Can I trust what I think I know?

Knowledge.  There are more things to know today than at any time before.  Plus there’s new stuff every day.  And thanks to things like Google, Wikipedia, and even Twitter, Facebook, Etc. – none of that knowledge is going away any time soon.  But have you ever wondered, “Can I trust what I think I know?”  

Can I trust what I think I know?Lot’s of facts.  At least things that are called facts.  Lots of information.  But is it useful?  Lot’s of people saying lots of things.  But are they trustworthy?  Finally – how much of this knowledge really even matters?

Here’s an excerpt from the Management Study Guide from a corporate point of view.

Information Overload and Knowledge Management

Having said that, it is not the case that accumulating knowledge just for the sake of acquisition leads to business success. Indeed, as the previous section outlined, the keywords or the key terms are to possess relevant and pertinent knowledge.

OK – so not everything is useful.  The things that are useful should be determined by what we consider to be success.  Not for a business – but for us.  An individual.  A family.  Friends.  The bottom line – people, not jobs or objects.

In other words, any organization can just log in to the internet and download all the information and content that applies to its sphere of business if possession of knowledge was the sole criterion for success.

Yes, all sorts of information is available on the internet.  We can learn and allegedly know all sorts of things from the internet.  But it still begs the question, “Can I trust what I think I know?”

Instead, as the key theme of this article, we present the insight or the observation that in times when we are drowning in information, the ability to recognize and sort useful and relevant knowledge is the key to success.

Ah.  We get a bit deeper here.  Knowledge needs to be both useful and relevant.  However, It’s interesting to note, our question is still unanswered.  “Can I trust what I think I know?”

If we examine contemporary business landscape and the media sphere, we find that Google and other search engines, Social Media such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as the available databases of journals and other items, provide us with unlimited information available at the click of a mouse or to be timelier, at the swipe of a Smartphone button.

It’s nice to know they reference some of the sources I mentioned earlier.  But still.  Should we just assume everything we read is trustworthy?  I don’t.

Indeed, such oceans of information that are available are variously called Information Overload and Information Abundance that can easily drown us or make us adrift if we are not thorough enough to sort the Wheat from the Chaff and are not diligent enough to gather what is needed and to leave what is not.

We still have no answer to that nagging question.  “Can I trust what I think I know?”  But there is something in there that’s fascinating.

sort the wheat from the chaff

We need to be thorough enough to sort the Wheat from the Chaff.  Does that sound familiar?

Mt 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

That’s John the Baptist, talking about when Jesus will come.  Jesus will separate the wheat from the chaff.  He’ll keep the wheat.  And  the chaff will be burned.  It’s figurative.  One will go to Heaven.  The other to Hell.  Let’s see how that conclusion is reached.

Let’s look at what one commentary says about verse 12.  Then we’ll try to turn it into more understandable (useful?) words.

12 The second metaphor of judgment (cf. v 10) is drawn from a common scene in Palestine. The “winnowing fork” (πτύον), here found in the hand of the coming Messiah, is used to throw the mixed wheat and chaff into the air. This is usually done on high ground during a good wind, which separates the lighter chaff from the heavier wheat. The threshing floor is “cleaned” (διακαθαριεῖ), the wheat is put into storage (cf. 13:30), and the chaff becomes fuel. The only other reference to “unquenchable” (ἄσβεστος) fire in the Synoptic tradition (besides the parallel to our passage in Luke 3:17) occurs in Mark 9:43, where it stands in apposition to Gehenna, the place of final punishment. Abundant parallels to this metaphor exist both in the OT (e.g., Isa 34:10; 66:24; Jer 7:20) and in the rabbinic literature (references in Str-B 4:1075–6).  [1]Hagner, D. A. (1998). Matthew 1–13 (Vol. 33A, p. 52). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

The image is the way it used to be done in Jesus’ time.  That really gives us a useful picture of what John the Baptist was talking about.  Since the chaff is lighter, is will be blown aside by the wind.  (this was best done on a windy day.)  Being heavier, the wheat will fall to the floor.  As mentioned, the chaff will be burned.  The wheat will be kept.

The picture to be painted by the verse in the Bible was whether or not any given person is chaff or wheat.  So maybe we should look at what those two words represented.  To do that, we really only need to look at the figurative use of chaff in the Bible.

