Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Disciples will learn

This post is part of a series on what disciples of Jesus will look like.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17

One thing that I have found it easy to fall prey to in my walk over the years is the idea that learning about God and the Bible solely for the purpose of having the knowledge and understanding is sufficient to make one Christlike. There was a time when I found it quite irritating when others did not share this passion, thinking their faith was somehow inferior because they only wanted the "practical application" of a given passage. Many years down the road of my faith journey, I understand now that there is great wisdom in always asking the question, "How should I change or respond based on what I have read here?" In fact, there is an entire book of the Bible (James) dedicated to this one simple truth:

If what you know and believe doesn't change who you are and what you do, 
then your faith is worthless and probably won't save you. 

A major theme in Paul's second letter to Timothy is holding fast to truth that changes you. At the beginning of chapter 3, Paul warns Timothy that in the last days, there will be those who "hold to the form of godliness but deny it's power." In other words, they conform externally without an internal change of heart and mind that only comes by the power of the Spirit. He also refers to women who are burdened with sin and led away by their own passions as ones who are "always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth."

In contrasting these people with Timothy, Paul encourages him in verse 10 by observing that he is one who "[has] followed [Paul's] teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance". Timothy not only learned knowledge from Paul, he applied that knowledge to change his behavior. And at the end of verse 17, Paul states that one of the main goals of learning and studying Scripture is to be "equipped for every good work." 

I had a conversation with my father-in-law last night about the high costs of seminary training. He graduated from his seminary with a Masters in Divinity, and stayed with a church for many years, eventually becoming the pastor. One comment he made that I have heard echoed in many other places is that there was so much lacking from his seminary training in the way of practical leadership and ministry in a church. In contrast, my former church back in Texas trains all of their leaders from within. The current teaching pastor was saved in college by the ministry of the very church he now teaches and trains leaders at some 20+ years later. 

That's how Jesus did it. He took twelve men under His care for three years, training them to take up the mantle of proclaiming the kingdom of God once He was gone. He taught them plainly what the needed to know (e.g. Matthew 13:36-43), and once empowered by the Holy Spirit, those around them marveled at the fact that these disciples had no "formal" education. Their training consisted of daily lessons at the feet of the Master teacher (Acts 4:13). And this was not simply knowledge transfer, but even more their training consisted of seeing and understanding this knowledge translated into the practical faith of caring for the poor, orphans, and widows that Jesus ministered to throughout His ministry.

As a follower of Jesus, I urge you to emulate the examples of the very first followers. Find someone who is further down the road of faith than you are and place yourself under that person's guidance and training. And as you search for this person, don't be content to only learn things about Jesus and His Word, but also seek to learn to be Jesus to those around you through the life of an older brother or sister who is doing the same.

Disciples will learn, not only for the sake of having the knowledge, but also to be equipped for every good work the Father has prepared for them.

For we are His creation, 
created in Christ Jesus for good works, 
which God prepared ahead of time 
so that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10