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In the American educational system, from first grade all the way up through high school, we're taught to memorize information and then take a test. If we pass the intellectual test, then we move on to the next grade.
We've transferred this learning pattern to Christianity. We're trained to learn Bible concepts, principles and doctrines intellectually. And the more biblical information we know, the greater disciples we are deemed to be.
I think this is killing the church in America, just like it hurt the Pharisees.
Let's remember that the Pharisees, an elite group of well-educated men in Israel, knew the Scriptures, but they missed the main point of the Scriptures: to know Jesus personally and intimately (Phil. 3:5-11).
Jesus tells them, "You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to Me!" (John 5:39, NLT).
Knowing the Bible doesn't give us eternal life. Knowing Jesus does (John 17:3). Some people love the Bible more than they love Jesus.
Head, Heart, Hands
I'm all for learning about Jesus and the Christian faith. I have a Master's of Divinity with a concentration in apologetics and graduated magna cum laude. I'm currently pursuing my doctorate of ministry with a concentration in New Testament in context under New Testament scholar Scot McKnight.
But if all my learning does not produce more love for Jesus, myself and people, then I've wasted my time (1 Cor. 13).
If all that learning doesn't cultivate more love in my heart, then I wouldn't be a disciple—I'd be a gatherer of Bible facts. Gatherers of biblical facts don't transform the world; disciples do. I want to be a disciple. And I want my church to be a community of disciples who make disciples who make disciples. Jesus said, "You will know my disciples by the way they love one another" (John 13:35, paraphrased).
The apostle Paul says to the Philippian church, "I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ's return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God" (Phil. 1:9-11, NLT).
The "fruit of your salvation" is the fruit of the Spirit, and, as Paul says, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:22-24, ESV).
When our minds are in awe of Jesus and our hearts are overflowing with the love of Jesus, we become the hands of Jesus by serving people because we love them.
Derwin L. Gray is the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church, a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community that loves God completely (Upward), itself correctly (Inward) and its neighbors compassionately (Outward) in Indian Land, South Carolina, just south of Charlotte, North Carolina.
For the original article, visit pastors.com.
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