CHAFF — the fine, dry material, such as husks (seed coverings) and other debris, that is separated from the seed in the process of threshing grain. In the Bible, chaff symbolizes worthless, evil, or wicked persons (or things) that are about to be destroyed (Ps. 1:4; Matt. 3:12; Luke 3:17). It is a fitting figure of speech to describe complete destruction by judgment. “The ungodly,” said the psalmist, “are like the chaff which the wind drives away” (Ps. 1:4).  [2]Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

It’s about judgment.  That much was already seen.  What’s interesting here is the timing of what John the Baptist said.  Remember, Jesus hadn’t yet appeared on the ministry scene.  John was talking to Jewish people.  All they knew of judgment was that it had to do with trying to keep the Jewish Laws.  Failing to do so.  Therefore, making the appropriate sacrifices.  All of that would determine whether or not they were good people or wicked people.

However, Jesus is about to introduce the New Covenant.  In case they had any doubt, the Jewish people would also learn that they were never actually able to keep all of the laws.  The determining factor between “good” or “evil” was about to become whether or not one accepted Jesus as the Son of God and that He paid the price for our sins.  

That’s a huge change.  Under the law, everyone would have been chaff.  Paul made that clear.  

No One Is Righteous

Ro 3:9 What shall we conclude then? Are we any better ? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10 As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;

Ro 3:11 there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.

Ro 3:12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”

Ro 3:13 “Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”

Ro 3:14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”

Ro 3:15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;

Ro 3:16 ruin and misery mark their ways,

Ro 3:17 and the way of peace they do not know.”

Ro 3:18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Ro 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

BTW – the references Paul makes to “as it is written” are from various Old Testament passages.  That’s why I said “in case they had any doubt”.  The Jewish people should have already known these things.  They should have known they didn’t actually keep the law.  Therefore, they should have been thrilled about the New Covenant.

Useful knowledge

All of that was useful knowledge.  At least, it could have been useful knowledge.  But when we reject knowledge from God – we’re wasting it.  Choosing to become like chaff rather than like wheat.

What about for Christians?  Well, it’s useful knowledge for someone who says they’re Christian.  More correctly, it should be useful knowledge for someone who says they’re Christian.  Again, it’s the difference between wheat or chaff.  Being kept or discarded.  Heaven or Hell.  

Gather only what is needed

There’s another thought from that management article we should look at:  diligent enough to gather what is needed and to leave what is not. That sounds familiar too, doesn’t it?

Manna and Quail

Ex 16:1 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’S hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Ex 16:4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

Ex 16:6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.”

There’s a whole lot of information in that passage.  But the point for this topic is the second paragraph.  The people were to go out six days a week to gather the manna.  Each of the first five days – get enough only for that day.  On the sixth day, get enough for two days.  And on the seventh day, eat what was left over from day six.  

Yes – it was bread from Heaven.  But really, are the instructions any different from what this management company is saying about gathering information today?  gather what is needed and … leave what is not.  No – it’s not different at all.

But – have we answered our question yet?  No,

However, it is interesting – worth knowing – that both of these quotes from the management site have Biblical origins.  Not science.  Not philosophy.  The Bible.  Knowledge from God.

“Can I trust what I think I know?”

Let’s turn to Paul and look at something he wrote about learning.  About knowledge.

Paul’s Charge to Timothy

2Ti 3:10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

This is all well and good.  Paul does a super-short version of what his life has been like.  He let’s others who follow Jesus know that similar things, although maybe not so intense at this time and in some countries, will happen to them as well.  Paul goes on to say we should continue to learn.  In other words, continue to gain knowledge.  Useful knowledge.  Knowledge that will help us in our journey to become more like Christ.  That knowledge will in turn make us wise.  Ultimately, it will lead us to our salvation through Jesus.

And then he closes the thought with this: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  Awesome stuff.

We can read it.  We can come to know it.  But – Can I trust what I think I know?

Let me put it this way.  For anyone who claims to be a Christian, we look at the Bible as the Word of God.  Can we trust it?  We’d certainly better hope so!  If we don’t trust that God is telling the truth – what are we doing following His Son?  If we don’t believe that Jesus is the way to salvation – what exactly are we doing trying to become like Him?

When it comes to the Bible, “Can I trust what I think I know?” can only have one answer for us.  It has to be yes.  Not some of it.  Not most of it.  All of it.

A better question would be something along the lines of can I trust anything but the Bible?  Or maybe something along the lines of how can I trust anything that goes against the Bible?

Of course, to begin asking and answering questions like that – much relevant, useful, trusted knowledge is needed.  It’s part of becoming a grown-again Christian.  Too often though, today’s society tries to tell us that what we know from the Bible isn’t really knowledge.  It’s not trustworthy.  It’s a myth.  It’s a bunch of nice stories.  It’s a bunch of horrible stories.  Anything other than – it’s useful, relevant, important, trustworthy knowledge.  Society tries to tell us that what we learn from the Bible is chaff.  Not wheat.  Anything but wheat.  Unfortunately, too often, Christians are swayed by those tactics.

Let’s get into that with some thoughts from Dallas Willard.

