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Theology Matters: The Fruits of Good Theology, Part 3

Why does theology matter? Over the course of the last three articles, we have argued that theology matters because everyone is a theologian. Everyone, even an atheist, has a particular understanding and knowledge about God. This knowledge not only determines what we believe about God, his creation, and his plans for us, but it also determines how we worship God. For this reason, A.W. Tozer writes in his book, Knowledge of the Holy, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
Good theology is not only a disciplined study of God, but it is also the application of Scripture to all areas of our lives. Without either diligent study or purposeful application, our theology will be fruitless (2 Peter 1:3–8). If we rely on popular conceptions of God instead of engaging in a disciplined study of God, we will lack certainty, grounding, and hope. If our increased understanding and knowledge of God only makes us theological curmudgeons, we’ve missed the point of theology entirely (Colossians 1:9–10).
On the other hand, good theology will produce spiritual fruits in our lives. We’ve already seen three fruits of good theology based on our study of Exodus 34:5–9. In this passage, God revealed all his goodness to Moses and proclaimed his covenantal name. Moses’ response to God’s revelation is instructive for how we too should respond as we become more intimately acquainted with God. Moses teaches us that good theology begins with God’s revealed Word and therefore leads us to Scripture. Moses also teaches us in verse eight that good theology leads us to both humility and worship. Next, Moses teaches us in verse nine that good theology leads us to prayer. This is the fourth fruit of good theology.

Good theology leads us to prayer.

After humbling himself and worshiping, Moses responds to God in prayer: “And he said, ‘If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance’ (Exodus 34:9).” Notice how Moses makes three petitions to God.
First, he prays for God’s presence: “please let the Lord go in the midst of us.” Moses understood that the Lord’s presence meant blessing for his people while his absence meant a broken spiritual relationship with his people and coming judgment. Second, Moses prays for God’s pardon: “pardon our iniquity and our sin.” Moses sought the Lord’s forgiveness for the people’s idolatry as well as for their penchant for stubbornness (“it is a stiff-necked people”). Third, he prays for God’s protection: “take us for your inheritance.” In referencing Israel as God’s inheritance, Moses is asking for the Lord’s favor and protection for Israel as Yahweh’s son (Exodus 4:23).

Prayer acknowledges our dependence on the Lord.

From Moses’ prayer, we learn two primary lessons about good theology and prayer. First, good theology leads us to prayer because good theology teaches us that we are completely dependent upon the Lord. Psalm 123 poignantly expresses the psalmist’s complete dependence upon God:
To you I lift up my eyes,
          O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants
          look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
          to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
          till he has mercy upon us (Psalm 123:1–3).
Like the psalmist, we are completely dependent upon God for his mercy. We are also dependent upon God in other areas of our life.
We often lack understanding and wisdom. God is omniscient and all-wise. That is why James calls us to pray to God for wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5 ESV).
Our hearts are idol factories, and we are continually tempted to sin. That is why Jesus teaches his disciples to ask God, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). Jesus also tells Peter in Gethsemane, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
As Job writes, all of us are “born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). That is why the Psalms repeatedly encourage us to take our cares, concerns, and distress to the Lord (Psalms 40, 77, 118).
Good theology leads us to prayer because prayer acknowledges our dependence on the Lord.

Prayer demonstrates our trust in the Lord.

Second, good theology leads us to prayer because good theology teaches us that we can completely trust in the Lord’s promises.
When the Lord revealed himself to Moses in Exodus 34:7, he described himself as “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” Moses takes God at his word two verses later when Moses prays, “pardon our iniquity and our sin.” In other words, Moses trusted in the Lord’s character and promises, and Moses’ prayer reflects his trust in the Lord.
Nehemiah provides another example of someone whose good theology led him to prayer. While serving as Artaxerxes’ cupbearer, he received heartbreaking news about the Jewish remnant and the dilapidated state of Jerusalem. Nehemiah knew and understood that God was the “Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love” (Nehemiah 1:5). Because of his good theology, he immediately fasted and prayed to God and acknowledged his complete dependence on the Lord.
But, also notice in his prayer how Nehemiah demonstrates his trust in the Lord (Nehemiah 1:8–9). Nehemiah reminds God of his covenantal promises to Moses. By doing this, Nehemiah expresses his trust in God’s promises to restore and regather the repentant nation. Nehemiah was intimately acquainted with God, and his good theology led him to pray in complete dependence on and trust in the Lord.
Church, good theology matters. Our Lord practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth (Jeremiah 9:24–25). He is faithful to all his promises and worthy of our trust (Numbers 23:19). This understanding of God should ignite and fuel a fervent prayer life and give us great confidence that our God will supply what we need and will do what he promised. Good theology leads us to prayer because prayer acknowledges our dependence on the Lord and demonstrates our trust in him.
**The views and opinions expressed by the author may not necessarily reflect the views of the elder board of Grace Bible Church or the official position of Grace Bible Church.

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