We were cruising across the country in my 1995 Chevy Monte Carlo (see photo above), from California to Minnesota, when my “Low Coolant” warning light came on the dash as we neared the Colorado Rockies. The temperature gauge was also running hot.
I don’t know much about car engines but I do know you are wise to pay attention to warning lights and an overheated engine is nothing to mess around with when you’re hundreds of miles from home!
We pulled into the nearest gas station and filled the coolant back up. “Phew! We should be good now,” I thought. About 5 miles down the road the “Low Coolant” light was flashing again. The temperature gauge rising quickly. We pulled over and topped it off again.
My mechanically-challenged brain figured that as long as we kept the coolant tank full the engine would stay cool. We’d be fine. We probably pulled over and filled it up two more times before hearing an awful sound under the hood as the entire engine “blew up” (that’s my mechanically-challenged description) as we neared the outskirts of Denver.
Leaky coolant is not big deal if its leaking out onto the highway. However, if your coolant is leaking directly into the engine and watering down the oil necessary to keep things lubricated and operational, then you’re courting complete disaster. It took me being towed across the country, $3,000 and a new engine to learn this lesson.
In 1 Peter 2:1-3, the Apostle Peter wants new Christians to pay attention to warning dash lights and keep their spiritual engines — their soul — running smoothly.
First, he wants us to get rid of the bad things running in our system that water down our faith and threaten to destroy our lives and witness. “So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech” (2:1). Change your oil. Flush your old fluids. Out with the old; in with the new.
Next, Peter encourages us to keep our spiritual engine fluids filled to maximize our performance as we strive to finish the race God has set before us. My poor ’95 Monte Carlo blow up on the side of the highway for lack of good, clean oil and engine coolant. Peter warns Christians to keep their spiritual engines running smoothly by, to mix a metaphor, filling our tanks with “pure spiritual milk.”
“Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness” (1 Peter 2:2-3).
Study after study consistently reveals that most Christians in most churches feel like they have “stalled out” in their faith growth. This true even of people in the largest, fastest growing churches that are providing top-notch programming and dynamic preaching. People are putzing along in the slow lane, barely moving forward, and wondering if there’s anyway to get their spiritual engine really humming along!
Is there a way to jump start our faith, move into the express lane and begin to enjoy the exhilarating ride up the spiritual mountains of the Christian life?
There’s a way. But its as costly as the new engine I needed to put into my Monte Carlo back then. It doesn’t come easy or quickly. It may take a complete overhaul of your spiritual life and practices.
Peter gives us a window into this process of growing up in our salvation:
First, you need a “taste of the Lord’s kindness.” Before we’ll ever crave this new life of drinking deeply of God’s goodness found in His Word, we need to first get a taste for how much more satisfying God is than our other cravings. Many of us simply cannot conceive of a quiet prayer walk in the woods being more exciting than sex or a delicious steak meal. Many of us have a faith that is so blah and lifeless that we would find a Bible Study more thrilling than a blockbuster movie. Such folks have still not quite tasted the real thing. If that’s you, all you can do is “Ask, Seek, Knock” and trust that the Lord will reveal himself to you in ever increasing measures. (Maybe you need to find a new church or some new friends. You probably also need to get rid of the bad stuff that is preventing you from experiencing God.)
Second, you need to desire to “grow into the full experience of salvation.” If you’re happy playing it safe in the slow lane of faith, or have no desire to leave the safety of your drive way to set out onto the rocky roads of adventurous faith, then you’ll never grow. You’ll have an ankle deep faith that keeps God at the margins of your life, dipping your toes in the waters of faith for an hour each week in church, and maybe sprinkling some Christian radio on top for occasional inspiration. But you are depriving your spiritual engine of its created purpose. You may look clean and polished on the outside, but you’re faith has no real miles on the odometer. You’re a museum piece. A floor model. You might like nice and shiny, but you’re going nowhere in your faith maturity. But God made you for the open road!
Third, if you want to grow up in your faith you must actively “cry out” and “crave” the pure spiritual milk. Just as car engines run on gasoline and oil, and newborn babies run on mommy’s milk, so our souls run on the power of the Spirit and the lubricating oil of the Word of God. Deprive yourself of the Word of God and you’ll burn out and break down. You’ll remain in the slow lane or in the driveway. Notice how active we must be in this process? God’s original saving work in our lives is all his doing. We merely receive the gift of salvation by faith. Yet, now that we’re born again, God invites us to seek, pursue, cry out, crave, put off things, put on things, grow, engage our minds, no longer conform, and so on.
I intend to devote the duration of my ministry to exploring all the various ways we must “grow into the full experience of salvation” by increasing our cravings for “pure spiritual milk.” My preaching, teaching, writing, and audio devotionals all aim to help give people “a taste of the Lord’s kindness.”
And once you experience the thrill of a humming spiritual engine and get a glimpse of the world from the mountain top vistas of mature faith, then you’ll want to invite others to tune up their own engines and join you for the ride!