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« Human Wisdom Can Be Dangerous | Main | Your Affection Relationship: Jesus as the Lover of Your Soul »

Your Mental Relationship: Jesus as Wisdom

(This is the first segment of the chapter on Your Mental Relationship: Jesus as Wisdom, in the book Hand in Hand: Deepening Your Relationship with Jesus Christ.)


The poet, James Weldon Johnson wrote,

“And quicker than God could drop his hand,

Fishes and fowls

And beasts and birds

Swam the rivers and the seas,

Roamed the forests and the woods,

And split the air with their wings.

And God said: ‘That’s good!’”

-God’s Trombones, by James Weldon Johnson.

God equipped non-human creatures of His amazing world to be superior to humans in nearly every way except one: intelligence.  Brain power has not only enabled Adam’s progeny to equal the abilities of fishes and fowls and beasts and birds, we have surpassed them exponentially.  Occasionally, zoologists tout the communication skills of dolphins, or speak glowingly of the use of tools by apes, but no one has ever suggested that animals can rival human intelligence.  David wrote “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:14. Couple human dexterity and proportional frame with mental acumen, and the dominant race is born. 

If God gave us a brain, He meant for us to reason, analyze, meditate, problem-solve, imagine, contemplate and create.  He did not expect our instincts to stimulate us to action as it does animals, nor to think in pre-programmed patterns as do angels.  God does everything with purpose.  In concert with the theme of this book, then, our ability to think signals God’s intent to enhance our relationship with Him.  He wants humankind to seek Him through cognition and understanding.  “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD.  “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18. How can we reason without intelligence?  How can we contemplate God without the necessary contemplative powers?  Divine omniscience would go totally unappreciated in an inanimate or mindless universe.   

God Challenges Us to Use Our Mind 

Adam’s assignment to keep the Garden of Eden and to name all the beasts of the field required intelligence.  As we shared in chapter six, God must have put Adam through a rigorous educational program to prepare him for the job.  He had to have the mental capacity to do it.  The work assigned to the first human spoke to the immediate need for intelligence, but the larger reason was God’s challenge to all of humankind to use our mind.  This giftedness became instrumental in developing human culture.  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.” Exodus 31:1-5.  

The structure of the Bible, along with many representative passages, flowed from authors who were intellectual as well as anointed.  The book of Isaiah showcases prophetic literature at its finest, a style that did not detract from the unction of the Holy Spirit, but delivered it in classical form.  For example, consider Isaiah 61:3:

To console those who mourn in Zion,

To give them beauty for ashes,

The oil of joy for mourning,

The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

That they may be called trees of righteousness,

The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

It is clear, then, that many Bible authors were cerebral, men who were high achievers in educational pursuits.  They dedicated themselves to God, and He used their aptitude for His eternal purposes. 

One of the most beloved stories in the Bible is that of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  These young, Jewish men were captured by the Babylonians and exiled to Babylon primarily because of their unusually high intelligence.  Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. Daniel 1:3-4. The work of these accomplished youths proved that the right use of intelligence allied with the will of God.  Of course, mental prowess can also be hazardous to our spiritual welfare—a problem we will consider shortly—but our intellect is definitely a gift of God.  

God Wants Us to Understand Him 

The popular sentiment among Christians holds that we give Jesus our hearts, not our heads.  Yet, we read this:  Jesus said to him, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37. Discipleship must not be a sheer mental exercise, but God does want us to love him with our minds as well as our hearts.  Divine blessings attend the passionate pursuit of God.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD.  Jeremiah 29:12-14. While we may never fully comprehend God, believers can certainly search Him out insofar as our limited minds can stretch.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.  Romans 1:20. 

Two passages in the New Testament directly encourage intelligent scholarship about God.  First, Paul exhorts Timothy to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV).  Study is translated diligence in most other places.  In this instance, the King James translators saw a connotation that suggested the word study.  “Rightly dividing the word of truth” requires brain power in addition to passion and faith.  We must apply ourselves to a careful and persistent search of God’s truths. 

Second, Luke commended the disciples in Berea for their approach to the apostles’ doctrine.  Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.  These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Acts 17:10-11. The closer we follow Christ, the more we desire to know Him intimately.  The relationship shifts our curiosity into high gear.  

Theology, or the study of God, grows out of an intense relationship with Jesus Christ.  Theologians pore over ancient texts, examine sometimes scant evidence, weigh out the slightest nuances and meticulously fuss over the exact wording of their conclusions—all because of their profound respect for God and the Bible.  Their enquiries have help to clarify difficult concepts, and have produced lexicons, analytical word studies, commentaries and Bible encyclopedias.  Critics have cast unfair aspersions on the faith of theologians, as though faith is incompatible with scholarship.   The truth is that scholars’ faith demand answers, and answers call for hard questions.  Their research strengthens our faith. 

God Created Us with the Ability to Learn 

Learning is the act of gaining new knowledge, or of changing existing knowledge into a better or more accurate form.  It also modifies behaviors or skill sets, and requires an entire process we call education.   We learn by exposure to new information, ideas or practices, and then memorizing them or incorporating them into our own behaviors. 

We cite these facts because the ability to learn is a gift of God, even though it is possible to learn false, harmful or sinful things.  The gift of learning does not make God responsible for what we learn.  This is an important distinction because some believe the church should be virtually anti-intellectual.  They reject all learning that is not based on the Bible.  Such a position is untenable on its face, but it is even contradictory to the Scriptures.   The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, But the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness. Proverbs 15:14. Apply your heart to instruction, And your ears to words of knowledge. Proverbs 23:12. The Bible also mentions those who have knowledge of the sea, knowledge of crafts and knowledge of the times, and the references are positive in nature.  Moreover, the Apostle Paul was educated in secular schools, and Moses undoubtedly received much Egyptian learning in Pharaoh’s courts.  Their learning enhanced their usefulness in the Kingdom of God.  A carefully managed secular education, therefore, is not necessarily against God. 

Becoming a disciple is a conversion event, but growing in discipleship is a transformational process.  Growth involves learning, which is why Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29.  Jesus, in fact, is called Master and Rabbi, which means teacher.  Teaching assumes that students are capable of learning.  That means that discipleship never ceases.  Regardless of age, experience or position, we must continue to improve our understanding of God, deepen our relationship with God, and become more effective in our service to God.  To learn is to live.

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