It seems like I’ve heard a thousand “holiday” messages about the importance of gratitude, family, and tradition. As a pastor, it’s difficult to say something new and fresh year after year since gratitude, family and tradition really are important pillars of our faith and community.
So, I’ve decided that instead of trying to get creative to find something new to say this time around, I want to meditate on the importance of the old truths that I’ve known and cherished for all these years.
I believe that’s what the Apostle Paul would have us do: remember and apply what you already know. He writes in Philippians 3:15-16, “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” (ESV)
In this part of his letter to the church at Philippi, he encourages them to persevere in the Christian life, knowing that no one will attain perfection in this life, but that all believers should strive to grow in Christ-likeness. Then, he says that a mark of maturity is to trust God even though the life of a follower of Jesus Christ is often filled with hardship.
That’s hard to swallow sometimes, but anyone who’s been a Christian for longer than five minutes recognizes the twin realities of the hope of the gospel and the frustration of suffering. Paul says it’s worth persevering through the frustration for the sake of the reward.
I believe that every Christian has a sense that we are declared righteous in Christ, yet we haven’t entered into the fullness of that reality. Paul sees that sincere followers of Christ come to understand this at different times, and so he says that God is able to help us understand. His concern is not that we all think in identical ways, but that we “hold true to what we have attained.”
The Apostle Paul understands that there is legitimate diversity in Christian thought and experience, yet he desires that we live faithfully with the knowledge that we currently have.
I share that desire. I have books on my shelf that are treasure troves of wisdom and insight, and yet I feel that I’ve hardly begun to live according to the understanding I already have of the good news of Christ. Often, it’s the simplest truths that mean the most.
So I pray that this holiday season, as we share time with our families and engage in our favorite traditions, we would be freshly reminded of “the old, old story” that we’ve known and believed for years. I’m sure we’ll hear the latest news from distant relatives and we may receive the latest gadget as a gift from a loved one, but I hope that in all the flurry of newness we’ll remember that all of God’s people confess an ancient Truth—that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Garrett Walden is a pastor at Grace Heritage Church in Auburn, and he's a 6th grade teacher at Auburn Classical Academy. He's an Auburn University alum living in Opelika with his wife and three kids.