How Much Does Right Doctrine Help Us Become Spirit-filled Jesus Followers?

Our Reformed tradition emphasizes a lot of head knowledge when it comes to growing in our faith. How much does knowing the right doctrines actually help us become spirit-filled Jesus followers? 

Knowing doctrine and being Spirit-filled Jesus followers go together well. It is possible to get too caught up in theology, to the point where one’s relationship with Christ is merely theoretical. But it is also true that without knowing who God is as revealed in the Bible, we don’t really know whom we’re in relationship with. 

So good theology matters, and it’s important to monitor what our churches are teaching. We’ve seen bad theology in some published church school curriculum—for example, that what we learn from the story of Zaccheus is that we need to have good manners like Zaccheus did when he invited Jesus to his home. That seems to be missing the main point of that story and turns a story about Jesus bringing salvation to Zaccheus into merely a lesson in how to be polite. There are also certain Christian sects that are clearly outside the bounds of credal Christianity, so we certainly don’t want an “anything goes” attitude when it comes to our theology. 

But while doing our best to have good theology is important, it is also not enough. We need to cultivate our hearts so that Jesus lives in and through us. We need to spend time, both alone and with our faith communities, in spiritual practices such as prayer, acts of service, and reading the Bible to get to know the heart of God better and become more like Jesus. These spiritual practices help us to engage our whole selves when we come to God. We don’t want to use only our heads; we also must include our hearts and our hands.

About the Author

Laura Keeley is a regional catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries and director of children’s ministries at 14th Street Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Mich. Robert J. Keeley is a professor of education at Calvin College and director of distance education at Calvin Seminary.

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