Working on a message on Ephesians 6:10-24, I came across this timely gem from Eugene Peterson in his book Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ.
The message to the Ephesians is a solid orientation for the entire Christian church in the conditions created by God in Christ through the Spirit for a life of growing to maturity in Christ. This is a dependable place to stand. This is solid ground. Conditions here are favorable to growing up to the “measure of the full stature of Christ.” Stand firm.
We live in an advertisement culture in which new products are continuously presented to us. This is a culture of built-in obsolescence. Nothing is designed to last. In order to keep the economy healthy we are conditioned to respond to the latest as the best: a new car, the latest fashion in clothes, the breakthrough model of computer, the newly published best-selling novel, the just-discovered miracle diet. We have no sooner bought or tried one thing than we are off to the next. Quickly bored, we are easily diverted from whatever we have just purchased or the book that we have not quite finished or the church we joined two months ago. Highly skilled and lavishly budgeted attention-getters target us tirelessly. Every “latest” is overtaken by another “latest” in dizzying succession.
When this novelty mentality seeps into the church, we start looking for the latest in God, the latest in worship, the latest in teaching, the best preacher in town. Church shopping is epidemic in America. When religion as novelty spreads, maturity thins out. The well-established and much-verified fact is that following Jesus is not a consumer activity. Prayer is not a technique that can be learned as a skill; it can only be entered as a person-in-relation. Love cannot be improved with jewelry or an exotic cruise; it requires submission and sacrifice and reverence.
Paul has warned us that we are perpetuating our adolescence when we indulge in spiritual novelties: “We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine. . . . we must grow up” (Eph. 4:14-15). Brace yourself. Keep your footing. Stand firm.