A Retro Revolution?  The NES Classic and the Nostalgia Syndrome (Phillipians 3:12-14)

If you have a gamer on your Christmas list this year, odds are the NES Classic is on THEIR list and you have been frantically searching retail stores attempting to hunt one down while promising yourself you will not overpay on eBay for the most sought after hardware this holiday season.  This tiny little console houses a smorgasboard of the greatest hits from the 8-bit Nintendo days in all their glory: Mario, Zelda, Samus… the gang’s all here to be explored by both first timers and those old enough to have bought these in their original cartridge form like me.  But expect to have a hunt on your hands if you have the fortitude to track one down… retailers are typically out of stock and Internet scalpers are taking advantage of the high demand and limited availability by snatching them up and putting an unthinkable price tag on such a simple nostalgia trip.

Rather than focus on the difficulties associated with acquiring the hottest gaming gift of this fall, I am more interested in exploring the desire to take a walk down memory lane with these golden oldies one more time.  Certainly this device is a museum that contains many gamers fondest childhood memories in one sleek package, but what fuels this urge to go back in time to gaming’s yesteryear?  With all of the amazing new experiences available on current platforms supporting 4K output and VR headsets prepared to literally explore entirely new horizons, how is it that this year’s “Gamer’s Most Wanted” is simply a collection of retro games that can often be found at your local flea market or through download on the eShop?  A deeper dive beckons…

The temptation to live in the part is not new by any means… Scripture has multiple accounts of people just like you and me who for a variety of reasons would rather return to the “good ol days” than move forward into the brave new world of tomorrow.  The Israeli people are the most obvious reference as they spent much of the Exodus looking back and complaining about how good they used to have it when they were slaves in Egypt as compared to their freedom in the challenging and difficult desert before them.  For Lot’s wife it was the inability to let the past go that compelled her to turn back towards Sodom, with some salty repercussions.  King Solomon spends a decent chunk of time in Ecclesiastes lamenting how youth is wasted on the young as he takes a hard look back in the mirror of regret and realizes how many foolish pursuits he chased in his past.  While there are certainly times we should take a moment and reflect on how good God has been to us and celebrate the victories He has provided as well as to reflect on lessons learned, there is also a pronounced danger in allowing what should simply be a monument to become a dwelling place.

In Phillipians 3:12-14 we find what is perhaps the most straight-forward and poignant statement on this topic from none other than the Apostle Paul.  If there ever was a servant of Jesus who deserved to take a break and reflect on his accomplishments it was this man. The first verses of this chapter provide much-needed context to understand his mindset when framing this study… Paul has just finished explaining his credentials as both a Jew and a Christian, and as always they are quite impressive.  It is unfortunate that he had to do this several times in various epistles, but it just goes to show that even the mighty Apostle Paul received little respect while he walked this earth so we should not be surprised when we face similar challenges.

After documenting his pedigree, Paul does a curious thing…. he throws it away.  In a world obsessed with branding, marketing, and building the perfect resume this is hard to understand.  As a culture we populate our social media pages with accomplishments and document the various checkpoints of our lives.  We blanket our homes and even tattoo our bodies with the souvenirs and reminders of our adventures.  So to see Paul so callously consider all of it garbage to be tossed certainly runs counter to our modus operandi.  But rather than be defined by what he has done, Paul chooses to be characterized by what he is CHASING.

With the phrase “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” we get a very clear view of how Paul accomplished such an incredible amount of evangelism and missionary work in his life span.  He did not allow himself the luxury of coasting on his successes when there was still so much left to be done.  He had a myopic focus on what he termed “the prize”… the upward call of God in  Christ Jesus.  Or put even more simply in verse 8, “to gain Christ”.  Paul was not satisfied with merely receiving Christ… No, he chose to make the daily seeking of Jesus his driving force as he relentlessly marched across the continent.  And his dogged and relentless pursuit of his Savior both defined him as an individual as well as informed his decisions and choices.  And when he tells us later that he has finished his race, he can say that with the confidence of a man who had truly chased and caught his Lord in the end.

I can honestly say, unfortunately, that this has not been my approach to my Christian walk.  I have been content to look at my conversion to Christ as a totem that I can reflect on when concerned about the state of my salvation, rather than a continual journey towards Him that is never fully completed until I have finished my course here.  I am ashamed to say that I have lived a NES classic life, hanging my hat on old accolades and choosing to allow a handful of correct decisions to create a comfortable sense of standing with my Lord.  But if I continue to live there, existing in the museum of my faith instead of pressing towards the untapped potential that lies ahead, I deny myself the potential that God has planned for me.

We each have a destiny greater than a mere salvation decision, as important and life-altering as that is.  We have a relationship with God that is designed to grow daily, a path that is only lit up upon each step of obedience completed, and each day is another opportunity to expand His influence in our world.  The danger of living in the glories of yesteryear is an ever-present snare that limits our futures.  I have visited this more often than I care to admit, and as a living, breathing NES classic version of a believer intend to take bolder steps into seeking not just God’s plan or his will, but God Himself.  Because if I stay close to Him in my thoughts and actions, the rest of the path tends to illuminate on its own.

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