Well, there’s no way to start off the New Year than with some good ol’ fashioned conviction…
I left Ft. Bragg a few weeks ago, and have been living in The Sticks for almost a month now. Before I left Ft. Bragg, however, Jesse (one of my mentors) and I met up one last time. During that conversation, we talked about my need for what I will refer to from this point on as a “wisdom valve.”
In 2 Peter 1:5-8, there’s a list of character “traits” that seems to progress in the life of a believer.
“…add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” (v. 5b-7)
What I’ve noticed here is that as I’m gaining knowledge, the next thing I need to be gaining is self-control. But why self-control? Well, for people like me, it’s really easy to not know when to not know something…In other words, I need to have discernment and wisdom (or self-control) in how I use the knowledge I now have. If knowledge is a city water tower, then wisdom is a kitchen faucet.
Growing up (which is totally still happening…), I had trouble with being a serious know-it-all, as in, I was so blinded by my own desire to be right that I pretended to know things that I really didn’t, and it got me into trouble all the time. God has very graciously and gently shown me how much I just don’t know (there’s so much…), and is continuing to help me practice being humble about knowledge, and learn when to show knowledge and when to hold it back.
When I first arrived at Ft. Bragg, I was introduced to this novel idea of setting spiritual goals. Obviously, God is the one who brings about growth in, sanctifies, and transforms people. But He desires me to ask Him for things…So, why not ask Him to accomplish certain things in me that He’s already brought to my attention? Anyway, instead of New Year’s Resolutions, I wrote down three spiritual goals that I want to prayerfully accomplish during 2018. One of these goals is to acquire a wisdom valve.
This morning, day one of 2018, I was reading through Luke 11, and verses 46-52 hit me really, really hard…The context is after Jesus has chosen the twelve disciples, sent out the seventy (or seventy-two, depending on your translation), and taught the disciples the Lord’s Prayer. In this particular passage, Jesus goes on a bit of a rant of “Woe to yous”, first speaking to the Pharisees, then, in verses 46-52, speaking to the lawyers. These two, along with the Sadducees and a few other groups, are often grouped together as both the keepers and enforcers of the law, full of knowledge, but lacking in godly love. Jesus’ message in Luke is to a very specific group of people, but it felt very much like He was speaking specifically to me.
As I read through Jesus saying, “Woe to you, lawyers,” I realized that I tend to internally expect people to meet perfect standards that I’m both not doing myself and that are also not humanly possible, which lines up with “Woe to you…lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”
So then, I was wondering if I’ve ever outwardly asked someone to do something spiritual that I hadn’t been doing myself, and I concluded, after some evaluation, that outwardly I’ve been okay about not doing that (I think), and making sure I’m doing things before challenging other people to do them, but it’s in my heart and mind that I judge and criticize people for not doing what I think they ought to be doing…which related to a passage directed to the Pharisees earlier in the chapter, when Jesus says, “‘Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness…” (v.39). And I know that Jesus’ explanation of the Law is that it’s the heart that matters, and so if I’m criticizing others in my heart, and judging them as if I am God, then it is just as if I am acting it out.
The final blow was this one:
“‘Woe to you, lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” (v.52).
So, this particular verse, within its context, seems to be referring to that “full of knowledge, without love” situation mentioned before. These men do not know Jesus, and they are not part of His family for this reason, even though they and the Pharisees stand firmly on the fact that Abraham is their father and therefore God is their Father. But Jesus says clearly that no one can come to the Father except through Him. So, these lawyers are not with the Father without first going through Jesus, and they have yet to go through Jesus. This verse seems to be about Jesus explaining, quite passionately, to the keepers of the law, that their knowledge keeps them from knowing anything, and prevents both them and others from fully entering into the presence of God and being a true part of His family.
Upon reading that, I thought about all of the times someone told me that they felt condescended upon by me, or judged by me, or put in a box by me because of whatever questions I asked or whatever knowledge I shared or believed that I had. And I wondered how many people had stumbled in their walks with Christ because of it. In other words, the knowledge I think is helpful can actually be detrimental to the growth of those around me.
And so I felt like, as I read this gospel, Jesus was saying “woe to you, Hunter…”
All of this shed a whole new light on why I need to acquire a wisdom valve and figure out what to do with knowledge, and it seems like God is already answering the desire to acquire that valve by showing me the reason for it in the first place. He knows that I do genuinely love learning and gaining knowledge, and one of my biggest focuses and desires is to actually know God and know what He means about things. But this gets all messed up when I let myself get in the way…
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any one of you lacks wisdom, let him ask it of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:2-8)
I feel a bit small, and I need to pray some more, and figure out what God wants me to do with all this…
I feel like this blow falls right in line with what God has been showing me about the reality of His grace, and just how much it really covers…Oh, His grace! It’s so much greater than I ever imagined…And it’s so much more powerful than any knowledge I think I can offer, or any experience I’ve ever had. It’s so much bigger than wisdom, humility, than family and commitment, even. Without grace, there is no wisdom, no family, no commitment, no love, no humility. It all starts with grace. And God wants me to extend the grace He’s shown me to the people around me! Oh! What are the possibilities? What would this look like? Who could be healed? Who could be reconciled in their relationships? Who could be saved? Who could be transformed?
You guys, it’s only day one of 2018, and I already feel like I’m losing my mind as I consider the reality of this God I serve, the position of His Son over me, and my identity as His daughter. This is good.
“‘No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.” (Luke 11:33-36)