1. Heartfelt Gratitude and Joy
One of the most important experiences of my life was when my wife and I attended a dedication ceremony for a Wanca Quechua translation of the New Testament in Peru. Rick and Melanie Floyd, missionaries from our church, devoted decades of their lives so that these people would have the Bible in their own language. People at the ceremony were weeping because they were able to read a Bible in their own language for the first time. They had a parade that wound for miles through the streets of Huncayo.
I was deeply humbled by their appreciation of the Bible and have never looked at the many Bibles on my shelves and devices the same again. There are still thousands of people groups who do not have translations of the Bible in their native tongue. We should never take God’s Word for granted. It is a great blessing that God has revealed himself and that we have access to that revelation and Bibles in our own language.
2. Fear and Worship of God
God is the greatest thing we could ever try to comprehend. He is perfect in all his ways and staggeringly glorious. When people truly catch but a glimpse of his greatness, they are overwhelmed and forever changed. Our theology (right thinking) should always lead to doxology (right worship) and orthopraxy (right practice), or else we have a major disconnect in our theology.
On the other hand, if our worship and practice are not grounded in deep theology, worship will be shallow—fleeting sentimentality—and its practice will be merely empty moralism. We never need to fear that our awe will deplete because God is infinite and offers an endless supply of data for our worship and fear of him. The adventure of knowing God provides never-ending vistas of glory.
A big view of God invariably leads to a small view of ourselves.
A big view of God invariably leads to a small view of ourselves. Studying God’s Word shows us a supremely majestic God and we then learn our place before him. Although we recognize that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, we also know that all we are and have is from his hand, and we are but dust before him—glorious dust to be sure, but dust all the same. God is infinite (unlimited) and holy, and we are finite (limited) and fallen. God is the author of life and the source of all that is good. God has no unmet needs and does not need us for anything.
Everything we have is a gift from his gracious heart. Realizing this stops all human boasting in its tracks. “What do you have that you did not receive? . . . If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7). When we study the Bible, we will at times go beyond others in our knowledge, which could lead to arrogance. This is a heinous but common tendency that God warns about when he tells us that “knowledge puffs up but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). This arrogance can lead to looking down on those who don’t know as much as we do. This means we have to go to war with pride every day. Arrogant and Christian are two words that should never go together. All our boasting should be “in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31).
A New Testament scholar (Wilkins) and a theologian (Thoennes) offer readers a guide to biblical and theological studies from an evangelical perspective, highlighting foundational convictions while exploring contemporary issues. Part of the Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition series.
4. Prayerful Dependence on the Holy Spirit
Atheists can understand the meaning of the Bible. Even demons can have a highly accurate theology. James tells us that demons are card-carrying monotheists (James 2:19). So, there must be a kind of accurate knowledge that does not necessarily lead to God-honoring adoration, worship, and obedience. The key difference is the work of the Holy Spirit. The truth we seek is heart-transforming truth that leads to Christlike character and to lives that honor and please God. The Holy Spirit is the one who brings this to the believer. The illumining work of the Holy Spirit is the indispensable factor in knowing truth that leads to a growing life in Christ. Therefore, as we go to God’s Word we need to pray, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law." (Ps. 119:18)
5. Eager Expectation to Learn about God
God has given us his Word so that we may know him as he is and that the Bible is completely sufficient to lead us to accurate, personal, and sufficient knowledge. God has spoken, and we can have sure and growing knowledge of him. But it cannot lead us beyond our finite minds. We will always be limited in our understanding of our infinite God. We should learn to love and celebrate the times when the magnitude of God comes home to us and we find ourselves running out of the intellectual ability to understand all that he is.
6. Heartfelt Obedience
There is no more foundational way to express our trust and delight in God than to obey his commandments. Those who earnestly and honestly seek to know God through his Word will quite naturally respond with submission to it. God is not pleased with people who are merely playing intellectual games with him, seeking to understand his Word with no intention of trusting and obeying him. The Word of God proves itself true when we put it into action in the obedience of faith. As Jesus says in John 7:17, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” The Bible validates its truthfulness when we do what it says.
What systematic theology offers is a way of surveying the essential content of the entire Bible.
Anytime we spend time gazing at who God is as he’s described in the Scriptures, we cannot help but be drawn into worship.
Reading God's Word is encouraging, life-giving, convicting, and guiding. But, our habits can also be misguided.