Everything can go stale. The Bible writers were inspired to reference many everyday elements as possibilities of losing their savor, or intended purpose. Water, salt, bread, grass, flowers, fire, and even religion were mentioned as possibilities. In contemporary life too, there are worn out jokes, cliches, work, dreams, expectations, and last, but certainly not least, people who find a way to stand on our last nerve. You can rub most of us the wrong way by serving us stale chips in a stale restaurant by a stale server, with stale conversation on the side. Give me a break!
So, explain the phenomenon of stale people. In a world like ours it doesn't take a Ph.D. in sociology to grasp what takes the fire out of people. With the government stealing so much of our hard earned money, the hours most working people have to keep, and the pace of merging the various components of life it's no wonder there are so many empty suits walking around. Most of the passion fires that burn in us are smothered by the many layers of priority, whether legitimate or contrived, overlaying life out there in the means streets. By Sunday, when a mere 63,000,000 Americans gather for worship, it's often a short break from the grind. What is more, in more instances that any of us would like to admit it may be a gathering of stale people.
Of course, the Bible doesn't picture that kind of life for people of faith. In Scripture all the imagery of worn-out natural elements and people are depictions of spiritual dysfunction, something out of whack in the inner man. This life of faith is about vibrant freshness, something about putting on the new (kainos, look it up), and casting off of the old (archaios, look it up too). Because it is the only way to life abundant and eternal it should be moved up on the personal priority list. Then spiritual renewal, the discipline to maintain that level of fervency, becomes a more central aspiration of the daily routine. Suddenly, staleness won't work. It will not satisfy the genuine spiritual thirst and hunger in us, even when we're on a familiar and comfortable stale or worn path that has become customary. And, it will not carry us past the rugged obstacles that could perhaps impede our spiritual development.
The message of renewal isn't really about crusades or revival meetings, although many great spiritual awakenings began as such. Really it is the daily renewal that happens in the heart of the individual believer. This new creature, wasting away on the outside, is renewed day by day (please reference 2 Corinthians 4: 7-18). It is a normative process by which the image of the creator is replicated in us. Paul wrote, "...you have put off the old self with it's practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator" (Colossians 3:9,10).
The point is that stale Christians are an inconsistency with the Scriptural depiction of people of faith. Yes, we have introverts and extroverts, people that are quiet and reverent, and people who are boisterous and projected. But, a stale believer is like salt that has lost its pungency, or water that is no longer fresh and vibrant, or wilted flowers, or browned grass. It just doesn't equate, the glorious Gospel napping in the heart and life of a stale Christian. What is more, our gatherings should be the bold declaration of the gospel of grace and a constant look up, you know, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). You know, alive!
Jesus said that we would be like streams of living water. Now that is a picture of freshness. The other day I Googled "fresh" on the images tab and got hundreds of hits. Most of them included water drops, or spray, or rivers and streams and oceans, picture after picture of fresh water. It's an image that communicates the effervescent joy of this faith, and then spills out on the people around us. It is like the fresh morning dew.
The above picture is a gross image of stagnant water, an extreme in water dynamics. From what I've read water can become stale in a matter of hours. Stagnancy, as pictured above, is an advanced state of staleness when there is no outlet for the settled water's movement. And, the metaphor advances us past the biblical references of fresh and stale faith to the exaggerated image and smell of something rotting. Each day I'm wondering which of the three images I'm projecting to the world around us----the fresh and vibrant living stream, the stale and old puddle, or the stagnant pool with it's strange odors.
Fresh faith people splash freshness on others. Stale faith people shower others with worn-out cliches and platitudes. Stagnant faith people don't touch others at all.
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