Brothers — Feel, Think, Preach God (Part 2)

Phoenix Conference for Pastors

Phoenix, Arizona

This session is about the centrality of God in our hearts, with the assumption that in order for him to be central in our hearts, he needs to be the gladness of our joy. We need to pursue our joy in him all the time, in order to be loving shepherds. Joy in him is crucial for his centrality to us and crucial for our people. That’s where we have been.

Now we move on to the centrality of God in the mind, the work of the mind, the life of the mind.

Knowledge Serves Joy

I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about how Psalm 100 is structured in the relationship between joy and theology.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
     Serve the Lord with gladness!
     Come into his presence with singing! (Psalm 100:1–2)

Now so far, that’s the first session. The point is plain in those two verses. Gladness is a command, not an option. If you serve the Lord, you serve him with gladness, or you displease him. “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). “Shepherd the flock of God . . . eagerly” (1 Peter 5:2).

Know that the Lord, he is God!
     It is he who made us, and we are his;
     we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
     and his courts with praise!
     Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
     his steadfast love endures forever,
     and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:3–5)

Do you see the structure? Joy, knowledge, joy, knowledge. Now, that’s all I have to say: knowledge serves joy. Therefore, the life of the mind — doctrine — matters. It’s huge for the sake of joy. I’m a real stickler on doctrine. Now most sticklers on doctrine are killjoys. Life is not about theology; it’s about doxology. But there is none that glorifies God without true knowledge. If you would enjoy him duly, you must know him truly. People that make light of knowledge and doctrine are shooting themselves in the heart, not the foot.

That’s what this session is about. The life of the mind, the use of the mind, especially for pastors, who are charged to be apt to teach and to equip the saints by being faithful pastor-teachers, according to Ephesians 4:11.

Zeal with Knowledge

Romans 10:2 says, “They have a zeal for God, but it is not according to knowledge.” Now, do you know the striking thing about that context? They’re not saved. Because Romans 10:2 says, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they might be saved. For . . . they have a zeal for God.” Is that not crazy logic? “My prayer to God for them is that they might be saved because they have a zeal for God.” They’re not saved.

So they listen to the first session, and by some amazing mental process, put it through a sieve, and they took away the joy with no God. They’re going to go back to their church and use music and all kinds of happy strategies of family and backslapping and all kinds of stuff — “We’re going to make the joy happen.” They just didn’t get it. So this session becomes really crucial, because I don’t think joy in God will glorify God if it isn’t joy in the true God.

Let me give you a little illustration, a visual thing that helps me. You are walking down the street with a bag of cash, ten thousand dollars, on your way to deposit it at Wells Fargo. And you realize that you have another appointment to make. If you go ahead with the deposit, then you’re going to miss your appointment.

You stop a stranger on the street and say, “This is ten thousand dollars in cash. Here’s my account number. Would you please make that deposit for me? See you later. I’ve got to go.”

The stranger responds, “Wait a minute. There’s ten thousand dollars in here?”


“Why are you trusting me with this ten thousand dollars? Why do you feel trust in me right now?”

You say, “No reason. I just do. I don’t have any rational reason at all. So would you please do that?”

And you leave. Now how’s he going to think about you? He’s going to think you’re a fool. Will he be complimented? He will not be complimented. There’s no reason to trust him. Rerun the tape. You’re walking to the bank. You stop somebody.

You say, “Would you take this?”

He says, “Sure. Why are you trusting me?”

You say, “I work at the same place you do. You don’t know me, but I’ve been watching you for about a year. I watch everything you do. I’ve watched how you do your timecards. I’ve watched how things get in on time. I watched the way you talk. I’ve even asked questions about your family. I know you well. You will make this deposit.”

How does he feel? Honored. Without knowledge for why we’re trusting, it doesn’t honor the one trusted. If there’s no knowledge underneath our joy in God, he gets no honor from our joy. If it’s just fluff, if it’s just worked up, there’s no glory going to him. It’s a wonderful thing that God, in these last twenty-plus years, has been, in my judgment, building increasingly rich doctrinal lyrics into our worship music. The old stuff already had it; now, the new stuff has it too. There are songwriters growing up everywhere who realize that just saying the same old stuff over and over again won’t cut it. There is no lack of magnificent contemporary worship music of all stripes. I am thrilled that God is working that in our day.

