Jesus chided the religious elites of his day for equating knowledge of the scriptures with knowledge of God. Jesus rebuked them for not knowing His Father despite their diligent study of the scriptures daily. There is an implicit warning in all of this for us today. We can be the most diligent and rigorous theologians, studiously exegeting the scriptures daily, yet not truly know God. We can be held in high esteem for knowing the word of God backwards and forwards, and yet utterly fail in the end to have a transformative, ongoing relationship with the God of the word. Strange as it may be our love for the word of the Lord can eclipse our love for the Lord of that word. There exists no greater soil for the development of spiritual arrogance, blindness and abuse than allowing our zeal for our brand of Christianity to eclipse our love for the Lord and one another. The warning signs for this occurring are two fold:
1) We project a confident ability to defend the word of God (or our perspective) against critics, but can no longer project the fruit of the Spirit towards those same critics.
2) We find it more enjoyable and easier to approach the scriptures with a theological agenda of data-gathering and research than simply being with the Lord and spending time in His presence with the scriptures as an aid to our devoted love for the Lord.
Of course there is a balance to be struck in all aspects of life. Some people who become so invested in “devotional Christianity” can become so self-focused on their own emotional needs that they never develop crucial theological skills in knowing how to defend the Lord they profess to love.
However the other danger is to become like a modern day scribe or Pharisee who knows the scriptures front to back but finds it incredibly difficult to manifest the gentle love of God they professes to be studying about. Even worse, in our diligent pursuit to study about God we fail to come to know God personally.
As such we run the risk of becoming like one who daily studies a comprehensive personality profile of an individual, memorizing every psychological data point and knowing every personality trait backwards and forwards, yet in the end never really coming to know that individual because we never bothered to spend time with them on a personal basis.
The scriptures warn us that outward religious form, rigorous study of the scriptures and even anointed displays of the miraculous are no substitute for knowing God and extending His love to others. Sadly some people will hear from the lips of our Lord, “I never knew you, because you never knew me.” Would this not be the greatest of all tragedies? Imagine spending your life defending the Bible as quick-witted, razor sharp apologist or performing miraculous deeds as a charismatic, showboating evangelist, only in the end to hear God say, “Your heart is a stranger to mine because you never knew love–for I am Love.”
Something to keep in mind…