It Can Be Lonely Growing in the Grace and Knowledge of Jesus

17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. II Peter 3:17-18

Here St. Peter admonishes the Diaspora to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” In context Peter admonishes the brethren and sistren to grow so that they will not be carried away with the error of unprincipled men; so behind Peter’s admonishment he is presupposing that growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ is possible and even imperative even in light of error, indeed, it is this growth that presumably creates a standard from which error has the possibility to err.

But really I want to reflect on something else; yes, it has to do with the ‘grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ,’ but more abstractly. What I want to reflect on a bit is how empty growing in this knowledge can become when 1) the growth takes the form of academic shape, and 2) this knowledge is only something that you or I are interested in, but the masses (of Christians) are aloof to.

When growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ becomes an exercise in not only reading Scripture (in depth), but also an exercise in reading the doctors of the church, most of this becomes nothing more than theological trivia for most; it goes over their heads (only because they aren’t motivated like you, for some reason, to work at understanding some of these depth concepts that are attendant to toiling with the implications of the Gospel), not because people, in general aren’t capable or smart, but because, for whatever reasons thinking theologically along with the theologians is of no interest to them.

And so this dovetails with my #2 above; because knowledge of God, growing in it in supposedly academic ways, is, well “academic” this way of growing in the grace of knowledge of Jesus Christ is sequestered for the egg heads among us; it is deemed of no practical or devotional value – and so most Christians remain aloof to this kind of “growing.” Again, this aloofness really has nothing to do with someone’s aptitude, it has to do (I would suggest) with something else[s]. I really don’t have insight into what it is that crowds this kind of knowledge of Jesus Christ out of people’s  space for engagement, but I would guess it has to with the busyness of life in general, and thus growth for many Christians, if desired at all, needs to be something that is quick, sound-bite,  pragmatic, and thus practical; practical as defined by how it can be fitted into the quickness of this life (a quickness by the way determined by a variety of societal-economic factors).

Let me be frank: I have spent the better part of the last 20 years engaging deeply (formally and informally) in the daily practice of reading big swaths of Scripture, reading theology, biblical studies, historical theology, learning the biblical languages, engaging in theology of the cross, and it feels abysmally empty. If you gain knowledge and have no one to share it with (in real life), it starts to feel marginal, like theological trivia, and like someone once told me (well more than one person), “it is your hobby Bobby” (with the underlying premise that thinking Christianly or academically [I guess, at least some people consider it this way] is really a vanity). Indeed, this is where I am at; I have no one to share it with, I keep reading and reading into a labyrinth, it seems. What I read and think about has almost become empty; seemingly a hallow nothingness (I know this sounds melo-dramatic, but it is the honest truth). I almost feel as if I have bottomed out.

But I don’t know how else to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ; indeed, it is not supposed to be something done in abstraction from fellowship with others. Nevertheless, because of my current employment I have almost no possible way to meet with any likeminded Christians to engage in theological fellowship of the sort where mutual edification can take place between myself and another, or others.

At this point it is all just starting to feel empty. And yet when I started out, in real crisis of faith (back in 1995), the Lord turned me to his Word (Scripture); my faith began to be nourished richly by reading words, God’s words, and this reading led to reading other words (teachers in the church), and I thought I was on my way. I used to deal with heavy doubt about God’s existence, and existence itself, but I don’t really deal with that pressure as much anymore. I used to deal with terrible guilt about particular sins from the past (and I am referring to way past), and yet I have come to understand (in a relative modicum of course) the freedom that I have in Christ, and this would push me into reading the Bible and fellowshipping in certain ways; but, like I just said, I have genuinely come to a place where I can accept and receive God in Christ’s forgiveness, and so I don’t have this pressure on me anymore. Am I saying I have arrived? Not by a long shot! I am saying though that the things that used to motivate me have blossomed into something fruitful, and yet the by-product (reading a lot of theology) has become something that is almost meaningless to others, it seems, and so it is starting to “feel” meaningless to me (hard to explain what I am really trying to say here).

I love Jesus deeply; I love my family deeply; I have not arrived anywhere yet, but I do know that Jesus has arrived for me, and so I rest there. I guess all that I am saying in this post is that it is lonely; that growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ can start to feel really empty when you can’t share that in depth ways with others (and this because of the daily constraints of this busy and real life). I am trying to say that it becomes lonely growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ when the Christian sub-culture you are a part of, by and large, considers the way you are growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ as nothing more than a hobby. And I know that what others think shouldn’t really matter, but when growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, in many ways, is contingent upon fellowshipping with other live Christians, and most could really care less about growing in a “hobby-faith” (so labeled), it really does start to become a battle to keep going. But I will.

[Just remember that this is a personal blog, and so I am using it as such … as a personal blog where I reflect in honest ways, and as a place to vent through writing]

 

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11 Responses to It Can Be Lonely Growing in the Grace and Knowledge of Jesus

  1. dtkleven says:

    Praying that God would direct your paths into the fellowship that we all so desperately need!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Cal says:

    Hey Bobby,

    I understand what you mean. I’ve been in the same boat, not knowing exactly what to do with all that you’re reading. I’ve been blessed with a couple companions, and a loving woman, who listen and interact with what I say. I’ve been through short seasons of just reading with no vent but a blog!

