My son always likes a ride in a “new” car. Whenever we’re away at either of set of grandparents’ homes, he is particularly keen to get to wherever we’re going in their car. We changed our car earlier this year and had a few helpful months in which he was excited to take a ride in the “new” car. Not long ago, we had to change his car seat and he was quite excited about going for journeys in his “new seat” for a time. Both the new car and new seat have now, sadly, just become his seat and our car. The novelty has worn off.
Everybody knows that children like novelty. It often doesn’t matter what the new toy is or what new place they are going to, it simply matters that it is new. For children, novelty is the spice of life. In many ways, it is this penchant for novelty that makes them relatively easy to please (at least for a time). All we have to do is provide them with something, somewhere or someone new and they are usually quite excited. It doesn’t really matter whether the thing we present them with is total tat or not, the novelty of a new thing is what really gets them excited.
It is interestingly the same in the church. Children like novelty. The spiritually immature will always be more excited about novel interpretations and new insights than they will be about old gospel truth. As CH Spurgeon put it:
Be assured, there is nothing new in theology except that which is false.
Just like children, it matters not one jot whether the message they are hearing is utter pap. If the interpretation is novel and interesting, offering a new spiritual insight they had never seen before (despite no commentator having the insight because it doesn’t exist in the text), they get excited because it is new. Novelty excites the spiritually immature.
Unlike children, most adults do not find their excitement in novelty for novelty’s sake but find more joy in the beneficial. Few children are delighted by a maturing pension but many adults see the benefits of building up an income for the future. Likewise, the spiritually mature do not tend to get excited by novelty. Instead, they take much more pleasure in the beneficial. They are not always looking for the latest insight or interesting interpretation but are looking to the old, old story presented afresh.
The spiritually immature want newness. They are after new interpretations, new experiences and new insights. The spiritually mature are excited by Christ. They want to feed on the same gospel, the same truth and the ordinary means of grace. The spiritually immature want innovation in doctrine and unique experiences; the spiritually mature want the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints and the same old experience of being in lasting relationship with God in Jesus.
Paul put the point this way in Ephesians 4:
11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The goal of the Christian life is to grow up to maturity in Christ. Paul refers to those who are carried around by novel interpretations and new doctrines as ‘children’. Children are excited by novelty, pulled away from the faith by crafty and cunning people offering exciting new insights that do not lead us to Jesus. Maturity is found when we focus on Christ and are built up by the godly pastors and teachers the Lord has given to us who will keep us from being over-excited and enticed by novelty.
Don’t be children swayed by novelty and newness. Be those who look the same Christ and the old, old gospel story. That way maturity lies.