Towards a Devotional Theology

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[See also: Devotional Theology, Further On]

Two weeks ago we were privileged to have dinner with Barney Coombs, our pastor’s pastor through Salt and Light. He made the beautiful observation that “Theology should always result in Doxology” — that is, worship and praise to God. I suspect that (the lack of) this is the root of my frustration with our current studies (and systematic theology in general): it forces us think “about God” instead of inspiring us to think “of God.”

My dream is to “remix” the many powerful (and valid!) insights of traditional systematic theology into something that is explicitly designed to draw us into worship, and submission to God’s glory. As a side effect, it should also draw us together in mutual humility, rather than being a source of division and judgement — though it still needs to be strong enough for healthy discipline.

That’s a tall order, and I don’t even pretend to have all the answers. But, here’s my starting point. These passages (including their context) represent the essential facets of Christianity I would love to meditate on and wrestle with in the fellowship of my peers in our joint quest to understand (and serve!) God better. The topics are:

  1. Creation
  2. Covenant
  3. Character
  4. Christ
  5. Commandment
  6. Crucifixion
  7. Commission
  8. Call
  9. Conversion
  10. Confession

More details below. Hopefully this strikes a better balance between “true” and “right” than my previous list. As before (hi Bob! :-), comments and improvements welcome; bonus points if they start with the letter “C”!

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1. Creation

Genesis 1:26-28,31

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

2. Covenant

Genesis 12:1-3

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

3. Character (of God)

Exodus 34:5-7

Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming,

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands,
and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.
Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished;
he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers
to the third and fourth generation.”

4. Christ

John 3:16-18

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

5. Commandment

Matthew 22:36-40

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

6. Crucifixion (and Resurrection)

Romans 6:3-5

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

7. Commission

Matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus came to them and said,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

8. Call

Isaiah 61:1-3 (cf. Luke 4:17-19)

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,

To comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

9. Conversion

Romans 10:9-11

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

10. Confession

Exodus 34:5-7

If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

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