The night I became a Christian – Jan, 26, 1973 – the man who led me to Christ gave me a copy of The Living Bible. He scribbled a note in the inside cover (and “scribbled” is the correct word) and added a verse – Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
It’s a not uncommon verse to give or inscribe to new believers, but I believed then, and I believe now, that it is “my verse.” I was told to go home, read the first chapter of the Gospel of John, and then we set a time to meet the next day to discuss what I had read.
It resumed almost two years later, after we (I was married by this time) moved to Houston and joined an independent church called Spring Branch Community Church. This is where I was baptized as an adult, where we became involved in a young marrieds group, and I eventually started a series of extension classes taught by one of the pastors (for college credit). The course included surveys of the Old and New Testaments, Bible study methods, and topical subjects. The teachers were good – the night classes were always crowded.
This is where the serious learning and discipleship began. The world of the Bible opened up for me – and we learned history, theology, eschatology and other things I had only been vaguely aware of. Friendships developed among the classmates. We often prayed in small groups before the start of each class.
What I learned was beyond the intellectual – I learned that this Christian life I was embarked upon was one that would be marked by discipline, learning, service and sacrifice. Those simple little words I had prayed that cool January night in the basement of a college lecture hall had led to a transformation of my life. I had never been abandoned; God never said “Goodbye and Good Luck!” I was never left to fend for myself.
“The grace that brings salvation to us also disciplines us,” says Jerry Bridges in The Discipline of Grace. “God never saves people and leaves them alone to continue in their immaturity and sinful lifestyle. Those who He saves, He disciplines…Our spiritual growth is not left to our initiative, nor is it dependent upon our wisdom to know in which areas and in which direction we need to grow.”
It’s never been smooth and predictable, but that path of growth has been and continues to be marked by discipline.