As part of my new endeavor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, I’m taking a class called “Spiritual Formation for Ministry”. The course description starts out like this:
“For fruitful Christian ministry, it is vital both to know oneself and to know God.“
In order to accomplish the goal of “knowing oneself”, students in the course must take multiple, extensive self-assessments. These include personality tests, spiritual gifts surveys, and even a “cultural intelligence” assessment.
Now, if you’ve known me for long, you can likely guess that I’m a bit uncomfortable with these sorts of things. The cynic in me is tempted to write them off as unhelpful, inaccurate, or even a bit silly. Can I really come to “know myself” by answering 100 questions, and then being assigned four letters? I’ve been me for over 32 years; am I not already an expert on myself? Is this truly a good use of my time (and for that matter, tuition)?
Well, I’m happy to report that my cynicism was unwarranted. I really have learned some important things about myself already. And I’m hopeful that having a better grasp of my own mental, emotional, and even physical makeup – for good, or for ill – can make me a better husband, father, pastor, and Christian. I’d be willing to bet the same is true for you.
But whether or not you think personality tests, spiritual gifts surveys, and cultural intelligence assessments are the right way to accomplish it, the statement itself is sound: “For fruitful Christian ministry, it is vital to both know oneself and to know God.” Theologian John Calvin put it even more strongly: “Our wisdom, insofar as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”
Who are you? You could answer that question in countless ways.
But according to Scripture, you – whether you believe in Jesus, or not – are created in God’s image, with all the dignity and worth that contains. On top of that, you are a sinner, who – left to yourself – rebels against God, and deserves condemnation. But if you’re a Christian, Scripture also calls you a saint, who – justified by faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit – has been reconciled to God.
And who is God? Well, if everything I just said above is true, we already know an awful lot about who God is: he is gracious, generous, just, loving, and merciful (for starters).
There’s can be some real value in taking personality tests, spiritual gifts surveys, and cultural intelligence assessments. You could even go a step further and explore genealogy, digging deep into your family’s past history to discover more about why you are the way you are in the present. These may all have a place in our ongoing effort to better know ourselves.
But the most important things to know about yourself are revealed in God’s Word. You should crack it open sometime soon! And while you’re there, you can learn a lot about God too.