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Jonathan Winn

The engine light.  Its presence, when lit up on the dashboard of my car, almost instantly causes my stomach to churn and my blood pressure to rise.  When that light goes on nine times out of ten it’s a problem, and that problem means time, money, and hassle.  I want so badly to ignore it, to pretend it will just go away on its own, but it’s only a matter of time before my wife or children see it and ask, “What are you going to do about it?”

Keeping our vehicles in good shape is a necessity.  They are expensive, and they are necessary in our busy lives that require us to travel several miles every day.  A broken-down vehicle places us in an interesting dilemma- we may not be able to afford to fix it, but we also can’t afford to live without it!

Proper maintenance of a vehicle requires discernment in recognizing the signs of an internal problem.  Generally speaking, there are three ways we know there’s a problem.  First, we might see the problem, as in noticing the engine or other dashboard warning light come on.  We might see smoke coming from the hood, or a flat tire.  Second, we might hear something.  It might be a rattling noise when driving, or a squeal when starting the engine.  Third, we might feel something. We start feeling more bumps or shaking while driving and wonder about the suspension or shocks.

Being vigilant about the condition of our vehicle is important, but how much more infinitely important is vigilance over the condition of our souls?  If the stakes are high for ignoring the warning signs of a problem with a vehicle which will inevitably be replaced, how much infinitely higher are the stakes for ignoring the warning signs of a problem with our souls?

This brings us to the relevance of our theme at Oak Grove for the 22-23 school year: “Keep your Heart with all Vigilance.”  This theme comes from Proverbs 4:23, and the full verse provides further clarity: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”  The word “heart” here translated from the original Hebrew word לֵב (pronounced like “lave”) refers to the inner man, the soul, the seat of appetites, emotions, passions, the will, the character.  Clearly, it is the source, the fountainhead, from which everything about who we are and what we do, flows.

The Lord Jesus Christ expands on this insight when speaking to his audience about discerning who is a true servant of God:

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:33-34, ESV)

Jesus uses the metaphor of the produce from a fruit tree to explain how to recognize the condition of the heart.  Like a tree, you can discern the condition and health of a heart by the quality of what it produces.

Circling back to the vehicle metaphor, I believe that in Jesus’ teachings and throughout Scripture we are given clues for discerning the heart (the condition of our souls) from what we see (our actions), what we hear (our words), and what we feel (our emotions).

For the next three articles, we will take some time to carefully consider each of these clues.  Certainly, we cannot afford to ignore these indicators for the condition of our hearts.  There’s much more at stake than a broken car- there’s an eternal soul.

Jonathan Winn

“Who is God?”  “What is God like?” Have you ever been asked this question by your child?  How about a friend or acquaintance? How would you answer it?  Consider, this is probably the most loaded question anyone could ever ask!  Indeed, how you answer this question reveals the foundation for how you would answer (and see) everything else. Pastor and theologian AW Tozer put it this way: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. ... the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.”

People will answer the question, “Who is God?” in a variety of ways.  For example, some envision God as a vindictive judge, while others see Him as a jolly grandpa or Santa Claus figure.  Sadly, many who perceive God in this way are merely grasping at straws, basing their definitions on their subjective ideas, experiences, or the opinions of others.  How dangerous it is to be fickle or uncertain in answering this most important question of life! To answer such weighty questions, we must not begin with subjective opinions, but with the most objective and authoritative source possible.  In this case, it would be God’s revelation of Himself- in the Bible.

Now, as we ponder our theme: “The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom” we are led to another important question about God- “What does it mean to ‘fear the Lord’?”  As with defining who God is, before one just starts asking for opinions on this, we must start with the most authoritative source, the Bible.  Therefore, is this concept “the fear of the Lord” defined, or illustrated, in the Bible?  Let’s see.

The exact phrase “the fear of the Lord” comes up dozens of times in the Bible, but the concept of fearing God hundreds of times.  For the sake of clarity, we will look primarily at where the specific wording can be found and see if we can derive a definition grounded in Scripture.

Hatred of Evil

Proverbs 8:13 “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”  This is a straightforward definition.  The person who fears the Lord despises what God despises- evil, pride, arrogance, perverted speech, etc.  If you tolerate or handle sin casually, you don’t fear the Lord.

Humility and Softness of Heart

Proverbs 28:14: “Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” Proverbs 22:4 “Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.” Again, this is very clear and straightforward- the one who fears the Lord has a high view of God and a lower, subservient view of self.  Fearing God is contrasted with having a hardened or proud heart.  It should be noted that Biblical humility doesn’t mean a debased, inferior view of self in comparison to others, but in comparison to God.  We will revisit this critical virtue of humility in a later post.

Expressed by Obedience

Deuteronomy 10:12-13: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?”  Psalm 112:1: “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!” One who fears the Lord demonstrates reverence for His word and thus His commands.  This person holds God’s words and instructions in high esteem, and their life reflects it in obedient action.

Expressed in Love and Enjoyment of God

Nehemiah 1:11: “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who delight to fear Your name.” 1 John 4:18: “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because He first loved us.” Those who know the Lord realize that He is good and full of lovingkindness.  The practice of reverencing Him leads to delight, for one then beholds the goodness and love of God.