Nine Truths on the Life of the Mind

Here’s what I’d like to do. I wrote down nineteen biblical pointers toward how to use the mind for the sake of God. I will not get through all nineteen. They’re just bullet points with thoughts written after them. But let’s just get through as many as we can in the hour that I have.

1. The Bible calls us to think over what the apostles taught. Second Timothy 2:7 is a seminal verse for my understanding of the life of the mind.

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Think, Timothy. Think over. I’ve written things down. Now, this is a command: “Think over what I say.” This is a command to all pastors to ponder texts. “Think. Think. Think, Timothy. What did I say?” Now, the next phrase warns us against intellectualism that would presume that we can think our way into right understanding without his help. Because the next phrase says, “For the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”

Now, so many people divide this up, and you’re either one or the other. One group says, “We’re thinkers and we breakthrough to write theology.” The other says, “We pray and we ask for illumination, and God gives what we need.” The text says, “You do the thinking because he does the giving.” Evidently then, he does the giving through the thinking. It wouldn’t be thinking over here, and then without any connection to that thinking, you get your theology over here some other way. It doesn’t work that way. There’s a clear mandate: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” Listen to Proverbs 2:1–6:

My son, if you receive my words
     and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
     and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
     and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
     and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
     and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
     from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

You thought you were seeking until you were blue in the face and finally found it? Well, you did. Because he gave it to you. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” The logic there is exactly the same as 2 Timothy 2:7. Be a miser when it comes to knowledge. Dig and search and pursue and treasure.

Do you remember that phrase of Martin Luther, when he was getting his breakthrough to the gospel? He said, “I beat importunately upon the apostle until the Greek of Romans 1:17 gave way.” Have you ever had any Friday afternoons like that? You look at this text. It is not breaking. I don’t know what to say from this text. I have a little note on the top of my computer screen. I use Bible Works. I hardly ever open my paper Bible while I’m preparing for a sermon. I’m in Bible Works all the time. And so I have a little note that reads, “Help, Lord.” Bible Works won’t cut it.

I don’t know what I’d do without Bible Works, though, because it’s such an immediate concordance. My main text, my main help after the Bible is the search engine in that machine. I want to know what peithō means here in Hebrews 13:17. Or I want to know if the word for joy there has some special twist? I don’t go to a dictionary. I almost never go to the dictionary. I just hit “search lemma” or I search the form, and that’s where I get meaning. What a gift. What an incredible gift. Praise God for computers.

But I have my note: “Help, Lord.” Because I hit the wall over and over again. I can’t make sense of this. The logic doesn’t flow. I can’t figure it out. I don’t know the meaning of that word. How does it fit with this verse over here at the end? I’ve got to say something tomorrow morning.” So we work our tails off and we say, “The Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).

2. The Bible calls us to be mature in our thinking, not babies.

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20)

What does it mean to be a baby in thinking? What do babies do with thinking? They don’t do anything with it. They consider it wholly irrelevant. They have no experience in it. It does not entice them. It doesn’t occupy any of their time. They’re no good at it. Brothers, be that way about evil. Don’t be good at it. Don’t spend any time on it. Don’t understand it very well from the inside. Oh, how many people think you’ve got to do bad stuff. “You’ve got to watch those movies. Everybody’s watching them.” Bologna. My heart can’t take that. I don’t know how these people who write all these reviews of these horrible movies have any relationship with God at all. They must. That’s their business. This heart would not. This heart would go down.

So I’m not operating from evil on the inside. I’m looking at it from the outside. I understand a little bit. I’m going to read about it. But I’m not going in to figure it out. Be a baby in evil. Don’t have a lot of experience. Don’t understand it very well. I’m glad I don’t understand it when I see pastors commit adultery. I say, “I don’t get it. How can that be? How can they do that to their wife? How can they do it to God? How can they do it to the church? I don’t get it.” I’m glad I don’t get it. I see it. I know it. I deal with it. I’ve dealt with it in my church. I’m glad there’s something that doesn’t want me to taste it. “Let him who stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

It says, “Instead of being a baby in your thinking, be mature in your thinking. Have a lot of experience with thinking. Understand how thinking works. Be good at thinking.” It’s better to speak five thought-through words to instruct your congregation, than ten thousand words that make no sense to them.

3. The Bible assumes and encourages a proper analysis of nature and times and moral matters.

Let me just give you one or two examples and draw out some implications from them.

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time. And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?”

