Knowledge - It Starts With Appropriate Fear

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, November 29, 2012 0 comments

I have a favorite way of describing my experience of going through seminary. I graduated from Winebrenner Theological Seminary in Findlay, OH in 2011, three years after leaving my comfort zone and everything I knew in my life in Harrisburg, PA and moving over 400 miles away. I don't know if most seminary students have their views of knowledge changed the way I did, but I would assume so. My experience was that the more I learned, the less I knew. By that, I mean that as I continued to grow in knowledge, I realized how little I actually knew compared to what was out there for me to learn. You see, I always thought I had a pretty good handle on knowledge because I simply compared myself to those around me. In comparison to my peers, I was very gifted at obtaining and retaining knowledge. As long as I knew more than just about everyone else around me, I erroneously began to think I had little left to learn.

That's when God brought me to seminary to humble me. While God did a lot of things in and through me during my time in seminary, the very FIRST thing that needed to happen in my heart was humility. I met peers who were not only my intellectual equals, but also challenged me to grow in knowledge of the truth through my personal relationship with Jesus. I met others who brought logical viewpoints that I had never considered before on subjects I thought I had settled in my mind. And last but not least, I met many wonderful professors, two of whom had very clearly forgotten more about Scripture and church history than I'll ever know. Our Hebrew professor was a man who regularly reads from the original Greek and Hebrew in his bible and has been studying it for nearly 50 years, yet still digs into at least one verse in each Testament every day. Our church history professor was a man who prepared with many notes, but could stand in front of the class for 2 hours and tell the story of the history of the church without ever referring to what he had prepared. He could do the same with world history. I learned pretty early in seminary that even if I study for half a century like those two men, I'll still just barely be scratching the surface of what is available in Scripture and through the Holy Spirit!

All of a sudden, just half of one verse in the Bible that I had learned years before took on a fresh meaning for me. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7a). Think about what that means. It means that no matter how much you know or how great your human mind is, you don't REALLY KNOW anything until you understand what it means to "fear the Lord". Now, some of you have probably been wondering ever since you read the title of this post what it could possibly mean. Fear is typically something we speak negatively of in our culture. It is typically applied to those things which we try to avoid. We generally fear things that we cannot control. For example, people don't really fear heights. I say that because nothing can really force you to go up high against your will. If you don't want to go skydiving or fly in an airplane or climb a tree, no one is going to force you. Instead, what we truly fear is gravity. Gravity is what we cannot control. Once we have ascended to great heights, gravity can force us to fall back to earth against our will! The same is true with the dark. People don't really fear darkness because it doesn't change what is there physically in the light. What it does is remove control over what you can see and know. Finally, people fear change not because the actual new ideas are always scary, but because people have less control over the things they do not know.

Hopefully, you see why the "fear of the Lord" is the only real, necessary, and healthy fear there is. God ultimately controls all things. The knowledge of human beings can master all sorts of other fears as we develop methods of controlling that which we otherwise could not. But we will NEVER be able to control the Sovereign God! No amount of education or efforts can produce enough knowledge to ascend beyond the Lord. The sooner we realize and accept that, the sooner we can open all sorts of pathways to true knowledge. Friends, knowledge can be an idol, but it can also be a very good thing if surrendered to that fear of the Lord. If we can somehow get to that point where we never forget who we are and who we are NOT, knowledge becomes very powerful. If we do not get to that point, knowledge and the pursuit of it is futile.

While this blog is not really about fear (maybe we'll do that someday down the road), Scripture is clear that we don't really have knowledge until we have fear of the Lord. I want to close this out by sharing another way that this concept should apply to our lives and our relationships with others, especially those with whom we disagree. God has really been speaking to me for a long time about James 1:19-20. "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires". Have you ever thought about how often humans, especially Christians, justify our anger by saying something like "Jesus got angry sometimes so it's not a sin"? I know I've taken that stance. We get angry in discussions with others because we KNOW we are right. Our focus is on OUR knowledge. But if we pay attention and apply Proverbs 1:7 to our lives, we have no right to get angry with those who disagree with us, even when we know they are wrong! We are commanded to remember who we are (humans) and who we are not (the Lord). If our ultimate goal is to encourage righteousness in fellow believers and guide non-believers into a relationship with Christ where they can experience righteousness, James 1:20 is clear that "man's anger" will not do that. We justify our anger over the lies that people tell and believe because "Jesus got angry sometimes". Let me tell you, friends, that there is a huge difference between imperfect man getting angry and Jesus getting angry.

If we remember that our opinions, thoughts, and knowledge are nothing apart from the fear of the Lord, then humility becomes part of our character. And if humility becomes part of our character, we are less likely to get angry because someone doesn't see things the way we think they should. I hope that, for you and me in the next time we are in that type of situation, we will remember that we are not sovereign as God is and do not have ALL knowledge as He does. In keeping that appropriate fear of the Lord, any knowledge we do gain will serve His purposes and His alone!