Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

The Purpose of Learning

I am as guilty of this as anyone, and many of us “theological types” are the same: we read in order to learn, in order to know, and in order to master. Scripture, however, is God’s communication with humans, with God’s people, not just so they can know and master. It goes further. Notice how the psalmist in Psalm 119:33-40 goes beyond mastery.
Before I say another word, let me remind pastors today that studying Bible for sermons is not why God speaks to us in Scripture. Sure, we are called to preach. But, before we preach, we must adopt the posture of learning and grapple with the Source of learning, so we can experience the purpose of that learning.
That I may follow it to the end (33).
So that I may keep your law (34a).
So that I may obey it with all my heart (34b).
There I find delight (35).
… and not toward selfish gain (36).
Preserve my life (37).
So that you may be feared (38).
There you have it: we listen and we learn in order that we may live aright. To know about God is not the same as knowing God (JI Packer said this long ago). To love the Bible is not always the same as loving God. To know Scripture is not always to be known by the God of Scripture. To comprehend theology is not the same as being comprehended by theology.

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Ted Gossard

posted November 29, 2006 at 4:29 am

Scot, Great points here. For me, God keeps me in difficulties, I believe, so that I will have this posture of becoming mastered, and really echoing in my heart, what the psalmist is saying here. And I think this is the nature of the kind of walk in God we’re together called into. It’s really beyond us. Good to know as much about it as possible. But to learn to live in it, is another matter altogether.

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Ed Chinn

posted November 29, 2006 at 7:35 am

This is excellent and I thank you. The centrifuge of our times keeps most of us pinned to the spinning wall and, therefore, far away from the Core of God.
Most of us live by words. Therefore, when we read or hear anything, we take it in with a recycling purpose. We tend to be unable to hear it for ourselves.
This is especially true of leaders. In fact, I think it’s one of the things contributing to leadership failure in our times. We don’t spend enough time silent and alone in His Presence. We tend to take in only with a view of sending it back out.

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Mark Goodyear

posted November 29, 2006 at 9:40 am

I love this Psalm–in part because it is such a beautiful poem. But I still struggle with ideas like vs. 34: “So that I may keep your law.”
Having grown up Church of Christ (speaking of limited views of atonement), I cringe when I hear anything about the importance of the law. We even substituted the “Law of God’s Word” for the living Holy Spirit. Logically, I understand its importance as Paul explains in Romans and all that. But emotionally, I can’t escape memories of salvation arguments and divided churches and people yelling at each other about whether the first century church would have a kitchen in the building or not.
I don’t know which saint prayed this, but I like it: “Lord, help me want to want to know you.” Because I can’t honestly separate out my desire to control God from my desire to know God. It’s humbling. Thank goodness for grace.

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Drive-Thru Society

posted November 29, 2006 at 10:24 am

Is it possible that there could be many sources that we draw from? What I mean by this is that scripture is important, but it is limiting. Could we draw from our community, experiences, and our own revelation that is given to us from God as a source? Just wondering.

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Mark Goodyear

posted November 29, 2006 at 11:42 am

To Phil at Drive-Thru Society, I agree that God is bigger than the Bible. But I’m afraid to trust my own immediate revelation as more valid than something that has withstood the test of 2000 years. Maybe I just have weak faith.
I agree that God uses my personal experience and community to breathe new life into the truths that are explained in the scripture. But I’m afraid to think of having my own personal revelation. I Jesus’s Kingdom was the revelation? Can there be more than one revelation?

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Matt Wiebe

posted November 29, 2006 at 1:19 pm

As a current student, this is the kind of thing I need to hear. One of our alumni is legendary for having had this plastered on her wall: “I want God more than I want my degree”

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posted November 29, 2006 at 2:16 pm

I find that I study the Bible ONLY for sermon preparation these days. I know this is wrong, but it’s so easy to do, and it takes reminders like this to MAKE time for personal Bible study and contemplation.
Thanks a million!

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posted November 29, 2006 at 6:08 pm

Amen. God tells us not to boast in how much knowledge or wisdom we have, but to boast in that we know and understand Him. This means allowing His Word to transform us by the renewing of our minds. His Word is He, Himself, revealing His character, feelings, justice, and His general will for our lives. It’s not just a moral guide – a how-to book on living the Christian life. In the case of many pastors, it has become impersonal and a study in memorization. It took me over 12 years to recognize that being a true Christian is about firstly getting to know Him in a truly personal way. Jesus spoke with authority and not as the teachers of the Law did because He knew the Father personally and trusted in Him through faith and through the Spirit. He studied the Hebrew scriptures through the Spirit. Pastors, please try to forget the applause and the name dropping and the references to great writers of the past. It may impress men, but it does not impress God and leaves little room for the Holy Spirit to accomplish His work.

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posted November 30, 2006 at 12:46 am

Sometimes I find my revelations from God in His Word come when I’m searching for something else. It’s like He meets me in the middle of a verse and says, “Hey, there, have you ever thought of it this way?” I trust Him to take me where He wants me to go, and pray I hear Him when He speaks. selahV

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