I love to learn.
So when I came across this quote in a book I am currently reading, it caught my eye and caused me to pause my reading:
“Learning can become an act of worship.” (Who is This Man? by John Ortberg.)
An Act of Worship? That’s something I’ve never considered before, the idea that learning can be an act of worship.
Therefore, I did some thinking and some reading about Jesus as teacher–as rabbi. I thought about what made His teaching different, that would help to explain why learning can become an act of worship. For one thing, Jesus taught in order to change the lives around Him. He taught with authority–all authority. Those that listened to his teaching were amazed by His authority. We see an example of this in Mark 1:21-28.
Jesus is teaching in the synagogue. On a Sabbath. And we see the crowds amazed reaction in verse 22:
I’m not sure what they meant when they said He taught “not as he scribes”, but it was obvious that this teaching was different. It was powerful. Astonished; what a wonderful word! When was the last time you were astonished in your learning? When was the last time you were astonished by something your teacher or professor or pastor taught you?
Jesus’ intentions in teaching was not just teaching for learning’s sake. No; instead, He set out to teach so that He could change lives. Because that is what His father’s will was for Him, as part of His ministry here on earth. Read the rest of the passage in Mark 1:21-28. Watch how Jesus responds when, in the midst of his teaching, a man with an unclean spirit enters. Jesus commands that spirit to come out. He completely changes the man’s life. And the crowd reacts again:
Switching gears for a moment, I was deeply saddened to hear that Dallas Willard, an important author in my life, has been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. When I heard the information, I pulled out his books and spent a few minutes perusing my highlights in his books.
In Willard’s book “Knowing Christ Today”, I was surprised to come across a paragraph that I had highlighted, that really intersects with this idea of Learning as an Act of worship. Willard does not mince words. It may be a bit difficult to swallow. But it is truth. Chew on it, think on it, learn on it. I’ll share it here:
God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you that you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you-brains and all…One reason why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education in itself.
Wow. We are called to Love God with all our Hearts, soul strength and Mind. We are called to love God with our mind. And Willard is saying here that Christianity is an education in itself. What does that mean?
I think that in part, it must mean that part of loving God with all of our mind, is to be constantly learning–learning about Christ, learning scripture, learning to love, learning to live out this Christian life. But I think it also means always pushing ourselves to learn about the world around us as well. God is a rational, orderly being, who has created a beautiful, rational world. Shouldn’t we seek to learn as much about it as possible?
Which brings me full round to the idea of learning as an act of worship. How does that happen? Oh, how I want my learning to be an act of worship! Of course, I have more to think about on this subject, but here are some preliminary ideas:
- Commit all my learning to God–asking Him to open my mind and show me what He would have me learn from any book or lecture or sermon or study session I am partaking of.
- Be proactively looking for ways to praise God in my learning–as I learn new fact about this amazing world and universe, as I learn more about scripture and God’s love for me, and as I learn more about the people God has put in my life.
- Commit to do my best in all my learning, both formal and informal. This includes my upcoming seminary class that starts in May, as well as my personal informal study sessions that I have in the morning or at other times.
I am so grateful that God has given us the gift of learning. That He encourages it, through His own teaching and through the teaching of others. I am grateful that a lot of our formal education venues today have their roots deep in the desire to follow this rabbi who was astonishing and taught with authority. Oxford. Harvard. William & Mary.
I want my learning to be an act of Worship to my God.