Christians have always fought the spiritual cycle. Some win. Yet, honestly, most lose. You can observe this through history.

The New Testament is the story of the rapid expansion of the Christian church throughout much of the Mediterranean world. Today, most of that world is secular. At the time of the Reformation, Europe was “refreshed” with a new vibrance for Christianity. Lives were changed, churches came alive, mighty cathedrals were built. Today, most of those cathedrals are part tourist attraction, part museum.

Today, the North American church is generally on the decline, yet the momentum is very alive in parts of Africa, South America, and the “underground” movement in China. When Christianity loses its might, what happens?

Well, it’s complicated. But one clear contribution to the decline cycle is that the packaging becomes familiar, then no longer useful, but in the process, the human tendency is to make it “sacred.” What happens? The faith loses its freshness because the world changes, even though the substance doesn’t. However, the forms must. The delivery systems must change. It’s an easy and common slip: worshipping the forms, even if we keep the substance.

You think we’d get this, because Jesus clearly demonstrated it. His brilliant summary: “New wine needs new wineskins.” (Matthew 9:17). A child can get that, but Christian adults struggle anyway. Why?

We like comfort. We, from a lazy perspective, like it the way we’ve always done it. We get in a rut. And the only difference between a rut and a grave is the width, length, and how long you’re in it. We make the living faith a dead has-been, because we slip into worshipping traditions.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Galatia, “You knew God personally, and God knows you … how can you possibly subject yourselves to being intimidated and to scrupulously observing all the traditions” (Galatians 4:8-11).

Jesus became flesh—the Greek word for “meat”—a human/God simultaneously. Why would God do that? He packaged Himself in a form that fit the people He touched. As God, He could have looked like Billy Graham, or the Hulk, or a Martian, because God can do any of that. But form is important. It makes people recognize God is real, in the “now.”

The “now” changes. So, the form must change. The “now” continually changes, so the form must, so the substance doesn’t. The truth, Jesus, is eternal—He must never change. But you put Him in old clothes, old forms, and you lose the incarnation. Then you lose the church. Why would any Christian in their right spiritual mind do that?

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