Monday, December 29, 2014

To Know Better

You've probably heard some of the old stories that feature a man with a question seeking out the "wisest" man in all the world, the man who knows everything. This wise man is often in a far-removed location that is difficult to reach. And this so-called wise man is more often the purveyor of knowledge than wisdom.

They are not the same thing.

God makes that clear in 1 Corinthians 12 when He is talking, through Paul, about the various gifts that He has given to His people. Knowledge is one gift, given by God to some; wisdom is another, separate gift, given to others. The knowledgeable man is not necessarily the wise man, and the wise man does not necessarily possess knowledge. They are two different gifts. We have to be cognizant of this, lest we mistake one for the other.

Knowledge is the gift of knowing things. (Clearly. The word "know" is right there.) It is having a depth of information in your head that lets you talk intelligently about the world around you. It is an abundance of information either about one specific topic or about something more broad. Knowledge is the kind of gift that makes you difficult to beat on Jeopardy!. 

In the spiritual sense, knowledge is having a powerful recall of the Scriptures, the stories of God shared across generations. It may mean being able to read the written word and therefore study more in-depth those Scriptures, particularly in the time of Paul when not everyone was so learned. A person with knowledge is the kind of person who can hear the Word of God and tell you where it came from, its cultural context, its parallelism to other passages of Scripture, and so on. It is a gift often seen in conjunction with the gift of teaching; there is much we can learn from a man who has the gift of knowledge.

But at the end of the day, it's still all book learnin'. It's all in your head. It's all fact, no truth. It's information but not really transformation. Transformation is something we get from the gift of wisdom.

Wisdom is, in a sense, to know better. It is to have the information but to have a deep understanding of the meaning of that information. It's one thing to know how an internal combustion engine works; it's another to realize that means you must put gas in the tank.

In the spiritual sense, wisdom is knowing how to apply the Scriptures. It's understanding what mercy is and living like it is real. It's humbling yourself not because the word merely says so, but because it breathes humility into you. It's reading the story of David or Job or Paul and not just being able to tell the story, but being able to look in the mirror and see the David or Job or Paul in yourself. It's knowing the Word and the way that Word does life.

Wisdom gets knowledge out of your head and into your heart where all of a sudden, it matters. It's fact, richly injected with truth. It's information with the power of transformation. It's wisdom that changes you.

We place a lot of emphasis on knowledge in our culture, thinking it's enough just to know. Thinking it means something significant to a man to have a bunch of facts in his head. We're impressed with trivia. And as we head into a new year and start thinking about deepening our relationship with God, most of us think the goal is that we know God more. That we study more. That we read more. That we store more in our memory banks. That we get our facts straight. That this...this knowing going to bridge the distance we feel in our hearts between ourselves and our God. 

It never will.

The goal is not to know God more; not for most of us. What we need is to know God better. We need God with a deep understanding of Him. We need God with meaning. We need the Scriptures richly injected with Truth, where we can look in the mirror and see the story of God unfolding powerfully in the man staring back at us. We need transformation. 

As you think about starting to invest yourself in God, think about this. Are you content simply to know more of Him? Or would you rather know Him better? Would you rather know how He manifests...or how He matters?

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