Summer Series; Theology on Fire!
Good morning, Saylorville! If you brought a copy of Scripture with you this morning, you can find the book of Hosea, chapter 4, in the Old Testament as we begin our brand new summer series entitled Theology on Fire! Today’s message is entitled, Exalting in the Knowledge of God.
We welcome all of our young people here during the services in the summer. Let’s give them a round of applause! Good to have you here young people!
After becoming a Christian, my first wife (who’s now in heaven) and I befriended a couple, and we became really close with them. They went to a different Bible-believing church, much like the one we were going to. Our friend told us about how one Sunday night she had an experience which was kind of embarrassing to her. If anybody here has any experience about being back in the 80s, you know that churches would often show movies (but they didn’t called them movies. They called them “films.”) It was a big deal to go to church Sunday night and watch a Christian film. Their church had just shown this Christian film which our friend said she really liked, and she was kind of giddy about it! As she was walking out of the church with her friend, an elderly woman named Florence (who was a very godly lady, serious mind about the things of God) she commented, “Wasn’t that a great film we just saw?” to which Florence replied to her, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge!” (How would you like to have that for a reply?) In other words, Florence had come to hear the word of God preached. What she got instead was a cheap substitute in a movie! That’s basically what she was saying. Her reaction was to quote the Old Testament prophet, Hosea! Let’s look at that quote in context in Hosea, chapter 4 where it says,
Hosea 4:1-2, ”Hear the word of the LORD, O children of Israel, for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.” (He’s basically putting them on trial.) There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no (what’s the word?) knowledge of God in the land; (The result?) 2 there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; They break bounds (that has moral implications. I’ll come back to it.) and bloodshed follows bloodshed. (Skip down to verse 6.)
Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for (what?) lack of knowledge; (And then he pinpoints the priests because it was coming from the top down) because you have rejected knowledge,
I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.”
How would you like that as a curse?
The year was somewhere between 725 and 750 BC for Israel. They were in a bad place. The Assyrians to the north were assimilating the northern tribes because of their unfaithfulness. In fact, they were so unfaithful in the book of Hosea, God likens the children of Israel to adulterers. (If you’re unfaithful to God, he likens YOU to being an adulterer!) God tells Hosea in the beginning of the book to go and marry a woman who’s an adulteress who repeatedly commits adultery on him! She even has kids from other men! It’s bizarre and striking, but it’s God’s way of illustrating what they had done and their unfaithfulness to him. Then God turns the tables around. In chapter three, God tells Hosea to go back to that woman and love her again! It’s THE most striking illustration in all of the Bible, humanly speaking, of God’s persistent, ongoing and unconditional love for us in spite of our sin… and aren’t you glad?! (Amen?!) What caused Israel to be in a place where they’re called “unfaithful?” The answer is really simple, and it’s mentioned repeatedly in the passage… rejecting the knowledge of God.
There was a teenager. He’d taken his dad’s car on a run… He’d blown through three red lights on a busy Friday afternoon, two stop signs, and driven the wrong way down a highway, finally ending up in a parking lot where he had parked in a handicapped parking spot, then walked into a Walmart where he was arrested. When they told him he was being multi-ticketed, his first response to the police was “What did I do wrong?! I didn’t kill anybody!” But he nearly did. The point is, he had never been taught to drive, and, therefore, put many people’s lives in jeopardy because of his lack of knowledge.
I draw your attention to Hosea 4:2 again where we see what the lack of knowledge in Israel resulted in (and the results are not much different than what we see today in our land.) Look at it again: swearing, lying, murder, stealing, committing adultery, and (I underlined this) they break all bounds. It’s variously translated in our English Bibles, but the idea is they were breaking moral boundaries that naturally nobody would do. We see this prevalent in our own society today. Bloodshed followed bloodshed. This is how Solomon put it:
Proverbs 29:18a, “Where there is no prophetic vision (That’s where preaching knowledge of truth is being dispensed. When that isn’t happening…) the people (what?) cast off restraint…” (they’re unrestrained.)
