How I Began to Take Solid Food
1997 and 1998 were two crucial years in my life. Prior to 1997, I was a decent student who enjoyed music and felt at home in Christian circles. But I had not developed a sense of spiritual strength. My beliefs about God and the patterns of my life were determined by the environment and people around me. I assimilated and imitated that which I perceived.
I had already accepted that I was a sinner, I had repented from my sin, I believed in Jesus’ death for sins and resurrection, but I was apathetic and ignorant about the next step. There were four stages of change that the Lord used to make me a proactive Christian.
In the Summer of 1997, I participated in a weeklong program at Lakeside Bible Camp called “Junior TCL”. During this week, we studied the Bible and talked about how we would practice it during the rest of the day. The passage of the week was Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” To apply this, our leaders, Steve and Craig, told us over and over that this meant we need to honor Christ even “in the little things” of life. We also learned that 2 Corinthians 2:10 taught that the things we did in this life would be evaluated and rewarded at the throne of Christ after we died. This meant we should examine every part of our lives to see that it is lived for Christ. I had never thought about this or lived this way before. But I couldn’t argue with it. So that week, I started to try to live how I perceived Christ would want me to live.
In the Fall of that year, I joined a small group for the first time. In prior years, I had chosen to play video games when I wasn’t doing homework, sports, or music. In many ways, video games had become an addiction for me that stopped me from going on mission trips, joining a small group, or having deep relationships with other people. It stopped me from maturing as a Christian.
What made the difference? My youth pastor, Brian, called me and asked if I would join his small group. There was something about the way he asked that made me feel important. It wasn’t just “something I should do”; my being there mattered to him. So I had to attend. As we studied the book of James that year, I began to grasp something I started to learn at TCL: the Bible contains everything I need to know about God and to live for Jesus. I didn’t have to depend on other people to assimilate those things. I could go directly to his word and learn.
That year I learned to live and think for Christ.
1998 helped to complete my early spiritual growth: I learned that I could understand the Bible to the point where I could teach it.
My brother, Wescott, had entered his first year at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA. Every month, his college would send us tapes of its chapel sermons. I will never forget one of the tapes, “Eternal Security”, by John MacArthur, on Romans 8:28-30. Unlike the 15-20 minute sermons I heard at church, MacArthur spoke over 45 minutes, showing how this passage taught that once you are genuinely saved, you can’t lose your salvation because God is working all of your life for your good and his glory. He not only explained the passage, he quoted many other verses which supported his description of the passage. As I listened, I realized that he saw the entire Bible as a cohesive, unified, harmonious message. The verses we study can be understood and further defined by other verses in the Bible.
As I heard it, I sat in front of the tape player spell-bound. Up till that point, I had always thought that a sermon was a mysterious amalgamation of the preacher’s experiences, education, and intuition as he would reflect on a topic or verse from the Bible.
Listening to that tape over and over, I learned that knowing and teaching the Bible wasn’t a mystical power for a small few, but a real possibility for anyone, even me. I realized that if I took the Bible seriously enough to learn and integrate its truths together, I would be able to understand those truths deeply enough that I could explain it to someone else. I could have my own communicable view of the Bible.
The next summer I was baptized by my pastor, Jeff. This was significant because he was a Presbyterian who taught that babies could be baptized by sprinkling, though he would immerse if that’s what people wanted. He announced that he would be baptizing people in his hot tub in a week. As I had studied the Bible in the last year, I became convinced that 1) I should be baptized, 2) the only way the Bible taught to do so was under the water as a believer, and 3) a hot tub was highly preferable to a river or lake. This was my personal choice and it showed that I wanted to fully dedicate myself to the Lord Jesus. I am grateful that he provided all the experiences and heart changes I needed to make this decision on my own.
Steve, Craig, Brian, John, and Jeff. Each of them played a different teaching role in my early spiritual growth. I thank God for all of them. He used each of them to move me from drinking milk to eating solid food.
That change is what God is talking about in Hebrews 5:12-14
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern both good and evil.”
What's the next step for you to mature in your walk with God?