Have you ever met a smartypants adolescent whose answer to everything you say is “I know”—when obviously, they don’t? The attitude comes with rolled eyes, big sighs, and pure disdain for all other points of view... especially a grown-up’s! As DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince once observed, “There's no need to argue / Parents just don't understand.” Oh, really?
In fact, the “know-it-all” phase is such a mark of early development, it’s produced a cliché of parenting experience. As wisdom tells us, kids spend years constantly asking, “Why?” and expecting parents to have the answers... til suddenly, one day, kids are teenagers, and everything their parents say is “stupid” and “embarrassing.” But don’t worry, parents—when your kids are about 26, you’ll start to know a thing or two again. ;)
What’s with the know-it-all-ness? Well, as children grow into different stages of life, they gain new information and skills, which brings a sense of esteem and self-identity. When demonstrating what they’ve learned, kids experience feelings of value. (And parents experience prayers for patience every time a kid insists, “I can do it MYSELF!”)
So showing off how much one knows is a normal part of development. But it can get pretty annoying when kids think they know everything—or when they refuse correction. It’s even more annoying when kids carry that attitude into later life. (Any adults you know coming to mind right now?)
Immaturity of this kind is easy to spot. Kids aren’t the only ones to assume they’ve seen everything under the sun—and the consequences of immature reactions become more serious over time. As Proverbs 16:18 observes, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (NIV)
How often do husbands, wives, friends, family members, or you yourself express some version of the following?
I know what I’m doing.
I know where I’m going.
I know what’ll happen.
I know what I want.
I know better than you.
How often do we say these things while we’re making errors in judgment? Somehow, being told, “You need to grow up!” doesn’t seem to make us more mature.
So what does it mean to “grow up” in faith? Jesus extends an invitation for us to trust beyond what we think we know—to come, follow, and find all He has in store. In other words, Jesus calls us to obey first, understand later.
Our “Grown-Up Faith” series began with an invitation to a “bigger” life. This invitation is drawn from John 10, where Jesus speaks of life “to the full.”
Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:7-10)
These are verses many Christians have heard before. We might read right past what Jesus is saying without a second thought. But then someone asks, “Why?” Suddenly, we wonder… do we have the answers? Perhaps we’re facing hard questions of our own and can’t get past what’s right in front of us.
To see the bigger picture Jesus is describing, it usually takes more than a verse or two. Would you ever pull one sentence out of a novel and assume you know what the book is about? Good study habits keep us asking questions of each passage. What do we think we know? How much don’t we know yet? What else should we consider?
I mean, what does a Bible passage about sheep have to do with the idea of immature, know-it-all kids? What do either of the analogies mean for you and your faith as a Christian?
These are great questions to ask, as we consider the “big picture” of God’s Word—and how seemingly unrelated ideas can help us connect the dots.
Reading John 10, we hear Jesus speaking of Himself as the “gate for the sheep” (v. 7) and the “good shepherd” (v. 11). What’s He getting at? Those who come to God through Him are His sheep, we’re told—those He has saved. Jesus is the way in and the One devoted to their wellbeing. As the good shepherd, He cares for His sheep, and through Him, they “find pasture” (v. 9).
There’s a thought. What does pasture look like? Wide open spaces, rolling hills, acres of greenery... imagine leaving a sheep pen and finding yourself in that place! In the next sentence, Jesus is talking about providing “life… to the full.” Read those verses again.
I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:9-10)
What do sheep know about life? Well, in this picture, they know Jesus. With Jesus as their Good Shepherd, His sheep have a life they wouldn’t experience without Him. Through Christ, the sheep find pasture—lush places where they can be fed and enjoy. Without Jesus caring for them and guiding them into good places, the sheep wouldn’t know there was pasture, much less where to find it.
Imagine yourself as one of those sheep Jesus is describing. How many of us think we’ll come up with our own way to get where we’re going?
The thing is, sheep don’t know what’s best for them. Left to their own devices, sheep are actually quite destructive creatures. They just react to what’s happening around them. Often, we humans live the same way. We don’t know what we don’t know. We often can’t see beyond what’s right in front of us.
But Jesus shepherds us into more—into the unknown, and the unknowable. He knows where to find pasture. He knows where we will experience life that is fuller and bigger than we’d ever dream on our own.
Hebrews 6:1 says, “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…” We can’t fathom what maturity will mean for us, as long as we are yet immature. Actually, a pretty immature assumption is to think we’re mature enough already!
Have we submitted our mind, heart, and will to the care and leading of Jesus Christ, letting Him guide us into better places? Or are we wandering according to our own impulses, wondering why we keep ending up in the same spots?
Christian maturity is what we’re referring to this fall as “Grown-Up Faith.” We don’t grow up overnight. Maturation is a process. It takes time. Day after day, step by step, we accept Jesus’ invitation to a place we know not where… following Him into new meaning we can’t comprehend, experiencing a life bigger than we could imagine.
To grow up, the mind requires biblical knowledge, the heart requires spiritual intimacy, and the will requires holy obedience, as we come to see the bigger picture God has revealed to us. Sometimes, the simplest way to learn is in James 1:22—“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
So when Jesus says, “Come, follow Me,” do we roll our eyes and say, “I know”—or do we get up and actually go?