I can remember back in my seminary days. “A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.” We all have a little bit of learning in those days. Guys were waxing eloquent about Hebraic and Greek thought. The Bible is Hebraic. Greek is linear and logical and Aristotelian and blah, blah, blah. I’m just an ordinary, common-sense guy. I don’t get it. What do you mean by Aristotelian thought? That’s just a big word. What do you mean Aristotelian? Like syllogisms:

All men are mortal.
Plato was a man.
Therefore, Plato was mortal.

That’s Aristotelian thought. I said, “I believe that. I think that way. I think God thinks that way. I think everybody thinks that way if they’re thinking.” There’s a syllogism right here in Luke 12:

Premise 1: Whenever clouds come, showers arrives.
Premise 2: Clouds are coming.
Conclusion: Therefore, it’s going to rain.

That’s Aristotelian. I don’t care if a Hebrew said it. I don’t care if Aristotle said it. God set up the universe that way. I was not impressed. I’m still not impressed with a lot of philosophical garbage that gets slung out by PhDs. Just read your Bible. Know your Bible. Think, think, think, brothers. We’re so prone to bumping to a problem in the Bible and jump to a secondary source. “Tell me something, Don Carson. Help me.” I love Don. I really love Don. I get a lot of help from Don. Don’t jump to the secondary source first. Think first. Get a pen in your hand, fold a piece of paper in half and start doodling and drawing arrows and question marks. Just think. I think on paper or on a screen. Think. Think about this text.

Here’s another implication of this text. Contrast it with Matthew 21:23–27. I’ll just tell you this story. Paraphrase it for you.

And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things.

Now, I’ll tell you why he did that judging by the way the story ends. He’s asking them a question back to see if he wants to talk to them. Because there’s a certain kind of epistemology he won’t deal with.

The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

What’s going on in that text? Emergent church stuff is going on in that text. The use of language to dodge doctrine, the use of language to do relational stuff, without putting your finger down anywhere on the concrete, black-and-white, yes-and-no of a truth. Language has been given to us by God to know him and to know what the Bible says about him, and to state it clearly — come what may, at the cost of our job or the cost of our life. We speak openly. We don’t peddle truth. We say clearly.

  • When you ask me what I believe about substitutionary atonement, I don’t dodge.
  • When you ask me about the inerrancy of Scripture, I don’t dodge.
  • When you ask me about hell, I don’t dodge.

I speak openly. If we don’t, Jesus doesn’t talk to us. That’s what’s going on in this text. I’ll tell you: Thinking my way into these things years ago shaped my epistemology, shaped my linguistic philosophy. How should we think about knowing? How should we think about articulating sentences and doctrines? Is there anything moral at stake here?

I read a book one time by Edward John Carnell called Christian Commitment. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. He died the year before I came to Fuller Seminary. He was a very great theologian, although we didn’t see everything the same. That book argued there is morality in epistemology. There’s morality in the way you think about knowing. Philosophical constructs are not morally neutral; they flow from hearts that are bent one way or the other. Philosophical structures are used to justify sinful hearts or escapism. You’ve got to think, brothers. When you read something or see something online or in the Bible, you think. I hope you think about what I say. I hope you’re not gulping it down. You’re processing. You’re putting it through, I hope, a biblical grid. You’re throwing away the chaff. Test all things. Hold fast to what is good. I’m sure I’m going to blow it somewhere in these three hours. Be careful.

You’ve just got to feel the force of this because of the day we live in. We’re talking spin, brothers. There was a young pastor in my denomination was struggling with how to preach Romans 9. That’s understandable. He asked the denominational official, “How would you preach Romans 9? It seems like it teaches pretty radical predestination and sovereignty of God. Good night, I don’t know if my people could take it.” The denominational official actually said to him (this is what the young man heard, at least): “I think there’s a way to preach Romans 9 so your people don’t know what you think.” Isn’t that tragic? That’s a real denominational official. A real postmodern, slippery, weaseling denominational official.

Now, test that with words like 2 Corinthians 2:17 and 2 Corinthians 4:2.

We are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:17)

Think that through, brothers. Think through who’s listening. Think through your position in Christ. Think through the meaning of the word sincerity, and then speak. How?

