Watch your life and doctrine closely.” 1 Timothy 4:16

Being a Dad of six ridiculously outstanding kids, I’ve become somewhat of a connoisseur of kid’s movies—The Lion King, G-Force, Toy Story, Over the Hedge, Rescuers Down Under—I know them all. Recently, I watched a gem of a movie (twice) with my family called Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. One of the characters in the movie is an insecure thirty-something named Brent. When a child, he was the poster boy for the sardine industry on the small island of Swallow Falls. In the movie, he’s always trying to relive the past, when as a diaper-donning boy, he’d knock over the stack of sardine cans with his behind. How cute. But what was cute as a boy is repulsive as an adult, and when the beer-bellied Brent puts on a diaper again and tries to win over the town with the same stunt that once made him the darling of Swallow Falls, everyone is disgusted and demand that he clothe himself. Brent runs away screaming, “Who am I?”

When I was in college, my college ministry leader, Paul Brown, challenged me to know what I believe. To be honest, even though I genuinely loved the Lord, I did not think it was all that important to know what I believed. I saw doctrine and theology as something for people that wanted to sound smart or talk over my head. Now I know different, because the bottom line is, if you don’t know what you believe, you will end up with Baby Brent’s theology: “Who am I?”

Paul told Timothy to watch his doctrine closely because what we believe makes up the structure of a healthy Christian life. Author Neil Anderson once said, “A good theology precedes a good experience.”

We live in a day with a lot of messed up, confusing teaching (and teachers), and it’s important to be students of the Word, and to know what we believe. If what you’re hearing and believing is not a cross-centered theology, you need to think twice about who you listen to!

When I’ve gone through my severest trials, God has always used it to deepen my understanding of His Word. For example, my battles with severe depression in the early 2000’s finally began to subside when I learned the doctrine of imputed righteousness which comes from 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ.” I was convinced that I must do something to earn my healing, whether it be great faith, improved good works, or more disciplines, yet none of these brought me to the river of life. It was when I realized that Christ’s righteousness was given me freely and fully apart from my striving that I finally rested from my works, and found grace.

Likewise, when my wife and I went through our first miscarriage in 2001, we both struggled with how this might happen. Was it our lack of faith? Had the devil won? A well-meaning woman actually told us, “I wish God told me that the devil was gonna try to take your baby, ’cause then I would have prayed and stopped it!” That was when we remembered Romans 8:28-29, “God works all things for the good for them who love God and are called according to His purpose, for those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” It says, “…He also predestined…” And for the first time, we had a picture of a sovereign God who governs all of our affairs, and that nothing evil could befall us unless He allowed it for His glory and our good. And we rested. We no longer believe in the sovereignty of Satan or the sovereignty of man, but see a God of glory who reigns and in Him we are secure.

Jesus said in John 8:32, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Knowing the truth is crucial to your freedom! So many are trying to live victorious Christian lives, but failing. So many are trying to earn God’s love when the Bible already says, “Beloved, now we are children of God…” (1 John 3:2).

The only way to avoid Baby Brent’s theology is to be a student of the Word of God. You do this by studying the Bible and reading books by authors that aren’t merely trendy, trying to be Christian celebrities, or gain big crowds, but who really love the God’s Word (many of the best ones are dead). I’d recommend authors like Charles Spurgeon, Andrew Murray, CJ Mahaney, John Piper, John Stott, RC Sproul, Neil Anderson, or Watchman Nee. (I might also recommend an author named Derek Joseph Levendusky.) :)

Stop asking, “Who am I?” God has so much more for us!!

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