A driving analogy.
It’s tough passing a driving test these days. Get one major or serious fault and that’s it – your out. You failed. God’s standard – God’s law – is even harder though, and no one has ever been able to keep or attain this perfect standard without fault – except Jesus Christ. All have sinned and have come short of the glory (standard) of God.
Its a gift!
Imagine though, if you could pass the driving test as a gift – wouldn’t that be awesome! In fact, that is exactly what God has done for us spiritually through the free gift of righteousness obtained for us by Jesus Christ at the cross.
Romans 5:17 “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.”
Consequently, this righteousness is imputed to us by faith (we just receive it). Romans 4:22. Therefore by faith, we are qualified and licensed to live righteously. We are justified in God’s eyes – although maybe not in the sight of men!
As Romans 8:1 says: “There is now therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. In other words, there is no ‘driving test’ or future judgement now or ever for those who receive the gift.
Can I drive?
If we obtained a driving license like this – it’s never going to happen in the UK thankfully – imagine the chaos, as technically and legally, it would mean that you could get in a car and drive without having any lessons. Would this be a wise or safe decision on the part of the government? No of course not. God however, is prepared to take the risk, but as we shall see later on, He doesn’t leave us on our own – we are given our own personal coach.
The analogy also differs slightly in one important regard: In my illustration you are given a license but no ability to drive! Through new birth, the believer is not only legally righteous (you have a license to live righteously), you actually have been changed at the spirit-level. In other words, you are given the supernatural ability and desire to live righteously because Christ is in you. Formally you instinct was sin, now your instinct is righteousness. Therefore, you can drive to some degree without lessons!
We still need driving lessons?
However, even though now we have some ‘natural’ ability or shall we say spiritual ability, we still need to learn how to ‘work out’ this salvation and that is why God gives us our very own instructor or coach who comes to live with and in us. He is called the Helper or Holy Spirit and his title is apt. He is there to help and encourage.
This means though, that He is not going to do it all for you. I’m afraid you are going to have to drive this car. You are in the driving seat. You have got to steer and use the various controls. Initially, He will tell you exactly what to do and how to do it, but as you grow in faith and ability He will back off, only intervening when necessary. Most of the time he will prompt you verbally:“have you seen that child about to cross the road ahead?” Occasionally, He may intervene with the dual controls or grab the steering – if your getting into real danger – but his goal is to get you to do it!
The good news is: He’s there every step of the way and He will never leave you.
What happens when you make mistakes?
Do you make mistakes when you learn to drive? Of course you do. In fact you learn by making them. This is the same in the christian life. Yes you are born again but even though you are declared righteous that doesn’t mean everything you do and say is going to be righteous – as you will soon find out from your wife, husband or children! It follows then, that when you are born again you still sin. The difference is how you deal with mistakes and the sin.
Again, this is where the role of the Holy Spirit is crucial. As an instructor, part of my role is to help the pupil identify and correct faults. I don’t point out every fault though as that would be discouraging! In fact, I try to spend more time encouraging and affirming the pupil – as no one enjoys correction!
Indeed, the first step in changing incorrect or bad behaviour or performance, is to firstly help the pupil identify and recognise it. What I don’t want from the pupil is an apology. I am not offended by their mistake. I expect it. What I need them to do is actually admit or confess the fault – preferably verbally. At this point I know they are conscious of it and they are on the first step.
Similarly in the spiritual life this is important, because before we got saved half the things we used to do and say we didn’t even realise were sin! Now we are saved we begin to realise that many things we were comfortable with are wrong in the eyes of God because we have a new nature.
Does God break fellowship when we sin?
Wouldn’t it be crazy though, if after every driving fault I stopped the car and refused to drive until the pupil said sorry? So, when we sin God doesn’t break fellowship with us. Sin does not separate us from him. In fact it never did, that’s a theological myth. No, sin and condemnation make us separate ourselves from God (Adam hiding in the garden). For the believer, the scriptures are clear: nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the relationship can’t be strained at times. If for example as a pupil I refused to listen to the instructors advice then he or she may take the keys off me! However, this an extreme case and most of the time all the coach is looking for is a willingness to learn. After all, the Holy Spirit is the most patient person you are likely to meet. As Graham Cooke says, if you fail the test your just take it again!
Therefore, when we have sinned that’s when we need God the most. That’s when we need to run towards him not away from him. Yes, He may speak strongly to us and correct us (if it’s a particularly serious or dangerous thing we have done) but He will never shut us out! He will never, stop the car, take the keys, slam the door and leave us immobile by the side of the road.
Is God angry when you sin?
God is not angry therefore when you sin. No, the Holy Spirit is patient and is not quite as sensitive as some make out. He can handle you! After all, when God saved you, did He know what he was getting into, what you were like? God is not angry with you because he has no false illusions about you. Do you think God is surprised that you messed up – again!
I mean, is the driving instructor really that shocked when a pupil stalls the car? No, He has seen every pupil do it! It’s when you realise that God is not shocked at your sin and that rather than wallowing in condemnation and self-pity, you can turn to your coach and ask for help to be delivered from it.
Does God correct our faults?
Graciousness on the part of the instructor though doesn’t mean overlooking everything and pretending you drive perfectly. Grace isn’t ignoring faults and sin. No, a good instructor points out faults in a kind way, the aim being to help the pupil drive better. Unfortunately of course, there are driving instructors who are impatient and treat their pupils like a sergeant major rather than a coach – berating and shouting in anger at the least little fault. You can imagine how well these pupils learn!
Indeed, If that’s how you view the Holy Spirit may I suggest that its not the Holy Spirit talking to you! What I know of the Holy Spirit is that He is not like this. He is never angry or frustrated with you. Yes you can make him sad when you ignore him and refuse to listen but if you work with him, He is an amazing kind, patient, encouraging and loving coach.
The role of an instructor then, is not to convict the pupil of their faults. I am not there to make you feel guilty for exceeding the speed limit again – but I am going to prompt you with a question. I might say the following: did you realise that your breaking the speed limit? Why should we keep to speed limit? If you refuse to slow down of course I will intervene. The only person however that is going to convict you – is the traffic police!
What happens if you crash?
Do believers mess it up really bad though – ‘say crash the car into a tree as it were? Say if they were driving too fast as in the previous example. Yes of course. Maybe we have all heard stories of ministers falling into sexual sin, leaving the church in disgrace and so on. In these sad situations it’s right that sin is not tolerated because it’s dangerous and destructive. However, where sin abounds grace even more abounds so God’s heart is always to redeem the individual – there is always a way back.
Would God rather you avoided your foolish choices? Yes. Does he protect you from all of them? No. I mean if you crashed your car into a tree there would be some serious consequences to pay – a ruined car and maybe whiplash or a fatality. Sin may get you to heaven quicker than you planned! However, when we crash and burn, the door to the father is always open, we haven’t lost our salvation and if we approach the throne of grace there is always grace and mercy for our time of need. God can work all things for good for those that love God and are called according to purpose.
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