(Do you see that in our generation?) Knowledge, as we have often been told, has power, both negatively and positively. Without knowledge, the power of darkness reigns, and people, nations and churches collapse into moral, ethical, and spiritual darkness.
The gay pride celebrations that we see all over the land today have been around for over 50 years in our country in different cities, but today, the entire country is celebrating! How did this happen? A lack of knowledge. Our country, our world desperately needs revival, but God is the one who makes revival. We can’t bring revival on ourselves. Until God makes that happen, the Church’s responsibility is to strengthen itself in the knowledge of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s how we are changed. That’s how the world is changed. Here are a couple of words about knowledge from the writer of Proverbs;
Proverbs 15:14, “The heart of him who has understanding (what?) seeks knowledge…”
Here’s another one.
Proverbs 18:15-16, “The mind of the prudent is ever getting knowledge…”
Do you seek knowledge? Are you getting knowledge? The very first thing I tell new Christians that I work with is this (it’s very profound!) … read your Bible! Why? Because that’s where you get knowledge. You need that knowledge. There are a couple of caveats and here is the first. All true knowledge should stem from a fear of God… a reverential, awe-like fear of God. That’s what Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, says in Proverbs 1:7,
Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the (what?) beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
This book isn’t like any other book. It’s not a magic book, but it is a majestic book. It’s a miraculous book. It is a book like nothing else, and I know that this book can change my life. So whenever I open my Bible, I pray the prayer of David for the powers of observation which ONLY come from God! (We sometimes call it illumination.) He said in Psalm 119 verse 18,
Psalm 119:18, ”Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.“
So knowledge, true knowledge, comes from a fear of the Lord. The other caveat is knowledge is often connected in scripture, particularly in the books of Proverbs and Psalms, to wisdom. Wisdom is basically knowledge applied. Wisdom– when you’re wise, you take knowledge and you apply it. Knowledge and wisdom are often connected because knowledge alone puffs up. It makes us prideful. That’s exactly what the Apostle Paul said in…
1 Corinthians 8:1, “Knowledge puffs up, but love (what?) builds up.”
A lot of us (these people and others that we’ll see here before we’re done this morning) are like Watson. Remember Watson, the assistant to Sherlock Holmes? Sherlock Holmes famously said to him,
“Watson, you see, but you don’t observe.” Sherlock Holmes
Jesus said something very similar to his enemies in John, chapter five. He said,
John 5:39-40, “You search the Scriptures (He’s not commanding them to search the Scriptures. He’s acknowledging that they do!) because you think that in them you have eternal life, (There is eternal life embedded in this book.) and it is they that bear witness about ME yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
Do you see what he’s saying? You’ve searched the scriptures but you’re not getting it! You’re not seeing Me, and, consequently, they were rebuked because their knowledge wasn’t producing godliness. Paul wrote to the Romans referring to the Jews in Romans 10. He said,
Romans 10:1-3, ”Brother, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” (The implication… they weren’t!) For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to (What?) knowledge. (Very good!) For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”
That’s what the Bible says. We’re talking about theology on fire! In theological terms it’s called systematic theology. When you hear somebody say, ‘This sounds so boring.’ It’s not meant to be boring! Listen, if you are a growing Christian, if you’re a brand new Christian, if you’re an old Christian or anything in between, you will want to know what the Bible teaches on a given subject. (Amen?) What does the Bible teach about itself, about its authority, about its inspiration, about its unity, about its sufficiency? What does the Bible teach us about God? (We’ll be into that next week.) Who is God? How do we know about God? What is God like? Herein lies the problem as somebody once said,
‘God made man in his own image and man returned the favor.’ Anonomous
That’s our problem today. God created us in His image and then we try to create Him in our own image! (We’ll talk about that more later.) What does the Bible say about the Holy Spirit, about salvation, about Satan, about sin, about our future, about the church and even current issues like the LGBTQ issue and gender dysphoria, about anxiety and mental disorders? Those aren’t considered major topics in the Bible, but they are all dealt with, theologically speaking, systematically speaking. God’s truth in these and other areas informs our minds, increases our godliness which alerts our spirits. Have you ever had the experience when something happens, somebody says something, somebody preaches something, somebody presents something and your spirit goes, “Whoa! That’s not true!” That’s God, the Holy Spirit, activating the truth of God on a particular subject.
