2000-02-03 - New Thinking
The Leadership Series, Part 3
Phil 3:8-9 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have put aside all else, counting it worth less than nothing, in order that I can have Christ, 9 and become one with him, no longer counting on being saved by being good enough or by obeying God's laws, but by trusting Christ to save me; for God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith-counting on Christ alone. (TLB)
Paul had been studying Judaism since he was very young, growing up in the wealthy city of Tarsus. His father was a Pharisee, which permitted Paul direct access to a vast world of resources. He was steeped in the knowledge and understanding of the best teachers. He spent his time thinking and striving to understand the deeper thinking of Hillel and Gamaliel. He was intimately familiar with the Torah and Talmud. He was a scholar of scholars until he reached the point where he became one of the respected Doctors of the Law. He became a Pharisee like his father before him.
Paul was a zealous debater, even after his conversion. He won many debates discussing Jesus and the resurrection with his fellow Jews. It is interesting to note that there is no record of any of those debates resulting in a change of heart to salvation. He may have won their minds, but lost their hearts in debate. His presentation of the gospel during his many journeys proved to be far more blessed as the Spirit marched before Paul, preparing the way. But the focus of his debate shifted so radically from his days as a defender of the Jewish faith to his heartfelt presentation of the life, death and resurrection of the Lord, few would have believed such a total change in thinking would be possible.
Here Paul makes one of his more emphatic declarations. He declares his learning and position to be 'less than nothing'. All the years spent studying, thinking and listening, Paul considered lost time. What he has done is come to a totally different way of thinking and viewing the world. He put aside all of his vast experiences and scholastic efforts, the hours spent in the complexities of the Talmud, and exchanged them for the simple understanding that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah. Nothing else mattered to Him. This one truth became the focus of his view of the world. It was the lens through which every detail was viewed, and the measure against which everything was tried. The complexities of the world of the Pharisee were traded for the simple truth that God so loved the world that Jesus came to save us.
What had caused this radical change in such a leader of men? He had met the Truth, the single source of all truth in the risen Jesus Christ on the road outside Damascus. He had been on the way to arrest more Christians, to return them to Jerusalem for trial and execution. They were to be charged with polluting the purity of Judaism with this heresy that Jesus was Who He had claimed to be. And yet, when this giant of a man was driven to his knees before the Lord, his mind was changed in a matter of seconds. The next few days must have made his head spin as the hunter became the hunted, and those he had persecuted came to his aid.
At some point in our lives, we must all stare the truth in the face. We have three choices. We can refuse it, dismiss it for a later time, or accept it. If a leader, or anyone really, is not honest with himself, it it will be evident quickly. If the thinking of a leader is built on weak ideas or shifting opinions, his plans and ideas will crumble at the first tremor of trouble. And even though Paul was firm and established in his convictions, once he was confronted with irrefutable evidence to the contrary, he quickly left the failed logic for the lifeboat of this new thinking. He became able to give a reason to anyone at any time for the joy in his life and the faith that he held in his heart. The focus of his life was one simple truth, and everything else was connected to that truth or discarded with his old life.
Can we say the same things about ourselves and the people we hold up as leaders? Can we boil away the theology and the thought patterns and find Jesus Christ at the center of their thinking? We are all human and there will be some degree of variation, but the central core should be a simple, powerful thought. One of the more liberal theologians of our day was asked what was the most powerful or impressive thought he had ever had. His answer was astoundingly simple, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so." I may not have agreed with all the surrounding ideas this man held, but I think we could have talked at length. At the end of the day, the most important, most centrally-held point was Jesus and his love and salvation.
What's at the core of your thinking?
Lord Jesus - help us to cast aside every other burden that slows us down or holds us back. Teach us to boil things down to their simplest form and what matters most. Amen.
Grace & Peace,