One of the hidden dangers of striving to have correct doctrine, and then letting that striving become the mark or brand of our faith, is that we can become more concerned and focused with serving the Lord than with knowing and loving Him. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that holding fast to correct doctrine, to truth, is to be minimized or discounted or taken lightly. Quite the contrary. Scripture continually exhorts and commands us to teach sound doctrine (1 Tim 4:6), to rebuke those who teach a contrary, false doctrine (Eph. 4:14), and Jesus Himself even said that He was, in essence, truth (John 14:6). So we can’t really know the Lord until we have an accurate understanding of Who He is and that, of course, comes from a correct understanding of Scriptures, or a study of doctrine. Hence, true, orthodox doctrine is vital for the Believer and the church. That’s non-negotiable, it’s a given for the Christian.
Let’s then put to rest the idea that I am speaking against the study of Biblical doctrine and truth. I am not. In fact, it is to that study of the Scriptures that I have given the better part of my life. The issue and danger is not in the study of doctrine alone, but in only doctrine.
Let me explain.
If we focus on doctrine only and let the pendulum of our spiritual lives swing too far in one direction, we inevitably become scholars, professors, smug experts in the Law, proud depositories of Biblical facts, and not passionate followers of the Lord Jesus. We replace intimacy with the Lord with knowledge about the Lord and then begin to filter the awe and breathtaking majesty of the Lord through the lens of our degrees and theology and orthodoxy. We think first, and feel last. We sacrifice heartfelt love for intellectual knowledge and brag about knowing all about Him— but not really knowing Him.
And this a dangerous place for a Believer to be.
Consider the church in Ephesus. They worked tirelessly for the Kingdom and stood strong and tall against those who were evil in their midst, against those who peddled their toxic, false doctrine as truth. They tested and vetted those who claimed to be apostles and found them to be liars (Rev. 2:3). The Scriptures say the church at Ephesus “persevered and labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary” (Rev. 2:3). From our perspective, they were a church that believed the Scriptures and held firm to sound doctrine. They prided themselves on being the gatekeepers of orthodoxy, of true, Scriptural teaching. And this was a good thing. In fact, it was a great thing.
But Jesus said this to them, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4). They had done well in the work of the Lord, but in doing so, had failed in their love of the Lord. They were once in love with Him and now they were in love with what they were doing for Him. Ministry to the Lord replaced fervency for and intimacy with the Lord. They, like us today, jettisoned the best for the good, not realizing what it had cost them— or us.
So what are we to do? How do we keep this from happening to us?
Simply this, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works” (Rev. 2:5). Remember what it was like when you first came to Christ? Remember the joy, the excitement, the childlike wonder, the swell of faith that birthed great dreams and confident assurance that you and your Lord could do anything? Remember when you truly believed that “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world”? (1 John 4). Remember when you rejoiced that you were a member of His church and that the very “gates of Hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Or prevail against you, for that matter. Do you remember all this?
If so, what happened to that person? When did he go? Who ran him off? How can we bring him back?
Jesus told the church at Ephesus to, “repent, and do the first works” (Rev. 2:5). The road back to the beginning starts with humbling yourself before the Lord, confessing how you have allowed the world, both sacred and secular, both good and bad, to choke out the love of Christ, and ask for His forgiveness. And, as He promises, He will “forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Then ask the Lord to restore your childlike faith and innocence in Him, and let the revival of our lives begin again.
Please understand, it’s really that simple. All you have to do is ask.
Jesus wants us to stand firm and unyielding for the truth and to also have a heart that beats for Him, moment by moment. He wants us to know all about Him and to continue to grow in that knowledge, but not at the expense of simply knowing Him personally, intimately, face to face. It is not an either/or, Door One or Door Two type of choice. It is both. We stand in the truth because He is Truth and we love Him with all our being. We strive to know more and more about Him because we love Him more and more and by knowing more and more about Him we can love Him more and more. And yes, it really is just that simple.
Choose today to love Him with all that you are and to grow in the knowledge of Him for the simple reason that you love Him and want to know more about Him and watch how the two, doctrine and intimacy, work together as one.
Come Lord Jesus!