Is what I know real knowledge (wheat)  or just information (chaff)?  Well, that depends.  Knowledge has a dictionary definition.  But there’s also a social component related to what can be known and therefore can be considered knowledge.  And then there’s our own brains that also get involved in what we consider knowledge, as opposed to something less than knowledge.

For Christians – this is important stuff:  This is how Dallas Willard puts it.

Serious and thoughtful Christians today find themselves in a quandary about knowledge, on the one hand, and religious belief and practice, on the other. It is a socially imposed quandary. In the context of modern life and thought, they are urged to treat their central beliefs as something other than knowledge—something, in fact, far short of knowledge.[3]Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (Kindle Locations 66-69). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

— Dallas Willard

Notice the words serious and thoughtful.  God wants us to be both.  God wants us to use the mind He gave us.  And, to love Him with all of that mind.  Loving includes learning about Him.  Knowing about Him – as much as we can.  Using the mind He gave us also should lead to living our lives the way we know He wants us to.

real knowledge or just information?

I mentioned that there’s a definition of “knowledge”.  Here’s what dictionary.com says:

noun

  1. acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation; general erudition:knowledge of many things.
  2. familiarity or conversance, as with a particular subject or branch of learning: A knowledge of accounting was necessary for the job.
  3. acquaintance or familiarity gained by sight, experience, or report: a knowledge of human nature.
  4. the fact or state of knowing; the perception of fact or truth; clear and certain mental apprehension.
  5. awareness, as of a fact or circumstance: He had knowledge of her good fortune.
  6. something that is or may be known; information: He sought knowledge of her activities.
  7. the body of truths or facts accumulated in the course of time.
  8. the sum of what is known: Knowledge of the true situation is limited.
  9. Archaicsexual intercourse.Compare carnal knowledge.
adjective
  1. creating, involving, using, or disseminating special knowledge or information: A computer expert can always find a good job in the knowledge industry.
Idioms
  1. to one’s knowledgeaccording to the information available to one: To my knowledge he hasn’t been here before.

That’s a lot of definitions.  It’s interesting to note that only some of them are provable.  By that, I mean only some are what we would call scientific.  In fact, only a very small subset of these definitions involve something provable.  To that, we add words like acquaintance, familiarity and conversance – which shows that even complete information isn’t a requirement for knowledge.  That conclusion is even explicitly stated in definition #8 – the sum of what is known: Knowledge of the true situation is limited.

This begs the question – why do we seem to require absolute and provable “knowledge” when it comes to God?

In fact, four of those definitions are very clearly applicable to something Paul wrote.  Something that should make us rethink our view of the knowledge of God.  Consider these four definitions – and then read the passage after them.

  1. acquaintance or familiarity gained by sight, experience, or report: a knowledge of human nature.
  2. the fact or state of knowing; the perception of fact or truth; clear and certain mental apprehension.
  3. awareness, as of a fact or circumstance: He had knowledge of her good fortune.
  4. something that is or may be known; information: He sought knowledge of her activities.

I don’t normally like to pick out individual excerpts from the Bible without context, but I’m going to do it here.  There’s a good reason for it.  And I will include the context later in the article.

… since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made …

Honestly – does Paul’s statement not fit the dictionary definition of knowledge?  not “just knowledge” – but “real knowledge”.  Wheat.  Not chaff.  It’s not the idiom kind of knowledge – like as far as I know.  It’s like the observable kind of knowledge in definitions 3 through 6.

So why don’t we accept it as knowledge?

Enter Dallas Willard’s book – Knowing Christ Today Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge[4]Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (Kindle Locations 3-4). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.  It’s one of those books where I could easily highlight pretty much every page.  Fortunately, I have some level of self-control.  Even better, Kindle has four highlighting colors so I don’t have to exercise too much control.

The highlighting starts with the second paragraph of the introduction:

Serious and thoughtful Christians today find themselves in a quandary about knowledge, on the one hand, and religious belief and practice, on the other. It is a socially imposed quandary. In the context of modern life and thought, they are urged to treat their central beliefs as something other than knowledge—something, in fact, far short of knowledge. Those beliefs are to be relegated to the categories of sincere opinion, emotion, blind commitment, or behavior traditional for their social group. And yet they cannot escape the awareness that those beliefs do most certainly come into conflict with what is regarded as knowledge in educational and professional circles of public life. This conflict has profound effects upon how they hold and practice religious beliefs and how they present them to others.  [5]Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (Kindle Locations 66-73). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Why should our Christian beliefs be opinion, emotion or blind commitment?  Why should hey be anything short of knowledge at all?  The answer – obviously – is that they shouldn’t.  There’s nothing in the dictionary definition of knowledge that supports this.  How can Christian beliefs be blind commitment?  We live our lives based on them.  Opinion, emotion and blind commitment shouldn’t be words that describe the way we try to emulate Jesus.  They also shouldn’t be words that describe the reasons we do the things we do.  Or the reason we believe the things we do. 

