquisition of “Bible facts.” There is no life in the latter.
For example, doing a word study–let’s say on patience–knowing the Greek distinctions and differences in words, and knowing how Jesus and the apostles used the words and so on, does not mean you understand a thing about patience, and are ready to teach the adult sunday school your brilliant insights. Having that knowledge pass through the fires of life circumstances where you have to live or work with someone who requires patience on your part, and manifesting the qualities that you learned about in your word study, means you understand a little bit about patience. Being despised, rejected, and hated for manifesting the patience you learned about in your word study, without reacting negatively to the person despising you, now means you fully understand patience and might have something life-giving to say about it.
Both Jews and Greeks understood this, that knowledge means participation in or with the object of one’s study. For example, let’s imagine you are boarding a plane and there is a young captain greeting you and welcoming you to his first commercial passenger flight. He tells you how much he enjoyed his studies and how he graduated at the top of his class. You are impressed and you ask him if he ever has actually flown the kind of plane you are about to board. He replies: “No, but don’t worry, I’ve studied really hard.” Would you get on the plane? Of course not. Why? The pilot has no knowledge.
As obvious as this is naturally it seems when it comes to spiritual things or things in the life of the church, people are so naive as to be impressed with someone because he or she has “Bible knowledge and an orator’s gift.” That combination means nothing. Real learning happens by doing, not by years of passive listening and the endless aggregation of information.
Bible information without transformation is the root of murderous, slanderous, religious spirits (As testified to by the blood-soaked soil of Europe and the toxic, death-spirit pages of “Christian” Facebook–we are a little more sophisticated, these days.). Being “right” (as one perceives it) doctrinally without corresponding transformation into the image of Jesus, is worthless knowledge that puffs up.
It is just a bag of beans.
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