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Have We Learned Christ?
By David A. DePra
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim 3:7)
But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus. (Eph. 4:20-21)
Have you come to the realization that you were born without any Truth in you? You were. So was I. Everyone born, "in Adam," is born in darkness. There is no Truth in us, no light in us, and no life in us.
Most of us have a hard time believing this. One reason is because many of us were born, either into a Christian family, or into a Christian country. Everyone knows about Jesus Christ – even if they don’t embrace Him. Knowledge of such facts are so normal for us that we are apt to think that we were born with them. We take them for granted.
The reality is, if you know anything about Jesus Christ at all, it is only because the gospel was preached. This may not be a real revelation to your heart, but even if you know merely facts about Christ, it is because of the gospel. Otherwise, you would know nothing.
In the final analysis, however, if you do know Jesus Christ in your heart, you were not born with that knowledge. You received it FROM THE OUTSIDE of yourself – into your spirit – through a NEW birth. Christianity, in the end, is a revelation.
We must get this settled. If Christianity is a revelation, then you received it from above. If it isn’t a revelation, then you got it another way. But really, the only other way you could have gotten it was that you learned it – intellectually – just like you learned lots of other stuff.
Yet here we see something else: It is quite possible to have learned all that I know about Jesus Christ in just that way – intellectually – the way I learn other things. But to have never received a REVELATION from above. That is entirely possible. In fact, churches are filled with lots of folks like that. They know lots of facts about Jesus, the Bible, and doctrines. But they don’t know Jesus.
It is one thing to LEARN CHRIST, but it is another to be "ever learning" – and yet never come into a knowledge of THE TRUTH, who is the Person, Jesus Christ. One of the biggest weaknesses of the church today is the failure to see the difference.
Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? (2 Cor. 3:1)
Paul the apostle was probably the most brilliant among all of the apostles. But he had to continually defend his claim that he was an apostle. The above words indicate that in the church of that day, "letters of commendation," were being sent to and fro, from one church to another, which were used as credentials and references by certain teachers and apostles.
This, of course, corresponds to the degrees, certificates, credentials, and standing, which many today carry about – as PROOF that they are called of God; speaking for God. I’m not putting down education, ordination, or credentials. But is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that these things amount to almost NOTHING? Is there any doubt that, in the final analysis, that credentials are only as good as the group that issues them?
Someone once said that education is simply a matter of learning what someone else believes to be the facts. Few of us actually go out and discover our own facts. Rather, we read what others have supposedly discovered – but then interpreted according to their own bias. And credentials? In the church, ordination simply means that a group or organization approves of you and your ministry. It means you agree with them, and they agree with you, and so they authorize you to speak on their behalf. None of it may have a thing to do with whether you are called of God. No. You may simply be called by them. The reality is, if any of the twelve apostles came into our churches today, probably none of them would be accepted as ministers of God. They would not meet OUR criteria.
Today, as never before, churches want a PROFESSIONAL minister. First, this means a degree, preferably an advanced degree. Then, they feel, they can be sure the person knows what he is talking about. Secondly, they want someone who will preach what they want preached, and in the style they desire. Thirdly, churches want someone who will affirm them. Rarely is there any possibility in our churches that the pastor could put his hand to the church and offer admonition or correction. Fourthly, churches want someone who will rake in the money and the members.
There are exceptions to this pattern, but too few and far between. Rather, it really represents a church SYSTEM which has helped create the dead religion we have today. In the Bible, the ministry is never a profession. It is a calling. You don’t decide to be a minister, or go to school to learn to be one. You ARE one, because God calls you to BE one. Now, I do realize that it is essential to add to that knowledge of the Bible. But a degree in theology means nothing if you don’t know Jesus Christ.
It is precisely because Christianity – Jesus Christ – is a REVELATION, that we cannot learn Him by reading books. We cannot even, "learn Christ," by merely reading the Bible – despite the fact that it is God’s Word. You can only, "learn Christ, "by receiving Him from above. Then by walking with Him. The, "learning," then has a LIFE in it that will guide. Then learning the Truth has the Truth Himself in it. But all the study in the world without CHRIST IN US will be nothing more than, "ever learning," but, "never coming into the knowledge of the Truth."
