Does God’s Will Include How I Drive my Car? Yes!

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Ever thought that the Bible has nothing to say about cars and how we drive them? Well, it does! Prayerfully consider the following quote:

God’s plan to make us like Christ is more detailed and intricate than most of us ever imagine. It concerns every aspect of life. Let’s take a simple example—driving a car.

Most of the decisions I make while driving are so trivial that I am not aware of them. I just drive. What could God possibly be saying to me about driving a car? A great deal, as it turns out.

First of all, we must love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). That tells us a lot about driving. The Bible tells us to be loving and kind to others, even if they treat us badly. What if the bloke in front suddenly cuts in, causing us to swerve and brake hard and giving us a shot of adrenalin? And what if we come across him broken down a few kilometres down the road? God has some guidance for us; he says that we should love our enemies and do good to those who wrong us (Matt 5:43). The Christian should stop and help.

The Bible also says that we are to obey those in authority over us (Rom 13:1f). Therefore, we should obey our government’s rules about how cars are to be driven, which side of the road to drive on, and at what speed. Even if there is no policeman watching, we should obey the rules because that’s how God wants us to live.

Add to this our concern for the safety and comfort of our passengers, and the potential for developing patience and self-control, and we can see that there is a very biblical, Christ-like way to drive a car. God has lots of detailed guidance about driving.

Notice how the Bible’s guidance reveals what God thinks is important. The things that matter in our automotive decisions are the minute-by-minute challenges to be kind, patient, loving and self-controlled. These are of tremendous and eternal importance in God’s eyes because they relate to his eternal plans for us.

Notice, too, how God has clear guidance for us even in decisions where we might think that the Bible has nothing to say. You won’t find a reference to ‘cars’ in your concordance, but God has plenty to say to us about how we should drive them.

—Jensen, Phillip D and Tony Payne. Guidance and the Voice of God (Australia: Matthias Media, 100-102), emphasis added.

These are convicting words for me. Let’s just say that sometimes I tend to think that speed limits aren’t that important. Like that going 60mph when I see a 55mph speed limit sign is just fine. But, according to Romans 13:1-2 and 1 Peter 2:13, it’s not fine, but sinful. And no, this is not an example of Acts 5:29.

May God humble me and give me the diligence to leave for places earlier so that I can avoid a strong temptation to speed.

Can you relate to this?

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The Joys of Heaven Will Far Outweigh the Sufferings of Earth

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Suffering has a way of messing with our hope. In the midst of experiencing pain, loss, or hardship, we as Christians can easily lose our focus on what matters most and on our certain future. I was reminded of this reality recently and encouraged as I read the following story from David Jeremiah’s book What Are You Afraid Of?: Facing Down Your Fears with Faith (see my review):pilot_flying_airplane

Suppose you won a free trip around the world for you and a loved one. It included first-class accommodations at five-star hotels, private planes, lavish gifts, and personal tours. (See how powerful the imagination is?) But suppose as you opened the envelope containing the tickets, you suffered a paper cut on the end of your finger. You might say to your companion, “Oh, I cut my finger!” You’d grimace for about half a second before grinning from ear to ear and saying, “Who cares? We’re about to take the trip of a lifetime!” I would say nothing to trivialize disease [or other intense suffering]; I know the misery of it firsthand. But according to Paul, and from the perspective of our eternal God, the sufferings of this present world are less than a paper cut in relation to the glory yet to be revealed to us (p. 56).person-flying

The Apostle Paul’s perspective that David Jeremiah mentions comes from Romans 8:18:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Paul was no stranger to suffering. Later in Romans 8, Paul gives a long list of potential sufferings that some might think separate us from God: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, death, angels, rulers, powers, etc. The truth is that for the Christian, none of those things mentioned or “anything else in all creation” can separate him or her from the Lord! Paul himself faced many of these sufferings:

24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? (2 Corinthians 11:24-29)

So when Paul said that the “sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” this glory must be great to outweigh all of the intense sufferings that he faced. Indeed, this glory did outweigh Paul’s sufferings and it does outweigh ours!

Meditate on Heaven and the joy to be found there deeply, so that you can be of great earthly good and endure whatever may come in this life!

Let the example of Paul and the truth that even your hardest sufferings cannot separate you from God be an encouragement when you face suffering of any kind, whether small or great. If you know Christ, you have hope beyond measure and a certain joyous future in Heaven with Him!

Why is Sinning Against an Infinitely Holy God Such a Big Deal?—An Analogy

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Many have wondered (myself included) how we as finite creatures who have not trusted in Christ will be punished eternally for finite sins. Consider this story as shared by David Platt in his booklet What Did Jesus Really Mean When He Said Follow Me? (see my review here):

Azeem, an Arab follower of Jesus and a friend of mine, was talking recently with a taxi driver in his country. The driver believed that he would pay for his sin for a little while in hell , but then he would surely go to heaven after that. After all, he hadn’t done too many bad things. So Azeem said to him, ‘If I slapped you in the face, what would you do to me?’ The driver replied, ‘I would throw you out of my taxi.’ ‘If I went up to a random guy on the street and slapped him in the face, what would he do to me?’ ‘He would probably call his friends and beat you up.’ ‘What if I went up to a policeman and slapped him in the face? What would he do to me?’ ‘You would be beat up for sure, and then thrown into jail.’ ‘And what if I went to the king of this country and slapped him in the face? What would happen to me then?’ The driver looked at Azeem and awkwardly laughed. He told Azeem, ‘You would die.’ The driver got Azeem’s point and realized that he had been severely underestimating the seriousness of his sin against God (pgs. 4-5).