Yes, there is a need for faith.  But faith shouldn’t be blind.

Why..  How… is it that Christian knowledge isn’t considered knowledge?

Because we let it happen.  Let’s look at the word belief:

  1. something believed; an opinion or conviction: a belief that the earth is flat.
  2. confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof: a statement unworthy of belief.
  3. confidence; faith; trust: a child’s belief in his parents.  
  4. a religious tenet or tenets; religious creed or faith:the Christian belief.

Let me tell you – there are a whole lot of things that are considered knowledge that fall short of being able to stand up to rigorous proof.  Like the earth being flat.  But that’s what people believed for a long time.  Some might say round – but really, that’s a two-dimensional term, so it can’t be true.  Most today probably say the earth is like a ball – a sphere. 

Guess what?  That’s not correct either.  And yet, all of those were, at one time, considered factual knowledge.  BTW – the earth is actually an oblate spheroid—a sphere that is squashed at its poles and swollen at the equator.  See Strange but True: Earth Is Not Round from Scientific American for more on that.  Oops.  I guess facts aren’t always facts.  And even scientific knowledge doesn’t even stand up to the rigorous proof standard.

Things like the shape of the earth lead us to also unlearn things like – the shortest path between two points is a straight line.  That’s not always true.  Any pilot that flies long distances knows that.  It’s an arc – not a straight line.  Oops again.  There’s a whole study of geometry based on that – non-Euclidean.  It’s real.  But most kids are only taught the straight line part – not the arc.

Dallas Willard continues:

The perceived gap between what is counted as knowledge and the offerings of Christian teachers is a reflection of the worldwide acceptance of the science and technology of the Western world, but not of the Christian framework of knowledge that gave rise to it. As Anglican theologian Lesslie Newbigin remarks, however: “No faith can command a man’s final and absolute allegiance, that is to say no faith can be a man’s real religion, if he knows that it is only true for certain places and certain people. In a world which knows that there is only one physics and one mathematics, religion cannot do less than claim for its affirmations a like universal validity.”  [6]Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (Kindle Locations 78-83). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.  The contained quote is from:  J. E. Lesslie Newbigin, A … Continue reading

The words of the Bible are just as true today as they were when they were first written – thousands of years ago.  That’s a whole lot more than scientists can say about much of their “knowledge”.  And, the words are the Bible are available for all to read.  Not just those in advanced degrees who can afford to go to expensive colleges, which is the case for some scientific information.  As I said, The words of God in the Bible don’t change either.  They don’t have to be unlearned, as science does when failed attempts to remove God from the picture are found out to be lies.

scientific knowledge of evolution.  fact or fiction.  wheat or chaff?

We need look no further than evolution to see evidence of the problems with scientific “knowledge”.  Proof of Darwin’s theory of evolution (yes – theory) has never been found.  And yet it’s taught in school as fact.  More and more in the field are beginning to realize that it will never be found.  And yet, it’s taught as fact.  Some are even beginning to say that evolution isn’t one species evolving from another – but changes within a species.  Oops.  So much for all that evolution knowledge.  Here’s some knowledge though.

Ge 1:11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. …

Ge 1:20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” …

Ge 1:24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

How’s that for knowledge?  Useful knowledge.  Relevant knowledge.  Important knowledge.  Trustworthy knowledge.  And one more – unchanging knowledge.

Thousands of year ago, Moses recorded these words from God about the creation of our world.  Ten times that passage has the words according to their kinds.  And after all these years, science is finally getting around to saying evolution is within a species.  according to their kinds.  When will they get around to acknowledging that “evolution” isn’t random chance or survival of the fittest?  Will they admit that things change under Divine guidance?  By the way, that used to be the definition of evolution – changes in species by way of Divine guidance.  Will they ever acknowledge God?

So what does all this mean?  Let’s go back to our question.  Can I trust what I think I know?  If it comes from the Bible – yes.  If it comes from someone who refuses to even acknowledge God – no.

How did we get here – where Christian knowledge isn’t knowledge?

Within the context of such an outlook, individuals with standing in a particular professional field sometimes feel free, or even obligated, to cloak themselves in the authority of their area of expertise and make grandiose statements such as this by a professor of biological sciences:

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear…. There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.