    I find that people will be hungry for the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, but the challenge is figuring how to present. Church Fathers of all ages can “seem” abstract, and sadly that’s how many a theology course may seem. No, their warmth jumps off the pages despite clumsy and archaic English translations.

    Don’t be put down. It’s not a hobby.God is not the One, the Ultimate Concern, the Uncreate, the Static, but the Living Lord of Life. How can knowing His manifold wisdom, His holy commands, and, more plainly, Him, be a ‘hobby’?!

    Though we’re apart, I’m with ya in spirit. May the Lord keep you in His wings,
    cal

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Richard says:

    Be of good cheer Bobby you are not alone. God is preparing and army of believers like you steeped in the historical revelation of his truth for a day to come whether it be on this earth or at his appearing. We meet in a barn once a week to discuss the great theological themes of the Reformation and your blog is often read. We have been marginalized by the larger Christian community as egg heads who read too much but we have learned to disregard that and love them by sharing what we have learned in practical and devotional ways. I have grown and learned so much under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, and have seen the great benefit of it to my family, that I would never turn back or stop. Your not empty just half full. God is leading you in this and he will bless His efforts in you.

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  4. The “growth” happens insofar as the exclusive worship of the Creator frees the heart’s inclinations from distortion by a thousand lesser loves and several lurking idolatries. But since these lesser affections appear to hold together much of society, both civil and ecclesial, there is an asymmetry: with a heart wise in the Lord one can freely love others as they never could have been loved by a heart confused by intense distractions and godling pretenders, and yet, in their own condition of greater entanglement, the affection that these others feel does not reciprocate this love in the same way. Amid laughter all around, there is also this discontinuity.

    The way of the hermit– or of Jesus in the wilderness– is to embrace this discontinuity to struggle all the harder against temptations and for love. Hermits withdraw from all but those willing to climb rock to find them, but their lives are intercessory prayer for the world. Even for those not able to drop life’s responsibilities to live far from the world for the love of that world, there is a certain consolation in seeing this discontinuity, not as a burden, but as a mind-clearing vocation. St Jerome’s letters to Christian virgins navigating the dangerous intrigues of the imperial court began a long tradition.

    At the heart of that tradition, Christ transfigures the loneliness of thin or treacherous relationships into the riches of solitude. The apparent desolation is really the desert before the spring rains bring it to life. To use Richard’s apt metaphor, Christ half-empties the glass to half-fullness because he means to refill it to overflowing with something better. Those writing in that other tradition of sickbed devotion (eg John Donne, Todd Billings) have often found illness to be the moment of half-emptying that called them out of frivolity and deeper into God.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Steve says:

    As regards the theological interest of others (or lack thereof), my experience suggests that it may be a matter of gifting. While all should care, not all are called or gifted, to enter in to, let’s say, the deeper things – their gifts and callings lie elsewhere in their service to the church. The problem may also be the teaching that most sit under. Others have said it and I agree, if the shepherds don’t model a great love for deeper things, then the sheep won’t pursue them. For 13 years I was in a church where the pursuit of deeper things was everywhere, almost everyone seemed to care. Then things happened, as they do, and the church merged with a group with a more “modern” mindset and the love of learning quickly changed because the leadership approached things differently.
    Don’t lose heart, things can change tomorrow. I’m up the road, let’s get together (remember the books – send me an email). May the peace of the Lord Jesus be with your spirit.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Bobby Grow says:

    Hey everybody,

    Thanks for the good words of encouragement! I am probably not as bad as this post makes me sound, but I do have my moments; last night when I wrote this was certainly one of those moments. I have waned and flown like this over the years with theology; I see it as both spiritual warfare at points, and then in other ways I see it as God’s hand keeping things in perspective.

    Each of you has offered really encouraging words, and I appreciate them. I know that I am not the only one who goes through this, but it starts to feel that way sometimes, eh! Blessings on all of you, and thank you for your words, they are humbling!

    Wow, Richard, you guys meet in a barn?! This sounds like the early Christians meeting in the catacombs or something; cool! 🙂

    Steve, I haven’t forgotten about the books (and thank you!). I have stayed with the RR so my schedule is still out of whack. I will try to figure something out and be in touch with you.

    Blessings to you all.

    Like

  7. Bobby Grow says:

    And Bowman,

    I can relate with Billings’ cancer, believe you me; I just haven’t written a book about it 😉 .

    Like

  8. And yet, as we dive deeply into Him with all of our hearts, souls, MINDS, and strength – we are never alone. Since that is where we meet Him. Thanks for sharing Bobby. I read what you write and am listening. Just don’t always have much to say.

    Like

  9. Bobby Grow says:

    Craig,

    That’s kind’ve my point though; it isn’t for lack of virtual connections (which I appreciate 100%!!), it is for lack of live fellowship and engagement that way.

    Like

  10. Ivan says:

    As a layperson who has some interest in theology, I wish there were more people in my church who I can discuss theology with besides my pastor and a fellow layperson. I also feel that our bible studies approach the texts at a rather shallow level, sort of treating scripture as just an instruction book and not also as a narrative about Christ and what he has done for humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Bobby Grow says:

    Ivan,

    Thank you for sharing. I know there are many out there in the churches who would like more depth; I understand exactly what you are referring to. Keep at it brother!

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