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Monday, April 21, 2008

What's in a Book

I've just wrapped up day one of a week-long class in Greek. I think I severely underestimated the mental toll that learning a language would have on my mind and body. I feel absolutely exhausted. And there are four more days to go!

I find myself wondering at a time like this about the value of my studies. Is it worth all of this work and sacrifice to learn a language for a country that I will likely never visit? Is it worth it to be away from my family and to force my aging mind to stretch and adopt new concepts and ideas? (I did just turn 30 after all.) Sure, Greek has value because it's the language of the New Testament, but there are hundreds, even thousands, of scholars who know Greek far better than I ever will. Wouldn't it all be easier to just take their word for it and not re-invent the wheel?

And yet in this process something is happening to me. Even in a grueling day of nouns, adjectives, and parsing, I can sense a hunger for God and His Word growing in me. As I interact with friends and other passionate God-seekers, as I read John 1 the way it was originally written, and as I soak in the wisdom of others, I know that God is using this experience in my life.

In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Fosters states, "(Christians) may sing with gusto, pray in the Spirit, live as obediently as they know... and yet the tenor of their lives remains unchanged. Why? Because they have never taken up one of the central ways God uses to change us: study. Jesus made it unmistakably clear that it is the knowledge of the truth that will set us free."

We live in a day and age where we can pay someone to do almost anything for us. We can pay to have a CPA do our taxes. We can pay to have our lawn mowed or our hair cut. We can pay to have someone else cook our meals and even clean our homes. In a sense, we may even believe that we can "pay" a pastor to teach us God's Word. But in this culture where we are so comfortable having others do these things for us, there remains one thing that cannot be done on our behalf: spiritual growth. No amount of money paid to any professional can accomplish a greater closeness to God in our own hearts. Certainly, we pay to go to conferences or even pay a spiritual director for guidance, but even in these situations, it is the attentiveness and commitment of our own spirit and mind that produces any true and lasting growth.

If we long to know God and pursue him, we must value the process of study. We may ask, "Why study when a pastor knows God's word so much better, or when an author is so inspiring?" It is because in our own habit and discipline of study, we bring ourselves before God in way that no one else can accomplish for us. We come to him, body, soul, and mind.

And so we read and study God's word. We take notes and ask questions. We even take Greek and learn the same language thousands already know. (Ok, maybe only some of us do that.) But in the discipline of study, God meets us in the mind.

"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you THINK." (Rom. 12:2)

Journey on, friend.


1 comment:

llamapacker said...

WOW! Such a long, insightful log entry after what you have been through. As a former Greek student I do not envy you at all spending a whole day -- nay, a whole week immersed in the language.
Your thoughts are right to the point for most of us, too. We find it too easy for others to study for us. I think Richard Foster summarized it up very well. Challenging blog, Nick.