Logically viewed, this statement is simply laughable. Nowhere within the published, peer-reviewed literature of biology—even evolutionary biology—do any of the statements of which the professor is “absolutely certain” appear as valid conclusions of sound research. One trembles to think that an expert in the field would not know this or else would feel free to disregard it. Biology as a field of research and knowledge is not even about such issues. It simply does not deal with them. They do not fall within the province of its responsibilities.  [7]Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (Kindle Locations 121-131). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.  Quote within the excerpt is from 5.  Dr. … Continue reading

However, we (Christians) allow this kind of thing to influence our beliefs about our religion.  Worse yet – it’s our beliefs about God’s Word. 

Look at the late Stephen Hawking.  He was arguably the brightest  scientific mind of our time.  He set out to know the mind of God.  And died believing there is no God.  But why do Christians look to him to learn about God?  Why does anyone look to him to learn about God?  He was a scientist who had no room in his life for God.  If you wanted to learn how to cook, would you go to someone who ate out three times a day, seven days a week?  Someone who probably doesn’t even have any pots or pans in their home?  (Don’t laugh.  I knew someone like that.  Almost.  He had one pan to boil chicken for his dogs.  Never cooked at home for himself.)  I’d never ask him how to cook a nice meal.  He doesn’t know the first thing about it.  So why do we look to atheists, humanists, Etc, to get their view of God?

Can I trust what I think I know?  That very much depends on the source for the things we think we know!

Believer?

If we’re any kind of believer – we must believe that the Bible truly is God’s Word.  If we don’t even believe that much, then we aren’t Christians at all.  We’re what some call a “Chino” – Christian in name only.

Just in case you need a reminder of what Jesus has to say about someone who is a Christian in name only, here’s one example, from a response He had to a question from Nicodemus – a Jewish Pharisee:

Jn 3:10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Let me tell you – if you claim to be a Christian, but don’t even believe that the Bible is the Word of God – these warnings are for you just as much as they are for the non-Christian.  Even some non-Christians believe that the Bible is God’s Word – they just don’t like what God has to say.  

Carrying this to the next level, we have to ask (or at least should have to ask) ourselves whether or not we take the word of science over the Word of God?  And if we do – what does that say about our status as a Christian?

Dallas Willard’s book has two quotes from C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.  Being a fan of The Screwtape Letters, I want to include them here.

Do we live as if what we believe is knowledge?

Around the middle of the last century C. S. Lewis, through his master devil, Screwtape, spoke of a “time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning.” No more! “What with the weekly press and other such weapons, we have largely altered that,” Screwtape continues. He goes on to chide his underdevil, Wormwood, for trying to use argument to keep his “patient” from the Enemy’s (God’s) clutches. “Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong or stark or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.” (Today, no doubt, we could substitute that it is “scientific” or the result of “research.”) Screwtape goes on to warn Wormwood that “by the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?”  [8]Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (Kindle Locations 142-151). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

There is a study guide for The Screwtape Letters on this site.  The discussion guide for Chapter 1, from which this excerpt came, is here.  If you’d like to check out the entire study, it begins with this introduction.

This is very much what has happened in society today.  It’s in our schools – all the way from grade school through college and even advanced degrees.  We give a free pass for anyone with alleged knowledge on one topic to come up with conclusions on Christianity.  Conclusions which have no basis.  And conclusions on a topic about which they know little to nothing.  As Dallas Willard goes on to say –

Lewis, I think, could hardly have imagined where the tendency toward “slogans,” which he notes, would have come by now. Today Christians and non-Christians alike stand within an intellectual atmosphere where politically dominated authority is the primary force at work, and almost no one any longer knows the meaning or application of Non sequitur, “It does not follow” (i.e., it is an unwarranted conclusion or assertion). An understanding of ordinary logic is no longer a required part of university degree programs, as was almost universally the case sixty years ago. Now, as a result, our world is full of uneducated people with higher degrees. They have no independent logical judgment and simply conform to what their circle takes to be the “best professional opinion.” Thankfully, there are rare exceptions.  [9]Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (Kindle Locations 151-157). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The sentence Christians and non-Christians alike stand within an intellectual atmosphere where politically dominated authority is the primary force at work, and almost no one any longer knows the meaning or application of Non sequitur, “It does not follow” (i.e., it is an unwarranted conclusion or assertion) is especially damning.  And yes, I mean literally.  Think about that conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.  Then think about the last time you were in a situation like the one described above – and you stood, literally and figuratively, with the non-Christians who were present.  Do we stand up for what we believe?  Or do we belong to what used to be known as the silent majority /  moral majority?  Not that I’m agreeing with either of them.  My points are that we are much too silent on the things that matter to Jesus – and that we are less and less even in the majority.

