Growing in the Knowledge of Christ (2)
It may be hard and maddening, but we’re called to it.
I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised. Ecclesiastes 1.12, 13
Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!” Acts 26.24
Mad to learn
To some people, devoting themselves to learning more about Jesus might seem the height of madness. After all, learning is difficult. Most of us are probably happy that we’re no longer in school. What little efforts we make at learning – a few minutes reading Scripture a few days a week, listening to a sermon, participating in a Bible study, and maybe reading a book or a newsletter – are about all the learning most of us care to indulge.
Learning is hard work. Many regard reading, study, and the other disciplines of learning as a burdensome task that can drive one mad. And they’d be at least half right in so thinking.
But learning is what disciples do; a lifetime of learning – reading, studying, reflecting, meditating, talking with others, implementing lessons learned – is what God has called us to. He intends that we should “be exercised” with such a “burdensome task”; and while the world may regard our commitment to knowing Jesus as a form of madness, we will know it as a great source of joy, wonder, wisdom, and power to live more fully for Him.
Commit yourself to a plan for learning Jesus, beginning in His Word, and spreading out into as many areas of His works as you can. Know that this is going to be hard work; but keep in mind that the prize of learning Jesus – seeing Him more clearly, knowing Him more constantly with you, and drawing on His power to live for God’s glory – is well worth the effort. Take up the disciplines involved in learning Jesus with more breadth, consistency, reflection, and depth, and your soul will “be exercised” so that you will be more like Jesus, more each day like the One you are devoting to knowing, loving, and serving in every area of your life.
A plan for God’s Word
You’ll need a plan. Begin with your time in the Word of God. How can you improve your reading and study of Scripture, so that you begin seeing Jesus more clearly throughout the Word?
Your plan should include daily reading and meditation, with the goal of getting through all of Scripture, over and over again. Bible reading plans are available in various places on the Internet. Find one that will work for you, and devote yourself to it.
Begin to compile your observations in a journal or notebook. As you read each day, note (1) a key idea that emerges from your reading; (2) how that idea directs you to consider Jesus; (3) and how you should apply that idea in your daily life. Copy out in full passages that speak pointedly to you. By writing things down, you both reinforce the impact of the insights and ideas, and create a record that you can refer back to and build on in subsequent readings.
The notes you take from your time in the Word can serve many beneficial purposes besides helping you to implant the Word in your soul. You can share them with others, use them to prepare for teaching opportunities, return to reflect on and improve them over time, or bring them together with other notes for more complete meditation on a particular insight to Christ or His will.
Your plan for the study of God’s Word might also include being more active in a Bible study group, where those who take the Word of the Lord seriously can encourage and teach one another (Col. 3.16). You might look to the writings of sound teachers – in commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and other resources – to help guide your efforts. Take a course on a Biblical subject (the Internet offers many). Above all, bathe all your time of study in prayer, asking God to open His Word to you, lead you into His glory, show Jesus to you, and do that work in you that finds you being transformed increasingly into the image of the Lord (2 Cor. 3.12-18).
A plan for God’s works
Develop a similar plan for getting to know the Lord Jesus through His works. The Word of God created the world, and the Lord Jesus sustains it. Everything in the earth belongs to the Lord (Ps. 24.1), and we can be sure He intends His works to lead us more deeply into knowing Him. He is the Treasury of all true knowledge, so the more we understand His works, the better we will know Him.
Consider Solomon and Paul. Solomon directed his learning across a wide spectrum of topics – plants and animals, human behavior, international politics, architecture and beauty, and more. The book of Ecclesiastes, together with the book of Proverbs, offer rich compilations of insights from creation and culture that can help us in knowing the Lord, and encourage us in our own similar efforts.
Paul was, of course, thoroughly versed in Scripture. But he also studied philosophy, and was familiar with various Greek poets and thinkers. He even saw in their works insights to truth that, as he reflected on them, reinforced his own commitment to knowing the Lord. Paul understood Roman law; he learned oratory, understood how to organize and manage a system for spreading the Gospel, and – if his advice to Timothy is any indicator – even understood a bit about gastronomy (perhaps Luke had helped him there?).
Or consider Jesus. It’s clear He saw His Father’s imprint on everything around Him – farms, plants, kings, coins, sparrows, pearls, and much, much more. That He used His knowledge of such works to great effect is clear throughout His earthly ministry.
As you begin to look into the works of God in creation and culture – reading, observing, discussing, meditating and reflecting – it will help you to discover the glory of Christ hidden in these (Prov. 25.2) if you will jot down your thoughts, compiling observations and reflections, and storing them in a notebook.
Some very good note-taking apps can help you in compiling your insights from Scripture and God’s works. Or you may prefer, like Jonathan Edwards, just to carry slips of paper, note cards, or a small notebook to jot down your thoughts throughout the day. (Edwards would take slips of paper with him as he went for times of solitude, and pin each new note to his coat; he would sometimes return from these seasons looking as if he’d been in a snow storm.)
Reflect on the world around you, the news of the day, the artifacts that adorn your home or make your work more efficient. Learn what you can; thank the Lord for what you’re learning; and compile your observations and insights for future review or other use.
If you’ll exercise your mind, heart, and conscience by the discipline of compiling your observations from Scripture and God’s works, you will strengthen your ability to see Jesus, and grow in knowing Him day by day. Yes, it’s hard work. But the reward is well worth the effort.
1. What’s one thing you could do to improve your reading and study of the Bible? What additional tools might help you improve your time in the Word of God?
2. Where should you begin in seeking Jesus through His works? What are you interested in? What’s closest at hand? How might you begin to study the works of God immediately around you?
3. What will you do to begin compiling your thoughts, observations, insights, and lessons more consistently?
Next Steps – Preparation: Take 30 minutes today and write our your plan for studying God’s Word and His works. Commit your plan to the Lord in prayer.
T. M. Moore
One place to begin learning is in understanding the times and the world around us. Our book, Understanding the Times, outlines the broad scope of what we need to understand to live as witnesses in this secular world. Order your copy by clicking here. If you’d like some help improving your time in God’s Word, order our book, The Joy and Rejoicing of My Heart, by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.