I was saved in the fall of 1974, by the words of a man who taught the college class Sunday school at a Conservative Baptist Church in Tucson, AZ. Orville Smyth was a letter carrier, back in the days when they didn’t drive trucks but walked from door to door. During his route, Orville memorized scripture. He also taught himself Greek (although not, I think, while he was walking…). And he taught in the Sunday school — adults and young adults.
In addition to the college class, he taught a new believer’s class on Monday nights which I and my now-husband attended — salvation by grace, salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, eternal security, the inerrancy of the Scriptures, 1 John 1:9 and more. In the college classes he worked from Lewis Sperry Chafer’s Major Bible Themes, and taught us… well, the basic doctrines of the church age — all the above plus the essence and character of God, the angelic conflict, the depravity of man, Dispensations…
I had about nine months with him before my husband and I were married and we moved to Northern Arizona. Orville gave me an excellent foundation for my spiritual life. But there were a lot of other things… I had so many questions. Especially over that summer as we sought to find a new church home and every place we went more or less struck out. They were either way off the doctrine we believed or weren’t interested in studying at all.
The tiny Baptist church we were attending in Heber was either searching for a pastor or having a revival — I can’t recall any more — but the speaker’s subject was “yielding to the Spirit.” I’d already heard about yielding, but no one could really tell me how that was accomplished or what it actually meant. I mostly thought of yellow yield signs when I thought of the word, and not driving into oncoming traffic. Which wasn’t terribly useful.
The temporary speaker suggested that to yield we write all our sins down on a piece of paper and then light a match to it. By doing that, we would be yielded.
So I did that. I didn’t feel any more yielded than I had previously. And worse, it wasn’t an hour before I was committing another sin again. So that whole paper burning thing didn’t seem to have done much good. Besides making me feel terribly silly.
Then my husband got a job teaching math and biology and coaching football at the high school in nearby Lakeside and started about two weeks later. About a week into his teaching experience, he didn’t come home for dinner, so I turned down the heat on my simmering meatballs and went to school to find him. Football practice had held him late, but he was about ready to go when I arrived.
Not to go home and eat the meatballs, however. No. We had been invited to a Bible study at one of his fellow teachers’ homes. So off we went. I was not in the best mood for new people, a new Bible Study (most til then had been extremely lame) and no dinner. Besides, what about my meatballs!?
Looking back it makes me laugh. Little did I know how great that meeting would impact my life. And there I was, like Martha, all worried about meatballs.
When we got there everyone else has arrived and instead of meeting in the spacious living room, we were ushered to a dimly lit back bedroom that had been converted to a sort of study. There were file cabinets, several Western saddles on stands, shelves and shelves of 8 track tapes and a reel-to-reel tape player, which was to be the source of our “Bible Study.” I thought it was all terribly weird, including the people.
And then the Colonel began…His voice and his manner were both annoying and compelling. His doctrinal content was what I was looking for, but he was so in-your-face. He taught like a drill instructor! (given his preparations, no surprise!) And in that first lesson, he was criticising lots of things I held dear — environmentalism, being one of them. The rest is lost to time, but Stu and I went home laughing about his dogmatic, forthright manner, his critical words, and totally un-pastor like demeanor.
But there was truth there and we came back the next week. I don’t recall whose idea it was. I think it might have been my husband’s, but I’m not sure. In between the things I didn’t like were lots of things I did. For one thing there was this matter of yielding.
That, taught Colonel Thieme, was merely another way of saying we needed to be filled with the Spirit. He delineated between the Indwelling of the Spirit, which all church age believers have all the time, and the Filling of the Spirit which is transitory. The first time we sin after salvation, we lose the filling of the Spirit, which is where He controls the soul. 1 John 1:9, which tells us to confess our sins, brings back the Filling of the Spirit and temporal fellowship with God. A baby believer spends more time out of fellowship than in. But as we grow and as God’s word begins to transform our thoughts, we begin to avoid the more obvious sins and spend more time filled with the Spirit. It’s a long slow process.
But it made sense. And it works. I knew it was truth as soon as I heard it. Suddenly all the floundering around, all the vagueries of what “yieldedness” meant had been circumvented and I had a concept I could hold on to and actually apply.
Thus began what was for a few months (or was it years?) of a love-hate relationship with the man. His personality was abrasive. He made an issue of his authority. He sometimes used “bad words”. And while none of that bothered me all that much, it sure did bother others. And that did bother me.
But even so, I couldn’t stop listening; it was the only place I was getting fed, and boy was I! I ordered cassettes of the basics series through the mail and listened to three of the hour-long tapes a day — because I was so eager to hear the next one. I just couldn’t seem to get enough. Since I had no kids, no job and no car, I had time. Also no telephone, and no TV. And, it being Mormon country (almost all the teachers at the school were LDS), and us being new to the area, I had few friends as well. I listened, took notes, then copied them over into neat transcriptions with all the references. I also read most of the publications, and taught myself beginning Greek.
The Colonel’s teachings on Moses made him come alive. I saw him as a real person, with flaws and faults and foibles like the rest of us, even if he was the “humblest man in the earth.” It told me that sinless perfection was not the goal. That those people in the Bible were not “saints” in the sense of holier than thou individuals but people just like me, with very similar struggles.
I LOVED the story of Joseph, which is echoed in The Light of Eidon…
Col Thieme’s teachings on the angelic conflict, which elaborated on what Chafer had uncovered, answered all sorts of questions and made so many things fit together into one understandable whole. The difference between the Indwelling and Filling of the Spirit, the concept of human viewpoint versus divine viewpoint, the notion of mental attitude sins, the clarification of what a pastor’s job really was, why we need to get the word taught every day… everthing was so vital, so exciting and compelling and useable. The Christian life came alive as never before.
But of course, because we are in a battle with spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenlies, there had to be opposition, and there was…