There’s at least one Christian song that has words to the effect of, “I’m not ashamed of the cross”.   We sing it on Sundays.  But do we live it on the other six days?  Or we stay silent, appearing to go along with the majority.  And if you’re thinking that scenario never happens to you – you might want to think about who Jesus hung out with.  Hint – it was the sinners.  Jesus was always hanging out with the folks who who said and did the wrong things.  But He wasn’t silent.  Not by a long shot.

As for logic – it’s becoming a thing of the past.  When every person gets to define what’s right for themselves, there’s no room for logic.  At it’s core, logic is about true or false.  Right or wrong.  Something works or it doesn’t.  Things like that have no room in a life where those concepts have little to no importance.

Remember Cain and Abel?  Just before Cain killed Abel, God had something to say to him.

Ge 4:2 … Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Ge 4:6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

But with Satan in the world, right and wrong lose their meaning.  What God says to do is no longer always considered right.  And so it continues …

Ge 4:8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

So Cain did what was right for him.  He killed his brother.  Apparently it seemed like the right thing to do.  At the time.  But then along comes God.  

It’s the same for us.  We can get our college degrees.  Even the advanced ones.  It seems that the higher we go, the more the lines between right and wrong get blurred.  God’s Word gets lost.  Or at the very least, loses it’s meaning.  Being God’s kind of right isn’t important.  We just go find someone who believes the kind of things we want to believe – and then we call ourselves right.  It seems like the right thing to do.  At the time.  For a while. 

But then along comes God.  Maybe not while we’re alive.  Maybe not until after this life is over.  And then right and wrong comes back.  God’s kind of right and wrong.  God’s kind of logic.  God’s kind of salvation. 

Hopefully, we learn that before it’s too late.  It’s useful knowledge.  Important to have.  Now, while we’re alive.

Can I trust what I think I know about that kind of right and wrong?  If it’s from God – yes.  If it’s from someone who knows nothing about God – no.  If it’s from someone who has a view of God other than the view He gave us in His Word – no.

The Great Commission

We’ll get much deeper into The Great Commission later in the series, but I want to say a little something now.

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Given the state of affairs outlined above – how many are actually in a position to even begin to fulfill the Great Commission?  

As we’ve already learned in this series – being baptized isn’t the end of the road.  It’s the beginning. 

We’re then supposed to make disciples.  Not in order to gain favor from Jesus.  Strictly speaking, it’s not even just because that’s what Jesus told us to do.  Yes – I really mean that.  It must come out of love.  Love for God.  Love for His creation – as in love for other people.  We should love even the ones we don’t like enough that we want them to be saved as well.  If we don’t believe that, then we’re following a command from someone we don’t even believe is who He says He is.  That would be meaningless.  It would also be very much out of line with what Dallas Willard writes a bit later:

My hope here is to enable intellectually serious people, Christians or not, to understand the indispensable role of knowledge in faith and life. I also want to make it clear that there is a body of uniquely Christian knowledge, one that is available to all who would appropriately seek it and receive it—again, whether Christians or not. Like all knowledge of any complexity and depth, that body of knowledge does not jump down one’s throat, and no one can force it upon another. It has to be welcomed to be possessed.  [10]Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (Kindle Locations 167-171). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Intellectually serious people.  Not super smart people with advanced college degrees.  Not people with an IQ like Albert Einstein.  Just people who actually want to use the mind that God gave them.  The first key thought is that we want to learn about God.  It’s something we desire to do – not that we’re forced to do.  The second key thought is that we use what God gave us.  Every Christian has talents.  Every Christian has what is known the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.  God can and will use us.  If we want Him to.  And if we let Him.

Yes, what he wrote is for Christians and non-Christians alike.  But it’s not so both can make disciples.  It’s so that both understand the role of knowledge in faith.  We’ll see more later, but for now let’s just say that faith without knowledge is blind and means nothing.  Furthermore, it’s not what Christian faith is about.  Not even close.

Once the non-Christian and the Christian both understand that, then a meaningful process can begin.  The Christian can begin to move from a born-again to a grown-again Christian.  Or, at least growing again.  Then we are able to begin fulfilling the Great Commission, which includes the ability to explain this relationship between knowledge and faith to non-Christians.

Faith and belief – without knowledge

Dallas Willard again turns to C. S. Lewis to conclude the introduction.

One result of the displacement of faith from knowledge, which we are dealing with in this book, is that many people now believe you do not need to think deeply and carefully to follow Christ. C. S. Lewis makes a very penetrating comment about this matter:

God has room for people with very little sense, but He wants everyone to use what sense they have. The proper motto is not “Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be clever,” but “Be good, sweet maid, and don’t forget that this involves being as clever as you can.” God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you [that] you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all…. One reason why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself.  [11]Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (Kindle Locations 217-224). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

There’s a saying that was popular a while back.  “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”.  You have one.  So don’t waste it.  Furthermore, that mind is a gift from God.  That makes it even more precious.  Even a more terrible thing to waste.  For a Christian – we really should believe that what God gave us, we should turn around and give back to Him.  Use that mind in a way that He wants us to.  Use it for His purposes and benefits. Not for ours.  That’s logical.  It’s right.  It’s true.

