Christmas day in 1988 I excitedly tore through wrapping paper to discover what I had been anticipating for weeks – a brand new Atari 7800 video game console. Carefully dissecting the box and removing the packaging revealed for the first time the glossy black casing and luminous metallic strip of the console. For a moment I stared in awe at the sleek design and sighed to myself, ‘whoah’. For the last several weeks all I had was the hazy picture of the console in the Sears catalog I ordered it from, and the page had become worn through constant use. Now that it was in front of me it far exceeded my expectations for coolness. The Atari 7800 was light years ahead of the Pong and Atari 2600 systems we owned, and now it was time to actually play it! This was very new technology to us, so I took great care in unraveling the cables and studying the manuals before attempting to power on the system. Once I was confident that everything was perfect - TV directly in front of me, console positioned midway between, and shiny black joystick in hand, I powered on the system to reveal… static.
What?! This called for an immediate re-check of everything followed by an exhaustive analysis of the manual for the next several hours. Everything seemed to be perfectly in place but every time I turned on the console switch it brought the same thing – static. Eventually after reading the manual over and over again I got bored with the system and decided that it simply didn’t work. Not really caring anymore about being delicate with the system I took one of the game cartridges and recklessly shoved it into the cartridge slot and flicked the switch one last time – and the multi-colored ATARI logo appeared on the screen! The whole time I hadn’t been pushing the cartridges into the system hard enough, and there was no contact actually made with the system. I immediately forgot my boredom with the system, as playing the games revealed a whole new world that previously was only in my imagination.
For many people their experience with God is not unlike my experience with the Atari 7800. They have heard the testimony of other people talking about how beautiful it is to have a relationship with Jesus; to know His presence, to hear His counsel and have a sense of identity and purpose – but they have never experienced it for themselves. There are those that have gone to Bible school and have studied scripture and religious texts hoping to find that relationship, but are left empty and feeling like the whole thing simply doesn’t work. However like me and my game system there is no risk involved in their attempts to form a relationship with Jesus – and hence there is no connection. The price of a relationship with Jesus is heavy – it’s your whole life! To identify yourself with Jesus is to take upon yourself the shame of the Cross and follow the ways of the Master forever. It is when you truly abandon your old life to follow Christ that the power of Christ in you turns on. Scripture tells us in 2 Timothy 2:11, “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him: we shall also live with him.”
Scripture is meant to be a manual for our relationship with God, but without the relationship it will make little sense and even become boring! I thought that I understood everything in that Atari 7800 manual until I actually started playing the system. It was then that I realized how very little I actually knew about what I had read, because most of the content was speaking of something I had not yet experienced. Once I actually began to experience what the manual was talking about, I was able to look back and read what it was saying with understanding for the first time. In the same way mere knowledge of the scripture is empty without an actual relationship with Jesus. When you really plug into Jesus a whole new world immediately unfolds before you, and you forget all the boredom you had with scripture before. Reading God’s Word is no longer a cold exercise of discipline, but a guidebook for reality! Your love for God’s Word will grow with your relationship, and you will realize as David did, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” –Psalms 119:105
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