Proverbs 9:10 says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the reformation this month let’s turn to Calvin the reformer who wrote that our “Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But though the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are bound together by a mutual tie, due arrangement requires that we treat of the former in the first place, and then descend to the latter.”
Without a knowledge of self we cannot know God. There’s the rub. An honest look within can be quite disturbing. Upon reflection we are instinctively repelled and so pretense and pride rise to the defense. Created in the image of God a standard of perfection has already been revealed to us and so our shortcomings become immediately obvious. This knowledge of self with the sneaky suspicion that we just might not measure up sets us confidently off on a restless, frantic project of self-justification.
Then God’s loving mercy comes to us and quiets our souls. In grace we are convinced of the clear evidence of our pride, injustice, impurity, and folly. That troubling view of self, the beginning of wisdom, is actually only possible after we begin to fear the judge of all things and His perfect character. With that we are given insight to know and be known. Yes, an accurate knowledge of self is a picture worse than we can ever concede but the power of the Gospel to redeem us is far greater than we could ever dare to hope. Only in the Gospel we are given ability to discern who we really are and to know and be known.
Ou rdo g’sna meisT af fy. … Say what?
Well, the first observation is that the spell check on my computer is going crazy, as it endeavors to clear up what I am intentionally trying to leave as fuzzy.
The focus of this blog is discernment, which at its core is a process of joining and/or separating ideas at points of difference so that the obscure is seen and truth can be distinguished from untruth. The notion of joining or separating ideas for the purpose of rendering a judgement is very unsettling to our culture and is quickly becoming a lost discipline. Unknowingly, we do this all of time. Consider the mish-mash of letters in the first paragraph. As printed, the groupings of letters make no sense. However, when they are regrouped we discover that Our dog’s name is Taffy. The proper grouping of letters is required to understand (or discern) communication.
As Christians, we are called to step into the intersection of ideas. We need to think Biblically, carefully understanding right from wrong and the significant from the trivial. Whenever we are confronted with a notion that culture’s preaches as “a truth,” we should think carefully and then armed with the Word of God rise above our own weakness to see the matter as God sees it. This is not something that is always intuitive; it requires work with a renewed mind, skilled in God’s Word. As we grow in Christ, He gives us a longing to join our hearts with our brothers and sisters. Spirit-filled unity provides a means for teaching and learning about the Gospel, doctrine and mission.
Do you normally think of your conversation in the foyer of the Chapel as chit-chat? Or, is it a dialogue where you and someone else are trying to come to a friendly agreement? Or, have you considered that the person you are talking to is off-course doctrinally and has a wrong view of spiritual things? When that happens, your words escalate from chit-chat, as God positions you in this conversation, to wrestle with a suffering heart. In that moment, you recognize the criticality of keen listening, while prayerfully awaiting the Holy Spirit to provide discernment and the loving words, sufficient to the need.
Our knowledge of God grounded in the Bible positions us to help others, who are ensnared in wrong thinking, longing to be free. Discernment should be a tool in every believer’s toolbox, helping us live, work and play to the Glory of God.