Theology Turned Me into a Religious Jerk
JUNE 20, 2019
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” —2 Timothy 3: 16
There was a time in my life where theology (the study of the nature of God and/or religious beliefs) turned me into a religious jerk. Instead of becoming more loving, gracious, and compassionate like Jesus I became judgmental and condemned both people on the liberal and conservative sides of Christianity for their sin and “mistakes.” Never mind the fact I had numerous shortcomings. I’d become so obsessed with the idea of God and his commandments that I wasn’t listening to Him when He spoke through the scriptures.
In the past when I would read the Bible and pray, I’d learn something about myself and where God was leading me. But over time, my obsession into the realm of theology turned the scriptures from God breathed and life-giving into pieces of a puzzle that needed solving. Scripture became this immovable stone that could only mean one thing or be interpreted a certain way. Yet, the scriptures are timeless. You can read one passage now and it will speak into your current situation, but five years from now that same passage may speak directly into your marriage or a friendship.
There’s a morning in particular where I saw just how legalistic and judgmental I’d become. I had just woken up and decided to head downstairs to make coffee. While my coffee brewed, I grabbed my journal and Bible, then wrote a letter to God. I listed out how sorry I was, the sins I’d committed, and how I’d “do better” and “be stronger.” I wanted to earn my way into God’s good graces. After, I ran upstairs to the bedroom where my wife was sleeping and cracked open my Systematic Theology book and began studying, writing, and taking notes word for word. When my wife woke up, she found me pouring over my notes and the book, and said something that became a wake-up call.
“Jake, all you do is study theology…it’s changing you.”
She was the person who truly saw what was happening. I was no longer moved by God’s word to grow closer to Him and deepen my relationship. I was using God’s word as a “check the box” substitute where I had all the answers, and when I failed it meant I needed to try harder to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. I’d left grace and mercy behind and realized the word of God was no longer teaching me because I didn’t want to listen.
While reading the Bible and studying more about God is a good thing, even good things can become bad things. Food isn’t inherently evil, but the decision you make with it can be. The same is true of sex. Sex is a beautiful gift from God, but you can take and distort it to where it becomes destructive. What I had to discover was that the Bible didn’t get on a cross and die for me. Jesus did. And through the scriptures, the living, breathing Jesus still speaks and the words in the Bible continue to convict and draw us deeper towards him. We cannot forget that the overarching story in all the Bible is one of redemption and forgiveness. Mankind continually fails, and God repeatedly saves. Often we are the most selfish people ever when we read the Bible. We look at the circumstances in our lives and think, “I have this problem in my life at current… what verse will make me feel better?” Instead we should let the scriptures read us and have God meet us in our mess and especially in the parts we try to hide. It should speak to our secret heart and convict us to change.
The minute we think we know all things in scripture is the moment we know nothing. Instead of letting the verses breathe life into us, it becomes another tool or some self-help gimmick as opposed to the living, breathing word of God.
So the next time you pick up your Bible, ask God to be the one to meet you with his words. Not just the passage you want to cherry pick to feel better.
1. Write 1-3 Bible verses that catch your attention or have spoken to you in the past.
2. Now ask God to speak to you about those verses and what he wants to teach you. Don’t default to things like work, pleasure, or business, but areas of your heart where there’s anger, hurt, self-worth, identity, or happiness even. See what the still, small voice says and write your feelings, thoughts, and convictions. Then pray that you may be directed to take proactive steps to where God’s leading you.