When I walked in here this morning, I did not know we had this Operation sign here. (A large sign was created and placed on the stage for VBS this week which was made to look like the picture on the front of the game, Operation) Wouldn’t it be cool if every time a preacher on this platform said something that isn’t true and… Boom! The light would just go off?! How embarrassing would that be? But that’s what good theology on fire does in your heart! Good theology will protect your life and it will help us to spread the gospel. It is theology on fire!
This is my condensed definition of Systematic Theology. It compartmentalizes the Bible’s major subjects, then pulls the Bible’s teaching on a given subject from various places throughout the Bible. I keep referencing the Bible because it’s the Bible where we want to find our Truth, not from philosophy on which there are written many books, but we are talking about the unalloyed word of God. Many of you are given to alloys. An alloy is something that’s mixed as in a metal. The Bible is not mixed. It’s unalloyed, (Amen?) so when you’re reading the Bible, you’re reading pure, unadulterated, unalloyed truth, and we need that!
Just the other day I was at lunch with a friend, a man that I had the joy of leading a Christ a few years ago. We were talking over lunch, and the waiter, who was very interested in spiritual things, started talking with us. He asked, “So…” (This is exactly how he put it) “What does your church believe about the Holy Spirit and the acts of the Holy Spirit after salvation?” I figured this guy might be in a charismatic church. I wasn’t sure, but I think he probably was. He was asking me what my church believed. Do you think I gave him what our church believes? Our church has a belief. We have a doctrinal statement, but, NO… I didn’t give him what our church believes! In fact, I said to him, “I’ll tell you what the Bible teaches on the subject. (Pastor then quoted from Isaiah 8:20.)
Isaiah 8:20, “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. (There’s no life in them.)”
Have you ever read that? So theology on fire is always committed to the very word of God. It declares that the Bible is truth on any given matter, and then calls God’s people to a response!Good preaching and teaching on theology is not just a data dump. It’s not just a bunch of information to fill your receptacles that you call your brains. Theology is intended to transform both our minds and our lives. That’s what theologian fire should do.
The great Martin Lloyd Jones, the great Bible expositor of yesteryear, was called “the Doctor.” He wrote this:
“What is preaching?” He asked. “It’s logic on fire! Preaching is theology coming through a man who’s on fire! A true understanding and experience of the Truth must lead to this. I say again that a man who can speak about these things dispassionately has no right whatsoever to be in a pulpit and should never be allowed to enter one!” Martin Lloyd Jones
That reminded me of a famous deist by the name of David Hume, an antagonist to Christianity back in the 1700s. He was making his way in the early hours of the morning to hear the great George Whitfield preach. Somebody saw Hume and said to him, “Dr. Hume, where are you going?” He said, “I’m going to hear George Whitfield.” And they said, “You don’t even believe what George Whitfield preaches!” and Hume replied, “I know, but he does!” Just think about that for a moment. Preaching theology that’s on fire when an individual preaches the truth and teaches the truth of God with a life to back it up so on fire that it even draws the antagonists to come and listen… that’s powerful stuff! That is theology on fire!
On the other hand, just because somebody is passionate, doesn’t make them truthful. It might make them a demagogue! Our theological beliefs, pulled from various passages of scripture, must be verifiable. Cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and really any so-called church that believes that salvation is anything other than by grace through faith in Jesus, either add to the scriptures or they utterly distort the scriptures (like our vacation Bible school theme called Twists and Turns), they take twists and turns to get where they want to go.
Peter (the fisherman) wasn’t like the apostle Paul, so he pretty much acknowledges, ‘You know, a lot of what Paul says is kind of hard to understand.’ (Can I get an Amen?) But then he said something else I want you to see. He said ‘There are some things in the letters of Paul that are hard to understand… which the ignorant and unstable twist.”
