Understanding


And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Luke 2: 47

Jesus was mature for His age. He was in the temple talking with the teachers, asking questions, and entering into the ongoing discussion of God’s Word and the Law with the wise men of Israel. Yet, He was only twelve. His knowledge and understanding came from a place far beyond the usual teaching that a boy in those days received from the rabbi who served the local community. Deep within Jesus held the wisdom of all time, and He also heard God speaking to Him with guidance and with counsel that was pertinent to all matters and situations that the young Jesus encountered. It is admittedly hard to grasp what it must have been like to live with Jesus as He was growing up, but this glimpse into His early adolescence suggests just how special He must have been. 

This extraordinary understanding of things that were pertaining to God and to the application of His Word in life is something that people do not always seem to appreciate. In this we are not all that different from Jesus’ parents. If I think about this scene, I am taken aback at the surprise that Mary and Joseph exhibit here, for they were there from the beginning of the story when the angel came to each of them to explain how a young virgin woman would conceive a child and the role that her fiancé was to play in this grand miracle that God was starting to carry out in the history of creation. Now, all of that seems to have become a dim and a distant memory, and the realities of raising a boy into manhood had taken over their thinking. Whatever the thoughts and the feelings that Mary and Joseph may have had, they were as equally amazed at Jesus’ capacity to think and to discuss matters related to God as they were also worried about the safety of their son. They did not seem to fully appreciate who and what Jesus was about in this world.

Most of us have heard the story of Jesus’ miraculous beginning on earth, and we have been exposed to the way that He conducted Himself during those thirty plus years of life that God allotted to Jesus as He lived among us. Yet, we too often fail to grasp how significant His wisdom and understanding truly are to us. The twelve year old who was leaving the wise men of His day in a state of awe and wonder did mature into the man whose life gave us the perfect picture of righteous and just living, whose death brought about the possibility of acceptance for each of us in the presence of a holy God, and whose resurrection overcame the oppression of sin in this world. We too can sit at the feet of Jesus and hear the same sort of counsel that is wise in all matters and that is more than sufficient for any situation or circumstance that we might be encountering. Jesus speaks to us out of God’s Word, He counsels us and leads us into the deep places of understanding as the Spirit speaks to our hearts and minds, and Jesus is also present in the conversation and the prayer of His body, the fellowship of believers. So, let us cease to be amazed at the understanding that comes from the mouth of Jesus, and instead, draw near to Him and seek out that same wisdom as it applies to all that we think, say, and do in life.  

Advertisements

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

John 4: 25, 26

It is very likely that you have known someone who acted as if they did truly know it all. This is the sort of claim that is very hard to sustain. Most people who act as if this were true for themselves are portraying a form of arrogance that is often mixed with some strong internal doubts. I would guess that this Samaritan woman had encountered a few people during her life-time who had acted in this manner, but this encounter with the Jewish stranger was different. He knew things about her that were not His to know, and He spoke with a form of authority that pierced through her protective outer shields in a way that allowed His words to penetrate to the center of her heart. This man knew her in a way that was both terrifying and exhilarating. A simple and routine action of going out to the community well to draw water had become the point at which her entire life was being transformed.

This woman had encountered a very practical and direct form of knowledge that Jesus had regarding her, for He knew all about the rather sordid and difficult life that she had lived up until this time. He both knew and understood why she was out at that well when no one else from her community was there. Jesus understood the hurt and the pain that filled her days as He also recognized her heart’s yearning for salvation from the burden that she carried with her every moment of her life. Jesus was fully aware of the woman’s story without her needing to say anything, and He had answers for the real questions that her heart was asking. This Jesus who just happened to be waiting at a particular well at a time of day when most people would have been indoors was seeking after this individual because He was attuned to the deep longing of her spirit. The Christ came to her just as He is continually seeking after all people.

Jesus does know all. He, as God, sees everything that we think, say, and do, and in an even more powerful demonstration of His complete knowledge and understanding, Christ is aware of the condition and the intentions of our hearts. He comprehends the pain and the hurt that we experience deep inside of our being, and He has the answers for us that will bring about true and lasting healing for those wounds and for the struggles that come about in life because of them. Most importantly, Jesus is the answer to the greatest questions that exists in all people’s lives, which are those of my own identity, my value and worth, and my purpose in being here. Jesus takes everyone who responds to His offer of answers into the presence of our Creator, God Himself, and Christ then opens our minds and our hearts to hearing the truth about all of these vital questions. Jesus comes seeking after everyone on earth, He waits for us at our own well of questioning, and He answers all of the doubts and fears that we may possess with His unfailing comprehension, grace, and love.     

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

1 Thessalonians 2: 13

All of us are subject to various types of authority. It comes in the form of people who have power over our livelihoods or at least our success and advancement within a chosen occupation. Most of us live in communities within countries where there are laws of the land that rule over us and that direct and define what actions are acceptable and what ones will result in censure or worse. Sometimes we accept the rule of authority and at other times we struggle with it or even fight against its presence in the course of our days. Paul is immensely thankful that these people to whom he had communicated God’s Word had accepted it and its author’s authority so readily. They had not only accepted it, but they also knew and acknowledged the fact that there was a supernatural aspect to what they had received from Paul as this word from God.

