Sum and Substance

Begin with Jesus and you will end with Him.

Learning Jesus (2)

He is the Alpha and Omega of all knowing.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. Ephesians 1.7-10

The end from the beginning
We want to get to some practical guidelines for connecting whatever we may be learning with Jesus. But before we do, further words are in order to reinforce the view that all true and God-honoring learning is learning about Jesus. No matter the discipline you choose to employ, the goal is to know Jesus, to love Jesus, and to serve Jesus. We must be clear about and convinced of this, or we’ll be easily distracted or defeated in our journey of knowing.

An old joke tells about a man obsessed with golf, so much so that his wife insisted he see a counselor. The counselor showed the man a series of Rorschach cards, to which each response had something to do with golf – a particular club head, a link at some course, a dog-leg, green, or rough. After a bit the counselor opined, “This test would indicate that you do have a problem.” To which the man replied, “Don’t blame me, Doc. You’re the one showing me all the golf stuff.”

All knowing is like this. That is, all knowing is circular. It begins somewhere familiar and cherished, so that everything else we might come to know ends up at that same place. If your basic assumptions about the world are that reality is purely objective, everything reduces to some form of matter, nothing has any intrinsic purpose or meaning, evolution is the driving force for all of life, and values are merely relative and contingent; and if you’re comfortable in that framework, and find it to meet your basic needs, then whatever you learn from any source is going to be tucked safely within that paradigm, to reinforce your basic convictions. It all looks like golf.

But if you are a Christian, and you know Jesus Christ as the beginning and end of all knowing; you know that He created everything and sustains it all; that He has infused or embedded His glory in everything that exists; that He can be known, loved, and served through His Word and works; then your approach to knowing cannot be satisfied with the secular and naturalistic dead end. You must and you will seek to draw back the veil of all knowledge until you come, through whatever you are learning, into the eternal, majestic, brilliant, and transforming Presence of Him Who is the Alpha and Omega of everything. Everything you learn will be Jesus, and the more you learn of Him, the more you will love Him, and the more readily, joyfully, and consistently you will serve Him.

The world is a stereogram, and Jesus is in there. All the world is a Rorschach test, and Jesus is the answer – the ultimate answer – to everything we want to learn. The harder we work at knowing Jesus as He is revealed in the Bible (Jn. 5.39), the more we will be able to see Him, through the various disciplines of knowing, present in and refracted by everything that can be studied or learned. Knowing the end of any project of study or learning as we go into it, makes that project just that much more of an adventure.

God’s will for our learning
As we search the Scriptures, we want to learn how God's will applies to our life, for the day ahead as well as for the larger picture of life as a whole. We expect Him to speak to us, but we will only discern His way for our lives as we seek it in line with His purpose. And God’s purpose, as Paul explains, is to sum-up and to bring together under one Head, everything in our lives, and all things besides, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 10.3-5).

God is administering the world to exalt and advance the rule of King Jesus. All things in life, and all things everywhere, only find their true meaning with reference to Christ. What is not put under the feet of Jesus, and offered for His service and glory, will be destroyed by Him, and those who deny or oppose Him in any point will be frustrated, judged, and condemned. The inexorable, irresistible flow of history and the development of the cosmos are toward Jesus Christ, and being summed-up or explained in Him. We do not deny, and we do not apologize for taking Jesus as the starting-point and destination of everything we might come to know. Because what we know of Him from the Bible insists that this must be the case, if we are to know anything truly and with a view to glorifying God.

God is glorified in all things when we see them as tending toward Jesus. We should be able to increase in the knowledge of Jesus from whatever we choose to learn. By looking at our lives and the world through the lens of Christ, risen and exalted, we can expect that God will reveal His glory and His will, thus enabling us better to know, love, and serve Him in all things. As we thus pursue the journey of knowing and learning, from within the Christian circle of learning – the Christian encyclopedia – we will become more fruitful and consistent in the stewardship of our Kingdom calling, and more visible as followers of Christ.

Rules for the journey
Knowledge of anything is incomplete until it is related to Christ and acknowledged as from His treasury. What does this require?

First, all knowledge is about something, and since all that exists has its being from and by the Word of God, we must begin the pursuit of knowing by embracing as the end of our pursuit some clearer understanding of Christ. Why do we want to learn anything? To know Jesus better! All knowledge, whatever we may read or study or learn, must lead to a clearer and more expansive view of Christ; and we must press ahead in whatever we’re learning until the knowledge of Christ begins to emerge from the patterns and images and lessons presented in our study.

Second, as we have previously observed, all knowledge should lead to worship, since to know Christ is to worship Him. Some component of worship should be included in all our knowing. Begin in prayer. Keep a Bible near at hand. Talk with the Lord about whatever you’re studying, and don’t hesitate to give Him thanks or praise when anything offers a glimpse of His greatness or glory.

Third, all knowledge, being knowledge of Christ, must be invested according to His agenda, which is that His Kingdom should come on earth as it is in heaven. Thus, all knowledge must be made to serve the purpose of glorifying God by good works that make disciples, build the Church, and further Christ’s rule over all things. As followers of Christ, we are always learners, and whatever we are learning must be for the sake of advancing the righteous, peaceable, and joyous rule of King Jesus. Whatever we learn or are seeking to know must be for Jesus’ sake, must issue in good works and truthful words, and must help to make it so that Jesus increases in us and we decrease.

The more we learn, the better we will know Jesus. The more we know of Jesus, the more we will love Him. And the more we love Him – by whatever means or discipline we take up on our journey – the more He will show Himself through us, embodying and proclaiming His Kingdom with ever-increasing glory.

For Reflection
1. Why is it important to understand that all knowledge is circular? How would you outline the Christian circle of knowledge?

2. How should it encourage us in our reading and studying to believe that Jesus might reveal Himself and His will at any moment, any point in our journey?

3. What can you do in your reading and study of Scripture to make sure that each day you are increasing in the knowledge of Jesus?

Next Steps – Preparation: What’s the next project – reading or study – that you plan to undertake to increase in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ? What will you do to make it a more worshipful experience? What do you hope to learn about Jesus from it? How do you hope to increase in good works?

T. M. Moore

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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.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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