We just started the book of Colossians at Raintree, and I’ve already been challenged just by Paul’s introductory remarks in Chapter 1… The second part of verse 9: “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way.”
We see that knowledge and wisdom is what will help us live our lives worthy of the Gospel. Vs. 10, “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way.” You don’t live more like Christ and you don’t please him in every way without being filled with knowledge and wisdom! This is why knowledge is a big deal in the Scriptures. Paul repeatedly emphasizes knowledge. Now, this knowledge is not only information stored in the brain, but is a submissive knowledge of God’s will. But let me now step back for a moment.
We live in a world that worships knowledge. Have you ever noticed that in public discourse, on Facebook, or just talking with people, someone with a Doctorate suddenly completely trumps any opinion you have? This must be why I’m getting a doctorate, so no one can be allowed to disagree with me… That’s a joke, obviously. But education in our culture is supreme! Secular culture in the United States seems to put education as the most important facet of society. I would agree that it’s incredibly important, but it almost seems to be worshipped. This is a problem.
But one problem within mainstream Christian culture is that it’s almost as if we have overcorrected the world’s obsession with knowledge and education by marginalizing the importance of knowledge, in particular, knowledge of the Bible. I don’t know if it’s because we’ve tried to overcorrect this obsession with knowledge, or because we think that the spiritual is completely separate from the intellectual (which it isn’t). Maybe it’s both.
This motto, or something like it, I’ve heard multiple times before: “It’s not about what you know; it’s about living your life for Jesus!” But that’s just it: Colossians 1:9-10 makes clear that you can’t live FOR Him without knowledge and wisdom FROM Him. You can’t! But even so, biblical illiteracy plagues our churches.
According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name five of the 10 Commandments. 82% of Americans think that “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse. Those identified as born-again Christians did better- by 1 percent. A few more Barna polls: 12 percent of adults, in this particular poll, believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. 50 percent of high school seniors thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of those who responded said that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. These are just a few random examples, but you get the point.
The most shocking part about this is not that Americans are biblically illiterate; that’s going to be increasingly true. The shocking part, the scandal here, is the increasing biblical illiteracy among Christians! Why is this?! I’m convinced there’s one main answer: Churches have marginalized the importance of biblical knowledge. We want short, catchy sayings (that may or may not be completely true) more than we want biblical truth!
Why is knowledge unimportant to most of us, if we’re honest? Why do many not have a strong desire to learn and to read and to grow in knowledge? Maybe part of it is that we’ve never really grown in our knowledge of the Bible in the first place, so we don’t see the incredible value there is in it. Or maybe at least one of the reasons is because in today’s world, the incredible access we have to information keeps many of us from feeling like we need to know the Bible. We can just Google it!
Growing in Knowledge
It is a serious issue if you’re a member of a church for years, and never really grow in knowledge simply by being part of that church. Why should the emphasis be on the Word? Because we know God through His Word, and without His Word, we cannot know God! I don’t want anyone to feel guilty if they don’t know much about what the Bible teaches about God and life; that’s not my purpose in this post by any means. But I want us to feel challenged. Knowledge and wisdom and understanding matters, and is what will bring about a life that pleases God. We can’t know God without knowing the Bible, and we can’t please God on the basis of principles we don’t know! Godliness in Scripture is directly linked to knowledge of Godly truth.
Finding God’s Will
God’s will is not a secret that we have to search for as if it’s hidden…It’s right here. He has revealed His will in His Word. The Bible won’t tell you what college to go to, but it reveal to you what God wants no matter what college you go to. It won’t tell you whether or not to change jobs, but it will tell you what He wants no matter what job you’re working.
God is sovereign and He has a plan, but sometimes we stress so much about things that God may not be too worried about! Yes, the Holy Spirit moves and perhaps prompts, even though I air on the side of caution when using that type of language, “The Holy Spirit’s leading me, prompting me,” (because it seems sometimes like we just say this to get what we want) but my point here is that the Holy Spirit speaks primarily through God’s Word. Again, there is no treasure hunt. The treasure is in the Word!
What happens when we’re growing in knowledge of God and His will revealed in His Word? What happens when we don’t seek knowledge for knowledge sake, but seek knowledge for the sake of submitting to God Himself? We will begin to “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience” (Col. 1:10-11).