One of the overarching themes of Ephesians 4 is of education in Christ. Paul talks about no longer being children, but instead growing up into maturity, into the measure of the full stature of Christ (Eph. 4:13-14). This maturity keeps the believer from being swayed by all kinds of wrong teaching. Paul says that the old way of life (the way of the Gentiles—verse 17) was a way of “empty-headedness” (4:17), “darkened understanding” and “ignorance” (4:18)—in short, “not the way you learned Christ.” Paul sees that growth in the Christian life involves not just a transformed heart, but also a transformed mind. The Christian life involves “learning Christ.”
In today’s sermon I suggested that if the Christian life involves “learning Christ” then we need to value our own continuing education in the faith highly, right along with the value we place on our moral formation and on our life of worship and prayer. They all go together.
A few suggestions of how to invest in “learning Christ”:
1) Read a significant Christian book in the next few months, a book that will make you consider the content of the faith and that will stretch your mind as well as your heart to think about the truth of the gospel. Some recommendations:
a. Simply Christian, by N.T. Wright – this is a great summary of the Christian faith, especially in its insightful second part, in which Wright goes through the story of the Bible
b. The Jesus I Never Knew, by Philip Yancey – this is a very accessible book that helps you to explore what Jesus was all about, and the impact his life and ministry would have made in its first century context
c. The King Jesus Gospel, by Scot McKnight – a good book that shows how the message Jesus proclaimed in his own life and ministry is consistent with the message we proclaim about him. Sometimes we don’t really know what to do with Jesus’ life, and instead only focus on the virgin birth and his death and resurrection. This book tries to bring it all back together.
d. God So Loved the World, by Jonathan Wilson – this is a book by a good friend of ours, who taught theology at Acadia while I was there. This is a very helpful book showing how what we believe about Jesus is worked out in the practical living of Christian life.
e. Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, by Eugene Peterson – this is the most difficult book on this list, because it’s so full of insight and richness that it can be easy to lose sight in the forest because of all the wonderful trees. Nevertheless, if you can prepare yourself on how to read it, it is a great book on Christian “spirituality”—a life that is very much tied together with our everyday living.
f. Your God is Too Safe, by Mark Buchanan – this is probably the most accessible book on this list, and it is great at challenging our understanding of our dealings with God—we dare not assume he’s someone to be used to satisfy our whims; he may just be calling us to a serious, dangerous, and most satisfying life.
2) Memorize a passage of Scripture: As I said this morning, everyone is able to memorize – just think of the Lord’s prayer. The key is repetition. We learn the lyrics to the newest songs on the radio easily enough. Our minds can learn Scripture too. Here are a few suggestions, all focused on Jesus Christ:
a. Philippians 2:5-11 – Paul’s great summary of Jesus’ coming, death, and resurrection
b. Colossians 1:15-20 – Another passage from Paul, this one stressing that he is the exact image of God, the one active in both creation and redemption
c. John 1:1-5 – Jesus is one with God, and is the source of all of our life
3) Join a Bible Study Group: At our church, there are a couple of basic options: Women on Monday nights, Men on Wednesday nights… but there are other groups around in which various people participate. The point is to be able to have a time when you are looking at Scripture with other believers. It’s helpful to see others’ perspectives, and it’s encouraging and challenging to read together.