P.E.A.R.s™ Periodic Encouragement And Reminder©
Quit Pushing the Car!©
Robert E. Alderman, Jr.
Most likely, everyone who reads this article is familiar with the story of Israel’s escape from Egypt; its wanderings in the wilderness for forty years and eventually its entry into Canaan as the land of milk and honey promised to that nation by God. It’s a great story, isn’t it?
There’s more to it, however, than just a story.
It’s one of God’s teaching metaphors about every Christian’s journey from captivity in sin (living under the devil’s control); the rescue by Christ’s death on the cross; and the sanctification process of moving our carnal nature of self-reliance into the promised land of paradise allowing Christ to live through us in the Person of the Holy Spirit.
If you’ve been of the opinion that your acceptance of Christ as your Savior gives you an entry ticket to God’s Kingdom when you die, but gives no immediate empowerment here on earth, this P.E.A.R.™ is going to be both an “I-can’t-wait-to-implement-this” discovery as well as a “why-did-I-waste-so-many-years-in-the-wilderness?” experience. At least it has been for me.
What opened my eyes on this was a book I actually read for the first time nearly twenty years ago. However, at that first reading, I didn’t grasp the substance of what the author was saying even though some of what he said was helpful to me.
Its life changing message from the Bible didn’t reach my heart until I “happened” to come across the book again during my move to Arizona in October 2006 when I decided to read it for a second time. It was from that second reading that the meaning of dwelling in Christ and having Christ dwell in me (as reflected in this P.E.A.R.™ title “Quit Pushing the Car!”) was both clarified and simplified for me.
Although I have had a peripheral understanding of that transformation blessing offered by God and have even experienced short periods of living in that mode, I hadn’t truly grasped the extent of that blessing or the importance of letting Christ work through me in every aspect of life.
My hope is that through this P.E.A.R.™, you will be encouraged to change from striving to live for Christ to instead allowing Him to live through you – if you have not yet attained the wonders and fulfillment of doing so – or perhaps to at least seek out the book and read it for yourself.
The book is by W. Ian Thomas titled “The Saving Life of Christ”.
Unfortunately, until the book is read, the title actually draws our attention away from the message it teaches rather than providing initial insight to what it contains. At least it did for me as my tendency was to equate the saving nature of Christ’s life to the thirty-three years He spent on earth in human form and then to the death of that life on the cross and subsequent resurrection to open the way for yours and my eternal salvation. However…the life of Christ that Major Thomas addresses is not of salvation alone but of the immediate fullness and strength of life we are capable of living on earth after our acceptance of Christ if only we would learn to let Christ’s life in the Person of the Holy Spirit live through us!
Here is how he describes his own discovery of this reality:
At the age of twelve I received Christ as my Savior and by fifteen I decided I was meant to devote my life to His service. I began to preach in the public; was engaged actively in Sunday school work and was aiming to become a missionary to Africa. And in my early years of university studies, I became a leader in an intervarsity group and I even started a club on the east end of London with the focused purpose of saving souls.
However, by the age of nineteen, I had reached a point of complete exhaustion spiritually and felt there was no point of going on. Thus, one night in November that year, right around midnight, I got down on my knees before God and wept in sheer despair. I said, “Oh, God, I know that I am saved. I love Jesus Christ. I am convinced that I have been adopted as a child of Yours. And with all my heart I have wanted to serve You. I have tried my utter most to do so, but am a hopeless failure!”
In response, God focused me upon the Bible message of “the Christ Who is our Life” and made it as clear to me as if He was actually speaking these words: “Ian, for seven years, with utmost sincerity, you have been trying to live for Me, on My behalf, the life that I have been waiting for seven years to live through you.”
What Major Thomas discovered, and thereafter began to live – resulting in true glory for God as well as true joy for his own life – (and what finally got through my own stubborn nature as well) is that we are not intended to live for God and His glory on our own power, but to instead ignite and allow His power to work through us for that purpose. That’s why we are instilled with the Holy Spirit at the moment of our salvation and acceptance of Christ as our Savior and Lord.
The problem is that many Christians, as have I, (and as did Major Thomas for seven exhausting years) insist on trying to use our own strength to serve and glorify God rather than letting the Holy Spirit do that work through us.
There are two great analogies given in the book to illustrate this:
The engine in a car: How stupid would it be to buy a car with a powerful engine under the hood, and then to spend the rest of your days pushing it around town!? Thwarted and exhausted, you would wish to discard it as a useless thing. Yet to some of you who are Christians, this may be God’s word in your heart. When He redeemed you through the precious blood of His Son, he placed, in the language of this illustration, a powerful engine under your hood – nothing less than the resurrected life of God the Son, made over to you in the person of God the Holy Spirit. So, stop pushing! Open the door, step in, turn on the ignition and step on the gas pedal to that divine energy that is available to us to overcome every hill of circumstance, every opportunity, every temptation and every perplexity of life.