Thus, the Gospel of Christ and the rest of the divine truth that was given to them has a sort of power that is far superior to any other form of wisdom, logic, or law that they may have heard or have access to. This word of truth and life comes out of eternity and into our world bringing with it the lasting wisdom of the Lord and providing guidance for all aspects of life. Now God has called people into service to Him by means of gifting them with deep comprehension of His Word and by granting to them the ability to explain both its meaning and its application to the various situations and circumstances that are encountered in living out our days. Yet, unlike any other form of instruction that we may receive, when we are taught from God’s Word we hear words that are spoken by humans, but we are listening to and assimilating concepts, ideas, and precepts that come from the mouth of God.

The source of these utterances is what matters when God’s Word is opened and taught. It is essential for people who teach from God’s Word to be humbly submitted to the Lord’s will as they are led by His Spirit into understanding its deeper meanings and its application in the lives of the specific audience at hand. As hearers of the Word of God we need to bear in mind the fact that it is something much greater than any literature that has come to us through human hands as these words are the utterances of God, Himself, that have been given to us through the hands of divinely inspired writers. Even that inspiration would have left us with nothing more than an exceptional work of history and philosophical wisdom if it were not for the connection that God makes with His people through the presence of the Spirit of Christ with and within us. The Spirit brings the written and the spoken Word of God to life, and He guides our minds and our hearts into forms of understanding that would not be otherwise possible. Thus, through the work of the Spirit within and upon us, we are continually transformed by God’s Word into people who more and more fully reflect the glory of the Lord.   

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3: 17

Freedom is not always easy to accept, and living in its fullest expression is even more challenging for most people. The challenge of freedom might be found, in part, in the fact that everyone is born into its opposite state. That is, we all come into this world enslaved to sin and owned by Satan. That is hard to envision when a baby is new born, but after a few months and certainly by the age of two or so, the self-centered and often uncontrollably angry person that is inside the cute beauty of the baby begins to demonstrate itself in mighty outbursts and unceasing demands for her or his way. As adults we care for and love these little ones regardless of how they might be acting, and in time, they mature and learn to control and to moderate their expressions of want and need. They also grow into people who can give love and provide guidance to others who are not as far along in their developmental journey.

The Lord does much the same sort of thing with us. We are born sinners, and we stay in that state of deadness and remain separated from God’s full presence until we relent to Christ’s unceasing pursuit of us and surrender our being to Him. When this happens, something far greater than simple membership is given to us, for we are not just granted access to an eternal existence with Christ in Heaven, great as that gift is, in fact, but we are also given the gift of the presence of the Spirit within us from that moment of acceptance onward. We are set free from that state of enslavement to Satan that was our form of being from birth. However, most of us are challenged by what it actually means to live in the complete and total expression of that freedom. It is a state of being that we do not know how to enjoy and that we are not yet mature enough in Christ to grasp onto and to live out in all aspects of our lives.

That is where the presence of the Spirit within us becomes especially important, for He provides love, care, support, guidance, and discipline to our still formative new selves in Christ. The Spirit takes us into God’s Word and provides us with understanding of its meaning and with the wisdom to apply those truths to the situations and circumstances that we encounter in life. The Spirit provides us with a form of strength that is deeper and more durable than anything that we have been able to develop on our own, and He also brings the power of eternity to bear upon the obstacles and challenges that we face as we seek to follow Christ’s calling for us. Over time we are grown up and matured by the Spirit in our ability to dwell more and more fully in the way of Christ. This growth process is accelerated as we yield to the Spirit and surrender ourselves ever more fully to His work within us. So, as we become ever more Christ-like in the ways that we think, speak, and act, we gain freedom, and freedom finds its expression in an increase in our faith in the working of Christ is our world and in the expressions of the presence of the Spirit through the full exercise of the spiritual gifts that we have been given by God. 

To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.

Ephesians 3: 8

This is the great evangelistic teacher and writer Paul speaking, and he was very clear in his understanding of what God had given to him as a life’s work. He also understood that everything that he brought to the table by way of knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and skill was also a gift from God. Paul knew that all of the talent and the hard work that he had invested in preparation for life had been proven to be futile in a few moments of direct contact with the Living God. Yet, the same Lord who brought him to his knees also filled him with all of the knowledge and truth that he would ever need to follow Christ and to serve Him with all of his being.

