Back To School

Title: Back To School
Category: Devotion
Subject: Discipleship; Learning

Back To School

Dr. David E. Owen

Believe it or not, many students started back to school last week. Call me old-fashioned, but the first week of August … the first day of August … just seems too early to start back to school after summer vacation. Other school systems in the region will resume classes this week or next.

For me, starting back to school was always an experience of excitement mixed with fear. I remember my very first day of school. The public school system in Brevard, NC, where I was born and raised, didn’t offer a kindergarten program back then, but they had one at the First Baptist Church. So in 1973, my Mother drove me into town, walked me into the educational wing of the First Baptist Church in Brevard, introduced me to a lady that I had never seen before … and then abandoned me! Honestly, I still haven’t completely forgiven my Mother for putting me through such a traumatic incident.

The first day of subsequent school years proved to be less distressing. Although there was that one day at the beginning of first grade when we had a bomb threat at school, and we were dismissed early. Two friends and I missed the bus and started walking the four miles towards home. A policeman, who happened to be driving by, picked us up on the four-lane outside of town and kindly drove us to our respective houses. For some reason, my summarized account didn’t satisfy my Mother. So when I told her, “We had a bomb at school, and a policeman brought me home,” she kept asking for more details. I must have become quite brave by then, because that situation seemed at the time like more of an adventure than a trauma.

I graduated from Brevard High School over 26 years ago, spent several years in Bible college, and eventually earned a masters and a doctorate degree. But as I face various circumstances in life and ministry, I often feel like I’ve gone back to school. There are always lessons to be learned in our Christian lives. Sometimes, before we can be promoted to the next level, we have to complete a course in the school of prayer or some other spiritual discipline. You or I may be required to take a graduate level course in Practical Christian Living. Or maybe we’re forced to repeat a course and a lesson that we have previously failed.

In Matthew 11:29, Jesus made a statement that basically offered an open enrollment to come under His tutelage. He said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me” (or, ‘learn from me’). As you study this term “yoke,” you discover that it is a word that is suggestive, not only of serving, but also of schooling. The rabbis, or teachers, used this word to refer to the religious education that a young man might pursue. As John MacArthur said…

A student was often spoken of as being under the yoke of his teacher, and an ancient Jewish writing contains the advice: “Put your neck under the yoke and let your soul receive instruction.” That is the particular meaning Jesus seems to have had in mind here, because He adds, ‘and learn from Me.’

In John chapter 3, Nicodemus came to Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God” (John 3:2). And He is! In fact, Jesus is the greatest teacher that anyone could ever have. And the opportunity to be a student with Jesus as your teacher is not limited just to young men. Whatever your age or stage in life, you can learn from Jesus.

My wife once taught a Sunday school class of senior adult ladies, and one of them confidently told her, “You can’t teach us anything. We’ve already learned all that we’re going to learn.” With that confining, smug attitude, she was probably right. I would like to have responded with a paraphrase of the words of Buzz Lightyear to Woody in the first “Toy Story” movie when he said, “You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity.”

To be satisfied with our level of spiritual development, and thus stagnant, is a pitiable condition. As Christians, we never come to a point when we stop learning. I remember watching Dr. Jerry Falwell on television as he promoted Liberty University’s “School of Lifelong Learning.” Jesus Christ established such a school long before Jerry Falwell did. The Christian life is a school of lifelong learning.

Maybe you feel like you’ve already reached a spiritual plateau and graduated, so you’ve stopped learning. Perhaps, because you failed at some point, you simply dropped out. Child of God, there’s still so much to learn! The prospect of continuing your education spiritually (or even literally and academically) as a Christian may cause you to feel excited, or possibly fearful. But dear friend, don’t hesitate. It’s time to go Back to School!