A glove without a hand inside: I may say to a glove, “Glove, pick up this Bible,” and yet somehow, the glove cannot do it. It has a thumb and fingers, the shape and form of a hand, and yet it is unable to do the thing I command it to do. You may say, “Well, of course not. You never told the glove how!” But I may preach to and instruct that glove until my patience is exhausted, but the glove, try as it might, still cannot pick up the Bible. Yet I have a glove at home that has picked up my Bible dozens of times! – but never once before I put my hand into it! As soon, however, as my hand goes into that glove, the glove becomes as strong as my hand. Everything possible to my hand becomes possible to that glove – but only in measure to which the glove is prepared simply to clothe the activity of my hand.
That is what it is to have Christ, by His Spirit, dwelling within our redeemed humanity. We are the glove and Christ is the hand. Everything that is possible to Him becomes possible to us.
* * * * *
“Quit pushing the car!” is the message every Christian has to hear and learn to live before we can experience the joy and power of Christ dwelling within us or to truly live a life that glorifies God.
Oh, sure, we can escape eternal captivity to the devil by accepting Christ as our Savior – much like Israel escaped captivity in Egypt. But, we will never enter the promised land of fulfillment in this world and will not have lives that glorify God if after our salvation we continue to rely on our perceived individual wisdom and strength rather than permitting Christ to be Lord of our lives and to completely live through us in the person of the Holy Spirit.
Such is the mistake Israel made thereby finding itself exhausted and wandering in the wilderness for forty years. Even Moses failed to physically experience the promised life of Canaan in this world, because he choose to rely on his own efforts rather than following God’s instructions – meant to glorify God and not Moses.
In other words, getting out of captivity is great, but…it’s also God’s intention and offer for us to have a life in Canaan on earth with Christ as Lord rather than a life of wandering lost and exhausted in the wilderness when we accept Christ as Savior only!
Get out AND get in is the message of Major Thomas in “The Saving Life of Christ”.
Both progressions require complete reliance on God. The first is provided in the death of Christ on the cross and the second is provided in the life of Christ through the Holy Spirit. This is reflected, respectively, in God’s parting of the Red Sea bringing death to the Egyptian army as Israel’s captors, and then in God’s parting of the River Jordan for entry into the promised as representation of Israel’s return to reliance on God’s strength rather than it’s own.
I will come back to this important subject again, as I have found the same exhortation over and over again in many of my readings. It is probably the most important reality for every person who wants to live a blessed and joyful life in the bosom of God to not only observe and understand, but to also apply. As one author has said, “Observation and interpretation without application is abortion.” (Howard Hendricks in “Living by the Book”)
Major Thomas sums it up this way:
There is nothing quite so pathetic as a Christian who has been vested with all the fullness of God through Christ, and to whom has been made available all the illimitable resources of Heaven, yet who in ignorance, or in defiance of this fact, scratches out a mere existence using the meager resources which he brings with him out of the Egypt of his unbelief, with no sense of direction or finality of purpose – for he will not take what God has given. He as gotten out, but he has not yet gotten in.
He has received the Holy Spirit and all the fullness of Christ, yet ignores Christ’s indwelling within him and struggles to live the Christian life as though Christ was not there. He begs and pleads for all that God has already given him, but which he will not take.
The truth of this is applicable to you and me in our lives, just as it was to Israel.
A car provides very little value or benefit if it has no engine – which, metaphorically, is what we are if we are living without Christ as our Savior. Thus, the first step to a fulfilled and abundant life is to admit our sinful, empty nature and receive Christ as the only power that can save us.
Once we do that (or, if you already have), don’t settle any longer for a life of pulling and pushing your car aimlessly in the wilderness. Don’t just get out of the restricted, empty life of captivity as a car with no engine, but also get in to living the kind of life that Christ as your engine gives you the power to live.
In other words, “Quit pushing the car!”
Your life is not going to cover much ground operating under your own power and will never truly provide any glory for God in that mode of operation. The Holy Spirit is dwelling under your hood; turn on the ignition; step on the gas and go! Let God’s power work through you to live a life in Canaan as God intended you to live!
Have a great week! (and to my family, love Dad)
Orig writing 12/05/06 – modified 8/31/08 – blog posting 03/01/17
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