The thing that strikes me about Paul’s statement here is that it does not apply solely to him. This should be a true statement that anyone who knows Christ can claim. We may not be gifted with the ability of Paul to teach, write, and preach, but we are all given the same sort of grace, and we are given a mission to fulfill in this world. As the Spirit fills us with the ability to understand God’s Word, He also grants to everyone the ability to live in its righteousness and grace. For most of us preaching is not going to be something that we do in front of a crowd, but it is something that we can do every day. Every time that we pick up the neighbor’s wind tossed trash can, when we return kindness for indifference, as we give up advantage for compassion, and through each and every act of loving grace that we engage in we are preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As we are blessed by the extraordinary riches of Christ’s love, we are called upon by God to do the same for the people of the world where we live. Consider the impact that you can have on your community and on this world by simply showing the fullness of Christ to them. For most people God is at best an abstract concept, a distant image, or something too mystical to be a part of their daily reality. In our day Christ is often nothing more than a central character in an interesting moral tale. He lacks relevance as people lack faith and fail and too many of Christ’s people do nothing to demonstrate His love to those around us. However, through the grace that Christ has granted to us, you and I have the ability to change all of that. We can make Christ real for anyone who has a heart to look and to see, and that is our Divine calling.

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest you depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and to your children’s children.

Deuteronomy 4: 9

Does it seem as if everyone is in a giant hurry to get somewhere, but it is really hard to see what that destination might actually be? Thus, this world feels like a place that is filled with careless people who are continually crashing into each other without even realizing that there might be injury or damage left in the wake of their travels. Perhaps it is our accelerated pace of life that is the cause of the way that people interact so poorly with each other, or the harshness of our days just may be the result of a form of universal self-centeredness. Regardless of the source or the cause, the reality of life is that there are far too many of these collisions of the heart, mind, and body happening to people all around us. They may be people that we barely know or they might be the ones that we are closest to and most intimately involved with, but in the end, the pain is real and the harm can be catastrophic for relationships.

The same sort of thing is true when it comes to our relationship with God. We rush about and seldom, if ever, give a moment’s pause to consider the presence of God in our lives. He is there for that special hour on the prescribed day of gathering for attendance at a place we call church or some such name, and He is called upon when disaster or significant injury and illness strike. Yet, our careless hearts have generally pushed the Lord out of the schedule that we have so meticulously crafted for our days so that our time will be highly productive. So, I am led to wonder about that productivity and to look at the carelessness of my days in light of the way that God desires to be the One who sets the direction and establishes the tone for each and every hour of all of our days. If I do not have time to see the needs of others and to hear the pain in their hearts, am I really listening to Moses’ words of wisdom and keeping my soul diligently focused upon my Lord?

Moses make a point of reminding himself and the people that he was leading of the consistently powerful way that God had been with them and had provided for them in all situations, circumstances, and places. This same testimony is true in my life, for God has been present and active in it from its earliest days, and one of the most important aspects of the Lord’s involvement with me has been the way that He has opened my eyes to the hurt and the pain in the lives of others. I am not particularly good at responding to those promptings, but God does not allow me to ignore them for very long without bringing me back into His reality. I am reminded to take care of my relationship with Christ and to look intently upon His face as He leads me into meditation upon His Word. Christ’s Spirit takes care of my soul, and He calls me into regular, purposeful, and committed times of prayer and listening to His voice. It is during these times that the Lord reveals His heart of compassion and concern for others to me as He speaks healing and strength into my soul. 

theologyThink over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

2 Timothy 2: 7

We live in a complex world. The issues that are out there for us to deal with are complicated, and they are frequently confusing to sort out, too. Reaching good, sound, and even Godly decisions about many of the things that we encounter can be hard to accomplish. We gather information, and we process it. We seek out opinions from experts and from friends, and still clarity can elude us. In many instances, right and wrong are just not all that clearly defined or differentiated. As followers of Christ, we can seek out God’s Word and people who teach from it in order to gain truth and clear direction. Yet, even that process can leave issues unresolved or even more confused, for interpretation of Scripture and ideas about God’s will or direction can vary rather significantly from person to person.

God knew that this would be a challenge for His people, and He did something about resolving the tension that results from these differences in the way that people tend to see the same material or view a situation. At the end of His post-resurrection time on earth, Jesus left His followers and returned to dwell fully in that aspect of the universe that we know as Heaven. At this time, Christ deliberately left the Spirit with us, and as we come into relationship with Christ, the Spirit comes to dwell within each of us, too. Thus, as we seek to understand how we are to live in our world today, we have access to God’s Word of truth and life, the inspired teaching of people that God has gifted in understanding and interpretation of that Word, and the Holy Spirit. All of these are useful and important as we seek to live out our days as righteous people, as God’s people.

Even a great and Godly teacher such as was Paul knew that he was not the final authority when it came to matters of spiritual discernment and understanding of God’s will and direction for life. He relied upon the counsel and the guidance of the Spirit, and he advised others to do the same. When we seek out God’s perspective on these various situations and issues that we face, we are using the full array of tools that the Lord has provided for us in order that we might live well throughout our journey through life. Although Paul’s statement about thinking over what he has said may sound simple and direct, there is much more contained in doing that than just a few casual thoughts. The Lord is leading us into regular reading of His Word, and prayer that is derived out of it and about its content. He calls upon us to listen to and consider teaching that is founded on that same Word; then, we are to pray about understanding and applying what we have heard. Additionally, Christ desires for each of us to live in the companionship and the support of the fellowship of faith that is found in His body while continuing to pray individually and as a gathered group in search of the Spirit’s guidance, direction, and understanding of God’s will.      

Next Page »