"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." - Ephesians 1:7-10
How many times have you read or heard this passage of scripture? A dozen or more, maybe? Do the words deeply move you, or spiritually affect you? Is there any sort of visceral response when these words are spoken to you?
It is much too easy to "habituate" the good news of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, Christians need to be reminded of the beauty of the Gospel.
In the field of psychology, "habituation" is defined as, "the diminishing of a physiological or emotional response to a frequently repeated stimulus" (Definition). We all do it, and probably more often than we realize.
Consider the first time human beings discovered fire. Imagine the awe and wonder that our ancestors probably felt as the flames danced through the brush and weeds. Fire was a roaring, bright, intensely hot, uncontrollable power. Soon after discovery, however, fire could be controlled. Fire could be manufactured over and over, used for different purposes like cooking, and even made into a weapon of war. Over time, fire became just another tool. The magic was lost.
The same has occurred in the Church with the beauty of the Gospel. We have heard it or read it a thousand times. We may sing about it on Sundays and chat about it on Wednesdays. We might "share" it (or we might not) with people who haven't heard it yet. It could be just another story, or just another product to sell in our consumer-driven economy. It's just words on a page or lyrics in a song. At some points in our history, it has even been used as a weapon against those "other" people, just like fire. The magic is lost.
I pray that this doesn't include you. But, it probably does. When was the last time you broke into tears of joy and laughter upon hearing about God's love for you expressed through Jesus? Be honest.
I am not trying to present some sort of twisted guilt-trip. Rather, I am pointing out a flaw that I see in myself. I have gotten used to the Gospel. It doesn't always move me. Sometimes, it just sounds like "old hat" to me. This is tragic, friends! My heart needs stirred up. My affections need rekindling. My spirit needs provoking. I do not want the good news of Jesus Christ to be just another story in my life!
If you are feeling relatable to this, I am praying for you right now. It's not a good place to be stagnant in. In order to fight the temptation of habituation, I want to share three pieces of encouragement and advice.
1) Re-read the "Gospel passages" in multiple translations or interpretations.
Passages such as Ephesians 1:7-10, or Romans Ch. 5 are great presentations of the Gospel. Try reading each of these in ESV, NIV, NASB, and The Message. Notice the differences in sentence structure and word choice. Perhaps one of these translations or interpretations of the passages you've heard time and again may reignite your awe and wonder that the Creator of the Universe loves you. If you have any other favorite passages, let us know in the comments.
2) Listen to or watch videos of the words of Jesus.
This might seem a little bit cheesy to some. But, there is great value in the many audio-bible recordings, and the many TV or film interpretations of the life of Jesus. Sometimes receiving the good news through a different medium, be it visual or audio, can heighten your awareness to the beauty you've been missing out on.
3) Ask another Jesus-follower to share their story with you.
There is a good chance that you are bored with your own story. As a youth-group leader, I have many opportunities to share stories from my life specifically about how Jesus has loved and changed me -- I know, repeating it gets old. Ask a friend, a family member, or maybe even someone in your church that you have yet to meet to share his or her story with you. Hearing about someone else's experiences in Christ can be not only inspiring, but transformative.
Of course, these three pieces of encouragement are not a sure-fire guarantee that you will suddenly feel more affectionate for Christ or more celebratory about the Gospel. But, at least they are steps in the right direction. I have found them to be tremendously helpful in my own fight against habituation. Hopefully you will find them helpful, too.
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director at IDES