"...growing in the knowledge of God..." [Col 1:10]
Day after day in our personal lives, and week after week in our churches, many of us study the words contained in the Sacred Scriptures, but we do not want to discipline ourselves by putting those words into practice. And yet, if we would model Christ’s example, if we would actually commit ourselves to applying what we read and hear to our whole lives, we would truly come to grow in the knowledge of the Lord.
We purchase spiritual books by the hundreds. We pore over Bible commentaries, handbooks, dictionaries, and lexicons. We listen to homilies at Mass week after week and attend church lectures, seminars, and religious conferences year after year. And yet, when it comes to how we actually live our lives before both God and man, many of us still continue to show ourselves to be uneducated and ignorant of the Scriptures in spite of every path we have taken in order to obtain knowledge.
If we would put into practice that which we study in the written Word of God, how quickly our spiritual knowledge and understanding would grow, for the Spirit would use this 'hands-on experience' to teach us the deep things of God, things which we could never understand if we only read about them in a book.
For example, we can read about walking in the power of Christ's resurrection all we want. But until we have learned how to die, really die, we will never understand the full meaning of this truth. Walking in the power of Christ's resurrection is something that can only be understood when we walk with him in death. No book or homily can give us a genuine knowledge of this.
In his classic, The Imitation of Christ, Thomas Kempis teaches that if Christians would put into practice the example and teachings of Christ, ‘what a store of hidden manna we would find there!’ He also writes as follows: "If a man wants to understand Christ’s words more fully... he must be one who is trying to fashion his entire life on Christ’s example." In other words, if we want to 'get' what Jesus is teaching, the quickest way to understanding His teachings is to actually live them out in our own lives. This will teach us more than any book could.
If we want to understand the teachings of the New Testament more fully, we must be people who are trying to fashion our entire lives on what the Bible teaches. We must be doers of the Word and not hearers only.
Application is the greatest teacher of God’s Word; it is the most powerful, the most effective. But this teacher most tend to ignore. His classes are too demanding, too hard. They require too much effort, discipline, diligence, and participation on our part. There simply is too much work in that class, a class which is always in session! Most students eagerly sign up for his class, but then drop out in the end in order to search for an easier way to obtain ‘spiritual credits’ or knowledge.
It’s much easier to study a commentary at one’s leisure or to sit in a Sunday School class drinking coffee and eating doughnuts while discussing the hidden meaning behind Biblical words. It’s much easier to sit in a pew, shout, "Amen!" when the Spirit moves, and nodd our heads in agreement when the preacher expounds on the Word of God. Why put ourselves through the torture of Application’s class when we can acquire our knowledge at the weekly church Bible study which we’ve been attending for the past 30 years?
Many in today’s church are like children who have learned their ABC's, yet never learn to read. They are like infants who learn to make sounds, yet never learn to speak. Their knowledge is incomplete because they refuse to apply what they read to their lives week after week and year after year.
How quickly we, as parents, would pull our children out of any school in which they sat for years without ever learning a thing. How indignant we would become! How vexed! How vehemently we would demand a better education for them! And yet, when we fail to put into practice the written Word of our God, which we hear and study day after day and week after week, we do not realize that it is we ourselves who attend that inferior school. It is we ourselves who ‘ever learn yet never obtain knowledge.’
If we would simply apply what we study and read in God’s Word -- if we would fashion every area of our lives after the teachings found in the Scriptures - how quickly we would rise to the head of the class, surpassing even those who have studied the Scriptures and preached them for most of their lives!
...O, what ‘masters and scholars’ we would truly become then!
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