Growing in Knowledge and Fruitfulness
"The heart cannot love what the mind does not know" Jen Wilkin
This is one among my favourite quotes, reminding me of the immense value of growing in knowledge of the Lord - how can I love what I don't believe or trust? And when the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength...I can't help but long to know Him more.
There are, however, dangers of knowledge - particularly in the church - as theology can give rise to divisiveness and judgemental attitudes. One person's passion becomes all encompassing and you can't figure out why other's don't see it the way you do.
Responding to this conundrum usually rises with emotion and impacts how we interact with, and treat, others. It's with this in mind Ronni Kurtz writes Fruitful Theology: How the Life of the Mind Leads to the Life of the Soul.
Many have seen devastating impact of divisiveness in the church, so he helps us rewind to see, once again, the joy and benefit of growing in our knowledge of God but specifically how that growth is intended to influence our display of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). He takes a chapter for each fruit, to explore how it's shaped by theology and how we live it out.
"As we set out on this adventure of contemplating God and all things in relation to God, we will be transformed."
On Love. God doesn't have love, he is love. This means when we enter his presence, we're brought into the very presence of love! His gracious love seeps into us enabling our own hearts to extend that love to others.
On Joy. We find fullness of joy in the presence of God because as we gaze on Him we're confronted with the good, the beautiful and the true; we consider what we deserve and what we get in Christ; our confusion turns to clarity; and we're practicing deep dependence on Him.
On Peace. "We have been infected with disunity, and the sickness has found its way into the church." The gospel points us to peace with God, our ministry as peacemakers, and our peace with each other in unity.
On Patience. "Theological wisdom is not microwavable. To arrive at a place of wisdom in the theological life, you will need wrestling, contemplation, prayer, and patience." We're reminded how God's patience toward us leads us to have patience with others.
On Kindness. Considering God's kindness toward us and the depravity of our own hearts,"we are aware enough of sin's impact on us to know we are just a couple of bad decisions away from displaying the same unkindness." May we see others as those created in the image of God and deserving of our kindness.
On Goodness. "Not only does the Bible give us a grand vision for a goodness of being, but it also gives us a grand vision for a goodness of doing." Our contemplation of God's goodness bids us to pursue our neighbor's good in our speech, with our time, our pursuit of justice, and with the gospel.
On Faithfulness. "Christian theology aids us on our journey toward the spiritual fruit of faithfulness by reminding us of the faithfulness of God and reinforcing our own faithfulness." Our hearts will not naturally become faithful, it requires discipline.
On Gentleness. Most required in how we navigate conflicts, as we display gentleness of tongue and of temper.
On Self-Control. "By our self-control, we possess the wisdom to choose that which will bring life to ourselves and glory to our God instead of that which will bring destruction to ourselves and glory to the prince of darkness." What we give space to in our minds will directly impact our heart and our hands. May we ever be mindful of this real estate and attend to what we think about.
Over the years as a healthcare professional, whether here in Canada or in Africa, I've seen over and over that knowledge does not necessarily lead to a change in behaviour. Whether it's eating a lot of carbs despite having diabetes, or not using a mosquito net properly because of animistic beliefs.
Now, when I consider this in light of my own reading and growing in faith, the words in these pages were really convicting as I asked myself how what I believe and how the truths I'm learning are (or aren't) leading to changes in my character.
It's humbling to be sure.
As we abide in Christ, our knowledge grows deeper and, by His grace, we will be transformed more and more into His likeness. If the fruit of our character doesn't line up with His, it's time to step back and consider whether we know the One we're following. Then, fix our eyes on His Word to contemplate who He is.
This is on my favourites list! I'd recommend this for anyone who wants to explore how our knowledge of God intersects with how we live.
# of pages: 192 pages
Level of Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
My Rating: 5 stars!
*A big thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC and the opportunity to post an honest review.