I will be eternally grateful to the people who discipled me in my early days as a Christian. They managed to instil in me some really fundamental things which really have stood me in good stead, no matter the season of my life or part of the journey.
The most significant things set deep with in me, I’d say, are these:
- Love for the Bible. It has taken me years to get to an even reasonably grasp of this book and, whilst like many others there have been times I’ve struggled to make it a part of the daily routine, the older I get the more I find myself living in the Bible. Exposure to this book has and is changing my life.
- The need for prayer. Again, haven’t always found it ‘easy’, but there are people who modelled a simple yet earnest prayer life that has made me want to delve more. I witnessed a deep prayer life in men and women who, without a shadow of a doubt, are becoming saints! What I mean by that is that God is clearly well on in the work of transforming them from one shade of glory to another!
- The call to witness. We’re not all natural evangelists, but it was ingrained in me of the privilege and joy to speak of the Lord, not only to those who aren’t yet Christian, but to other believers – our testimonies build up faith as well as inviting people to faith.
- Assurance of faith. Through many trials, my faith has remained largely strong. I put this down to a ‘good birth.’ I was helped to understand the heart of the gospel; repentance and faith, and how to grow in that; to confess and put away sin; to seek after the presence of the Spirit; how to recognise the witness of that same Spirit within my heart; to know what God thinks of me now as a regenerated and redeemed person. All of this grounds me in Christ.
- To have a heart for the poor. I was helped to see God’s bias towards the poor, the marginalised, the down-trodden and the ‘underdog’ – in part, this was once me, coming from a poorer working class background. I could see the gospel in action in my own life and the freedoms it brought, as well as the opportunities. But more than that, I learned of the grace that could transform and free from restrictive experiences.
- Vibrant worship. I don’t particularly care when the song was written, but if it’s a singable tune, some good solid lyrics which help sing the faith, I’m there with gusto. I learned how to celebrate faith, and actually learned a lot of my faith and theology through good songs before I learned to discern it from the Bible. Perhaps something we miss in these days (I sound like an old man now, I know).
- Call to the holy life. I know I’m called not to tolerate sin, to compromise or make excuses, and to pursue the holiness of God in my own life. Do I give myself a hard time over this? Well, I trust in Jesus and his grace, but I seek to discipline myself. It’s a two-way street that I’m invited to cooperate with God’s spirit on.
- Spiritual warfare. I was schooled in the reality of the battle; the work of the enemy; and to pray down the strongholds of the enemy. Unfashionable in these days, but still so important. The world is more influenced by the intercessors that we know! The world is more transformed by the praying person that anyone would understand or care to admit.
- The person, work and gifts of the Spirit. I wasn’t brought up in the charismatic/pentecostal movement, but in the context of the holiness movement – it’s precursor! My conversion introduced the supernatural presence and power of God at the opening moments, and I’ve never had trouble believing that the Spirit is active in our lives. I’ve always had the heart to pursue the gifts of the Spirit, understanding that they are there for the church to advance the Kingdom. God has been gracious.
- The Power (and foolishness) of Preaching. Hearing preaching has been transformative. Being a preacher has been transformative, and largely uncomfortable! It is no small thing to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom. I know all the reasons why preaching shouldn’t work, and more than once have sensed it has been futile or fallen on deaf ears, but also know that God can use the simplest word for transformation. Before I even had a full appreciation of the call to ministry, I was taught, enabled and released to speak in public from the age of 15/16. I’ll always be grateful for that.
I recognise that not everyone has the privilege of this kind of Christian formation, but I so hope that I can impart, even in the smallest measure, the witness to and the importance of these basics. I mean, there are probably others – these are just the things that stand out to me as I write now.
In many ways, these things can be an affront to 21st century Christian people – maybe it represents to much of what some might call ‘enthusiasm’ (careful, now!). It might seem a bit rough and ready to hold these experiences, convictions and formation as vital exprience that others should aspire to. But yet, I do. I may have got educated and all that, but the simple passion of my early days, though sharpened, refined and re expressed in some ways, is still at the heart of all God is doing.
I pray that even now, you’d be growing in these things for your own walk with Christ.