A key part of learning is the understanding of what we need to unlearn. Unless we know that part, we will have conflict between our knowledge of God and our capacity to trust Him.
In John 3:1-12 is the story of the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews. Pharisees were set in their ways, thinking and interpretation of scripture. They thought that because of their studying, they knew everything there was to be known. That may be true in academic circles but all true theologians know that Truth is a person and relationship with Him alone defines what we are to believe.
Nicodemus needed to unlearn some thinking and assumptions that were now being challenged by Presence. Identifying what we are unlearning sets us up to learn differently and more powerfully. It interrupts the work of religion/legalism that can corrode faith and relationship.
Learning starts with seeing (through a new lens) who God is for us and therefore who we are becoming in Him.
Words like “see” and “behold” are vital to our experience of God. What we see shapes how we think, and creates a new mindset (Romans 12:2). What we think about God is the most important thing in the world. We cannot be transformed unless we engage with His thinking. When our mind is renewed, our language must be upgraded in confession, declaration and proclamation. Language grows as it moves from encounter to prayer and into worship.
Prayer changes from a need and problem base to one of identity and outcome focus. With Christ-like thinking, problems can now become possibilities in our thanksgiving. He makes all things possible!
God asks critical questions to empower us to unlearn and learn anew.
To Nicodemus He asked, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?”
If the Truth has not set us free, then somewhere a lie is binding us. We become double minded until we are set free. Often, it is something that we believe about ourselves but God does not share that belief. We think that if something is true about our behavior then it is the Truth about who we are in life. When we constantly go back to our past life for evidence of who we are we can never grow up in Jesus.
The Truth is…”that the old man is dead and I am a new creation in Christ, all things old have passed away. Behold (see with a new lens!) all things have become new” (Romans 6:11 & 2 Corinthians 5:17-18).
If people are stuck, it is often because they have not unlearned. The Jewish believers had to unlearn the practices of Judaism in order to have a completely different experience of God. They had to unlearn the interpretation of Scripture that they had sat under all their life. Jesus came saying, “You have heard it said but now I say to you.” He used that thought five times in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21, 27, 33, 38, 43).
Unlearning occurs when we engage with God in questions that challenge our relationship with Him regarding fullness of truth and favor.
Are we asking the best questions? In unlearning, have we discarded and formally rejected the lie that bound us, or the low level truth that cannot empower us? Are we fully embracing this revelation about our new man in Christ? What is changing in our freedom? What new lens, thoughts and language are now possible?
Unlearning is exciting. It’s the first phase of coming into alignment with God in that particular area of our life.
Transformation comes by the renewing of our mind so that we may prove the will of God for us. Religion and legalism especially, use worldly thinking to interpret truth. We cannot conform to that or it will ruin us.
The Pharisees baited Jesus at every opportunity with what they thought they knew. He told them to go and learn. (Matthew 9:13) He said, “You search the scriptures because you think…and you are unwilling to come to Me so that…(John 5:39-40). He invited people to learn form Him (Matthew 11:28-30). He came from Heaven to teach us how to live from Heaven here on earth. That requires some specific unlearning. He quoted (Isaiah 54:13) “They shall be taught of God” (John 6:45).
Paul followed that same process (Philippians 4:9-13). He had once been a Pharisee of the Pharisees, a judgmental, murderous man who did unspeakable things in the name of God…until he met Him. The unlearning in his life was huge. To come from a background of zealous judgment to become the apostle of Grace is a huge journey. It’s an amazing story of learning a new way of seeing, thinking and speaking.
We are all on a similar journey. What is some unlearning you’ve already gone through in your own life? What things that you once thought you “knew” have turned out to be things you needed to discard?
As ever, I’m hugely interested in your thoughts on this journey we all share.
P.S. For a bit of guidance on this unlearning process, be sure to pick up your copies of The Wisdom Series. These books serve as a day by day guide to realigning to the thoughts of heaven. And they happen to be on sale now, as well. Learn more here!