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Mad for Learning?

Paul was. Are we?

Learning Jesus (4)

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

The mind of Christ
The apostle Paul declared – incredibly! – that all who believe in Jesus and are His disciples have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16).

The mind, with its powers of observation, description, analysis, memory and recall, synthesis, imagination, and problem-solving – as if that weren’t amazing and wonderful enough. But we have the mind of Christ!

Now being in possession of the mind of Christ is no mean thing. Jesus, we recall, used His mind to baffle the theologians of the day, gain insight into the thinking of every person, outwit His enemies and outthink His detractors, teach His followers, proclaim His Kingdom, and even to turn water into wine! And we who are learning Jesus have this same mind! Surely it would be a colossal failure of our calling as stewards of God’s good gifts not to grow into the mind of Christ?

Having the mind of Christ is something to grow into by stages, as we apply ourselves to learning Christ in all the ways available to us. Paul had spent a lifetime learning Christ, but he didn’t realize the truth of what he’d been learning until after his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road. Unlike many of us, I doubt that Paul, a rising star in the Jewish ruling class of the day, ever looked back on all the things he studied during his preparation and wondered, “What was all that about? Why all that philosophy and poetry? Why do I need all that stuff to serve my Hebrew brethren?”

God knew what he was doing in making of the young Saul of Tarsus a man evidently mad for learning. In Paul’s ministry and writings, we see the fruit of a life devoted to learning, which he deftly applied to grow in the knowledge of the Lord and to make disciple-making disciples. Saul had always wanted to please God, even when he persecuted the followers of Jesus. All his studies and preparation must have been consciously devoted to preparing him for leadership among the Lord’s people. But only after coming to faith in Christ would Paul realize just how valuable all those years of preparation had been.

From that moment on, Paul devoted his mind to learning Jesus, to taking every thought captive to make it obey the purposes of his discipleship (Eph. 4.17-24; 2 Cor. 10.3-5). And he calls us to imitate him, just as he imitated our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 11.1).

A whole-life curriculum
As a proud son of the tribe of Benjamin, Saul of Tarsus would have had a chip on his shoulder as a young man. Doubtless his comrades teased and taunted him for having the name of his forebear, King Saul, who brought shame on himself and his nation. Saul of Tarsus would have been determined to vindicate his name and his God by whatever he set out to do in life, including his studies and preparation.

He studied Greek philosophy and literature, because there he could learn the tenets of reason, logic, and argumentation, essential to making one’s way up the leadership ladder. He would have learned culture, world religions, and the patterns and ways of the natural world by devoting himself to the literature of the Greeks.

He also learned the laws and protocols of Roman life. As a citizen of Rome, he would have wanted to know his rights so that he could use them to maximize his advantage whenever necessary.

He sat at the feet of one of the great Jewish teachers of his day, from whom he learned the laws and traditions of his people far above any of his contemporaries. His knowledge of the Old Testament was prodigious, as even a cursory reading of his epistles makes clear.

And just at the moment all that great learning seemed poised to come into service against the cause of Christ, the Lord Jesus intervened to put it all in proper focus and send Paul to Jews and Gentiles alike with the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Now, renewed in Jesus, and focused on the upward calling of discipleship, Paul put his great learning to use for the Kingdom of God, and called all who read him to do the same. Paul continued to observe, read, study, and learn throughout the course of his life, as we see during his stay in Athens, and when he urged Timothy to bring him the books he’d left behind in Ephesus (cf. Acts 17.16-23; 2 Tim. 4.13).

Lifelong learning
Paul was a lifelong learner. He had pursued a whole-life curriculum, and Jesus was determined to use it all for His glory. Paul was not mad with much learning, but he was mad for it, and he wrote to the churches to take up a devotion to learning not unlike his own (Eph. 4.17-24; 1 Cor. 11.1).

Would we describe ourselves as “mad for learning”? Out of our minds to be more in the mind of Christ? Joyfully taking up this burdensome task along an ever-expanding horizon of things to know and use in being a disciple and making disciples? Or do we prefer to be amused and entertained rather than to apply ourselves to learning Jesus?

When we are as mad for learning as Paul was, we will discover that the Lord can use us in ways we might never have imagined. He will open doors of opportunity for us to use our learning in sharing Jesus with others and encouraging our fellow disciples to seek Him more earnestly. He will delight us with new levels of understanding, as He reveals Himself ever more clearly in His Word and world. As we learn and grow in the mind of Christ, we will know the joy and pleasure of His Presence in new and unforgettable ways each day (Ps. 16.8, 11).

So let us press on to search out and seek the wisdom of God along a curriculum path as broad as life itself, so that we will have whatever we need, at the ready, in whatever situation we find ourselves in service to our God.

We have the mind of Christ! Let’s get mad for learning and work hard to grow into that mind, shall we?

For reflection
1.  Meditate on 1 Corinthians 2.16 and 2 Corinthians 10.3-5. What is the mind of Christ?

2.  What does it mean for you to have the mind of Christ? How should having the mind of Christ affect your outlook on the world?

3.  Would you describe yourself as mad for learning? Why or why not?

Next steps – Demonstration: What opportunities will you have today to live from the mind of Christ and show Jesus to others? Pray about those opportunities and prepare for them now.

T. M. Moore

You can download all the studies in this series, “Disciples Making Disciples,” by clicking here.

Know, Love, Serve
The great thing about following Jesus is the more we learn of Him, the more we love Him; and the more we love Him, the more we will serve Him in every aspect of our lives. This is the argument of our book, Know, Love, Serve. A free copy is waiting for you by clicking here.

Don’t forget to visit our free Personal Mission Field Workshop for this month (click 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.

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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