Discussions about doctrine and theology can be a funny thing. In the church, you might see a dozen different approaches to addressing doctrine and then one million differing opinions on certain points of doctrine.
We won’t get into all of those things, but theology may sometimes be used as a weapon that is wielded against those who God has called us to love, or it is avoided as to imply that dialogue around theology is legalistic. I think it’s important to point out that often, the remedy many attempt to find for legalism is not the Gospel, but more legalism. Any attempt to dismantle legalism without proclaiming the freeing nature of the Gospel is just legalism that smells good. A light-hearted list of “how-tos” separated from the “done-ness” of the Gospel is not the remedy for legalism.
I would definitely contend that a consistent use of theology as a weapon against a person whom we have been called to love and serve is heretical and unbiblical.
I would also contend that using theology in a patronizing way that takes advantage of a negative legalistic experience that someone has endured is heretical and unbiblical.
So what does theology imply for the life of a disciple? The Church?
We have worked hard at Grace Harbor to define “disciple” in a way that is Biblically accurate and relevant for our people. We have summed it up like this:
A disciple is a learner, lover, and follower of Jesus.
We believe that these three components are visible in the lives of the 12 apostles and should also be present in the lives of believers today. Are there other things true about a disciple? Certainly. But a disciple isn’t anything less than these things. So, in the mission of Grace Harbor to “Bring Glory to God by Making Disciples”, we wanted to be very clear and simple about what that looks like.
This past week, we walked through 8 foundational theological truths that govern and drive everything about Grace Harbor. These 8 truths are also what we as the church use to affirm the faith of those who wish to join with us. Simply put: these are top-level, first importance truths that are affirmed by anyone who is a believer. Truths such as the inspiration of scripture, trinity(each being- Father, Son, Spirit), humanity, sin, salvation, death, resurrection, and last things. Also present within our full statement of faith are some distinguishing postures of second-handed issues that are not of primary importance.
We wanted this process and this night to be very welcoming and assuring for our people, regardless of where they stand on second-handed issues. So our approach was not only to list out these truths, but to give them 4 reasons why our beliefs are so important to us.
This list is not exhaustive. There are more reasons why our beliefs are important to us, but there aren’t less. Here is what we shared with our church.
- God– He is our highest authority. Society is widely confused and perplexed about the concept of authority and who God is. Our beliefs about God affirm the unchanging character and stability of God. His authority frees us! He is worthy of worship. Our worship is not directed towards some abstract idea about a higher being, but is shaped by the character that God possesses, which is available for us to know.
- You– the Word and the truth about God is the primary nourishment for the believer and is the means through which God reveals sin to the world. All that we know about God and all that we know about His people is found within the sufficient Word of God. There is no self-exploration necessary. From scripture we can know that we are loved and accepted despite our brokenness.
- Grace– Theology is not the antithesis of grace. Can theology be used to abuse? Yes. But it is also abusive to not treat legalism with the Gospel. Like I expressed above, it is tempting to oppose legalism by taking on another “prettier” form of legalism. “Do this” or “do that” without the message of what Christ has done is only a different form of the crushing legalism we despise. The most gracious and glorious gift the church can give to its people is a message of grace based upon the character and authority of God.
- Our Mission– “To Bring Glory to God by Making Disciples.” Sound familiar? Hint: Matthew 28. The Great Commission. Did you know that the Great Commission is a theological framework for the mission of the church? Did you know that the Great Commission is highly relevant today? We have asked ourselves and our church this question: what would it look like for us to take the Great Commission seriously and personally? What if it became more than the focus of one sermon per year? We ask this because we are aware of the implications of the Great Commission: as you go.
A.W. Tozer said:
“What comes to our mind when we think about God
is the most important things about us.”