I have found that if you mention theology around some folks they will head towards the door. A lot of people are not interested in how their salvation works. They just want to be end-users. They want to be saved but do not want to know the ins and outs of that salvation. They just want to believe in Jesus and be good. Often I think this is what churches have catered to in their teaching and programs.
My childhood church taught me the simple basics of who Jesus is and that He died for me. They taught me the need to surrender my life to Jesus and trust in Him. What I did not learn was how to express that faith or the theological underpinnings that uphold our faith. While I can remember lessons about the Bible stories and some theological truths like repentance, there was little focus on who God is or how Jesus’ death and resurrection really saved us from our sin. We knew that faith in Jesus saved us, but we had no understanding of how Jesus saved us. A lot of people have the same ideas about their cars. They know how to make them work. They know how to start them, drive them, and turn them off, but they really do not have any idea how they operate other than they use gas.
My family moved churches as I entered Junior High. At age 14, in this new church, I first asked the question, “Is Jesus God?” A wonderful Sunday School teacher took the time to explain the Trinity to me. I guess maybe I had been taught about the Trinity, but until I asked the question I had no clear idea about the Trinity. This last week at a baseball game, I was asked by a Christian lady in her 80s, “Who do we pray to, Jesus or God?” It was a little random and caught me off guard as our conversation had not been so deep. It made me think about how many people are sitting in pews with limited knowledge of Jesus’ person and work.
I covet those who grew up in a church that taught a Reformed catechism. I missed that fundamental teaching. It was a blessing in my early 20s to sit under the teaching of Morton Smith in an Introduction to Reformed Theology class. It was there that I finally got the answers to my major childhood questions about God as we studied the Westminster Confession and Catechisms.
Why do you need to know theology? There is always the need to protect from error and heresy. However, the more important and practical reason you need to know is so that you can marvel at the salvation that God has given to you. As you understand your salvation you can grow in your worship and in your trust in God.
How can we do this? The first thing we need to do is to study our Bibles! Note well, I did not say read our Bibles, but rather study our Bibles. There is a difference. Many Christians are diligent to read the bible daily. This is a good thing. We should be reading our Bibles to gain a breadth of knowledge. But there is also a time that we need to study the major themes, issues, and doctrines that we find in the Bible.
The second thing is that we need to be consistent in our attendance at church and move beyond just the Lord’s Day morning worship service. You need to find a place that helps you to grow in your knowledge. Many churches have Sunday School, Wednesday Nights, small groups, or some other type of Christian Education opportunities. You need to join one of these and be regular in your attendance at both worship services and during these teaching opportunities.
The third thing you need to do is ask questions. Our churches are filled with people who need to know more about Jesus. Asking questions helps you and them to know more. It is often hard for adults who have been raised in church to ask a question. There is the fear of looking dumb or unspiritual. But if you do not know, then you do not know. Ask the question! The only dumb question is the one not asked. In reality, there may be many people thinking the same thing you are.
The last thing you need to do is to read! Yes, go ask your pastor for a book. Ask for a copy of your church's confession and catechism. Ask for something helpful on how salvation works. Ask for something that takes the Biblical ideas about who God is and lays it out in a way that helps you understand.
It is important that we know our God. It is important that we grow in our theological understanding. It is important that we understand how the Christian life works. It is important to have a growing knowledge of Christ and His Word. It is hard work to grow beyond the basics, but it is worth it. Are you willing to do this work to know your salvation and the God who created it?