3 Core Lessons for a Well-Rounded Spiritual Education
Getting a “good education” makes for a generally more fulfilling life, from finding better job prospects and higher wage earnings, to more interesting life experiences. It's a promise made by high school guidance counselors, parents, and recruiters everywhere, as a sort of secular “promised land” for ambitious, hard-working students.
Students seeking higher education commit considerable time, money and mental labor to follow a set learning path or “core curriculum,” one which is promised to take them to their desired goal of becoming different than they started. And even though success is not guaranteed, thousands of young men and women start this journey every year, because the rewards for success are undeniable.
What many people don't realize is that God also has a set learning path that we believers must take on the journey toward our own “promised land.” I’m not talking about a liberal arts education, but a season of preparation in the School of the Spirit which every believer eventually experiences. Our metaphorical promised land is not “flowing with milk and honey,” but rather, it is that place of God's divine blessing and favor created when His children learn to walk in His will.
And to get to that place we must make a sort of “exodus” from our sinful past, our personal Egypt, much like the Israelites did as they left bondage and walked into the sun-scorched desert. Like them, we must not make a partial or temporary break from our Egypt. As the Scripture says, “Come out from among them and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17). We must not be one of those people who claims to be a Christian on Sunday, but acts like an unbeliever the rest of the week.
What’s more, we do not have to meet any basic requirements beyond having our tuition paid by the blood of Christ! He provides all the study materials, classroom instruction and examinations we need to progress through our spiritual “core curriculum.”
Every Bible great has gotten credentialed there, which, in honor of Moses, one of its greatest alums, I refer to as “Desert University.” Fortunately, Moses' experience is recorded in Scripture (Exodus 2-3) and like a syllabus, can get us mentally prepared to succeed during our own time there. You likely know his story already.
Moses had a rough start in life. Born to Hebrew slaves in Egypt, he was supposed to be killed in an evil depopulation program against newborn Hebrew boys (Exodus 1:8-22). Moses' mother instead placed the baby in a makeshift raft on the Nile River and released him into God's hands. Long story short, baby Moses was rescued by Pharaoh's daughter and was thereafter raised and educated in Pharaoh's household.
Through the historical account of Josephus, we have reason to believe that Moses became a trusted, successful military leader in Egypt and was popular with the Egyptian people. Some commentators indicate he was also quite handsome. At 40 years old and the grandson of Pharaoh, Moses seemed set up to become the next ruler over Egypt with the power to do anything he pleased – including freeing the Hebrew slaves. But in one day, everything changed.
“Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion?" Then he said, "Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" So Moses feared and said, "Surely this thing is known!" (Exodus 2:11-14).
Moses let his anger toward the injustice direct his behavior, and he acted outside of his authority. Then he tried, unsuccessfully, to cover up his sin.
“When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well” (Exodus 2:15).
In other words – Moses fled from Egypt and enrolled at Desert University!
From the outside, the desert looks like a place where you can run away from your problems – a place of no influence, where you have little responsibility, cares or concerns. But in reality the desert is where God reshapes our mindsets and character so we can be sufficiently prepared to enter our promised land. So what can we expect to study there?
Audiology 101: Learning to Hear the Voice of God
Fast forward 40 years. Moses got married, had kids, and was tending sheep for his father-in-law.
“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.’ When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’ ‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground’” (Exodus 3:1-5).
The goal of Audiology 101 is to get our attention and cause us to listen to the voice of God. To this end, God has a whole host of ways of getting our attention:
The inner voice of the Holy Spirit.
This is God’s preferable way of getting our attention. It’s that little check on the inside that says, don’t do that! That’s not for you. It’s not My best, not My plan! It will lead you into trouble and will cost you dearly.
Or, it's that little green light in your heart that says, Go for it, that’s Me, that’s good, that’s My plan. That’s the way of My favor!
The counsel of loved ones.
These are close friends and family who have proven their love and loyalty over the years. At times God will use them to speak to us, especially when we are having a difficult time hearing God on our own.
The pain of negative circumstances.
It's not God's chosen way to get our attention, but it’s amazing how we can be so hard-hearted that God has to use the pain created by our poor choices to finally grab our attention. Perhaps C.S. Lewis said it best: “God whispers to us in our pleasures but shouts to us in our pain. It is his megaphone for rousing a deaf world.”
Through supernatural events.
That’s what He did for Moses with the burning bush. Possibly God was trying to speak to Moses for years before that, but Moses was simply not tuning in. Because of His great love, God used a miracle that Moses could not overlook, explain away, or ignore.
“When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called out to him” (Exodus 3:4).
Ultimately, you can’t hear God without taking a break from your routine; you must turn aside. You must decide to tune in to hear His voice, and tune out all the noise vying for that prime piece of real estate in between your two ears.
Theology 201: Developing Intimacy with God
“Then He said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground’” (Exodus 3:5).
There is a Jewish custom that teaches you must never touch anything holy with your skin; it’s considered disrespectful. Human skin is considered too unclean to touch something deemed “holy.”
For example, if you wanted to pass a copy of the Torah (the Old Testament Book of the Law), to another person, you must first cover it with a cloth, because your skin could not touch a holy book.
So why would God say to Moses, “Take your sandals off your feet”? Because God wanted Moses to recognize that this was an intimate moment with Him.
In the same way today, God doesn’t want to know us from afar; God wants to know us up close and personal. He wants to be a part of every aspect of our lives.
Therefore, take off your shoes, children of God! Stop putting distance between you and your Father. Take off the unclean shoes of sin, carnal flesh, destructive habits, and of every secluded part of your life, and develop intimacy with God.
Biblical Mathematics 301: Understanding Second Chances
“Moreover He said, ‘I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. And the Lord said: ‘I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt’” (Exodus 3:6-10).
Remember, this conversation was happening forty years after he committed murder and fled from the Egyptian palace to hide in the desert. In the midst of all that depression and regret, God did something supernatural to make Himself known to Moses. And He said in essence, I still have a plan for your life. I'm giving you another chance to be your people's deliverer... because I am the God of another chance!
Friends, sin may have exiled you. The devil may have disregarded you. Your friends may have forgotten about you. You may have even given up on yourself! But God still believes in you, and He is the God of another chance.
“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ So He said, ‘I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain’” (Exodus 3:11-12).
Who are you? I created you to be the best guy for the job, Moses!
But what was even more important to see here is that God responds by saying, in essence, it’s really not about you, Moses, it’s about Me! My resources are unlimited, My power undeniable. Moses, this ain’t about you, so in order for you to do what I’ve created you to do, you must get over your past and lean on Me!
Like Moses, our time spent in this School of the Spirit is intended to change and transform us by teaching us to hear God's voice, developing intimacy with Him, and moving beyond reliance on our own capabilities. Remember, no matter what has happened in the past, no matter what you think has disqualified you, God's will and plan for the future does not change.
So today, if you find yourself in a spiritual wilderness hiding from past mistakes, be encouraged! You've simply been enrolled in Desert University and classes are beginning soon!
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Nazareth Man
Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.