God has challenged me on my intellectual pride recently. I have a constant temptation to think that I have to understand everything, and that the route to spiritual growth is the ability to remember and regurgitate Scripture and doctrine. Maybe it’s because I’m someone who reads a fair bit of theology and Christian literature. Maybe it’s because I’ve been known to preach and teach in various contexts. Maybe I’m just a bit of a know-it-all! I don’t really know the root of it.
What I do know is that this tendency has held me back. I will often sense God reminding me of a scripture, or a particular aspect of doctrine or faith, and my knee-jerk reaction is “I know that!” While it can sound like I’m acknowledging what God is saying, I’ve started to realise that this is my pride saying “I already know this. I don’t need to hear that again, so tell me something new!” I’ve been unwittingly rejecting the day-by-day bread God has wanted to give me from His word.
Being a bit thick-headed, it took God pushing back for me to finally see what I was doing. The last time I told Him “I know that!”, He lovingly responded “No you don’t, Jon. If you knew it, I wouldn’t need to tell you. You need to stop telling me you know things just because you’ve heard it before, or even because you’ve preached it before. Trust me when I tell you something, and please listen to me!” If ever there was a word to cut through the fog of pride, it’s that one!
It’s so important to realise what you do and don’t know. There’s a reason Jesus said we must become like children when describing how we enter the Kingdom. Children aren’t in the place of being experts or teachers. On the contrary, children are learning everything new for the first time. It takes time for them to pick things up, and a father knows both what his child needs to learn and when they have learned it. I know that with my daughter, I don’t have to teach her how to sit up or walk any more – she’s already mastered them! Likewise, God, the perfect Father, knows exactly what we need to learn at each point and, as His children, we need to be ready to receive exactly what He wants to give us at each moment.
So here’s my new posture. There’s all kinds of things I think I know. I’ve studied and read a lot, but one of the things I’m finally learning is that there is so much I don’t know. There is so much about grace, faith and who I am in Christ that I still need to receive and meditate on. If God speaks to me about something, I’m going to take it on faith that I need to hear it and take time to meditate on it and get my mind renewed. Yes, I want to grow in wisdom and understanding, but wisdom starts with the fear of the Lord and knowing that there’s so much still to learn. So instead of feeling like I need to master truth, I want to focus on knowing Jesus who is the truth, and then let truth master me.