The book I’m tackling after Ephesians is 1 Timothy. This is a weird book. It’s got all sorts of unusual and controversial stuff in it, so it’s going to be a challenge to figure out how deep into the difficult sections I should go.

The first passage that has stood out to me is right at the beginning:

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:3-7)

Our aim as believers is love — to love God and to love others, particularly other believers. This flows naturally from “a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (v. 5).

What has apparently happened in Ephesus is that some people have become obsessed with untrue philosophies and myths. Because their hearts are not pure, their consciences are not good, and their faith is not sincere, they have turned away from love and have embraced intellectual elitism. Ironically, they understand less than the people they look down on — they may have pinned down all sorts of facts about the law, but they don’t really understand its truth and application.

This is a sobering reminder of how easy it is to get caught up in theology that doesn’t pierce the heart. While solid, biblical theology is necessary for the Christian life, it is too often perverted into a trump card to make oneself feel better than other believers. As I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve become more and more concerned with how the theology I know applies to my life. For example, how can I claim to know that God is sovereign when such “knowledge” doesn’t change the way I think and live?

It’s clear in my own life that God is calling me to love. I think the first time I wanted to be a pastor was my freshman year. I was with a friend of mine, visiting guys in Cary Hall. One of them was particularly struggling, and I remember coming away from that meeting wanting to be able to help people like that. For this reason, I want to be a pastor rather than, say, a theology professor. I don’t want merely to teach theology; I want lives to be changed through theology. I want to see the strongholds of Satan torn down by the truth of the gospel. I want to see the Spirit of God comfort those who are weak and broken.

We are called to love. Biblical love cannot be separated from theological truth. But I need to be on my guard to ensure that the truths I’m learning are really sinking in. A hard heart is the most deadly disease imaginable.