I used to explain the Christian life to be like riding a skateboard up a hill. I used to love skateboard analogies — until I severely damaged my knee in a skateboard accident and stopped riding altogether. That’s a story for another time, but I still love the analogy. When you’re riding a skateboard up a hill, there’s no point when you can lift your foot and just coast. No matter how hard you try, gravity will always pull you down. The Christian life is kind of like that. God doesn’t call us to be saved and then to put up our feet. He wants us to keep pursuing Him, to grow beyond the basics, and to keep working out our salvation. God calls us to an ongoing process of spiritual growth — of continually taking steps towards knowing Him more.
The author of the book of Hebrews has some harsh words for believers in Hebrews 5:11-14, 6:1 (NIV):
“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God.”
In his podcast, The Ongoing History of New Music, Alan Cross once stated that “we have a tendency to stay in the genre of music we loved when we were in our late teens and early 20’s.” Cross then asked listeners to branch out and explore some new styles of music from both before that era and after. He wanted to remind us that creativity goes beyond our current preferences.
I feel like many of us fall into a similar kind of rut when it comes to our faith. For those of us who became Christians when we were young, there are moments when we remember God becoming real to us. It may have happened at summer camp, in youth group, or through a tough time where we cried out to God, and He answered. Those moments solidified in our imagination and become sealed in the ether of our faith.
It’s also during these formative years when many of us study God—perhaps at Bible college, in a small group, or on a personal journey of discovery. These are all good things, but the danger comes when we seal all those early learnings and experiences up in a little box marked “FAITH” and store it in the attic of our hearts. We base our confidence in God, our faith in humanity, and our hope on what we learned so many years ago. The struggle is that God hasn’t stopped moving, He hasn’t stopped creating, He hasn’t stopped building into our faith … we just stopped growing in Him.
I remember in my fourth year of Bible school, I went to one of my favourite professors and asked him a question I thought was really profound. By this point I’d spent too many years at Bible school, read too many books, and had written too many papers. I was certain I knew how to do ministry; I was quite confident that I’d be highly successful because I now knew “everything” there was to know.
I have no idea how I phrased my ridiculous question, but I was basically trying to ask him which topic from my many classes would be the most valuable in my ministry. His response: “If I’ve learned anything from Bible college, it’s that I don’t know anything and that I should keep on learning.”
He’d been a professor of theology for many years and a pastor before that, yet he still made it a point to keep learning about God. To continue reading, writing, and studying because to him, the mysteries of God were vast beyond measure. To keep growing was to know God more. His words to me have inspired a lifetime of reading. Now, I read everything I can get my hands on.
In Acts 10:9-23, we read about a moment in Peter’s life where God wanted to expand his understanding and broaden his faith. In Peter’s vision, he saw a large sheet full of animals on it being lowered from heaven. Historically, these animals were not what a good Jewish man was allowed to eat. Yet God was clearly telling Peter to expand his palette.
As we read further in Acts, this new teaching from God was not about food but to help Peter understand that the good news of the Gospel was for more than just the Jews. God desired that Peter bring Jesus’ message to the Gentiles. Peter was being called to expand his reach. Thanks to his willingness to go beyond his own basic understanding, we can now know salvation for ourselves.
If we’re to be effective disciples of Jesus who share His love with those around us, it’s our duty to go beyond the basics that we learned when we first began following Jesus. As the author of Hebrews states, “Solid food is for the mature.” Solid food is sometimes hard to chew; sometimes it’s difficult to digest. But God is calling us to a spiritual life that goes beyond coasting and keeping our faith sealed up in a box.
There’s always more to know about God; there’s always room to grow. There’s more for us to understand in our study of the Bible, in our pursuit of Jesus, and in living this Christian life that we’re called to live.
Chet Kennedy is one of the Student Ministry Pastors at FAC (First Alliance Church).
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