So in case you’re wondering, I’ve learned quite a lot since I’ve arrived here at Fuller Theological Seminary. But along with the lectures, the books, the papers, and whatnot, Jesus is still my teacher. I have found that there are some super significant things that he has taught me concerning a mindset that I should have in going through seminary. While there are more, here are some HUGE ones I desperately try to live by:
- You are not authority over God’s Word, God’s Word is an authority over you.
In an institution where we are taught theories and opinions about God’s word, it’s very easy to develop an attitude that makes you think that you are above the word of God. And unfortunately, some people do come out of seminary thinking that they are “experts” in God’s Word and just know it all.
The Holy Spirit reminded me that his word is not in submission to me, but I am in submission to his word.That more than trying to understand it, I should be more intent on obeying it. There are, as James 1:22 says, many people who hear the word of God but don’t do it. We, as people are going to be teaching God’s word, should be first to model this priority.
And we need to place it higher than our intellectual hungers. The need to understand something before we obey it idolizes our minds and de-exalts God. Rather, as shown in the Bible, understanding comes after obedience, not before.
- I can learn as much as I want to in seminary, but if I don’t love Jesus more and others more in humility, I have failed.
Paul was onto something in 1 Cor 13. He said if he could do the craziest things for Jesus and be the craziest person for Jesus, yet didn’t love, he still considered himself nothing.
Let’s put it in a way a seminarian can understand…If I write the best awesomest papers, if I get crazy anointing, if I become ‘fully’ trained in ministry, if I have read all the best books on all the subjects, I can be networked to all the right people, etc, but if I don’t love Jesus a million times more leaving seminary than having first arrived, and love others more in deep and abiding humility, then I’ve wasted my time in seminary.
You see, a person who would say otherwise doesn’t understand the priority in Jesus’ mind about a fruitful season in your life. There’s a reason why he said that the greatest commandment is to love Jesus and to love others, and that all the rest commandments hang on these two. It’s because love conquers all. Faith and hope will perish one day, but love will remain. The world will not recognize us as Jesus’ disciples not by the crazy work that we have done, but whether we love each other. And on and on the scriptures bear witness that the measurement of a Christian’s growth is always his/her love.
So in everything, I need calibrate all my learning, all my studying by asking “How do I love you more with this Jesus?” and “How can I bend lower and serve others better?”
- If I train without the Holy Spirit, then I am not trained.
One of things that people forget is that seminary is modeled after other secular graduate programs in the nation. There is a slight problem in failing to recognize that. Other graduate’s institutions teach that, “You come here, get some teaching, and you’ll be competent in the field that you’re going to.” But God’s kingdom doesn’t work like that. Jesus said in John 12 that “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” That’s a very different pedagogy to say the least! That’s because the kingdom of God always works different than the kingdom of the world…
The world teaches that education equates to competency. The kingdom of God says that nothingness and submission equates to competency. The world teaches that a degree tells something about who you are. The kingdom of God says a degree doesn’t tell anything about who you are, because it doesn’t look on the outside, it looks on the inside.
And while this is not a suggestion that what we are learning is useless (we need to love Jesus with our minds after all), but this is suggesting that without the principle of absolute surrender to the Holy Spirit at work in our learning, we are yielded useless. If I had spent the same amount of time praying and submitting as I did reading and learning, I’d be a much different vessel for use.
Seminary doesn’t prepare God’s people for service in his kingdom; God does. The sooner I realize that seminary is just a means to a means, the better off I’ll be.
I know that you don’t have to be seminary to apply these valuable lessons, but I found these were the most crucial ones that Jesus has taught me during this time. There are many more…but these are all I’ll share!