School’s out

“. . . always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:7

Remember the last day of school when you were growing up?

Etched in my mind are wonderful memories of textbooks stacked on tables, empty spaces on classroom walls where posters and signs from the year had been removed and stored for the next group of young minds, and taking a paper sack to school in which to carry home the broken pencils and wrinkled contents of my desk. The spirit in the school was light and forward-looking. (The teachers seemed especially happy, for some reason.)

My elementary school was in the middle of rolling farms bounded by thick stands of woods, so the months of May and June were rich with bright sunshine and the sounds of surrounding meadows returning to life. Through open windows everywhere came the humid scent of blooming trees, honeysuckle and newly mown grass. Our three-room school was steeped in it.

These were the signs that said the time of learning was ending: the time of trying was beginning. Ready or not, we were free.

But free for what?

Our childhood teachers looked ahead and, seeing the challenges and opportunities waiting for us, shared facts, knowledge and time-tested techniques that would equip us to navigate the day. These were black and white, objective ideas that, though powerful in form, called out to be owned and colored through rigorous testing.

They knew we needed to experiment with each idea on our own and learn through experience that much of the world is predictable: that there are two pints in every quart; broken promises can start wars; all seeds need water; love is always worth the sacrifice.

Frequently on those final days, as the classroom was overflowing with the excited laughter and chatter of my friends who were moments from that blessed time called, “summer,” I saw my teachers sitting quietly, waiting for the last bell to ring. I could have been imagining it, but it seemed as if a few of them had a thought behind their eyes that said, “I wonder if they will remember….will they use what they’ve learned?”

Have we?

Paul the apostle, writing a letter to his friend Timothy, describes for him the quality of the days that will someday signal the beginning of the End of All Days. He says that as time winds down, people will become profoundly self-centered and evil. Goodness will become scarce. It will be a hard road. The phrase above speaks to the kind of self-deception that will prevail in those days: living comfortably in the mistaken belief that learning about God is the same as knowing God.

It isn’t.

Jesus is a Master Teacher. Through scripture and His personal presence with us in our everyday life, He is showing us the trustworthy principles of eternal living. He participates with us in the challenges and opportunities we face today and sees the staggeringly amazing future ahead for us with Him. He is offering to equip us to live today as Dallas Willard puts it, as “unceasing spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.”

But along the way, we have to step out of His classroom and test these ideas for ourselves to know for ourselves if the truths of the Kingdom they represent are real and if its King can be trusted.

  • We have to forgive ourselves and others when we don’t feel like it, because that is the way of life.
  • We have to give away a portion of our income to those in need, because then we learn that God’s provision  for them and for us is always more than enough.
  • We have to make decisions in the misty twilight of incomplete facts, trusting God’s leadings, to find out that His wisdom is sure, and that He is utterly reliable.

In short, we have to become active apprentices of Jesus in our faith, not merely observers of its techniques. If we don’t, we won’t come to “a knowledge of the truth” or share in the companionship of God that comes from obeying His teaching.

He is present in our trusting Him. He walks with us from the laboratory. What we have learned from His teaching we can trust.

Where is God asking you to act in dependence on Him and His teaching?

What lessons has He shown you that now call out for your personal testing?

It is time to act like we trust Him. The bell is about to ring.

School’s out.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like:  he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well-built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6: 46-49

SMOOTHSTONE: We know God as we obey Him.

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