It is very easy to turn Bible study and theology into ends. In other words, we can easily turn Bible study into the final point. We get together, we study a passage, we leave feeling smarter, and the study never accomplishes its intended purpose. The purpose of Bible study is worship, intimate fellowship with God, deeper intimacy with Him.
Theology is not an end, but it is a means to an end.
I praise God for men He has raised up in our day who have issued this warning many times. R.C. Sproul, Jerry Bridges, John Piper, John MacArthur, J.I. Packer, Allistair Begg, and others come to mind.
We have been studying Titus 1:1-4 as a church family. It would be very easy for us to make the study time the point. There is a lot to feed the mind in Titus 1:1-4. We can ponder for a long time on the facts that God existed before anyone or anything else. That in eternity past He planned out salvation, chose the elect, and promised Himself that He would give eternal life to those He chose. We can sound really intelligent discussing the depths of election and salvation. We can know the ins-and-outs of deep theology, and go away empty of any fellowship with God. It is quite possible to be satisfied in facts without being satisfied in God, Himself.
I am thankful for the New City Catechism, and the question we are learning this week as a church. We are looking at Question 17: “What is idolatry? Idolatry is trusting in created things rather than the Creator.” (1) (http://newcitycatechism.com/new-city-catechism/#17)
Perhaps we trust in ourselves and our knowledge of doctrine more than we trust in God Himself.
I am very concerned for our church family, myself, and other Christians that I know in this regard. It seems we can be very good at rattling off right definitions to theological words, while not really knowing them in our experience. We know what grace, peace, hope, joy, faith, repentance, etc. are on paper. However, we have very little knowledge of these things in our daily experience. We know about the Trinity, and we embrace it as biblical truth. However, we have very little, if any, experience of fellowshipping with and worshipping the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.
We want to avoid such empty Christianity at all costs. This does not mean that we stop studying the Bible and go live on mountain tops awaiting visions and experiences. All true knowledge of God comes from Him. He has revealed Himself in His Word. The only way for one to know God is through His Word. The Word is the means through which He produces faith in us. It is through His Word that He has made Himself known. It is through the Word of God that we hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and enter into a right relationship with Him. It is through the Word that we are fed and led (Psalm 19:7-11; 2 Timothy 3:14-17).
So, how do we avoid empty academic religion? How do we keep ourselves from a man-centered, self-aimed approach to the Bible? How do we keep Bible study and theology from becoming the ends, and instead make them the means to accomplishing the end of worshipping God?
In his classic book Knowing God, J.I. Packer offers the following, “How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God? The rule for doing this is simple but demanding. It is that we turn each truth we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.”(2)
I would like for us to do that with Titus 1:1-4. We have been taking time to meditate on these verses in our Sunday morning and afternoon Bible studies. We want to be certain we are not only studying information but taking time to know, love, and worship God.
There is a popular acronym to guide prayer time that I think is very helpful. It is the acronym ACTS.
A (Adoration/Worship/Praise), C (Confession – agreeing with God about sin), T (Thanks to God), and S (Supplication – making our requests known to God). Let’s use this acronym to aid our prayer time in Titus 1:1-4:
A – Adoration
C – Confession
T – Thanks
S – Supplication
Take time to adore, praise, worship God as you think on Him in Titus 1:1-4:
– I praise You for being trustworthy. You never lie. You cannot lie.
– I adore You and wonder at You for being eternal. You existed before the ages eternal.
– I worship You as the Savior. You promised eternal life before ages eternal. You chose Your people before time began. You accomplished this promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. You give this eternal life to all who trust in Christ.
– I praise You for Your Word. You made eternal life known in Your Word through the apostle’s preaching. You have made this eternal life known to us through Your Word.
– You can continue praising God as you meditate on Titus 1:1-4.
Take time to agree with God about sin issues that come to the surface as you meditate on Titus 1:1-4:
– Forgive us for not joyfully living as your servants, your slaves, existing for your purposes as we should.
– Forgive us for not being faithful with the message of eternal life that You have given.
– Forgive us for not trusting You, the God who never lies.
– Forgive us for not depending on Your grace and peace.
– You can continue on as things come to mind from this passage.
This may overlap with Adoration. It is all right to repeat things you have already mentioned:
– Thank You that we can trust You, because You cannot lie!
– Thank You that You are eternal. You have no beginning and no end! You do not change. You do not end. You can give life eternal, because You are eternal!
– Thank You that You are not only the Judge, but You are the Savior. Thank You for planning, promising, purchasing, accomplishing and giving eternal life through Jesus Christ.
– Thank You that we have access to Your Word. We have Your Word in our language. We have multiple copies of Your Word available to us.
– Thank You that You are faithful to use Your people to share this Word. Thank You that You faithfully placed individuals in my life who lived out and proclaimed the Good News of eternal life to me. Thank You, Holy Spirit, that You opened the eyes of my understanding to hear and understand and embrace the Lord Jesus Christ!
– You can continue as things come to mind from this text.
This is where our requests come in. Here is where we ask the God we have adored, confessed to, and thanked to sovereignly work in our lives and the lives of others.
– Father, I pray we would never lose awe and wonder at who You are and what You have done.
– Father, I ask that You would enable us to grow in my understanding of the Good News of Jesus.
– Father, enable us to be surrendered to Your will as Your joyful, willing slaves. Enable us to be Your messengers, faithfully taking the Good News of Eternal Life into the World.
– Father, enable us as believers in Jesus to grow in God-centeredness (godliness). May our hearts grow in devotion to You as we grow in the Gospel.
– Father, may we have confidence in eternal life, based on who You are and what You have done in Jesus. May our hope not be in our work, but may our hope be completely in You.
– Father, I pray for (names of unsaved people you know) to be saved. May they entrust themselves to Jesus Christ. May they come to true knowledge of the truth in salvation. Turn their hearts from rebellion against You to trusting obedience and worship.
– Enable us by Your grace for the work that You have for us to do.
– As we live for You, practically living out peace with You, may You give us assurance, no matter the opposition we may face.
– Father, raise up servants to translate and take Your Word to those who have never heard about You. Rescue Your elect from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people group on this planet. Send me if You will.
– You may continue praying as you meditate on the truths of this passage.
Let’s take time to not only know facts in our head, but to know God intimately. Let’s not only hear the Word, but meditate on it, pray it back to the Lord, and fellowship with Him in this way for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
(1) The New City Catechism “Question 17” (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2017). The New City Catechism is a great resource by Crossway and Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Check it out here: http://newcitycatechism.com.
(2) J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 23.
Unless otherwise noted the Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), copyright (c) 2001 by Crossway, a ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.