For the past four semesters I have taught gals how to study the Bible by working through the book of Philippians.
True story: when I cracked open Paul’s letter to study again for this semester I found an awful thought crouching in the corner of my mind: do I still have anything to learn from this book?
Blick. I know enough to know that thoughts like that reveal deep and evil things in my heart. Two things I need to learn:
1. The Word of God has depths untouched. My boss always quotes one of his seminary professors as saying:
The Word of God is like the ocean. It has shores so safe that a small child can play for hours, and it has depths to which no many has ever gone.
I could read Philippians every day for the rest of my life and still have an eternity worth of things to learn about God through that short letter. My ability to learn from this book is based on the revelation of the Holy Spirit alone and He always has more to teach me about God. It takes unspeakable arrogance for me to think that I have reached the bottom of God’s Word.
2. The Word of God exists to change us, not just impart knowledge. I was doing my study of the background of the book by making observations about Paul and the Philippians and I literally got so bored that like a whiney teenager I stopped and explained to God : I KNOW this already! I get it. Paul loves the Philippians. A Lot. He’s great. He yearns for them with your affection. He is happy to pour out his own life if it fuels their faith. Teach me something new!
And then it was there. The conviction of the Holy Spirit, heavy and real, speaking clearly:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (James 1:22-25)
In other words:
Fabs, you’re right. I have indeed taught you time and time again that Paul’s heart for the Philippians. I’ve shown you in him the heart I long for you to have for those you lead. So let me ask you this: why, after all this time, have you still not applied what you have learned?
Every time I look in the mirror of His Word, He shows me the same gaping wound in my life. He shows me it so that I will turn to Him to be healed, but I just roll my eyes and say I knew about that injury already! Show me something different!
For four semesters I have come away with the same application from doing the background introduction to the book of Philippians. For four semesters I have seen Paul’s heart for the church and been challenged by how different it is for my heart for you.
Look, I care about you. I write this blog because I want you to persevere. But honestly, do I pray for you with tears? Am I willing for my life to be poured out as an offering to fuel your faith? No.
There are new things for me to learn in this book, but I don’t know that I need to hear them yet. I need to apply what I know.
May God forgive me for using His word to get an intellectual or emotional high when it is living and active and sharper than any sword. May God forgive me for treating His word like a toy when it’s a weapon to sever my flesh from my soul and enable me to run the race set before me.
May God forgive me for yawning when I should be trembling.