Friday, September 24, 2010

How Deep Are You?

My class schedule for the year got changed and I am going to be taking some classes that I had not planned on taking this year. This fall should be fairly interesting as I couple an evangelism/discipleship class with an emotion health/spiritual leadership class. One thing that I generally am is introspective, so I figured that I would get a jump on my thought process and start running right out of the gate.

In a lot of my reading and conversations in the past few weeks, I have been led to discussions that in some way have related to the idea of knowledge. I posted something on my Facebook page the other day regarding the difference between knowledge and understanding.

I was reminded of the Apostle Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 8 when he says, "Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God." Maybe you have encountered people in your lives who have a tendency to talk down to others, using their knowledge and intellectualism as a weapon rather than a tool. If knowledge is power, which many people rightly think, then, as Aunt May said to Peter Parker, "With great power comes great responsibility." The more knowledge that we have, the more we are responsible for what we do with it.

But my thoughts this past week have gone beyond knowledge and the gaining of it. I really began to think about the fact that I can have a tendency to gain lots of knowledge and I don't always have anywhere to put it. Also, what good is knowledge that is gained if it never moves from knowledge to understanding. Someone suggested to me that understanding comes when you can describe something in your own words. I have personally found that my knowledge of something moves to understanding when I have to teach it to someone else.

As I continued my thought process and conversations throughout I also stumbled upon this idea that we dig down on a variety of different places in our spiritual formation and yet we never have a real concentrated focus on just one thing. We might dig five different holes that are one foot deep rather than digging one hole that's five feet deep. In many ways, we touch the tip of the iceberg and gain some knowledge, but do we ever really get to a place of understanding?

I think about the typical Sunday morning worship services that we take part in. I would venture to guess that the average person leaves the message/sermon/homily there and doesn't necessarily unpack it more throughout the rest of the week. But how else are we going to apply it unless we are taking what we heard, processing it, and converting our knowledge into understanding as we make application of it?

It's simple to wait for whoever is delivering a message/sermon/homily to give us the application. If we do that, we run the risk of allowing ourselves to be spoon fed rather than feeding ourselves. What are our takeaway points though? Do we think about them throughout the week? To be honest, that's not something that I have done before, but I am beginning to see the value of it. The other element of examination is to ensure that we are not taking someone else's word for something always but rather that we are processing through to make sure that what we hear is true and consistent with what we read in Scripture.

I grew up in the church, encouraged to be involved with Sunday morning worship, Sunday school, youth group, quiet time, and a whole assortment of other things within the church. Yet in the midst of that, no one ever encouraged me to stay focused on one area at a time, instead, I spread myself wide and it was not until later in life that I really began to take the faith that I had been brought up with and make it my own as I applied the knowledge that I had gained to create understanding.

Of course, I have not "arrived" at a place where I do this perfectly, nor do I expect to anytime soon. But, to be challenged (by myself or others) to stay focused and process one thing well rather than multiple things moderately, is a challenge that I need to embrace and pursue.

As you engage in spiritual formation and begin to understand more and more about God, don't leave it there. Let your knowledge become understanding. In one of his letters, Peter challenges us to allow our relationship with God to have a transformative effect in our lives. I end with these words as a challenge to myself and all of us to dig deeper.

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins." 2 Peter 1:3-9

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