The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Tag: letters

Letter #13: Exegesis ≠ An Exit for Jesus

Dear Jonathan,

So you’ve finally made it far enough along in your language studies that you are getting to do some exegesis! I’ll be honest…the third and fourth semesters of Greek were among my favorite seminary courses. I loved digging into all the nuances of the original text and seeing the grammatical connections that really made the meaning leap right off the page!

Yet, I did notice that my dedication to exegesis began to cause a problem that you might encounter as well. I began to allow my obsession with Greek grammar to invade my teaching within the church more and more…to the point that the sharing of information became my end goal.

TBS-Koine-Greek-New-Testament-004My exegesis actually became an exit for Jesus.

Now before you get all up in arms and start defending your beloved language studies…hear me out. What I mean is this…I became so overly focused on exegesis that my teaching turned into technical lectures aimed primarily at educating my people.

I was filling heads with all sorts of knowledge, but I was not calling hearts toward a “knowing.”

The primary purpose of preaching is not education (though important), but encounter! We long for the Spirit to work through the Word and for people to encounter, see Jesus in all his glory and be drawn to him! We don’t want people to just walk out of a service knowing more about Jesus…we want them to know Jesus more!

The difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus is rather simple. The former involves the head only, while the latter involves the head and heart. Knowing about Jesus is the gaining of mere facts. Knowing Jesus means my heart is stirred with a  desire for him, a love for him, trust in him.

The aim of preaching is for people to come know Jesus more and more so that they may be equipped to make him known!

Now, does this lessen the importance of exegesis? May it never be! On the contrary it increases the importance of it! I need to be pointing people as accurately as I can to the one true God through Jesus. To do this, I must carefully study the meaning of his Word. But, the end goal of my study is not to simply transfer that meaning to my hearers, but for that meaning to transform my hearers.

My exegesis should not serve as an exit for Jesus, but as an escort to him!

I’m not telling you to never talk about Greek grammar from the pulpit or never to share technical information. What I am saying is always make sure that information is not your end goal!  Your end goal is that everything you share stir up people’s hearts to want to know Jesus!

Jonathan, be a good exegete! We desperately need good exegetes teaching in our churches! But, do not ultimately be an exegete, but a worshipper! Worship the God you see and come to know as you study the text and when you teach the text…help others toward worship as well.

Don’t let your exegesis serve as an exit for Jesus, but as an escort to him!

Grace and Peace,

J

*To know/understand the premise behind these letters please click here.

 

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Letter #8: You’re a Patient, Not a Physician

Dear Jonathan,

Thank you for not being too upset by my last letter. I do hope it didn’t sound like I was being “holier than thou” or “attacking” you. Honestly, if I was attacking anyone it was myself.

I so badly want to help you avoid many of the pitfalls I dove head-first into while in seminary…especially the endless void of pride. There is actually one simple truth that really helped me combat pride during my seminarian years…

skeptical-doctorYou’re a patient…not a physician.

Over time, I noticed that I could tell when pride was beginning to swell within my heart because I would put myself in the position of a physician. I would look at the world of Christendom, diagnosing all the ills I saw and proudly proclaiming my miracle prescriptions that I just knew would bring healing!

How pompous I could be?!?! I looked down my nose at local churches and at pastors in the trenches of ministry…and from the safe, lofty heights of academia I would point out their infected theology and diseased practices. All the while, I was so blind that I could not see I was only being part of the problem…not the solution.

I was acting like a physician…yet I was truly a patient.

In other words, I was not seeing myself as part of the body of Christ! I was separate somehow. The body was sick, but not me…I was God’s gift to “fix” the body! Ha!

We are not physicians, Jesus is! He is the great physician! We are part of the body in need of his healing.

The only way I was able to see this was to actually be a part of the body. The Lord convicted me of safely distancing myself from the local church, and I knew I had to plunge in and become a part of it.

Jonathan, I would highly encourage you to be an active member of a local congregation.

Serve within the body…teach within the body if you can! Teaching should humble you and drive you to your knees as you see your own feebleness/inability and your need for Christ’s sufficiency! Teaching should help you see yourself as a patient in need of Jesus’ miraculous healing work!

It becomes very difficult to criticize the church when you see that you are a part of its brokenness.

I’m not saying there is no room for critiquing the church (perhaps I’ll write about that later), but I am saying that the posture from which you critique it transforms when you are a member of the body instead of trying to be a master over and against it.

Don’t be an arrogant seminarian who thinks he is the “Doctor” the church needs. There are enough of those. Swallow that bitter pill of pride and remember you are a part of the church that needs healing…you are broken too.

You’re a patient…not a physician.

Grace and Peace,

J

*To know/understand the premise behind these letters please click here.

Letter #6: You are Not Justified by Grades Alone

Dear Jonathan,

Sorry to hear that your first paper did not turn out exactly as you hoped. Even though it was “bleeding red” (your words, not mine), I’m sure it was not actually as bad as you thought.

red_ink_paperfailAfter all…you are not justified by grades alone!

I couldn’t resist that little theological joke.  You know that you are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone! Your grades have no eternal bearing on your relationship with Christ, and they say nothing about your worth as a child of God.

Now don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that your grades have no importance whatsoever, but what I am saying is that grades should not be your goal, and they should not be controlling your emotional state or how you view your worth.

You worth is found in Christ! You are his servant and your goal in seminary is to grow in him for the purpose of serving his church. My question for you would be, “Did this paper help you grow in Christ and further equip you to serve his bride?”

I am willing to bet the answer to that question is yes…and if I’m right, then the grade really doesn’t matter, except to help you learn more. Read over all the painful red markings on that paper, take in the correction, learn from it, and soldier on.

This is actually a great grace that God has given you! To be learning from some incredible scholars and to have the opportunity to get their feedback is a great grace!

Do not substitute grades for grace!

Seminary is not about trying to climb the ladder of grades to stand victoriously on the mountaintop of academic achievement! No! Seminary is about receiving the grace of theological training so that you may be equipped to humbly serve the Lord and his people.

To whom much is given, much will be required and, Jonathan, you are being given much grace…receive it, red markings and all. Receive God’s equipping grace with gladness and humility.  And remember…

You are not justified by grades alone, in fact, you are not justified by grades at all.

Grace and Peace,

J

*To know/understand the premise behind these letters please click here.

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