By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R
In our first year of marriage, I was a working, full-time college student with my wife expecting a baby. Though money was scarce, hamburger meat was just three pounds for a dollar. And we had some kind of meat every meal — well, until we didn’t one night. After we prayed, I looked over the meal and asked, “Where’s the meat?” Phyllis pointed to the macaroni and cheese and said, “That’s a meat substitute.” Not meaning to be unkind, I said, “There is no substitute for meat!”
What it means to eat “meat and potatoes.” First of all, I was wrong; there are meat substitutes. But I had caught up the essence of Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate definition: “Meat and potatoes” referred to what was of fundamental importance: basic. The term can also refer to what is most interesting and fundamental. Applying that thought to Christianity and the New Testament, some people get saved but don’t grow and mature. They remain baby milksops. They lack the core of Christian skills and the excitement of the whole meal. Read II Corinthians 3:1-2; Hebrews 5:10-14; II Timothy 2:15.
The very purpose of milk in the first place is for babes to grow beyond babyhood. Peter wrote, “As newborn babies, desire the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow, if it is true that you have experienced that the Lord is good” (I Peter 2:2, Modern English Version).
Evidence of moving from milk only to meat and potatoes. Acts 17:10-11 records that the Bereans dared check the preaching of Paul and Silas against the Scripture for accuracy. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to be a Bible student and check preaching and teaching against the Scriptures. Mature Christians need to know and accurately interpret the Scriptures. That takes some chewing on the meat of “multipurpose Bible tools.” Yesterday, I commented to a layperson about a Bible she had open on her desk. She excitedly told me about her Bible reading and said she owns concordances and even the Septuagint. She’s not a fanatic but a meat-and-potatoes Christian.
At the end of Jesus’ earthly teaching ministry, He told His disciples they hadn’t been able to bear other things He had to teach. Then He told them the Holy Spirit would take up where He was leaving off. The Holy Spirit would feed them further with the “meat and potatoes” heart of God’s Word to help them mature. In so many words, Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:11-12 that pastors and teachers were gifts to equip them to become meat and potato eating ministers.
Identifying some multi-purpose Bible tools. There truly is no substitute for the Bible! Sometimes pastors-in-training are quickly sidetracked to books about the Bible rather than keeping the Bible at the core. Don’t worship the Bible, but know the Bible and go daily to Him in it. No one read more Scripture than the religious leaders. But Jesus had to tell them they were into a form of bibliolatry without coming to Him — the One the Bible pointed to — for eternal life (John 5:39-14). Note the difference in the KJV John 5:39-40 and what I just told you. The KJV reads as a command, but Jesus was stating a fact rather than commanding the religious leaders to do what they were already doing: namely, searching the Scriptures. You get that understanding from comparing Bible translations (e.g. the KJV vs. the NASB).
I don’t have a bad word to say about the 404-year-old KJV. It truly is classic. But we all need a Bible translation from the Hebrew and Greek that puts the faith of our fathers in the language of our children. The Bible doesn’t change; but the English language changes, and translation skills grow.
Concordances list individual word references and provide valuable help in locating Bible passages, studying Bible themes, and perhaps in identifying original Hebrew or Greek words used and translated. A good Bible dictionary will help you understand words, customs, locations, and other things. Maps help visualize locations, distances, terrain, and much more. A good biblical introduction book can help you know customs and get context about both Old and New Testament times. There are lots of other multipurpose Bible tools — including good commentaries and Bibles with study notes.
Valuing people to help us become meat eating Christians. As wonderful as books and our marvelous technological era of biblical tools are, no written tool can take the place of living people in helping us become meat eaters. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading Isaiah when Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading. The eunuch replied, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” (Acts 8:31, KJV).
God the Holy Spirit is our greatest person to teach us (see John 14-16). Pastors and teachers are gifted for the very purpose of helping us mature and grow in the faith individually and as a church and worldwide fellowship.
Professors and Bible scholars are able to lift up personal testimony to go with the book-learning they’ve gotten.
But humble laypersons have often helped me most in my journey to spiritual maturity and meat eating. Overall, I’ll just say the church is the best context I know for really moving on from milk only to meat eating.
Finally, no substitute for meat. I’ve been talking symbolically just as the Bible does about milk and meat. I do love a good steak. But some time ago, my pastor noticed that I had ordered only a vegetable plate as we ate at a Cracker Barrel.
Out of curiosity, he asked, “Do you not eat meat?” I smiled and said that yes I do eat meat. But after almost 59 years of marriage, I find that I sometimes just prefer vegetables with cornbread, butter, and catsup to put on my cornbread. That’s nourishing!
So whether you’re a meat eater or a vegan, the point is to grow from babyhood to maturity. Don’t suffer from milk anemia. Whether you’re Baptist to the bone or some other kind, be a meat eater of God’s Word. And be strong in Him!
— © 2015 by Johnnie C. Godwin. Write the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.