*Posted by Winston Hottman
Today marks the first day of classes at Criswell College. I remember the excitement on my first day as I began work on my master’s degree, looking forward to diving into the scriptures, wrangling with the original languages, wrestling through theological questions, and engaging in some healthy discussion and debate with fellow students and professors.
And Criswell has not disappointed. If you’re looking for academic rigor and intense study, this college is a place where you can be challenged. At Criswell, you’ll get the scriptures, you’ll get the languages, you’ll get theological questions, and you’ll definitely get the discussion and debate (healthy for the most part).
But somewhere along the way I realized I lost something else, something more important. I lost my zeal. I lost the passion and fervency for the church and for evangelism that I had when I first came to the college. I also lost the passion for personal devotion and holiness.
Now, it wasn’t the school’s fault. I can blame no one but myself. Because if you’re looking for devotion to the church and its mission and if you’re looking for great examples of personal holiness, you’ll find those at Criswell too.
No, the problem was with my own heart. I had lost focus. At some point in my time at the school my studies became about making good grades on tests and writing impressive papers. It became about winning arguments and not learning from them. It became about accumulating more and more knowledge about the Bible and related studies so that…well, that was the problem, I had forgotten the reason for it all. Academics became the goal rather than loving God and others appropriately.
But in His grace, God did not allow me to continue down that path. Through various circumstances and key individuals, God began exposing the hollowness of my heart and activities and began to renew in me a love for Him and other people in my academic work.
I say all this because today is the first taste of Bible college and seminary for many here at Criswell. And for some of these new students, their experiences will be similar to mine. I want to share one of the things that God used to begin changing me. It was a prayer by Trevin Wax, a prayer that he wrote during his time in seminary. Whether you’re a freshman or an upperclassman in Bible college or seminary, I hope that this resonates with you in your experience as it did in mine:
Savior and King,
I find it so easy to revel in knowledge for knowledge’s sake,
avoiding the goal of instruction: to learn love.
A puffed-up mind may be able to hide an impure heart,
an aching conscience
or insincere motives from others,
but before you, all is laid bare.
The purpose of my training is to grow in love and faithfulness,
purity and authenticity.
Help me, O Lord, to keep in mind your purposes
for the instruction I receive.
I pray that when I leave here,
my love will have grown,
many sinful habits will have been left behind,
and any insincere motivations or spiritual facade will have been shattered.
May you work in my heart to draw me closer to yourself.
Help me to love, O Lord.
Give me a heart that breaks
for those held in the chains of sin.
Clear my conscience
and authenticate my faith.
May the knowledge I obtain be for your glory
and for the growth of your love in my all-too-hardened heart.
And help conform me to the image of Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.