As I neared the end of my secondary school education, my mum asked me, ‘What are you going to do when you finish school?’
My response was, ‘Well, I’m just going to go to university and study and when I finish one course I’ll study another and then another and then another until I retire.’
Clearly, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew I had an insatiable desire for learning; to know and understand the world around me.
Knowledge. Facts, information and skills acquired through experience and education. As a society we value knowledge and rightly so. We love to trawl the world for all kinds of knowledge, which has never been easier than in this digital age.
We love to listen to gifted speakers draw knowledge from the filing cabinets of their brain and present arguments that astound and enlighten us. We have valued knowledge to the point that the question of its seeming worth above true belief has its own name (the Meno problem, first discussed by Socrates and Plato).
Knowledge is good and can be used for good. The Bible teaches us to seek out knowledge and to treasure it as a valued possession.
Knowledge though, can also be hurtful and intimidating. We can use diverse and extensive vocabulary in well-formed sentences to show clever wit that brings humiliation to those who are not particularly academic in their wiring.
We can have prejudices toward people based on the level of their education and their academic understanding. Knowledge puffs up and can be used to laud it over others.
Knowledge, when delivered and utilised in love and humility is a wonderful gift, one that all people should have a desire for and access to, but when it is used as a weapon can be terrifying and soul destroying.
The Apostle Paul was an incredibly educated man. He trained under Gamaliel, one of the most highly respected doctors of the Jewish law. Not only did he train under him, Paul was his most excellent student! He knew the law inside and out, and how to apply it.
When the Church was birthed, he used his knowledge as a weapon by persecuting Christians. It wasn’t until Paul met Christ personally though, did he receive knowledge that truly became life to him.
From this pivotal moment, Paul understood that the knowledge of his head, all the futile ‘stuff’ he had mastered was nothing. It was worth nothing. It was worth less than nothing. It was worth dung (it was worth poo).
The knowledge that was worth something was knowledge of Christ. Not knowledge about Christ, but intimate knowledge that came through knowing Christ, the person. Not an intellectual apprehension, but an experiential knowledge resulting from personal communion with Him.
A knowledge that reveal who we truly are in light of who He truly is.
A knowledge that was birthed out of intimacy and trust. A knowledge that was of the heart, rather than the head.
This knowledge – knowing Him – should be the ultimate goal for all believers. All of our gains, achievements and goals, Paul implores us to count them as loss.
I can learn about Jesus, about His life and family. I can read His teachings and seek to understand the choices He made and the actions He took in His life. I can seek to know how he related to the people of His life and how He related to God the Father.
I can do all of this by reading the Bible and various commentaries on those books. I can look at history and watch the plethora of videos and teachings that have been made about Him that are plastered all over the internet and filling all of the libraries and bookshops across the world. I can talk to other people about Him in a bid to know Jesus.
But until I meet Him and sit at His feet, allowing Him to speak to me and share with me, I can only know Him with that knowledge of the head.
Once I have made that first step in faith, my heart becomes alive to the reality of this person who, though He died, was raised to life and now lives in my heart, by faith.
I can know Him intimately and personally. I can have a knowledge that is alive and empowers me to understand who God is, who I am, and what my purpose is in this world for this time.
This is a knowledge that never seeks to intimidate others or make me look good. It is not a knowledge that has quick wit and a silver tongue. It is not knowledge that puts others down or makes people feel inadequate.
It is a knowledge that brings with it the love of Christ and all He is. It is a knowledge that seeks to bring wholeness and healing to all humankind.
Peter and John went to pray, they met a lame man on the way and after they healed him they were hauled up before the Sanhedrin (the Jewish judges). The Sanhedrin were well-educated, they had knowledge, they knew the Torah and the rules and regulations. They knew what their religion should look like.
The Sanhedrin marvelled at the two untrained and uneducated fishermen, who were operating in the power of what could only be God.
They realised that they had been with Jesus.
They had gained knowledge of who Jesus is, by spending time with Him and getting to know Him. This enabled them to trust Jesus for a notable miracle.
We, through faith in Jesus and His accomplished work, are also able to know God, Sovereign King of the Universe and Eternity. We, even if untrained and uneducated, are of value to Him. We need just know Him.
This kind of knowledge changes lives. Removes fear. Removes intimidation. Makes all people equal. Brings back balance.
It is vital that, as a people, we never cease our pursuit for knowledge. Much good comes from what we learn. It is equally vital though, that we remember all knowledge is dung in comparison to knowing the Creator of knowledge as a first priority. It is Him alone who determines our value, not how much we know.
Puritan John Owen encouraged people to know God experientially saying that if we know doctrine in mind only, it will lead to nominal Christianity and eventually unbelief. (Paraphrased from Chapter 11 of Timothy Keller’s book Prayer). It is vital that we seek to know Christ intimately and personally.
Paul prayed in Ephesians that we may know the love of Christ that passes knowledge and are filled with all the fullness of God. May you experience that knowing, the knowing that passes knowledge, and may it fill your all.