According to 1 Timothy 4:7-8 the purpose of spiritual discipline is godliness. If we are to be like Christ—that is what Godliness means—then we must discipline ourselves in the area of learning.
“We must face the fact that many today are notoriously careless in their living. This attitude finds its way into the church. We have liberty, we have money, we live in comparative luxury. As a result, discipline practically has disappeared. What would a violin solo sound like if the strings on the musician’s instruments were all hanging loose, not stretched tight, not ‘disciplined’?” - A.W. Tozer
In his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney describes one deacon in a church he pastored. This man once said to his pastor, “I never liked school, and I don’t want to learn anything when I come to church” (pg. 223). Obviously, that kind of thinking is wrong. However, there are also people in some churches who know all the doctrinal facts but have little or no passion in their heart for the Lord.
Both extremes are dead wrong! This is not an “either/or” issue but a “both/and” situation. In other words, a Biblically balanced Christian desires both a bright mind and a burning heart; both light and heat. This does not mean that believers must be brilliant. It does mean that believers are to be intentional learners just as Jesus was Luke 2:46-47. The word “disciple” means not only ‘a follower’ but ‘a learner.’ We must discipline ourselves in the area of learning for the purpose of Godliness!
“Christians must realize that just as a fire cannot blaze without fuel, so burning hearts are not kindled by brainless heads. We must not be content to have zeal without knowledge.” - Donald Whitney
Learning Characterizes the Wise Person
An obvious place to look for wisdom is the Bible, specifically in Proverbs.
- Proverbs 9:9— “Give [instruction] to a wise [man], and he will be yet wiser: teach a just [man], and he will increase in learning.”
- Proverbs 10:14— “Wise [men] lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish [is] near destruction.”
- Proverbs 18:15— “The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.”
- Proverbs 23:12— “Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.”
Wise people cannot get enough of it. They crave more, and their learning does not make them proud; it makes them humble. The wise are teachable. They store up treasure because they realize its value. They desire to learn, and seek opportunities to learn. Learning is a life-long discipline that characterizes a growing, joyful, believer.
Learning Fulfills the Great Commandment
Mark 12:29-30— “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments [is], Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this [is] the first commandment.”
God wants your love, and one way that love is demonstrated is by Godly learning. God is glorified when we use the mind He gave us to learn more about Him, so that we may better live for Him. The learning is for living!
Learning is Essential for Increased Godliness
Romans 12:2— “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
The Word of God must go through your head for it to change your heart and life. No one is changed, but many are deceived, by an unread Bible.
Learning is Mostly by Discipline NOT by Accident
Job 32:9— “Great men are not [always] wise: neither do the aged understand judgment.”
Age and experience alone do not increase your spiritual maturity. Being Christ-like does not happen by accident or automatically. The discipline of learning will enable you to be intentional, rather than accidental, learners.
How may you be an intentional learner?
- The discipline of reading - 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 2:15; 4:13 - You have too much to gain by not reading and too much to gain by disciplined reading. Discipline yourself to learn by reading, and choose your books well. Relatively speaking, you will read few books in your (brief) lifetime. So read well!
- Meaningful conversations Malachi 3:16 Much of our dialogue with one another is meaningless. Make it a point to talk about the eternal, the weighty, the important issues of life. When was the last rich conversation you had in which the things of God were discussed?
- Disciplined usage of time. Ephesians 5:16
Paul said to the church at Corinth (and to this one in Garland), “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.” In other words don’t be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. With that, and this just finished lesson in mind, consider these questions.
Questions to Consider
- Will you discipline yourself to become an intentional learner?
- Where will you start? What habit will stop, and what habit will you begin? What about your reading, your conversations, your time usage?
- When will you start? When does your plan begin? Wisdom says that the soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. Proverbs 13:4 There is a sense in which everybody “craves” to learn something, and every Christian wants to be more like Jesus. But only those who diligently discipline themselves to learn will satisfy those desires.