When we as finite creatures sin against an infinitely holy God, we are deserving of an “infinitely” just penalty—eternity in Hell. The magnitude of our rebellion against God is far greater than any human analogy can put into words. When viewed in this light, Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf is seen more clearly for what it is—glorious!

A Lesson from the Puritans on Spirituality

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If you haven’t heard, I’ve begun seminary at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary! Last Tuesday was my first day and I’m loving the experience! Whenever I think about this opportunity I have to study God’s Word in this environment, I always feel a deep sense of being so privileged to do so. God has blessed me tremendously in bringing my wife & I to Louisville.

With moving early this month and now seminary life, we are pretty busy. But, I thought I’d take a moment (before January was gone) and share with y’all a quote from one of the books I’ve been reading this semester.

This quote comes from J. I. Packer in his book A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Crossway, 1990). In the very first chapter Packer discusses some of the lessons the Puritans have taught him and he says this:

Seventh, the Puritans made me aware that all theology is also spirituality, in the sense that it has an influence, good or bad, positive or negative, on its recipients’ relationship or lack of relationship to God. If our theology does not quicken the conscience and soften the heart, it actually hardens both; if it does not encourage the commitment of faith, it reinforces the detachment of unbelief; if it fails to promote humility, it inevitably feeds pride. So one who theologises in public, whether formally in the pulpit, on the podium or in print, or informally from the armchair, must think hard about the effect his thoughts will have on people–God’s people, and other people (15).

Many of you might have grown up being taught that the Puritans were legalistic, prudish, overly-serious, to-be-avoided, folk. If that is you, Packer would say that you’ve learned it all wrong. The Puritans were deep thinkers, yes, but equally so they were deep lovers of God and others, whose love and devotion permeated all that they did in practical ways. They were serious about their faith in a way that led them to practice it in all spheres of life for the greater good as well as God’s glory. We can learn something from their maturity, which, frankly, so many of us 21st-century, overly busy, rarely meditative, Americans lack.

From the paragraph above we are reminded to cherish what we learn about God (theology). It’s a great reminder for me, a seminary student, and I would suggest it’s a great reminder for you as you read your Bible, go to church, and attend Bible studies. I pray that whatever we learn about God would cause us to rejoice in Him, encourage our faith, and promote humility.  As I write this, I am mindful of Packer’s last words in the quote above. Please meditate on what you learn about God, so that the effect of my thoughts on you would be to the glory of God through your joy in Him!

Now, back to my hundreds of pages of reading for classes…

Teaching & Preaching Biblical Principles is NOT Enough: we must connect the text to the Gospel

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Tim Keller in his book The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (Riverhead Books, 2008, pgs. 129-130):

We habitually and instinctively look to other things besides God and his grace as our justification, hope, significance, and security. We believe the gospel at one level, but at deeper levels we do not. Human approval, professional success, power and influence, family and clan identity—all of these things serve as our heart’s ‘functional trust’ rather than what Christ has done, and as a result we continue to be driven to a great degree by fear, anger, and a lack of self-control. You cannot change such things through mere will-power, through learning Biblical principles and trying to carry them out. We can only change permanently as we take the gospel more deeply into our understanding and into our hearts. We must feed on the gospel, as it were, digesting it and making it part of ourselves. That is how we grow.

The end of teaching and preaching cannot be biblical principles from the text. We must make connections with the Gospel with every text from which we teach. If all we do is teach biblical principles from a text (even if they’re all true) and do not connect the text to the Gospel, then we are implicitly telling our audience: “the key is to now go and do what I just taught you.” If our audience wasn’t reminded that it’s through the Gospel of grace that God empowers us to obey His Word, then likely many will try to obey out of sheer will-power. This kind of response would be the opposite of what we should encourage in people. Obeying out of will-power will neither lead to actually doing what the text requires nor to pleasing God.

As we prepare to teach Scripture to others, we must remember this about our audience (to slightly alter Keller’s words):

They cannot change [whatever the text says or implies they should] through mere will-power, through learning Biblical principles and trying to carry them out. They can only change permanently as they take the gospel more deeply into their understanding and into their hearts. They must feed on the gospel, as it were, digesting it and making it part of their selves. That is how they grow.

As I reflect on the various opportunities over the years that God has graciously given me to teach God’s Word to others, I am deeply convicted by these words. I realize that much of my teaching has been just about biblical principles. Don’t get me wrong—that’s good on one level. Without trying to be prideful, I do believe I can say that I have taught a lot of truthful principles from Scripture (although I haven’t been without error). But, many of my messages were not clearly connected to the gospel. If I dare be honest, probably even most of my messages lacked gospel-centrality. Sure, I often talked about how to get saved—through repentance and faith in Christ. But, for the Christians who were present, my message for them was largely a challenge to live a certain way.

My great failing has been that I didn’t connect those challenges with the Gospel. I didn’t explain how they could obey. I merely explained that they should obey. I doubt that many listeners left the meeting thinking deeply about how God would empower them through His grace to follow His Word. Rather, if any thought about the implications of my message for their lives, their thoughts would have been along the lines of “how will I ever do what the Bible says I must?” with perhaps accompanying guilt when realizing that they couldn’t or haven’t.

One of my great hopes for going to seminary is to learn how the Gospel is at the forefront throughout all the Scriptures, and to be equipped to effectively teach and preach Scripture to others in this faithfully gospel-centered way. I cannot undue my mistakes in the past. Only God in His sheer mercy can redeem what others have heard from me that was not saturated with His Gospel of grace. From here on forward, I want any future speaking opportunities (should God graciously grant me some) to be saturated with God’s Gospel of grace. May God empower me through His grace to do so. After all, I can’t do this by sheer will-power. And I’m so thankful that despite all my failings, by His doing I rest in His grace and unchanging love for me.

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