Paul the apostle presented only one credential: The living epistles. He said that if he were called of God that the result would be living epistles – and that THIS was his letter of commendation. That was it. Paul was telling the Corinthians that he had NO CREDENTIALS at all except what God had done in their lives through him. Would that the church today put away all the degrees and all of the awards, and look only to that. It would turn the church right side up.
Been With Jesus
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. (Acts 4:13-14)
There are reasons why the church has been in the shape it has been in for two thousand years. One primary reason is that Jesus Christ has been given second place to religion about Him. The apostles were not educated men – and according to the above passage – it was apparent. But they had BEEN WITH JESUS. Would you rather be highly educated, or have been with Jesus?
I’m going to make a radical statement that some people won’t like, but it is true. I am also making it as one who holds degrees. That statement is this: Intellectual knowledge – even about Jesus and the Bible – will do you no good in matters of the Spirit. They will not help you learn Christ. I told you it was going to be a radical statement. But wait. Here’s another one that is even more radical: God could not care less whether you and I have a degree in theology, ministry, or Bible. To Him, it means absolutely NOTHING.
Does that sound like I’m putting down education, or seminary degrees? I’m not. But I am saying that these do NOTHING to commend us to God, equip us for ministry, or make us qualified to lead others. And they do NOTHING to learn us Christ. Anyone with faith, an open heart, and a desire to know Jesus, can enter into the things of God and learn Christ. At the end of their life, they may not have a degree from a college or seminary, but they will have learned Christ.
Where did we ever get this crazy notion that just because someone graduates from an accredited seminary that they are called of God to be a pastor or minister? It does not mean that. Neither does it mean that they AREN’T called. It means neither.
Now, before people who have not gone to seminary jump for joy, and declare themselves to be qualified to pastor a church, we do need to understand that NOT going to seminary means nothing as well. I have known many church leaders – some of whom were the REAL power in their respective church – who have no business being in any leadership position in any church. Some of these people are highly educated – but highly arrogant. Incredibly so. On the other hand, I have known many, "nobodies," in churches, who have so often been told they have no place, that ought to be leaders – because they have learned Christ.
Read the Bible. Read the qualifications for church leadership in Timothy and Titus. Do you see any mention of EDUCATION or of the need to be a PROFESSIONAL? Nope. The closest thing you see is that one must be, "apt to teach." Well, you don’t need a degree to be apt to teach, do you? You just need to have learned Christ, and to know the Bible. Many people do, but who have no official degree or education to that effect.
Now, lest anyone think I’m simply bashing church leadership, we need to stop and take a closer look at the church landscape. What do you see? Jesus Christ? I don’t. And that is, in fact, the fault of CHURCH LEADERSHIP – both the paid kind and the layman kind. It is the fault of those who decide, in their church, what goes on there – what is allowed and what isn’t allowed. It is the fault of those who hire pastors and fire them, and it is the fault of pastors who have never learned Christ. And where a church does evidence Jesus Christ, it is likewise because the leadership has learned Christ.
The fact is, if you and I have never learned Christ, we cannot teach Him. We won’t even know to teach Him. Instead, we may make the mistake of thinking that learning facts and doctrines IS learning Christ. Yet this is not the same thing – despite the fact that few realize it.
If you want to learn Christ, you must BE WITH HIM – like the apostles. Then it won’t matter whether you went to college to learn facts about Him. It won’t even matter if you are ignorant and unlearned. You will know Him.
During the ministry of Jesus, people even discredited HIM because they supposed Him to be uneducated. Basically, they asked, "Who is this Jesus to teach us?"
And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house. (Matt. 13:54-57)
Christ in You
Jesus said, "If anyone would follow Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross….." He did not says, "If anyone would follow Me, let him hold up his degree…." Sarcasm aside, we need to WAKE UP to what has happened in our churches. We have, in so many places, abandoned LEARNING CHRIST, in favor of learning church. We have replaced LEARNING CHRIST with learning facts about Him.
Christianity is CHRIST IN YOU. (Col. 1:27) We are saved by, "grace through faith," and not by BRAINS. May God grant us the grace to let the work of the Cross come into our lives, and bring to a death the homage we have paid to our intellect and learning! We need to LEARN CHRIST. *
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