We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2)

Oh brothers, be like that. Be like that. It’s costly to be like that. That’s the only reason people weasel: because they don’t want to have the consequence of nailing down something. If you draw a line, some people might be on the other side that you like. Wayne Grudem did such a good job on his introduction to the new book that he just wrote on how evangelical feminism is a pathway to liberalism. He’s got a lot of arguments. But he’s got really close friends that this is going to offend. He knew that. How easy, Wayne, it would have been for you not to write the book. He doesn’t want to lose these friends. He names them. He names them in his introduction. Three of his closest friends out there in the theological world. He says, “I know you’re going to be offended by this. I still love you.”

We can do that. We can draw the line. We could stand. We can lob love bombs. I got that from Francis Schaefer at the end of A Christian Manifesto where he’s calling for truth. He says, “We can have lines, but you don’t have to hate across lines.” You can love across lines. In fact, he argued that differences and disagreements and borders are golden opportunities for love. But we live in an day that’s so, so relationally driven that that’s the absolute — not the Bible, and not God, not doctrine of any kind. So that’s the third point: the Bible assumes and encourages a proper analysis of nature, times, and moral matters. Jesus uses parables about nature — lilies, birds, that sort of thing. Paul quoted pagan poets about culture. The mind engages with the weather. The mind engages with seasons and movements and moral matters. The mind engages with everything and puts it to the service of Christ.

4. The Bible calls for a wakeful, sober preparedness of the mind for right use in the cause of Christ-exalting hope.

You know what verse I’m going to: 1 Peter 1:13. In this text, participles matter. Thinking requires reading when you have an inspired book. If you can read in the Greek, all the better. If you can’t, work really hard to get the best literal translation. Compare them, and use what helps you can. But if you have a chance — say you’re still under 65 — learn Greek and Hebrew.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action [literally: having girded the loins of your mind], and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)

You know that picture of girding the loins, don’t you? They’ve got these long flowing robes. You reach down and you grab the back of your skirt. You pull the skirt up through your legs and you tuck it. Now they’ve turned into pants. That’s what you do with your brain. Just do that to your brain. Your brain is sluggish. You’re not moving anywhere. You can hardly understand anything. It says, “Gird up your loins.” Reach down between the legs of your mind, and pull it up, and make some pants out of this robe so you can do the thinking you need to do. Why? So that you can hope in Christ and his coming.

That’s one of the clearest illustrations of how the second lesson today relates to the first lesson. Having girded up the loins of your mind, hope. Having girded up, hope. There must be a connection between the right use of the mind and the intensification and solidity of hope. Oh, brothers. Your people need theology.

I’ve been 26 years at Bethlehem. I try to build theology into my people, so that they would hope in suffering. Hope has two functions (it’s another way of saying joy because it’s the joy of hope): it weans you off the pleasures of the world that will kill you, because this hope is better, and it sustains you in suffering, because it’s better than everything you’ve lost. Hope is the great key and it’s rooted in Christ’s assured coming. It’s rooted in God’s present sovereignty to turn everything for good.

Frankly, I grieve over lay people who have atheological pastors who do not prepare them to die, or to lose a wife, or to have cancer in their eleven-year-old daughter. Picture a family. (This really happened.) They’ve been in the church for five months now. They walk to the front with their 21-year-old son, Mike. They said, “We’re going in for some tests tomorrow.” The mom can hardly keep from breaking down. She said, “See these?” She pointed to these three lumps on her son’s throat. “The doctors are real concerned about this. Would you pray for him, please?”

He died eighteen months later. I did his wedding between the diagnosis and his death, knowing he would die. I’ve never done that in any other situation. I married him. I created a widow. That mom said to me over and over again, “I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t sat under five months of the sovereignty of God. I would have gone insane had I not learned, in the last five months, that God reigns over this disease.”

There are so many people who think that’s not true. They think the sovereignty of God simply creates problems for suffering people. Twenty-six years of experience is the opposite. I don’t recall anybody in my church walking into suffering, having been taught that God is absolutely sovereign — there are no maverick molecules in the world as R.C. Sproul loves to say — nobody has come up and said, “That didn’t help.” Maybe they just don’t come. Maybe they don’t come. Maybe there are some like that. I get such a stream that do get help.

I have a letter here. I don’t think I’ll take the time to read it. This lady walks up to me the day before yesterday after the conference we did, and sticks this in my hand with tears in her eyes, and walks away. She tells me the story of her husband. Thank you. He died, and as he was dying, he was reading The Pleasures of God, which is one of my heavy, heavy, heavy theology books. It’s got chapters in it like “God’s Delight in Everything He Does” — like tsunamis and cancer. And she just wanted to thank me for the sovereignty of God. When he closed the book, he said to her, “Everything’s going to be okay now.” He died seven months later.

