Familiarity breeds contempt.
So goes the old expression. And we get the basic premise; At first, everything is new and exciting, but over time that excitement fades and one tends to take for granted what once was an amazing blessing. Whether this plays out in a marriage, a job, or even possessions, we can all think of examples. But what happens when you find yourself feeling this way about the Gospel?
It sounds like a terrible thing to say, taking the Gospel for granted, doesn’t it? But let’s be honest–we all do it at times. We’ve heard the beautiful news so often that we tend to lose the sense of awe at the incredible message. Yeah, I know Jesus died for me. Yes, He rose again. Very good. Let’s get on with the day…Church? Oh, shoot. Is it Sunday again already? I think I’ll sleep in today. It’s been a busy week…
I know I’ve been there, and I’m sure you have as well. But stop to think of the amazing message of Christianity: Jesus has literally saved your life. And not just your life on this earth, but your eternal life. You were unquestionably guilty, justly deserving punishment, but Jesus took your punishment in your place. It’s as if you were on death row and someone else volunteered to die in your place. That would be Jesus. And because of Jesus’ sacrifice, you no longer face hell. You are granted eternal life in heaven. That’s absolutely amazing! But I know all this, and still I take it for granted. So what then?
1. Change up (or start) your personal devotions. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I’m in a rut with my devotions. They’re sort of like New Year’s resolutions–I start off with good intentions, but after a while I burn out. The organized side of my brain loves the idea of reading through the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation over the course of a year or two, working through with the help of Today’s Light, for example, but I’ll be honest. After a number of months I start to get bogged down. Devotions feel more like a chore than a privilege. So why not change things up? Who says I have to do the entire Bible in order? CPH has a great feature on their blog that includes study questions for a different book of the Bible each month. For June, they picked the book of James. They also have a July Everyday Faith Calendar that includes a Bible verse and a question for each day. Or buy a new Bible–try the chronological Bible that organizes the text not by individual books, but by the historical order in which the events occurred. Try something new, and you might be surprised at what you learn.
2. Immerse yourself in the Law. Admittedly, this sounds like a strange suggestion. Lutherans are all about the Gospel, after all, right? But before a person can be ready to hear the Gospel, he must first understand the full ramifications of the Law. A person who doesn’t realize his need for a Savior has no need to hear of Jesus’ sacrifice. So when you find yourself glossing over the Gospel, go back to the Law to remind yourself of just how far short you fall when it comes to God’s demands. Try reading through one of the major or minor prophets. These men spoke God’s Word to ancient Israel, and much of what they said could be spoken to us in America today. Read Jeremiah, for example–“Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons…but my people do not know the requirements of the Lord.” (Jeremiah 8:7) I admit, reading through Jeremiah convicts me. Read through the Law, and take time to truly confess your sins to God–a real list, not just “Please forgive me, Lord.” Pray through the Ten Commandments and confess specific sins regarding each one. Your heart will be much more appreciative of the Gospel once you know the full extent of the Law.
3. Read some fiction. Another weird recommendation, right? But not just any fiction. Try a book like Lisa Clark’s novel The Messengers: Discovered. It’s written in a setting where Christianity is illegal, and it explores the ramifications of that. How do Christians get together when their religion is outlawed? when Bibles are illegal? Is the message of the Gospel worth the risk of getting caught? It’s especially thought-provoking for Americans who have never experienced religious suppression outside of perhaps getting mocked or belittled for their faith. Or (shameless plug!), read my novel Grace Alone to experience what the message of the cross means to someone who hasn’t been a lifelong Christian. Sometimes reading fiction can be a good way to live vicariously through the characters and make the reader consider things in a new and different way.
Familiarity doesn’t have to breed contempt. Consider the elderly couple whose shared joys and challenges have drawn them closer, and they find their love deeper than it ever was in their earlier years. That’s the sort of relationship that is yours with your Savior as you grow more in your knowledge of His Word and His saving acts on your behalf. And that relationship is yours forever.