A look at our past helps us see whether it’s time for God to update our spiritual lives.

Every once in a while, when fishing around on the Internet, you’ll come across a long-forgotten website. You know what I mean — you’re looking for some information, and you don’t want to get caught using Wikipedia, so you click on the very legitimate-looking second option. And suddenly, it’s 1998.

The website usually has a solid hue for a background — some drab purple or forest green — and if its links aren’t royal blue, underlined, and in Times New Roman, centered down the middle of the page, they may be buttons along the top of the screen or down the left-hand side. The official mark of the early Internet age is probably there, too — a ticker, announcing that you are visitor No.  021,149.

These websites aren’t bad; they still work, and some still have relevant information. They were very suitable in the late 1990s, when “surfing” and “Web” still went together, when more colors and more emoticons were cool, when being on the cutting edge meant decorating your website like a kid tinsels up his childhood Christmas tree.

But as nice as the nostalgia is, we’re all pretty happy we’re past that time. We like that most of the Internet has become cleaner, more orderly, more helpful, and relevant. We can enjoy looking at these old websites, but only because we’re not there anymore.

Yearbooks, old websites, and even alumni magazines are all fun for that reason: They remind us of what we used to look like, and how we’ve changed since then. Different haircut, different job, different clothes — you probably prefer yourself today to your 1998 version, too.

For most of us, our Bible Institute year (or two) was a lot like that early Internet age. That year, we were discovering God and people in new ways, and our spiritual growth was fast-paced and flashy. We tried new things, talked about what God was doing all the time, and thought the possibilities for knowledge and learning would never end.

Once we graduated and got into the busyness and responsibilities of everyday life, though, that probably changed. We realized that the excitement and flash of growth and learning didn’t happen all the time, and that the Christian life was a lot more about God patiently changing us than it was about adding buttons and colors and tickers all the time. Growth for someone becoming a mature Christian looks very different.

Some people get scared when they run into this part of spiritual growth. They’re used to the comfort of what they know, and rather than pushing on into new questions and challenges, they work to protect what they have. Their spiritual walk looks like that old website — good for its time, sometimes helpful, but ultimately stuck in a version that’s less than what it could be.

Others, however, can look back on the former versions of themselves with a smile because they’ve been updated. They’ve committed to the tough parts of growth. Every day, week after week into months into years, they’ve been learning and growing and changing. Piece by piece, God has replaced parts of them and tweaked others as He makes them the “new man” He is shaping to be like Christ.

When you push the refresh button on these lives, you see change. Whatever has been faulty, jumbled, or outdated gets replaced with a fresh take. Day to day, the changes are small, but over time, all the little parts God is swapping in become a totally new person.

Have you ever thought about how much you’ve changed, and what those changes look like, since your Bible Institute year? Would your friends from then not see much difference in your spiritual life — or would they not be able to recognize you at all because you’ve been transformed?

Before you move on from here, take a moment to think about all that has happened since your time at Word of Life. Consider whether the growth that began that year has continued in your life. Have you changed? Can you see God’s blessing?

Have you been refreshed?

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