“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!”–James 2:19
That verse terrifies me. Because what it says, in essence, is that it is possible to have all the right “belief” about God and be no better off eternally than the devil and his demons. It says you can “know” all you want about God and still be as far off from Him as Satan is.
What will ultimately matter is not necessarily how much we knew about God, but what our response to our knowledge about Him was.
Satan knows more about Jesus than some Christians, has better theology than some pastors, and could probably persuade some to trust Christ (though he never would)–but Satan will spend eternity in hell, along with many others who “know” about God.
There is a supreme difference, an eternal difference, in knowing ABOUT God and KNOWING God personally.
Think about it this way:
I can know a lot about somebody. I know where they were born, who they’re married to, where they work, what they’re like, whether or not they cheer for a certain sports team. I know how they treat their spouse and children. I can have a general understanding of how they think and act, and understand them pretty well.
And I can hate their guts. I can hate their character, hate their family, hate how they act. I can hate them, and that hate is increased by my knowledge of them. The more I know about them, the more I resist them.
James 2:19 tells us that’s similar to how the devil and his demons respond to God. They know that God is one (a reference to the core Jewish creed, the Shema, a cry of faith), and they shudder. They don’t leap for joy that there is one God who commands worship. They don’t bow down and confess their sins and ask for grace. They shudder.
So again, we can know all we want about God, but until we belong to Him, until He becomes our God, until we trust Him and walk with Him, all that knowledge is meaningless. The truth of God is useless to a heart that is far from God.
The title of this post, as you see above, is “Satan and the Seminary Student.” As many of you know, I’m currently in my first year at the Birmingham extension center of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The fall semester starts soon, and I’m excited/nervous/terrified of Hebrew.
Seminary presents challenges beyond the classroom, and I recognize I say this with only a semester and a summer course under my belt, but seeing as how this is not the first post published on this topic (see books with names like How to Stay Christian in Seminary), I feel like I’m qualified and knowledgeable to say what I’m going to say.
Of course there are the academic challenges of writing papers, studying for tests and learning languages. But there’s an even greater challenge: Loving God in the midst of information overload. Not letting a relationship with God turn into a cold, heartless study of God. As a seminary student, I have to keep this verse in mind to remind myself that my faith, my relationship with God, is fueled by knowledge (Rom. 12:2 and Prov. 19:2), but that the knowledge I gain should produce God-honoring results in my life.
As I learn biblical languages and systematic theology, or how this theological school came about and how this missions effort was founded, or the different apologetic arguments for Christianity, I cannot forget that the goal is to let it affect my heart AND my mind (Deut. 6:5).
Because, as stated above, it is possible to gain knowledge about God and be far off from God. The goal of seminary (in addition to being prepared for Christian ministry) and all Christian learning for that matter, is not to just gain knowledge about God, but to know God intimately, to enjoy His presence, to have a more confident faith, to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We not only grow in Godliness, but we learn to love His ways and being like Him because we love Him and we understand and rejoice in the truth that we are made in His image.
Put another way: Saving faith produces love. Saving faith sees Christ for who He is and is so grateful for all that He is for us that it cannot help but praise Him in song, share Him with others, honor Him with life, and embrace Him in death.
So in preparation for the upcoming semester, and in preparation for a lifelong process of studying, knowing, reading, and learning about God, I pray that all knowledge gained would turn into worship. That reading the Word would lead to repentance, faith, praise, obedience and sharing Christ with others.
We must study God (again, Rom. 12:2 and Prov. 19:2). But we must let the study not leave us shuddering because we hate God, as the devil does, nor must we let it leave us cold and uncaring, as one who believes in God as they believe in turtles. We must let what we know about God fuel our worship and our faith. Let what you know about God transform you to be a lover of God.
God, may we not be content with knowing about you, but press on to know you as our God, as our Lord, as our Savior, as our Friend. May we let what we know about you lead us to love you, that we are not merely assenting to your Word, but embracing it in worship and rejoicing. May your truth change us.