Recently, I got into a debate with a colleague of mine at the University about the use of textbooks in courses and their effectiveness in learning material. She argued that we always had textbooks and we should continue to use them. My argument is that technological advances have given us new tools to advance learning that are more effective and cheaper. (Further, I always hate using the past to justify decisions, rather than looking at the facts that are in the present.) For my colleague, a textbook presented a comfort—a one-stop shop to get the information. For me, a textbook, while at times may be necessary, actually hinders learning and growth because we are not in the book to learn, but to get the “right answer,” so that we can pass the test. Learning, in my opinion, happens best when we are seeking knowledge with the right motivation.
I hated math class in school. It was always a struggle for me, and so, to pass my courses I cheated. I cheated in middle school all the way through high school. In fact, my cheating was creative with just the right amount of errors to avoid getting caught. And, because I was the “good Christian” boy, my teachers had no clue. But, then I went to college and had to take a math class that I could not cheat in (after all, I knew better. An 87-year-old professor named Mr. Zampetti taught the math class and he was the best math teacher I have ever had. For the first time I was not intimidated by the questions because he taught in a new style—one that did not rely on getting the right answers, but learning the right process! He said in the beginning of the course, "Let me tell you something there is never going to be a place in your life where you won't have a text book…unless you're going to be an astronaut.” Because the course was basic college math, he then added: “And, if you’re going to be an astronaut—good luck because this is remedial math!” His philosophy was simple: focus less on the right answers and focus more on the right process! Use the textbook to guide you in the process of finding the right answers.
In our lives, we always want the right answers to the questions we face, when God is more concerned with the process through which we seek out the answers. We cannot rely on someone else doing the work for us in getting the answers; rather we must learn to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). In 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Paul instructs young Timothy to: "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped and ready for every good work." God’s desire is that we would be students on the scriptures as we seek His truth through the power of the Holy Spirit as we walk with the WORD made flesh: Jesus. Jesus is the LIVING WORD (John 1:1-18) and the purpose of scripture to point us to Him in all of our human reasoning. We are to read the scriptures for the purpose of seeking after God (Jeremiah 29:13), not answers to questions (James 4:3). Our study must engage our brains (Isaiah 1:18), our hearts (Proverbs 8:17), our spirits (John 4:24), and ultimately our love for God and for one another (Mark 12:30-31).
Scripture is an inspired tool of the Holy Spirit to transform us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. However, if we do not understand this motivation behind the text, we will be fooled into thinking that scriptures are about finding answers, rather than changing our process. In Matthew 5:17 (Message translation), Jesus states: "Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures—either God’s Law or the Prophets. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama.” The law was given as a temporary guide until we received Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul eloquently sums it up in Galatians 3:24 (NLT): “Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.” Now that followers of Jesus have the guidance of the Holy Spirit, God wants to reveal to us a new, greater revelation of truth. John 16:12-13 (AMP) tells us about God's Holy Spirit. We get God's spirit, Jesus says, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear [to hear] them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future]. The Holy Spirit is still at work guiding us into all truth!
The right motivation coupled with the right process, under the guidance of the right teacher, brings about the right meaning! Following Jesus is not hard when we understand is really in control and we allow Him to control our lives. The scriptures are inspired to help us work out the agape love of God in our lives as “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). The best way for this to happen to allow Jesus, the manifestation of God’s perfect love, to teach us His ways by truly experiencing and dispensing the agape love of Christ.
The Apostle Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church was not that there theology be perfect, but that their revelation of God’s love would grow. In Ephesians 3:14-19 (Message), we read: “My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” And this is my prayer for all of us!
Dr. Rob Weinstein is the Founding/Senior Pastor of Bethany Grace Community Church in Bridgeton, NJ. He is also a Professor of Business Studies/Academic Director/Chair of Human Resource Management Studies. He is the Founder of the M25 Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness and food insecurity in Cumberland County, NJ.
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