The Challenge of the Same Old Thing


Philippians 3:1 “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you…”

You like new things. But you like some old things, some favorite things, too. I don’t think that you would like to have something new, something you have never tried before, for each meal every day for the rest of your life. Think of all your favorite foods, your favorite recipes, that you would never get to taste again. Some foods always taste good.

I don’t think that you want every song you ever hear for the rest of your life to be something you never heard before. Once you like a song, you want to hear it again. You might grow tired of some. But there are others you will enjoy hearing for the rest of your life.

Often, the things we like the most, the things we really enjoy, are the things we know the best, things with which we have become most familiar. The old things make us feel comfortable, sometimes even safe.

When Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Philippi, he had many reasons for joy, and many circumstances in which he urged it. But most of what he wrote was nothing new to these people. They were the same things he had taught them when he lived with them in the past. He was repeating himself. “And that’s okay,” he says, “because it is no trouble for me to do so.”

“Of course not,” you might think. “It’s easy to write about the same things over and over. It takes less work. It takes less thought.” But that is not necessarily true.

If a pastor cares at all for the people for whom he preaches, writes, and teaches, he doesn’t want his sermons to become a substitute for sleeping pills. He knows that your spiritual health needs constant reinforcement in the foundational truths of the gospel. He works hard, then, at presenting the same old truths in a fresh and interesting way.

The message at Christmas is always going to be about God loving us so much that he left heaven, became one of us, did so in a poor family as a helpless little baby without even a decent place to be born, and put up with it all to save us. But how does one say that in a way that captures your attention, and helps you see why it still makes a difference? The message at Easter is always going to be about God loving us so much that let himself be crucified to pay for our sins and rose again to promise eternal life. But where can I find the words that will help you appreciate the peace and joy of that promise again?

I know the temptation for you here, because I have wrestled with it myself. It is the temptation to say, “I’ve heard this. I know this. I want something else, something new.” It is the temptation to decide that the gospel is just boring.

There is hardly a more dangerous temptation you will face your whole life. The same old gospel is what keeps your faith alive. Without it, your faith will die. The same old gospel isn’t boring. It is more like the title of one movie about Jesus, The Greatest Story Ever Told. It is more than entertaining. It is life giving. Like Paul, faithful pastors want to give this message to you in a way that stays fresh, even while it stays the same old thing. It is no trouble for me, then, to give you the same old thing, but not because that is easy an easy thing to do.

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