Driving test or road-trip?

Post date: 17-Sep-2014 15:20:11

Manual Transmission by mapichai

Every time I see a car with L-plates on, my pulse races as I get flashbacks of my driving test. I wasn't particularly well-prepared for it and there were quite a few manoeuvres I was dodgy on. As I pulled out of the test centre I gritted my teeth, aware that a single mistake could mean I'd fail. Every second of that short drive, I was aware of the examiner sitting beside me, his pen hovering to mark down any fault.Unfortunately many people think life with God is like a driving test. The celebrity atheist Christopher Hitchens reckoned that if an all-powerful god existed, the universe he ruled would be like North Korea. Constant surveillance of every word and action; instant and terrible punishment awaiting even minor faults. This kind of god is like a Bond villain huddled in his lair, watching history unfold on giant screens. Unfortunately Christians can sometimes have this attitude as well, thinking of God as a harsh and demanding judge just waiting to pounce. The result is a joyless and stress-filled life.

Is that really what life with God is like? Jesus tells us that it isn't. He says he came to bring us life in all its fullness. Just before his death, when his disciples were troubled and confused, he brought them a message of hope. You can read about it in John 14. It was a hope rooted in who God is. It was a hope rooted in the Trinity.

That sounds strange, doesn't it? We tend to think of the Trinity as a question, not an answer. We think of it as some kind of really hard sum that only advanced Christians can solve. And yet when Jesus' friends were troubled, he encourages them to trust in him as they trusted in God. He talks to them about his heavenly Father. He says that anyone who sees Jesus has seen the Father. He talks about the Holy Spirit who will come. He gets into the nitty-gritty of the relationships between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He talks about asking the Father to send the Spirit.

The Bible teaches us that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are each fully God; that they are not the same as each other; that there is one God. God is three-in-one and one-in-three. For all eternity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have loved each other. They have been working together in perfect unity forever, without a single disagreement. The Father sent the Son into the world to draw us into the wonder of that love - Jesus said that anyone "who loves me will be loved by my Father".

So life with God is not like a driving test - it's more like a road trip. Remember the excitement at the start of a family holiday. The suitcases are packed, the sun is shining, and you all pile in and hit the road. Dad's behind the wheel - he knows where you're going. The kids are in the back seat singing along to the stereo at full volume. On the road together, full of joy, heading to the seaside. God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - invites us to join him on a wonderful journey. Our future secure in the hands of the Father. Our sins forgiven because of the death of the Son. Our life being shaped every day by the work of the Spirit. God has always known what it is to love perfectly. Now we can know what it is to be loved perfectly by him. Not a driving test, but a road-trip.

This post, and the sermon it's based on, owes a great deal to Mike Reeves' excellent book "The Good God".

Image credit: "Manual Transmission" by mapichai from www.freedigitalphotos.net.