Theology simply put means “the study of God.” So practical theology would mean “practically studying God.” Methodology, on the other hand, could be defined as “a particular procedure or set of procedures.” What I am attempting to do here is tell you why I believe we need to focus on applying principles that simply put us in a position to be changed by God instead of following a set of procedures to become a better person. Does that make sense? Hopefully I will better unpack what I am trying to get at in the rest of this blog. I truly believe the difference between practical theology and methodology is massive, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t want to waste your time.
In the Old Testament God gave Moses the law not that we would become righteous in obeying it but rather to show us that we can’t obey it.
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose (Galatians 2:21).
And even though God’s Word tells us this, there are still a lot of people out there living their lives centered around rules. If we aren’t careful we too will slip into this life style. You don’t have to look very hard to find teachings based on methods either. For example, Joel Osteen wrote a book called,
Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential
I don’t believe this is the Christian life intended by God. All you have to do is read the cover of this book to see that it is full of Methods, “7 Steps…” We can never reach our “full potential” by following methods. In Matthew 5:20 Jesus says,
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
If we try to gain righteousness by following a list of methods or rules, we will end up just like the Pharisees who followed the law to a tee.
So what do we do in response to Jesus’ outrageous demand? The answer found in Scripture is to fall to our knees, recognize how weak and helpless we truly are, and cry out for the mercy God offers through the cross. You might be thinking, “Wait, I’ve already accepted Jesus into my heart.” If so, great! But what comes next? Going to church every week? Praying and reading your Bible every day? Sharing your testimony with the lost? Surely all of these should take place, but they should not be the central focus of Christianity. Paul the apostle says in his first letter to the church in Corinth,
I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2).
In other words, Paul is telling us that he never wants to “move on” from the message of the gospel. Instead he desires to have a life centered around the cross of Christ. Does this mean that we no longer obey God’s commands? Surely not. What it does mean is that if we are to obey any of God’s commands we must yield to the transforming power found in the gospel of Christ.
I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezekiel 26-27).
When we believe in the message of Jesus Christ crucified, the Holy Spirit does a work inside of us called “regeneration” which means the same thing as removing our “heart of stone” to give us a “heart of flesh” in return. I don’t think that God gives a new heart that we would merely obey Him, but rather that we would show our love for Him by walking in obedience. This is where we see the distinction between Practical Theology (applying practical principles that God might change us) and Methodology (Applying methods to make ourselves right with God). We obey God not that He will love us or find favor with us; we obey God to show our love for Him because He first loved us.
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
This, my friends, is the good news Paul devoted his life to; not just good news to share, but good news to love, know, and live out every single day.