Monday, March 23, 2015

Becoming Like His Wisdom (1 of 3)

Some people may claim that learning is not important to them. Yet, many of these same people read the newspaper or watch the news to “learn” what happened the previous day. Now some would say that isn't learning, but it is. It is similar to accidental learning. Unfortunately, accidental learning usually doesn't amount to much – or is full of one-half facts because many accidental learners only learn from each other. But consider newsworthy names and places of just the last 50 years that most people would have very little knowledge of if not for the media. Consider names such as Lee Harvey Oswald or Monica Lewinsky and places such as Saigon (now Ho-Chi-Minh City) and Kuwait, not to mention business organizations, terrorist groups, etc.

The reality is that we often learn even when we don't think we are. But when it comes to learning about Jesus, many don't want to learn. Some may say, “I did the church thing. I know about Jesus, but I just don't need all that teaching.” Ok, that is an opinion. But God's response might be: "I gave you a brain and I gave you my Word, what will you do with it?"

Being learners does not mean that we need to be brilliant, it just means we must be willing to learn. We need to be like Jesus. (See Luke 2:46-47.) Ultimately, we need to be like Jesus, but we need to learn from Jesus as His disciple. The word disciple, in fact, means follower or learner. So, to be people who are becoming more like God, we need to not only learn about Him, we need to learn from Him.

So what is learning? Learning might be defined as gaining new insights about life. Ideally, it is applying the insights we gain to our lives for the betterment of ourselves and others. From a biblical perspective, let me provide three aspects related to learning.

1) Learning Characterizes the Wise Person (Proverbs 9.9; 10.14; 23.12)

The book of Proverbs contains many sayings about wisdom. The three verses listed above provide insight as to the wise. Proverbs 9.9 suggests that wise and righteous people can never get enough wisdom or knowledge. As many who study the Bible comes to understand, the more we know about the Bible, the more we realize there is to know. Proverbs 10.14 says that the wise lay up knowledge, like someone "stores up" a treasure. And Proverbs 23.12 this implies there is not a time to stop.

I have a set of "rules" or pithy sayings that I have developed over the past several years. Some are fun, some are serious. Rule #2 fits well the context of Proverbs 23.12. My rule #2 is "When you stop learning, you start dying." Personally, I made my greatest progress as a learner when I stopped worrying about grades. Grades are a necessary, if imperfect means, of measuring learning. But many people do just enough to get a grade. Sometime during my Master's Degree I realized that grades were immaterial to my learning. If I focused on learning, I wouldn't need to worry about my grades. However, if I only focused on my grades, I might miss out on the opportunity to learn. My learning became about becoming wise, rather than getting a grade.

2) Learning Fulfills the Great Commandment (Mark 12:29-30)

When you think of loving God, what comes to mind first? Probably not learning. In fact, if this post was not about learning, any consideration of learning would be WAY down the list, if it even made a list. But if we are to love the Lord with all of our mind, we must include learning in the process. The word "relevance" is used in churches today, and being relevant within society does have a place. However, the relevance of God's Word is paramount, and that understanding of the word begins with the human brain and the concept of the mind.

After all, as Martyn Lloyd Jones said, “Let us never forget that the message of the Bible is addressed primarily to the mind, to the understanding.”

3) Learning Fulfills the Great Commission (Matthew 28.18-20)

What is the Great Commission? If you already knew the answer to that question, it is because you learned about it in the past. Perhaps you knew that the Great Commission is found in the verses listed above. But the key for our purposes is the idea of learning within the Great Commission because Jesus says to teach others to observe all that I have commanded you. This implies a great deal of learning has taken place. Not only are Jesus' disciples to go to all nations, but they are teach what they have learned. All of it. And not only teach what has been learned, but how to observe what has been learned. Furthermore, that wasn't just for Jesus' disciples then, that statement applies to us today as well. So, we must learn in order that we may also teach others – this is not optional.

So what should we learn?

1) To Know God

To know who He is and what He has done. This goes back to the previous section – we learn to gain His wisdom, to love Him better (the Great Commandment), and serve Him completely (Great Commission).

2) To become godly.

How can you become something you don't know about? That is the purpose for this blog series.  God's Word must be understood before it can be applied. Or as R.C. Sproul said, “To be central in our hearts He must be foremost in our minds.”

Having provided three aspects of how learning benefits a disciple and two concepts that we must each learn, the second post this week will look at how we often learn and provide a few options to consider as you further engage in the discipline of learning.

*This series of post is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

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