It seems like Apple comes up with the latest iteration of the ‘best ever iPhone’ every year. People camp out in parking lots just to be the first ones to own the overpriced phones. We desire to get the latest phones for the minor upgrades that they offer, upgrades that we may never even need in our lives. How often do we upgrade our walk with Christ?
A Tale of Two Phones
Back in 2010, smartphone giants, Nokia and Samsung had a huge decision to make. Both were skeptics of the new Android OS that was sweeping the world but with the success of the iPhones, risks had to be taken to stop Apple from capturing their market share. Samsung realized that the new OS was far better than their own homegrown version and decided to make a conservative switch. Whereas Nokia was rigid to the change and chose to stick with Symbian OS as they thought their OS was as good as any other OS in the market at that time. Today, Samsung is leading the Smartphone segment while Nokia is trying to make a comeback after finally embracing Android.
The Bible gives many examples of people who were slow to upgrade their belief systems. The Pharisees are one such group, who even after knowing the scriptures cover to cover, failed to recognize Jesus as the savior that they had been waiting for. They chose to hold on to their traditions and customs rather than understand the scriptures they read every day.
A Tale of Two Apostles
Peter was handpicked by Jesus to take the Gospel forward. He had witnessed the awesome miracles and signs that Jesus performed and would have heard countless sermons when he was on the road with Jesus. However, every time Jesus wanted Peter to move on to the next level, he was slow to upgrade.
Peter had seen Jesus calm the oceans but when he was walking on water his fear overpowered his belief in Christ and he started to sink.
In the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was being arrested, Peter tried to intervene in the plan of God by cutting the ear off a servant boy. He had heard Jesus talk about his crucifixion almost every day for months and when the moment had arrived he was still the hot-headed fisherman like he was when he first met Christ.
Later the same day, he denied Jesus thrice. I am not sure if any of us would have done differently out of fear for our lives, but Christ warned him of the exact same incident just hours before and Peter did not upgrade himself. Do we, like Peter, ignore clear instructions from God and fail to upgrade our beliefs?
Peter went back to fishing even after witnessing the resurrection of Jesus. The comfort of that which is familiar is always tempting. Peter did not realize what awesome works God had planned for him and went back to what he knew best.
Even when Peter was heading the Early Church, he was slow to realize that the Gospel was to be taken to all the nations and not confined only to the Jews. Paul was outspoken in his criticism of Peter and his attitude towards the Gentile believers, especially in the company of Jews. Peter witnessed Jesus take the Gentiles side in his sermons and parables and also saw that Jesus would reach out to heal them without a second thought. All this is not to say that Peter never upgraded but he was always slow to upgrade. He was always a step behind where God wanted him to be.
On the other hand, Paul did not have the opportunity to learn from Jesus but he learned from the Spirit of Jesus. Paul changed his stance on several issues including circumcision, according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And while Peter restricted himself to the Jewish sects, Paul was taking the Gospel to all nations. Paul always knew his audience and tweaked the ‘Good News’ message citing examples from the cultures of the towns he was preaching in. Paul’s zeal for learning the true Gospel was second to none and kept upgrading himself as he walked closer with Jesus every day.
We might have come to Jesus at different points in our lives. Some might know him through their childhood and from what they learned in Sunday school, while others might have come to Him as adults, due to some life-changing event in their lives. But are we still at the same level as when we first knew God? Every year during spring cleaning we see our old PCs and Macs lying in our garage and feel nostalgic for the ‘Simpler times’. But the fact is that these devices of yesteryear are not practical or even useful for today’s computing needs. Similar are the Christians who do not upgrade themselves.
The Sunday school version of the story of the prophet Jonah is similar to a bedtime fairytale which starts off with a scrooge-type character who faces hardships but by the end of the story turns from his evil ways. Chapter 4 of the book of Jonah is completely skipped in all children’s Bibles. If we never return to the book of Jonah we miss out the reason for its inclusion in the Bible, not as a happy ending tale but about a Prophet who cannot digest the fact that God loves his enemies. The Bible is the living word of God, not a novel that should be kept aside once we have finished it. Returning to the same scriptures, again and again, keeps giving us new insights of how it applies to our current situation. The most recent time I read the Gospel of John, my takeaways from it have been drastically different than the first time I read it as a teen. Just when I think I know a book completely, God reveals more through the same scriptures.
There are two main reasons why we upgrade/update our phones. It is either for the new features that are being offered by the upgraded model or for the security patches that help make our phones more secure in this always-connected generation. Similarly, our Spiritual lives need regular upgrades, not only to receive new features like the fruits and gifts of the spirit but also for the security updates that prevent our Spiritual lives from being hacked.