I just hear too many stories. I base my theology on the Bible, but it’s nice to have people come and say it works. It’s really nice. All of that from 1 Peter 1:13: “Therefore, having girded up the loins of your mind, being sober, hope fully.” The mind’s engagement with truth is the means of hoping fully. If you want your people to hope fully through cancer, and hope fully through the loss of a job, and hope fully through divorce, you have to gird up your mind. Help them gird up their mind and think their way into some glorious, solid, granite, foundational truths.

5. The Bible calls us to work hard at accurately handling the word of God.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

The word translated “rightly handling” (orthotomounta)is not easy to translate. I think the only other place that occurs in the Bible is two times in Proverbs. It’s translated here in this version: “rightly handling the word of truth. It’s used in Proverbs 3:5–6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight [orthotomeō] your paths.”

Be a workman and handle the word of God to help your people cut a straight line toward the truth, toward its proper application. What a high calling. Let not many of you become teachers, brothers, because we will be judged more strictly. Why? Because so many people follow our line. We’re cutting through the Bible. What will open theists say on the judgment day, if they make it? “You told everybody that I didn’t know the future? You cut my word that way? Can I show you a few texts? Would you just think about it? I’m God, Elohim, Yahweh, I Am. What have you done? I am not impressed.”

I just get so bent out of shape with how many people see so many nice guys teaching false doctrine. Can I tell you something? All heretics are nice. Arius had the reputation of being unbelievably nice. If you’re going to be a heretic in Minnesota, you’ve got to be nice — Minnesota nice. We’re just afraid. In our day of tolerance and niceness, to say anything tough. You’ve got to cut. Brothers, be diligent in the use of your mind. Be a workman. Be a workman, so that you don’t have to be ashamed.

I think I will be ashamed of some things probably that I taught. Otherwise, I’d be God. Right? That’s what James 3:2 says. Everybody makes mistakes with his mouth. John Piper is going to have his knuckles wrapped at the judgment day. I’m spending huge amounts of time trying to minimize that discipline. I would like you to join me in being a faithful workman.

6. The Bible calls us to have a thorough and deep knowledge of Scripture as a protection from harmful error.

But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. (Matthew 22:29)

If you understood the Scriptures, you wouldn’t have erred on this question of how many husbands she will have in heaven. If you want to avoid error, it says a thorough knowledge of the Bible is implied in escaping.

[Do not] be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Ephesians 4:14)

There are three words used there. I looked them up last night because I didn’t know what they were in Greek.

  • kubiea — cunning
  • panourgia — craftiness
  • methodeia — scheming

Isn’t that amazing that he would choose three ways to say craftiness, cunning, scheming — all of that to tell pastors how to equip their people?

7. The Bible commends thoughtful musing on the word of God, day and night, as a way to fruitful ministry.

Blessed is the man
     who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
     nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
     and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1–2)

He muses, ponders, thinks. Do you do that? Sometimes I get the feeling that some pastors only muse on church-growth books. I’ll just be honest with you: I can’t read them. I have to be careful not to criticize them. The reason I haven’t read them is because I die; I die. I’m just too vulnerable to being bored out of my socks with practicalities that aren’t rooted in the Bible. I just love the Bible. I get so much help from the Bible. I get life from the Bible. I get strategies from the Bible. I get illustrations from the Bible. I think I get a teeny-weeny little bit of relevance from the Bible. My reading is narrow. If I’m going to do something all day long with my brain, I want to do what this text says: “Meditate on the law of the Lord day and night.”

Very practically, do you know how that affects my devotions in the morning? This morning, I got up early enough to have a season with the Lord in prayer and in the word. It doesn’t have anything to do with this — just me and him, we’re meeting. I read a section in 1 Peter. And I tried to memorize a verse. I try to memorize a verse or something every morning. Why? So I could do what Psalm 1 says. How do you meditate on the law of the Lord day and night if you don’t memorize? I have no idea. I have this thing right here, this little PDA. There’s Greek on here and Hebrew on here and three or four English versions. You can’t pull this out all the time. It’s got to be in your head.