2 Peter 3:15-16, “…our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
You see that word, “twist?” That’s the only time that word is ever used in the Greek New Testament. It literally means “to torture.” They torture scripture to their own destruction, and (watch this) “…as they do the other scriptures.” You see what this is saying? Because the Bible is consistent and never contradicts itself, when you distort the Bible in one place, you’re forced to torture it every time you come across that subject in another area. Case in point… the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as I mentioned earlier. The Bible couldn’t be more clear in the New Testament that Jesus IS GOD! But Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus is God. When they run across various New Testament passages where it testifies that Jesus is God, they are forced to twist things around to make Him something less than God like in Hebrews 1:8-9, one of my favorite passages on the deity of Jesus. In this passage, God the Father is talking to the Son of God, and this is what the Father says;
Hebrews 1:8-9, “But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
You have God calling God, God! You have God the Father talking to God the Son and calling Him God. There’s no other way around it! It’s a powerful passage on the deity of Jesus. Do you know what the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ perverted Bible (the New World translation) says when they get to Hebrews 1:8? It says, “Your throne is a God.” It doesn’t even make sense! But that’s what they have to do.
So… good theology recognizes that the Bible never contradicts itself. The Reformers had a Latin term for this called the Analogia Scriptura, which means the Bible always comes together. It’s unified. It’ll never contradict itself. And we can rejoice in that! (Amen?)
The beautiful thing about the Bible is its unity and its consistency on every major topic. This is the reason why the Bereans in Acts chapter 17 are so commended when we’re told, the Bereans were more noble-minded than those who were in Thessalonica.
[Acts 17:11, “Now these Jews [the Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”]
Why? Because they received the word of God with all, readiness of mind and searched the scriptures daily to see if what Paul was saying was true. And we have to do the same.
Systematic theology pulls together the truth of God from various parts in the Bible on any given subject in scripture, and the result, when rightly taught, is we know, we grow, we show… and we go!
I want you to take your Bibles and go to Luke, chapter 24, for the balance of our time. (It’s one of my favorite passages on the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, I’d preach at every Easter, except it just wouldn’t be right to do that. I love it that much!) Luke is the only one who records it. It’s the day of the resurrection. Jesus has risen, and He encounters two guys who are just downcast. They’re followers of Jesus, and Jesus meets up with them incognito. Do you remember that? He doesn’t show Himself to them, but then He starts talking to them. He asks them why their faces are so down? ‘What’s the deal?’ He’s playing coy with them. And they say, ‘You haven’t heard?!’ ‘Well, what am I supposed to hear?’ ‘…We had hoped that Jesus was going to be the One… yada, yada, and he’s gone… He’s dead.’ They see no hope left. That’s where we’ll pick it up in verse 25. He says,
Luke 24:25, “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!“
(Clearly Jesus is not impressed by their lack of belief. But notice, he’s disappointed by the fact that they had knowledge, but they weren’t connecting the dots. What were they not getting? Let’s keep reading, verse 26.)
26 “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
(Implication… You should have seen that as you were studying this! But they didn’t. They weren’t getting it!)
27, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
“Beginning with Moses” refers to the first five books, the Old Testament, and all the Prophets… essentially all of the Old Testament. Jesus interpreted that. The word “interpret” is where we get our word, “hermeneutic.” He interpreted for them all the scriptures, the things concerning… Himself! Here we have systematic theology on display! You have the Word of God teaching the Word of God… (Really cool!) as He summarized the Old Testament in an overarching way, and in so doing, He revealed Himself to these two guys. Just try to picture what’s going on in their minds, and what’s happening in their hearts as Jesus said, ‘Do you remember when Adam and Eve sinned? Do you remember when they clothed themselves with the foliage of the garden and how God had to come along and kill an animal and clothe them with that skin? They would have had to remove what they had on and put on the garments of God.’ (Suddenly… ‘Oh my goodness! We’ve never thought of that before!’) He would probably have taken them to Genesis chapter 22 where Abraham attempted to kill Isaac, to show them that Isaac became a picture of Jesus willingly laying down His life. He probably reminded them of Abraham wielding his knife over Isaac when the angel stopped him. He sees a ram in the bush, picturing substitution… the ram dying in his place. He would probably have taken him to Exodus 12 after the 10th plague when the angel of death went over every home in Egypt, killing the firstborn if that home didn’t have the blood of an innocent lamb on the two doorposts and the lintel. But if it did, the angel would (What?) pass over. Jesus would have said to these guys, “I’m the true Passover! I’m the Passover Lamb! Don’t you get it?! He might have even taken them to the story of the bronze serpent… (Numbers 21:5-9) Remember when they were all getting bitten by snakes and they were all dying, Moses put a pole up with a bronze snake on it and everybody who stared at it will live. Can you think of anything more ridiculous in your entire life… I stare at a snake and I’m going to live…?! But in so doing, God was illustrating the ridiculousness of the cross to those who are perishing. It’s foolishness to them, but to us who are being saved, it’s the power of God! (Amen?) That’s the knowledge I need. He would have taught those individuals about that! He might have even finished up by reminding them that his own cousin (John the Baptist) said to Him when He showed up on the scene, “There’s the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” [John 1:29] Just imagine what was happening!
Just the other day, I was studying for this message in a coffee shop. (I know that’s surprising…) There was a young lady that approached me and introduced herself. I didn’t know her, but she said she’d been coming to Saylorville for awhile, and we talked for a little bit. She said she was doing the self-guided Bible study (the one that’s very common around Saylorville, our Salvation Study) with a lady from Saylorville, and I said, “Fantastic! She’s wonderful! It’ll be great! Which study are you in?” She replied, “We’re in the third one tonight.” Well, if you guys know anything about that third study, (It’s a study. It’s not the Word of God, but it’s using the Word of God.) countless individuals have come to know Jesus having done that third study! But when I teach that third study, I supplement it. I didn’t write the study, so, like any good Bible teacher, I supplement it. With her permission, I shared an overview of what I just shared with you, the pictures of Christ in the Old Testament. You should have seen her eyes! I could tell, just by looking at her, this girl’s going to get saved! I got a text later that night… she got saved! (Amen?!) She’s in this room this morning! Praise the Lord! Amen! (audience applauding)
So what did these guys do? Let’s pick up the narrative in verse 28.
Luke 24:28, “So they drew near to the village to which they were going. [Jesus] acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. (Oh man, that would have been awesome!) They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
Put yourself in their place, and what do you suppose they did now that their eyes were opened and they could see, and they could understand the death and resurrection of Jesus! What did they do as a result? Did they start conferences on how your hearts ought to be burning and your eyes can be opened? No! The lights had definitely come on, but look at what they did in the next verse! Verse 33,
Luke 24:33-34, “And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
This is theology on fire! When you know and you grow and you show and you go… because you CAN’T keep it to yourself!
The prophet, Jeremiah, said this to God’s people:
Jeremiah 9:23-24, “Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
Do you know Him? I mean, really… do you know Him? Has the gospel of Jesus, who died and rose again for you invaded your life and changed you from the inside out? Jesus said on the night in which He would die,
John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they KNOW you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
When you really know Him, then your theology comes on fire, and that changes EVERYTHING around you and people around you!
Just the other day, my wife and I read Psalm 148 together:
Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
Praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
Praise him, all his hosts!
Praise him, sun and moon,
Praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the LORD!
For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.
Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!
Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the LORD!
It says to praise Him, everyone and everything, right down to the creatures that crawl! And so we read it like we thought maybe the Psalmist wanted us to read it, and it was pretty crazy! We looked at each other and we said, “We have to praise him!” So that’s what we did… We praised him by singing the old hymn, Praise Ye the Lord!
(English Standard Version of the Bible quoted in bible passage references.)