Let’s look at that in light of something Jesus says:

The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven

Mt 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Mt 18:2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Mt 18:5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

This isn’t about the mental capacity of a child.  Or of what some might call child-like bliss of ignorance.  Little kids think and learn very quickly as well – so it’s also not saying we don’t have to use our minds and think.

This passage is about realizing that without God, we are helpless.  During this life, every good thing we receive is from Him.  But beyond that, we are helpless to save ourselves.  Only by God’s grace and our faith can we be saved.

One of my favorite Old Testament passages includes this:

Isa 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.”

What an offer!  Reasoning with God.  By the way, the Hebrew word that got translated as reason isn’t one that means we have a chance to convince God that He’s wrong:

3198 יָכַח [yakach /yaw·kahh/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 865; GK 3519; 59 occurrences; AV translates as “reprove” 23 times, “rebuke” 12 times, “correct” three times, “plead” three times, “reason” twice, “chasten” twice, “reprover + 376” twice, “appointed” once, “arguing” once, and translated miscellaneously nine times. 1 to prove, decide, judge, rebuke, reprove, correct, be right. 1A (Hiphil). 1A1 to decide, judge. 1A2 to adjudge, appoint. 1A3 to show to be right, prove. 1A4 to convince, convict. 1A5 to reprove, chide. 1A6 to correct, rebuke. 1B (Hophal) to be chastened. 1C (Niphal) to reason, reason together. 1D (Hithp) to argue.  [12]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Using the Jewish approach to figuring out what a Hebrew word meant, we see great depth of meaning.  Yes, God will reason with us.  To explain why He is right.  To explain why we are wrong.  After all, He’s God and we aren’t.  

Some, especially atheists, object to this verse.  It’s like, how dare God tell us what’s right.  But like I said – He’s God.  It’s His ball, His rules, his playing field.  As much as we might like to redefine the rules and the definitions of right and wrong – it’s just not going to happen.  But that’s OK.  At least, to a Christian, it should be OK.  In fact, it must be OK.  If not, we need to review our beliefs about God.  We believe God is Love.  That God is all-knowing.  And the He is just [as in justice] – not capricious, doing whatever He feels like with no rhyme or reason.  What else could we ask for?  Do we really want Satan to define the rules and decide what’s right and wrong?

More excellent knowledge.  Knowledge we gain by using our minds.  To read.  To listen.  To reach conclusions.  

In that regard, Can I trust what I think I know?  If it comes from God’s Word – yes.

And remember what Jesus said about the greatest commandment –

The Greatest Commandment

Mt 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Mt 22:37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Both of those certainly sound like we’re supposed to think.  And neither gives any indication that blind faith is the order of the day.

However, going back to the topic of knowledge, how often do people – Christians included – put other kinds of knowledge above Christian knowledge?  This is especially sad in light of the reality that science does not disprove anything in the Bible.  In fact, as the body of scientific knowledge increases, the more it shows that the Bible was right all along.  Here are some of my other articles that discuss this topic:

Who’s afraid of science?

Evolution debate will soon be history?

It’s time for Christians to acknowledge what Darwin REALLY did

The Universe Should Not Actually Exist, Scientists Say. And yet …

Was there really enough water to flood the earth?

Can science and evangelical leaders work together?

 

Conclusion — real knowledge or just knowledge

The isolation of faith from knowledge is, accordingly, one major source of the painful difference between what people profess and how they act that is so frequently seen in Christian circles—but, to be accurate, also in humanity at large. This is often thought of as a failure of will or sincerity, but in fact it goes much deeper—it is a matter of whether will and choice are founded on knowledge or the lack of.  [13]Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (Kindle Locations 89-92). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

I submit that if your faith isn’t based on knowledge – there’s something missing.  

Even if your faith is based on knowledge, if you allow conflicting “knowledge” to take precedence over what the Bible – God’s Word – says, there’s also something missing.  When we allow the chaff to be kept and the wheat discarded – we’re in trouble.

If you’re looking for a place in the Bible where Jesus says God’s knowledge is over and above that from a college or university – it’s not there.  Not in those words anyway. However, the Bible does say this, in Paul’s first letter to Timothy –

Paul’s Charge to Timothy

1Ti 6:11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

1Ti 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

1Ti 6:20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.
Grace be with you.

