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FIRST-PERSON: 3 Rs in academics & faith

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–This time of year means that millions of children, teenagers and young adults are beginning another school year in America. No more lazy mornings of sleeping late. No more afternoons by the pool. No more vacation journeys to the beach — at least for a little while. As students return to their desks and teachers to their lecterns, one of the greatest American enterprises is now in full swing — education.

For some, this means kindergarten or first grade — the first step in the adventure of formal education. Yellow school buses filled with backpack-laden children are ongoing reminders of the young people who attend school in our country. Many have completed their secondary education requirements and are headed to college. These initial weeks on the college campus are full of enthusiasm and potential as the prospects of students’ futures shine brightly on the dawning horizon.

Regardless of the type of educational institution, “back to school” always means that the three Rs — readin’, ritin’ and ‘rithmetic — are again on the minds of many. These three components make up the essential foundation upon which education is built. And while many students have moved beyond the learning of basic elements like phonics, grammar and mathematics, the three Rs serve as the building blocks upon which any further learning is constructed. Even those in post-graduate studies, while not rehearsing subject-verb agreements or multiplication tables, unconsciously utilize these elementary essentials in the course of their higher educational pursuits.

As in education, there are three Rs that serve as the underpinnings of Christian living. Whether a new convert or a seasoned believer, walking with God involves the ongoing exchange between revelation, recognition and response. A survey of God’s working throughout Scripture reveals these principles to be the foundational modus operandi that He uses among His people.

Moses was 80 years old when he received God’s revelation through the burning bush at the bottom of Mt. Horeb. Moses recognized God’s revelation, and the rest of his life was the response to that revelation. God revealed Himself to Isaiah in the year of Uzziah’s death through the powerful vision recorded in Isaiah 6. Isaiah recognized God’s revelation and responded by accepting God’s call to the prophetic office.

The late night boat journey of the disciples in Matthew 14 also reveals the three Rs of God’s working. Although they supposed Jesus to be a ghost at first, He revealed His identity to the disciples while walking on the water. Upon His revelation, the disciples’ fears were calmed as they recognized Him for who He was. Jesus then got in the boat, and the disciples responded by worshiping Him saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Verse 33) God knocked Saul to his knees as he revealed himself on the Damascus road. With blinded eyes, Saul became an apostle, Paul, who recognized Jesus as the Son of God. His missionary journeys and the letters that now make up much of the New Testament are overwhelming evidences of his life-changing response to God’s revelation to him.

Some, however, did not respond so positively to God’s revelation. Adam and Eve recognized God’s revelation but responded in disobedience (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:6-7). Jonah received God’s revelation but responded by literally running from Him. The Rich Young Ruler met Jesus face to face. He seemed to recognize Him as the Christ, but in the end “went away sad” (Matthew 19:22).

Just as readin’, ritin’ and ‘rithmetic are foundational to education, revelation, recognition and response are the basic components which undergird and serve as the framework for the life lived unto God. The Christian life begins with the initial response to God’s work of salvation through the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. It continues through the ongoing series of responses to God’s revelation as seen in His Word and confirmed by His Spirit. And it will conclude as believers stand around the throne of God responding eternally, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10b).

Indeed, “all things were created by Him and for Him” and “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Colossians 1:16b, Proverbs 1:7). Education takes place when these truths are the bedrock of all leaning. As students return this fall to the rigors of ‘readin, ‘ritin, and ‘rithmetic, pray that they might recognize God through all their learning and be led to respond to Him in faith — all to the glory of God.
Todd E. Brady is minister to the university at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

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  • Todd Brady