Has your personal study of the Word of God informed and enlarged your brain without convicting and transforming your heart?
When I was a younger pastor, I was exegeting my way through Romans, engulfed in an intoxicating world of language syntax and theological argument. I labored over tenses, contexts, objects, and connectors. I studied etymologies and the Pauline vocabulary.
Countless hours of disciplined private study were represented by page upon page of notes. It was all very gratifying. I felt so proud that I had filled my notebook with copious notes on Romans.
Then one evening, it hit me. It was a sweet moment of divine rescue by the Holy Spirit. I had spent hours each day for months studying perhaps the most extensive and gorgeous exposition of the gospel that has ever been written, yet I had been fundamentally untouched by its message.
My study of the Word of God had been a massive intellectual exercise but almost utterly devoid of spiritual, heart-transforming power.
You may never exegete an entire book of the Bible, but God does call you to be a diligent student of his Word. But here’s the danger: because of remaining sin and self-righteousness, our study of Scripture could leave us with big theological brains and untouched and diseased hearts.
Could I be describing you? Here are three signs of an untouched and diseased heart that I have experienced, even after studying passages that speak directly to these symptoms!
In Matthew 6, Christ asks his followers, “Why are you anxious?” He explains that it makes sense for the Gentiles (unbelievers) to be anxious because they don’t have a heavenly Father, then reminds us that we have a Father who knows what we need and is committed to delivering it.
As you study the Word of God and see evidence of his past, present, and future provision splashed across every page (Phil. 4:19, 2 Pet. 1:3, etc.), does it give your heart rest? If this theology informs your brain but does not capture your heart, the anxieties of life will likely influence how you live.
I am convinced that rest in this chaotic world, submission to authority, and a willingness to give and share control all arise from a sure knowledge that every single detail of our lives is under the careful administration of One of awesome glory.
As you memorize verses like Daniel 4:35, Psalm 135:6, and Isaiah 46:10, does it create peace in your heart? When the theology of God’s sovereignty moves beyond your brain and transforms your heart, you won’t have to be in control of everything and everyone in your life.
Whenever you ask creation to do what only the Creator can do, you are on your way to addiction. I’m not talking about life-destroying addictions that require a rehabilitation center, but anything (however small) that provides a temporary retreat or pleasure or buzz that you return to again and again. When the joy of Christ isn’t ruling your heart, you are rendered more susceptible to some form of everyday addiction.
As you study the Word of God, are you searching for heart and life-transforming pleasure? (The pleasure of knowing, serving, and pleasing Christ: see 2 Cor. 5:9, 1 Thes. 4:1, Eph. 5:10) Some Christians get way too much pleasure from being theogeeks!
I am not suggesting at all that your Bible study cannot include any scholarly components. But whenever you search the Scriptures, it should be a time of worship and not just education.
Each time you open the Word of God, you should be looking for your beautiful Savior, whose beauty alone has the power to overwhelm any other beauty that could capture your heart.
1. What have you studied recently in the Scriptures that informed your brain and increased your theological awareness? Why is this a blessing from the Lord?
2. How should this newfound biblical wisdom convict and transform your heart? Be specific.
3. Re-read Matthew 6:25-34. Apply this passage to any anxiety that you might be experiencing in the here and now. How should this comfort you?
4. Do you tend to be a controlling person? What is it that you fear most about not being in control? How should the theology of God’s sovereignty give up control?
5. Are you currently returning to something in creation over and over again for comfort and pleasure? Are you telling yourself that you can manage this craving when the evidence might suggest that it’s dominating you?