I memorized this verse. It’s in my head: “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13). Do you know what I’m going to be meditating on all day? That word. Because I’m not sure I get it. All day long, I’m going to be trying to figure that out. There’s a correlation between my joy at the second coming and my joy in suffering now. That’s what it says. It sounds like a means-end relationship: rejoice now in suffering, so that you’ll be able to rejoice there. That’s scary. Or is it just kind of quantitative? What is it?

This is called meditation — thinking, mulling over possibility after possibility. Weighing it with other texts, trying to see whether it could be result or it could be purpose. But you know what? In this case, it’s a problem either way. You scrap that solution. You move on to another one. All day long, in any neutral moment, you’re thinking: “Rejoice now in suffering that I may rejoice when he gets.” That’s meditation. Do that every day. Guess what? You become a theologian. You’ll put rock under your people’s feet. You will have granite under your own feet because the Bible will be your life. God will be your central value. Everything will be viewed through a biblical lens. You think another way.

8. The Bible calls us to understand the ground of our faith well enough to give good answers to those who ask.

In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy. (1 Peter 3:15)

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Don’t miss that: Christon hagiasate. “Hallowed be your name, Christ, in my heart.” Sanctify him. Set him apart as infinitely valuable, in a class by himself. Set Christ apart as your treasure in your heart.

In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15)

We must have a mental readiness to give evidences for your hope out of reverence for Christ.

9. The Bible shows that not understanding truth about God and his way has destructive effects.

Have you ever noticed the following? Does it strike you as remarkable? It sure shapes the way I think about morality and ethics and life-change in my people. Paul says,

  • “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” (1 Corithians 6:3).
  • “Do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?” (1 Corinthians 6:16).
  • “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3).
  • “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6).
  • “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom?” (1 Corinthians 6:9).
  • “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 6:15).
  • “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4).

What is the point of that kind of talk? The point is: if you knew, you wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing. There are so many people who say that doctrine doesn’t work; it doesn’t change behavior. If that’s true, the Bible is false. Because Paul said, “Don’t you know what you’re doing with that woman?” You must not know something. Paul deals with a sexual issue in 1 Thessalonians 4:3–5:

This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.

You can’t talk like that if you don’t believe that knowledge controls sex. Now, knowledge is not a simple thing, you understand. I mean, the devil is more orthodox than anybody in this room. He knows more right doctrine than any of us. He hates righteousness. If you threw that back at me and say, “See, it doesn’t work; theology doesn’t work,” you wouldn’t be understanding what I mean by know. You would have forgotten the first session.

To know is to embrace as precious. When you know something (like, “My body is a member of Christ”), it’s not just a thought in your head. When it arrives there, and you have meditated on it all day, it becomes one of the most thrilling things in the world. That my body is united to the King of the universe is worth about a year of meditation. Once it grips you, it’s going to be pretty hard to use this body to steal with or commit adultery with.

Our Daily Bread

This is our daily bread. It’s what we do. This book is a book. It has to be read. To read, you have to learn how to read. Learning how to read is a mental exercise. There is no way to short-circuit the life of the mind and honor God’s book. He has chosen to manifest himself to the twenty-first century, mediated through a book. We mediate the book with preaching. We try to explain the book and help make a connection with the book. Therefore, the priority of being diligent to present yourself a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed, cutting a straight path to right meaning, cutting a straight path with it to right application, and being a faithful right handler of the book is so important.

I want to draw your attention to something I hadn’t seen before preparing for this. I’ll just ask you: What opposite word would you use for straight? Crooked. What’s another biblical word for crooked that people do with truth? Twist. Now I hadn’t seen that connection before, that what Paul is telling us to do in 2 Timothy 2:15 is not do what they were doing in Acts 20:30 or 2 Peter 3:16.

In Acts 20:30 Paul is talking to the elders. He’s saying they’re going to rise up among you, among your own number. They’re going to be nice. They’re going to rise up among your own number, these nice people that you’ve ministered with for a long time, and they are going to speak twisted things. That’s the opposite of cutting a straight line. They’re going to take the book and they’re going to say, “It doesn’t mean that.” They’re going to twist it. They’re going to twist it.

And in 2 Peter 3:16, Peter is talking about Paul, and he says that some of the things Paul wrote are hard to understand. Then he adds this: “which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”

So, brothers, for the sake of love, for the sake of joy, for the sake of the church, for the sake of the nations, don’t belittle thinking. Don’t belittle the life of the mind. Don’t belittle study. Don’t belittle right doctrine.