Theology for Burning Hearts
'If the Church is to advance and conquor it is by the living
Word of the living God. There is a sad lack among God's people of a
knowledge of His Word. The prophet of old said: 'My people is destroyed for lack of knowledge.' We are afraid that it is true of God's people today; they are defeated because they know not the Word of God. Today the land is flooded with false doctrines, and errors mixed with truth are readily accepted because they do not know the Word of God. Comparatively few attend our Bible Classes; they enjoy sitting down and singing some light jazzy choruses much better. They prefer a testimony meeting to a meeting where the Word of God, with its wonderful doctrines, is expounded. They would rather have their emotions stirred than to have their understanding enlightened.
Blessed be His name! Jesus stirs our emotions; for they on the Emmaus Road said: 'Did not our hearts burn within us!' But that is not all. Thank God for a burning heart. We read further on, 'Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.' We need both, the burning heart and the opened understanding. We need fuel as well as fire. If we seek a burning heart only, we may become fanciful, imaginative, sentimental, and perhaps fanatical. On the other hand, if we seek truth alone, we will become formal, critical, legal and dogmatic. Both are essential, the Word and the Spirit in the Christian's conflict.' (Thomas Rees, The Divine Masterpiece, p.41)
These words were written in the early part of the twentieth century, and yet still seem so relevant today. Still today it is only by the Word of God that the Church may advance. This means that the members of the Church must know the Word. It is only through the Word of God, the Bible, that we learn of our true state as sinners before a holy God. It is only in the Scriptures that we learn that God sent His Son to die as our substitute, bearing the wrath of God for our sins. It is only through the Scriptures that we learn of the forgiveness of sins which God offers through faith in Christ, our atoning sacrifice. It is only through a knowledge of God's Word that we can know the truth of justification by grace through faith. If the saved are to live as the saved, they must know the truth of the finished work of Christ at the Cross and of their position in Him. Thus doctrine, theology, is of vital importance to our lives. Burning hearts then come through knowledge of His Word.
Pastor Rees almost seems to separate 'burning hearts' from 'opened understanding' or 'truth'. He almost sets them up as two things which should go together, but which we mistakenly can separate. Yet, let me argue, that this seeming separation is not possible in reality. True 'burning hearts' are produced by 'opened understanding'. The disciples on the road to Emmaus recognized this, saying 'Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?' It was Jesus' opening of the Scriptures that produced their burning hearts. True Christian emotion is brought about through understanding true Christian doctrine, and particularly by the Cross.