History is full of stories of buried treasure, sunken pirate ships and long-forgotten Spanish galleons that made their discoverers fabulously wealthy. Some of our most popular movies and most beloved classic literature, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Treasure Island, have kept us entertained with similar stories.
It’s great to fantasize about common people such as ourselves finding such treasure, like the farmer who lived on the island of Milo in the Aegean Sea in 1820. While plowing his field he unearthed a buried statue, now known as Venus de Milo, estimated to have been sculpted in 120 B.C., and now valued at one billion dollars. What are the chances today? Probably much smaller than winning the lottery.
The three most valuable treasures ever discovered, all within the last 75 years and each considered to be “priceless,” were all from antiquity, one from the 4th century BC. The were discovered completely accidentally and not because of a deliberate search, or “treasure hunt.” At least one of the discoverers, a scuba diver off the coast of Israel, initially didn’t realize what he had found.
You probably know where this is headed. I was just like that scuba diver, when, as a young man, I first became a Christian in the Sigma Nu fraternity house at the University of Oklahoma. Now, 60 years later, I am just beginning to get a glimpse of the value of what I stumbled upon that night—an experience with the living God in Jesus Christ. I am realizing, more every day, that I unknowingly discovered life’s most valuable treasure, that also is “priceless,”
Many Christians are turned-off by “theology.” The see it as “dry, stuffy, impractical, philosophical navel-gazing, only for boring, arrogant intellectuals.” But the word “theology” simply means the study of God, i.e., “finding out what God is like.”
The scuba diver initially didn’t know what He had found. What he thought was a worthless, discarded children’s toy was actually only one of a treasure trove of priceless, ancient artifacts. In a similar manner, I didn’t realize that night in my fraternity house that I was beginning a life’s journey to progressively discover the value of my find.
Paul, as usual, nailed it: “For my determined purpose is that I may know Him – that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving,recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and clearly” (Philippians 3:10-AMP).
Paul was on a lifelong mission, giving every ounce of his being to “find out what God is like.”—discovering true theology. He began that mission on the road to Damascus in 37 AD at his conversion with no clue until that day that the god he had worshiped all his life didn’t exist. His “determined purpose” for the next 30 years was to rectify that ignorance, and he left for us the theology he developed (“what God is like”) in the process. He never ceased His quest until He was beheaded in Rome under Nero in about 67 AD. Then he finally knew God fully. His quest was over.
My search to “know Him” also began unconsciously at my conversion, but only in the latter years of my life have I found myself self-consciously doing so. I have discovered that I have a desire to discover, simplify and organize, i.e., express a biblical idea as simply as possible and then organize it with other ideas in a fashion that makes it consumable by the average reader, even though the idea, simple itself, may not be easy to grasp experientially.
I have summarized what I see as the complete theology of the Christian faith, as revealed to us in the Bible (what the Bible says God is like), in four simple statements. They constitute my version of Christian Theology 101.
What is Christianity?—A Four Point Theological Summary
The answers to the following four questions are all found in the Bible, and they form the four pillars that support the Christian faith, the four legs of the Christian chair. These answers are summarized immediately following the questions. All biblical doctrine lies within the parameters of these four questions, each of which is infinite.
1.What is God like? (theology) – He is absolutely sovereign, absolutely righteous, absolutely just, and absolute love.
2. What is man like? (anthropology) – We are hopelessly lost, absolutely spiritually dead, absolutely spiritually blind, and absolutely depraved.
3. How does God relate to man? (soteriology) – Fallen man relates to God by the sword of the Word of God. The edge of God’s Law cuts us open and exposes our sin, and the edge of the Gospel cut that sin out at the cross and restored us to our Heavenly Father. That restoration includes spiritual life, spiritual sight, and the very righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed fully to us.
4. Why is man here on the earth? (kingdom) – Once experientially restored, mankind, who is increasingly looking and acting like God as he learns to walk by faith in what God did at the cross, has been given his purpose for living, his marching orders. It is to “show God off” to all the world, including “principalities and powers” (Satan and his demons – Ephesians 3:10), revealing for all to see what God looks like and what He does. We do so by ruling over all the earth for God as His vice-regents, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, according to His law, applied by His grace, in all mankind’s earthly endeavors.
Each answer to these four questions, including each phrase, represents the fruit of my treasure hunt thus far. Although I know my hunt is really just beginning, I have found that my discovery so far to be “exceedingly abundantly above all that I could ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20), and I know it is but a foretaste! I hope the fruit of my experience will be helpful to you in your search to also “find out what God is like.”