Learning Jesus (5)
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3.13, 14
Solomon explained that God has charged us with the burdensome task of searching out, studying, investigating, and learning everything we can so that we might be wise and glorify God in every area of our lives. This should come naturally to every disciple of Jesus Christ, since the root idea of discipleship is “learning.”
Daniel and Paul show us the great benefits and advantages of taking this aspect of our discipleship seriously. Study and learning may be burdensome, but they can lead to wisdom, and help us to fulfill our callings as those who grow in the Lord so that we can teach the things of Christ to others.
This project of lifelong learning must begin in our hearts, as we have seen. Eager to learn and motivated by the fear and love of God, we must set our minds to pursue learning whatever will help us know and serve the Lord; and we must allow nothing to pull us off course in our pursuit of the wisdom of God which is in Jesus Christ.
That’s where Paul was. After a lifetime of being mad for learning, Paul had become, as a follower of Jesus, even more determined to learn everything he could about the Lord, His Kingdom, the people to whom he had been sent, the world around him, and the Lord’s glorious reign on high.
“But one thing I do,” wrote Paul. What was that “one thing”? “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Focused on the goal of Jesus Christ, Paul pressed on, learning all he could to better fulfill his calling from the Lord. Do we have that kind of single-mindedness? Can we say that we are pressing on toward knowing Christ, and becoming equipped to serve Him with more and more excellence?
Or are our Christian lives given second place to worldly necessities and distractions, cheap thrills, and unrecognized idols that can turn our glorious pursuit of the wisdom of Christ into vanity and grasping after the wind?
How can we develop a program of learning that will equip us – like Daniel and Paul – for whatever the Lord wants to do with our lives?
I want to suggest three general guidelines for charting a lifelong course for searching out the wisdom of God in Jesus and pressing on in our discipleship.
First, establish some horizons for your learning. Consider the places God has put you and the people you see each week. Each of us travels in a variety of cultural arenas – family, neighborhood, work, church, friends, the times we live in, and so forth. Within that framework, we each have a Personal Mission Field which God has appointed for us – a framework of places we inhabit during the days of our lives. There is much to learn about how to bring the Kingdom of God to bear on these various social and cultural arenas. The Bible has much to say about how the wisdom of God should be expressed in our home, at work, amid the culture of our times, and for the glory of God. We’ll be more effective as disciples if we aim our growth and equipping to address the needs and opportunities of our calling in the world.
At the same time, in that Personal Mission Field, we are involved with many different people – some of them believers, some of them not. As disciples of Christ, we ought to be teachers for such people. We’ll want to talk with them and serve them; so, in addition to learning excellence in all the cultural arenas of our lives, we’ll need to learn a bit about relating to the specific people in our lives. Thus we may prepare ourselves for teaching them the things of the Lord.
So already you have identified some subject matter areas for more focused and ongoing study into God’s wisdom: culture, relationships, and the times we live in, as these relate to our mission field.
Second (but really first) lay Scripture and Jesus Christ in the bottom of your studies. Let the Bible be the foundation and touchstone of all your learning, and Christ the goal you are striving to learn. Let your daily reading and study shed light on the other horizons of your life. Read, meditate, memorize, study with others – pour yourself into learning the Word of God, so that you will have the light it can give to illuminate the rest of your path and all your learning (Pss. 36.9; 119.105).
The founders of Harvard College understood the importance of this; an early motto for that now thoroughly secular university was “to lay Christ in the bottom.” With Christ and His Word as the foundation, all true learning can proceed according to His priorities and plans.
Third, keep focused on your purpose in life in all your studies, no matter the subject – the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus. We are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ – to follow Him and live for Him, and to encourage and equip others as disciples as well. All fields of learning and study are open to us, to the extent they help us to increase in Christ and excel in our walk with and work for Him.
We don’t want our study and learning to leave us, like Solomon, looking at ourselves and admiring all we’ve managed to learn or do. Our calling as disciples – followers of Jesus – must give shape, direction, and wisdom for all our studies, everything we hope to learn. If we can’t fit what we’re learning into the framework of our calling as disciples, then we need to seek help from others, or consider revising our course.
Mad to excel
Within the parameters marked out by these three guidelines, determine to become, like Paul, mad to learn as much as you can and, like Daniel, to excel as much as possible in whatever you learn. The burdensome task of learning can become an exhilarating journey of discovery and ministry if we will take this “affliction” seriously and devote ourselves to knowing and serving the Lord.
This is what it means, as Solomon wrote, to set your heart to learn as much as possible, so you can live as fully as possible as a disciple of the Lord. Press on to learn Jesus and your calling to serve Him! Let this “one thing” command your heart, and you will never regret it.
1. How can mapping out your Personal Mission Field help to focus your learning as a follower of Jesus?
2. What does it mean to lay Scripture in the bottom of all your learning? Does this describe you? Explain.
3. As you think about your own Personal Mission Field, what areas for more diligent study and learning come to mind?
Next steps – Conversation: What obstacles are preventing you from being a more diligent learner and follower of Christ? How can you overcome these to press on in learning excellence? Talk to a fellow believer about these questions.
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.