Warnings about arrogance, false hope, godless chatter and false knowledge.  These words are as valid for Christians today as they were for Timothy, nearly 2,000 years ago.   More unchanging knowledge.  Useful.  Important.  Trustworthy.

So – why is “real knowledge” important?

Earlier, I said I’d give the context for … since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made … .  It’s important.  Because, like Paul wrote to Timothy, there are consequences for false knowledge (the chaff) and ignoring real knowledge (the wheat).

God’s Wrath Against Mankind

Ro 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Ro 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Ro 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Ro 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Ro 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

I know – if you call yourself a Christian, you’re thinking none of this applies to you. 

But – is that feeling from the wheat kind of knowledge from God – or the chaff kind of false knowledge from someone who knows little to nothing of what God’s Word really says? 

Is it hope based on trustworthy knowledge?  Or is it hope based on a blind leap that saying the sinner’s prayer is all that’s needed?  

Even people who don’t believe in God claim to be going to Heaven.  (Please see The problem of “a Better Place”)
But that doesn’t mean they really are.

Jesus tells us that the work of God is to believe in the One He sent – Jesus.  But do you know that “believe in” means action based on a belief that Jesus really is the Son of God? And that means doing your part of The Great Commission.

That’s the problem with “knowledge”.  It might be true and trustworthy – in which case it leads to wisdom.  Or, it might be false – in which case the passage below comes in:

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

1Co 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Scary isn’t it?  The more useless / false knowledge we have, the higher we think we are above everyone else – the further we’ll fall.

1Co 1:20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

The followers of Jesus weren’t the highly educated people who thought they knew better.  People who think they’re better than God and His Word – they won’t be there today either.  Not unless they become like little children.  Not until they realize that knowledge apart from that which comes from God won’t help them.  The Jews thought miracles were proof of an ability to save.  Greeks believed everything came from wisdom – their kind of wisdom.  The Jews had serious problems with what Jesus was teaching.  The Gentiles thought it was all a bunch of nonsense.

Until / unless they became like little children, and realized the truth about the knowledge that comes from God.  

They can all ask – as we can and should ask – can I trust what I think I know?  Not unless it comes from God.

Paul continues with that thought.

1Co 1:26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

1Co 2:1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

All of that foolishness, knowledge and wisdom takes us right back to becoming like a child.  I’m quite sure that’s not by coincidence.  However, it’s not a child without knowledge.  As we saw – it’s child-like in the sense that the child knows he or she is totally dependent on someone else.  Let’s look at this analysis of the passage from Matthew that we looked at above.

Greatness in the kingdom (18:1–14)

The question asked by the disciples in 18:1—‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’—might be appropriate in an earthly, worldly kingdom but is far from honourable in the kingdom of heaven. In spite of the fact that the King himself has made it clear he is to take the path of submission, suffering and death, his disciples are still thinking in terms of grandeur and reward.

We won’t understand what Jesus said on this topic until we come to that same realization.  Until we come to accept, believe, know, and live like what Jesus said about Himself.

A Mother’s Request

Mt 20:20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

Mt 20:21 “What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

Mt 20:22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
“We can,” they answered.

Mt 20:23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

Mt 20:24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

That’s straightforward.  Serve.  Maybe too straightforward?  Like maybe it’s not what we want to hear?  We want to be the star of the team.  Certainly not the water boy or girl. 

However – it says what it says.  It’s wheat kind of knowledge.

When it comes to the importance of serving, can I trust what I think I know?  Absolutely.  It’s part of becoming a grown-again Christian.

Jesus overturns their thinking by showing them that belonging to the kingdom is conditional on our becoming like children. We can only truly belong to the kingdom of God when we come to him in weakness, dependence and need. We cannot enter the kingdom of heaven in our own strength and self-sufficiency.

So important is this to Jesus that he defends those who live kingdom lives as children of God from any assault on them. His language in verse 6 is strong: ‘… whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.’ The path to greatness in the kingdom of heaven is through humility and self-emptying, and those who take this position are those whom Christ calls his own and promises to defend.  [14]Campbell, I. D. (2008). Opening up Matthew (p. 112). Leominster: Day One Publications.

We can only truly belong to the kingdom of God when we come to him in weakness, dependence and need. We cannot enter the kingdom of heaven in our own strength and self-sufficiency.

That is wisdom – gained from knowledge.  Real knowledge.  Knowledge from God.  Trustworthy.

And that’s how we become grown-again Christians.  Become born-again.  Become a child again.  But then, instead of growing in the ways of the world, grow as a child of God.


This will be an ongoing series.  It will be based on two Dallas Willard books:

Knowing Christ Today Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge  [15]Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (Kindle Locations 3-4). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The Great Omission Rediscovering Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship

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