Having said all of this, one may still ask, “Why use the word, ‘fear’?  Why not say the ‘love’ of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom?” Many have contemplated this, and I would venture to say that the ‘fear,’ not ‘love,’ of God is the necessary starting point for grasping more completely who He is.  To understand the enormity of God’s love and goodness, we first need to see those qualities in light of His holiness, and our sin.  Paul put it this way in Romans 5:8: “but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s love is most manifested, and thus celebrated, in light of His sacrifice for undeserving sinners.

In conclusion and to further illustrate this point, I invite you to contemplate this helpful illustration from Pastor John Piper:

“I picture myself climbing in the mountains, say the Himalayas. And I’m on these massive rock faces, and I see a storm coming. It is going to be a massive storm, and I feel unbelievably vulnerable on these mountain precipices. And so, I am desperately looking for a little covert in the rock where I won’t be blown off the side of the cliff to destruction. And I find a hole in the side of the mountain, and I spin quickly, and suddenly the holiness, and justice, and power, and wrath, and judgment of God breaks over me like a hurricane, but I know I am totally safe, which means all that horrible danger is transposed into the music of majesty, and I can enjoy it rather than fearing it. And I think that is what the cross is. Jesus died for us to provide a place where we could enjoy the majesty of God with a kind of fear and trembling and reverence and awe, but not a cowering fear.”

In summary, the ‘fear of the Lord’ is cultivated in one’s life to the degree that they behold the awesome splendor of God’s holiness and power, followed by the magnitude of His love and grace, revealed most clearly in the saving work of Jesus Christ.

In the next article, we will see how this understanding of God lays the foundation for all learning and wisdom.

Archived Posts



June 05, 2023
By Headmaster Jonathan Winn

Jonathan Winn

AUG 21, 2020

“Be Careful How You Build”

An Introduction to the Theme for OGCA 2020-21

Jonathan Winn, Headmaster

August 20, 2020

When was the last time you built something?  What was it you built?  For many of us, this past spring and summer provided more opportunities than ever for home renovations and projects- and this may have included building, or rebuilding, something.  Maybe it was a new partition in a room, a garden or landscape feature, a doll house, or if you’re me, some new shelves in your garage.

Have you ever considered that all of us are builders-that we are always building something, whether we realize it or not?  Carpenters, craftsmen, and woodworkers aside, there are other building projects than those which are physical and tactile.  For example, the family is the first and prominent place in which trust, faith, hope and love are built.  Along with the home, the school becomes a place for the building of ideas, knowledge, skills, and most importantly, virtue.

This brings me to my question for us all: What are we building right now?  What are we building in ourselves?  What are we building in our homes? In our children?

To help think on this further, I propose a review of several components, or phases, in any building project that is done well.  For the sake of brevity and depth of thinking, let’s look at one at a time.  Here’s the first and critical starting point: vision.


Every successful building endeavor first requires a clear vision of what is to be built.  This vision may be derived from a tangible model or template to imitate (like my garage shelves), or something more deep and profound, perhaps from our imagination.  Whatever the case, the more significant your building project, the more important it becomes that your vision is grounded in truth, not opinions.  For example, imagine with me what would happen if civil engineers were to construct bridges based on popular opinions or feelings, rather than solid mathematical algorithms and laws of physics?

More seriously, consider the building, or “development” (a helpful synonym in this case) of a person, starting with a child.  Do you have a clear vision of what that person should look like?  If you do, is your vision based on the opinions of others, the values of contemporary society, the feelings of the moment…or on unchanging, rock solid truth?

Now, where do we go to find reliable, immovable truth? The only eternal truth that is unchanging is God’s Word, revealed to us in the Bible, as it is based on the unchanging nature of God Himself. (If you as a reader are skeptical or curious about this claim, I would gladly refer you to this website for a helpful starting point.) We are often reminded in Scripture of the firmness and immutability of God and His Word.  For example, in Psalm 119:89: “Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” Also, we can see Jesus directly affirming the truth of God’s Word as He prays to God the Father: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth,” (John 17:17).

In considering a vision for our children in education, philosopher Desiderius Erasmus once said, “Moral education is impossible apart from the habitual vision of greatness” (emphasis added).

The “habitual vision of greatness” captures well what classical education has always sought as the goal- for the teacher to embody and for the students to ponder, in all learning and instruction, the seeking of that which is ultimately True, Good, and Beautiful.  Classical educators also call this the pursuit of the “Ideal Type,” partially and imperfectly seen in the characters in history and classical literature, and now clearly and fully revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ. In his letter to the church in Colosse, the Apostle Paul writes, “And he [Jesus] is before all things, and in him all things hold together… For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…” (Colossians 1:17, 19).

In conclusion, let us ponder:  What are we building, right now?  What is our vision for our lives and how is that manifest to our children?  What is our vision for our family and children, and where does it come from? Is our vision grounded in ultimate truth?

The vision for our children, and truly our entire community here at Oak Grove Classical Academy is this: “Learn for Life, Live for Christ.”  It is a vision which our founders before and staff today have contemplated deeply as grounded in the principles of God’s eternal Word.  Over the next several periodicals we will dive more deeply into this vision as we consider this profound building project that is before us.