Behind the Wheel

(Friends, this is the one I wrote out for Sunday but wanted to speak from my heart, but my heart was too broken to make any sense I think. So here is the written one anyways 🙂 

How many of you passed driver’s education the first time around? I didn’t, don’t know why but I got better, really I did. It might have had something to do with my first driving lessons being on a backhoe, same basic concepts and a lot more fun but not necessarily the best way to learn how to pass your test! The whole point of driver’s ed, from a class and from a wise driving teacher, is just that, teaching the driver how to drive the vehicle. Not of course the other way around of teaching the vehicle to drive the driver. That would sound kind of silly wouldn’t it? Even with the smart cars Google keeps trying to put out that can drive themselves, you still need the programmer and other people to tell the car what to do.

Cars are complex wonderful things but essentially they do what you tell them to do, they have a go, a turn, a stop, a reverse and with just some training you can get the handle of it fairly easy. I still remember mom taking me out to deserted parking lots during the winter when I was learning how to drive and just let me go to town, spinning and turning and getting use to how the car handled in the snow. Then you have to learn the rules of the road, how to handle the car in different kinds of conditions and weather and of course what side of the road to drive on (which really throws you if you travel overseas!).

Now what would happen if we let the car take control for a while without the driver interfering? Just put a brick on the gas pedal pointed it in a general direction and shift it into drive. The car would go off careening in whatever direction the landscape sent it, do untold amounts of damage, be pushed around by whatever environmental obstacles were in its way and finally slam into an unmovable object. If this were to happen we wouldn’t blame the car for the damage caused we would blame the person who wasn’t doing their job driving the car.

We realize this and we would never really do this kind of thing but somehow our culture has not only permitted but encouraged our children, family, friends and anyone in between to do just that, let the car take control without the driver interfering and it has caused untold amount of damage and heartache in our world. Maybe because we don’t realize or want to realize that each human being is a driver and a car.

We are a wonderful unified whole of both body and spirit, material and spiritual, a whole being that God created to be in His image. Even though you are an embodied soul and soulful body there is still a difference between the two and as Christians the Lord is calling us to live a Spirit-filled, that is a Spirit driven life, a body and life that is driven by the redeemed spirit that Jesus Christ has given to us.

Let’s talk about this a little more. When we allow our spirit to take its hands off of the wheel and let our bodies do the driving the evidence of the damage caused is unmistakable. A life that is driven by base urges and desires alone is like a car bouncing from one curb to the next, just as quickly becoming bored and disinterested when the gratification isn’t there trying to seek out even more and more gratification to get that feeling or lack of feeling back. When a life is driven by these base desires alone it’s like the brick is on the pedal and greed, hunger, sex, gratification, need and the like are rocketing the car forward without any heed to the damage being caused along the way. Its not only the base desires of the flesh and world but the very real power and presence of sin that corrupts our human nature, weakens our Spirit and drives us pell mell away from the presence of God.

Our world so often applauds these run a away cars and calls this good and liberating to be free from any driver, driver ed or wise counsel. How often do we see a car out of control, base behaviors driving the car and the movies and celebrities that glorify that behavior make billions while the real physical, spiritual and emotional car wrecks are towed away to somewhere we can turn a blind eye too. Our New Testament Gospel reading is a story of just that same thing, people letting their cars do the driving, driven by greed and selfishness, selling and buying in the church, not caring that they were keeping people away from God.

Jesus’ example in the temple courtyard, crying out that His Father’s House was a house of prayer, a house where the spirit and body could come and receive rest, was a very clear example of how our Lord condemns this kind of living. Pastor Paul in these words to Timothy remind us that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” This is a God given gift, not a driver that takes our hands off the wheel but a driver of Godly power, loving action and bodily self-control that not only places the hands on the wheel but learns to drive the car in a God pleasing way.

How do we learn how to drive our cars, within this spirit of power, love and self-control? Like any one else, we have to take driver’s ed, we have to be with wise Christian guides (like my mother was/is for me taking me out in the parking lot and letting me try out the car in a safe environment) and always learning how to handle all of the different kinds of conditions we have to deal with. Unlike our cars we have parked outside this kind of process takes a lifetime here and life eternally to learn.

The places that are so often overlooked as unneeded are exactly the places we need to be to teach the spirit God has given us to drive our cars in a God pleasing way. These Ten Commandments we read earlier are in many ways the driver’s ed manual speaking to the very core and heart of who we are as a soulful body and training our Spirit how to drive in a God-pleasing way. Think of worship and bible study, participating in the rites and services of the church as a continuing education for the spirit God has given you to drive your car well and even as a way of getting and renewing your spiritual driver’s license! Out of all of the other alternative driver training or no driver at all ideas that have come and gone, none other speak so clearly to the heart of who we are and what we need to learn as these simple ways of God. The consequences of taking your hands off the wheel are obvious and painful, and yes we are responsible even if we want to pretend it’s the car’s fault. But that is not the life we have been called to live, we have been given a redeemed Spirit of Christian power, love and self-control to drive our cars in a way that glorifies God in a responsible and mature Christian way.

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