When Jesus taught in the temple the Jews marveled, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” (John 7:15 ESV). Jesus responded:
“My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking from my own authority.” (ESV)
This is an extraordinary statement.
Some say that the Bible is the key for knowing what is from God. They tell us to just look to the scriptures. I look to it, but far from clarity I find paradox, mystery, and dissonance—along with beauty, majesty, and resonance. The scholars and religious leaders of Jesus’ time searched the scriptures, and mostly got it wrong. They found no mention of a prophet arising from Galilee. They found verses that said no one would know where the Christ came from, and that the Messiah would reign forever. They were confused even while the Word dwelt among them. What hope do we have of correct interpretation?
Others suggest we should just look to ourselves to know what is from God. We should follow our spirit; let our soul guide us. This feels to me like playing God—not a way of knowing. We possess the knowledge of good and evil, but we don’t have the wisdom in ourselves to reliably tell one from the other. Darin, in his blog Alien Nation tells of a church retreat he attended where the leader was referencing God's command in Joshua to destroy every man, woman, child and animal of Jericho. The retreat leader asked, “Is that the God we know and believe in? A God who would order genocide and destruction?” He answered his own question with, ”No, that's not God, God didn't say that.” I think statements like this are claiming the unclaimable. I believe that one of the attributes of God is love, but I also believe He is a consuming fire—we best fear Him rather than presume to know Him or judge His commands.
Jesus’ recipe for recognizing God’s teaching does not include wisdom, emotion, experience, consultation, or scripture. He tells us the key to knowing lies within us—not in our minds, but in the exercise of our will. The path to knowledge requires us to discount our knowledge, subvert our opinions, ignore our egos, and lay down the control of what we value most—our lives. Nothing is dearer to us than our wills. In exchange for that commitment: to will to do God’s will—God reveals Himself to us. And we will know what is from God.
Ironically, my proof text is from the Bible, and my assertion that this verse is a key one is from my knowledge/ego/spirit. There is no resting point. I have no choice but to orbit in these unstable ellipses.