If God entrusted to me the ability to remove one thing from our hearts as His people, I think I would choose to revoke our sense of familiarity of Him. For those of us who have been in the Kingdom for many years, there is a very real danger of losing our sense of wonder. For those who have been believers since a very young age, there is an even greater danger: to have never appropriated a sense of wonder concerning God and His goodness. The more time we spend in any environment, the more acclimated we become to it, and the greater the potential becomes to lose our sense of appreciation of it. As followers of Jesus, it is possible to know the bible verses, sing the songs, master the disciplines, perform the responsibilities, give the tithe, pray the prayers and to routinely accomplish all of this in the spirit of familiarity. When that happens to a modern day Christian, he or she is not the first person to be infected with this disease. A whole city was hit with this affliction in the days of Jesus. It was His hometown. Let’s spend a moment in Nazareth today.
“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.” – Mark 6:3-5
The Son of God grew up in Nazareth and nobody was impressed. When Jesus was thirty years old, He began to reveal His powers as the Messiah, the Son of God. He preached with unprecedented spiritual unction. He challenged the religious status quo with unapologetic authority. He banished sickness, healed injuries and reversed all manner of physical affliction. He made demons tremble and flee. Jesus had even raised the dead. After doing all these things, Jesus made His way back to His home town, and the response to His presence was an inglorious shrug from the people among whom He was raised. So familiar were they with Jesus, they reduced Him from the miracle working, power-dispensing, Messiahship-qualified Son of God, to being nothing more than the carpenter’s boy. The bible says that the people “took offense at Him”. This means that they stumbled through their relationship with Him. At the core, the fact that they had been around Jesus for so long did not serve to make Him precious in their eyes – it actually had the opposite effect. Because they were familiar with Mary’s son, they completely discounted the reality that He was the glorious King of Israel. They shrugged at their Savior.
C.S. Lewis once said that an ungrateful heart is the first step toward apostasy. When we lose our wonder, mark it down, we will lose our way. In 1st Peter 3:15 the responsibility is placed upon us to reverently honor the Lord in our individual hearts. We are to intentionally set Christ apart in our own lives as glorious, stunning, peerless and treasured. He has rightful claim to being our greatest thirst, our deepest contentment, our highest security and our most passionate pursuit. When He becomes less than that, we will also experience what the city of Nazareth experienced in the verses above: there will be an absence of the powerful presence of Jesus in our lives, resulting in minimal manifestation of who Jesus truly is. None of us want to experience that. None of us want to lose our wonder. None of us want to have Jesus become so routine to us that we end up being left with sound theology about Him, but deflated experience with Him. The passage from Mark’s Gospel above is astounding; clearly, the sovereign Son of God was willing to do much more in Nazareth than He actually did. The bible says that, due to their own unbelief which was sourced in their familiarity with Jesus, He was unable to do anything more than a few healings. The next verses tell us that Jesus was stunned at their lack of confidence in Him and He subsequently left his hometown. Nazareth never did experience the fullness of Jesus. Neither will anyone today who allows familiarity to dethrone spiritual fervency and passionate wonder for the King.
May we own the responsibility of ensuring our own relationship with Christ never gives way to routine. It is not your spouse’s fault. It is not your parents’ fault. Do not blame it on your church. You and I are clearly the ones whom God expects to guard our own hearts, to live filled with Holy Spirit, to be zealous for Kingdom living and to regard Jesus as holy and most precious to us. He visits your personal Nazareth today, prepared to unleash in high-definition all that He is and so much of what He desires to do. He really is unspeakably, indescribably good. He offers us far more than we have ever received. Yet, if Jesus remains to us a King who is trapped in the historical pages of the bible, and not gloriously active in our present day lives, we will remain in a cycle of shrugging at Him, which will lead to another season of absent power and joy… which will lead to yet another season of spiritual shrugs in the presence of the King. Take out your spiritual GPS and delete Nazareth as your home address in the Kingdom. Don’t go back. It’s dusty, absent of Kingdom activity and full of dry souls that will never help advance you in your walk with the King. You are not destined to become one of them. You are called to something greater. Something fit for the glory of the One who raises the dead and moisturizes the arid.
Break the cycle, friend. Take the initiative to leave Nazareth. It’s not on Him to do it for you. It really is on you and me to cultivate brokenness and hunger towards Him. He will likely not go beyond what your heart desires of Him. So go big and move on from where you’ve been. Forward your mail out of Nazareth. you have outgrown that old place.