I love a good computer game—especially a new one. As a kid I remember fighting my way to be first to play any new game we got.
When we got the original Duke Nukem I wanted to be the first to complete the game. I wanted to be able to say I'd 'clocked it'. I spent every moment playing through each level, excitedly taking on each new challenge until I saw the credits roll in.
A new game is super exciting. Everything is fresh and fun as you work your way through. But when you've clocked it a once exhilarating game becomes boring. It's over, done, finished. You've 'been there, done that' and it's time for something different.
'Been there, done that' Christianity
Sometimes I feel this way when it comes to looking at the Bible. A 'been there, done that' mentality begins to creep in as the pastor opens the Bible to preach on a familiar passage.
Maybe you've read the Bible all the way through, then struggle to plan to your Bible reading again. Maybe you've been to a conference, studied a particular Bible book and become really familiar with it. Maybe you feel like there's nothing you don't know.
What about when it comes to serving in church? How often do we think of helping with different ministries as rites of passage—something to strive for then be completed? Have you found yourself thinking 'I've done that before' as though serving was something to be completed and checked off once you've 'completed the set'?
'I used to be part of the church band, but I grew out of it'.
'I did street evangelism at one time, but I'm into something else now'.
'I've done 'mission'—that short term mission trip to x country'.
'I was part of a weekly prayer meeting before, but I don't need it now'.
Even when it comes to hearing the gospel a 'been there, done that' complacency can set in. Confessed my sin: check. Repented: check. Saved by Jesus: check.
I once spoke with a man who had been coming to church for years. He said he was over all this talk about Jesus's death. He thought we should just move on. He felt it was unnecessary to keep talking about the death and resurrection of Jesus. He asked 'Why do we wallow in our sin every week, and spend so much time thinking about the cross?'
Deep down we feel it: lethargic about the Bible, tired of serving others, fed up with the same old story about Jesus the Saviour. What once held excitement and joy seems dull and uninteresting.
To combat this feeling we do a variety of things—pretend to be interested, stop reading the Bible and get into other Christian fads—feeling like our soul is dry, but not thirsty either.
Have you 'been there, done that' with the Christian life? Are you a 'mature believer' just hearing what you already know every week, warming a church pew? Have you 'clocked' Christianity?
If anyone was to say they clocked the Christian life it would be the Apostle Paul. He had a radical conversion story, he had planted churches, he had told many people about Jesus, he had many incredible Christian experiences—both seeing visions and as a victim of persecution.
Paul had even written almost half of the books in the New Testament! Surely he was able to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment as he watched the final credits of the Christian life?
No! Paul says he hasn't made it yet
Paul demonstrates that the mature Christian isn't someone who thinks they are perfect, but is someone who knows that they are not.
A mature Christian does not think they have done it all. They are not beyond learning or hearing the gospel. A mature Christian is someone who wants to know Jesus better and to live a life like Jesus. Paul describes it like an endurance race:
I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me (Philippians chapter 3, verse 12).
There is only one who can say 'It is finished'—only Jesus has 'clocked it'. Paul says Jesus has completed the righteous life on his behalf. It is as though Jesus has done the hard work and got the high score on the arcade game, and then put our initials on the scoreboard. We haven't clocked it. Jesus has clocked it for us.
The mature Christian presses on to be more like Christ. Paul says he wants to 'know Christ'. Mature Christians want to know Jesus better and to live a life that is like Jesus.
A 'been there, done that' mentality gets it wrong
This mentality gets serving back-to-front: making serving about us and not about others. A rite of passage is not service, but gaining self-serving experiences for my own benefit. As Christians we must follow Jesus's example of sacrificial service of others.
When Paul talks of knowing Jesus he isn't merely speaking of filling his head with facts about who Jesus is. For Paul knowing Jesus is living like Jesus.
The gospel is life-giving and worthy of daily attention. It is the love of God—accessible and yet ginormous. Consider how wide, how long, how high, and how deep God's love really is (see Ephesians chapter 3, verse 18).
When the feeling of 'been there, done that' begins to creep in and I feel like an expert, I am challenged to turn to the cross and to remember that the Christian life is not about my achievements, my understanding or knowledge—it is about Jesus.
Andrew Sinclair is a Kiwi living in Sydney, Australia with his wife Sophia and their son Guy. He is studying theology at Sydney Missionary and Bible College.
Andrew Sinclair's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/andrew-sinclair.html