Transformation Through Academics – Brendon Norton
I remember when I was at Northpoint, every so often a well-meaning pastor or student would remind me not to lose my spiritual fervor in the midst of studying and doing “academic” things. It was always a statement that struck me as odd. “I am here studying the Bible and learning about God, how is that going to harm me spiritually?” The problem is this advice makes investing in the mind out to be a bad thing, different from and dangerous to our walk with God. Instead we should understand that the life of the mind is essential in loving God and becoming more like Christ!
The Bible speaks in many different places about the role of the mind in our walk with God. The greatest command in the Bible is to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37). God commands us to use your minds to love Him. The use of the mind then is not dangerous to our relationship with God, but is actually one of the greatest ways that we love God!
And how do our minds help us to be like Christ? Romans 12:2a says, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (NIV). In this entire chapter, until the end of the letter, Paul is telling the Romans what a Christian life, one that is transformed to be more like Christ, should look like.
How does this happen? By the renewing of our mind. Now we don’t practice eastern meditation where the goal is to empty one’s mind, but rather we fill it. We fill it with the Word (studying the Bible), and with learning about who God is (theology). In short, we change by learning, ant at Northpoint you have an incredible opportunity to learn!
When I was a student some of my greatest moments of transformation came through writing exegesis papers. In Prophetical books with Brother Ricci, I wrote on Habakkuk 2:1-4, on the theology of faith. That particular semester I was going through a serious emotional and health related issue which caused me to become depressed and anxious. However, in the process of writing my paper, I started to see that a life of faith trusts God and waits patiently for Him to act, because He assuredly would. For Habakkuk he had to wait to understand God’s plan to use Babylon to destroy Judah, while I had to patiently wait for God to come through and help me in my distress. Habakkuk trusted in the promises of God to be faithful to Israel even as He disciplined them, and I had to trust the promises of God even though I did not know why I had to go through a painful situation. That insight steadied my faith that entire semester and still keeps me strong today. And you know what, it came through writing an exegesis paper! God’s transformation of my life came through application of my mind to His Word with beautiful results! This is what He wants to do for you too! He wants to show His love and change your life as you use your mind for His glory!
Don’t look at your textbook reading, or papers, or lectures as somehow unrelated, or worse harmful, to your growth as a Christian. Quite the opposite! These are the means God has given you in this season of life to become more like Him and to love Him more deeply.