Going to school is an important part of our lives. From kindergarten through high school, we learn the basics of reading, writing, math, history and science. Some of us then go to college, trade or professional school, earning credits towards graduation and the receiving of a degree. This kind of learning is valuable for us, but I believe God desires us to learn from our everyday experiences as well as our formal schooling. As a Christian, I believe that God wants us to use our minds daily to learn more about Him and more about how best to serve Him. I call this process a "Lifelong Learning in the Spirit."
In Romans 12:2 (NIV), Paul says, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." In the NLT, the same verse says. "Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." The renewing of our minds is not meant to be a one-time occurrence, like a special time of remembrance in our spiritual life. This "renewing" is intended to be lifelong and daily, as we sense God speaking to our hearts from the pages of scripture, and as we converse with Him in prayer. I also think we learn about the spiritual life through other believers, family, friends, co-workers, our daily experiences and the exploration of nature. In fact, the practice of life itself becomes our classroom.
Lifelong learning in the Spirit is essential if we want our minds to grow into the maturity of Christ and also help His churches reach out to people with the Lord's grace, love, mercy and peace. Let me share two examples.
As individual believers, we know we are all sinners. In order to mature in Christ, we should want to learn how to be victorious over sin. From my years of ministry leadership, I know there are many individual believers who are addicted to particular sins, and they feel guilt and shame after every occurrence. To change this pattern of sinful behavior, they need to set a goal of learning to sin "less." Even if the behavior change is only in small increments, working toward the ultimate goal of ridding oneself of a disturbing sin is a worthy endeavor. It requires prayer, a mind set that is devoted to make the change happen and a willingness to allow the Lord to help bring it about.
Lifelong learning in the Spirit also needs to be done by congregations so that the ministry and mission of the church truly represent what their members feel God is calling them to be and do. If the most common phrases heard in a church are "we've always done it this way before" or "we don't need to reach out to anyone else, because we like the church family just the way it is," there is little likelihood that the church wants to be "renewed." Such statements reveal a resistance to change, closed minds and an idle self-satisfaction. Lifelong learning in the Spirit would be evidenced by the replacement of resistant complacency with a willingness to try new ideas and reach out to new people.
Lifelong learning in the Spirit can be seen in the lives of individual believers and in the visioning of whole churches. Isn't it wonderful that we can be transformed into a greater maturity in Christ and choose to serve God in exciting new ways through the renewing of our minds!
LeFeber is a retired American Baptist pastor who lives in South Williamsport.