Of your life, that is. You? A family member? Your boss at work? The leader of your country? Or is it God? Most people, either proudly or humbly and without much aforethought, will blurt out, “I am.” That’s a big part of what’s wrong with this planet. Here’s an illustration. Say an American visits England for the first time. He rents a sleek, powerful Maserati automobile and goes for a drive. He locates an off-the-beaten-path country road and decides to see how fast the car will go. Soon he’s zipping along without a care. It’s a beautiful day. The sun’s shining, birds are singing and it’s not too cold. Nothing could be finer. He’s got everything under control. Life’s fantastic. He crests a hill and slams into an oncoming truck.
Being from the States, he didn’t realize he was driving on the wrong side of the road. It’s fair to say that’s a picture of our modern civilization in a nutshell. Of course, not every individual is heading into a disastrous situation (though it’s certainly not an uncommon occurrence), but as a whole the world’s going pedal-to-the-metal down the highway without a clue it’s not traveling in the correct lane. People don’t always accept that things aren’t the way they’ve mistakenly assumed they should be in their mind. Too many haven’t bothered to read the rule book. Too many aren’t the type who reads instructions, anyway. They’re just winging it. But remaining oblivious to what’s actually going on is a dangerous way to live. In Eugene Peterson’s The Message he translated John 3:16 to read, “This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, His one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” We humans don’t and can’t know enough to be the navigator, much less the driver, of our life. There’s only one guide who knows everything there is to know and, accordingly, the best path for us to travel forward. That person is God.
But therein lies the rhino-in-the-room problem. A lotta folks (including quite a few “Kinda Christians”) have been so manipulated/brainwashed by the highly secularized education system they’ve concluded (A) There is no God or (B) there might be a God but if whatever it is exists it’s somewhat like the mysterious “Force” in Star Wars movies or (C) God does indeed exist and He’s so wonderfully compassionate that we all go to and dwell forever in a really nice place when our bodies kick the bucket. Thus we can pretty much do as we please in the time being. God will surely understand. Those who believe C is true are prone to dismiss God (the way He’s portrayed in the Holy Bible) as being inadequately misrepresented because, by their reckoning, the Scriptures’ basic aim was to placate the underprivileged, illiterate masses who didn’t know what “progressive thinking” implied. What they really mean is, “We’re collectively so much smarter nowadays civilized men and women must get past silly stuff like that.” Interestingly enough, the famous writer Leo Tolstoy opined back in 1881, “The faith of the majority of educated people of our day was expressed by the word ‘progress.’ It then appeared to me that this word meant something. I did not as yet understand that, being tormented (like every vital man) by the question how it is best for me to live, in my answer, ‘Live in conformity with progress,’ I was like a man in a boat who when carried along by wind and waves should reply to what for him is the chief and only question, ‘Whither to steer,’ by saying, ‘We are being carried somewhere.’” I’ll restate it a different way. The fact that the earth’s constantly zipping around the sun at the mind-boggling speed of 66,600 mph still doesn’t convince the all-wise “progressive thinkers” (who, for some unexplained gravity-related reason, don’t go flying off terra firma into empty space) they’re not in complete control. The reality of how tenuous is the space in the cosmos they occupy doesn’t dawn on them at all. It seems the entire universe revolves around their point of view. It’s absurd.
To me, the Bible is the only thing that explains everything in God’s grand scheme of things we’re capable of understanding. It’s the most complete guide for humankind to consult not only for living a productive, gratifying life but for finding a way out of the mess we’ve created. No specimen of ancient literature has been more scrutinized, criticized, dissected and had its authenticity challenged and still be revered as being fundamentally sound and useful than the Holy Scriptures. Nothing comes close. People who “pooh-pooh” it have a built-in aversion to it because it’s authoritative and they don’t like to be told how they’re supposed to behave. Therefore, some only pay attention to the verses that are complimentary to their personal ethics and wants. Timothy Keller wrote, “Now, what happens if you eliminate anything from the Bible that offends your sensibility and crosses your will? If you pick and choose what you want to believe and reject the rest, how will you ever have a God who can contradict you? You won’t! You’ll have a God, essentially, of your own making, and not a God with whom you can have a relationship and genuine interaction. Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination. So an authoritative Bible is not the enemy of a personal relationship with God. It is the precondition for it.”
I try to look at the Holy Word from two angles, the human and the divine. As for the human view I must assume it was written down and preserved by competent, sane men who were, like most of us, committed to doing the best job they could. That they had the ability and wherewithal to accurately convey what they’d experienced firsthand or had been told happened by credible eyewitnesses who knew what they were talking about. That they were then able to legibly express those profound concepts and recollections in the language of their historical community so intelligently that they’ve stood the test of time and why billions still find them relevant to life in the 21st century. As for the divine end of things, I first must logically assume God can do anything He darn well pleases because He’s, well, God. Thus He’s entirely capable of arranging for the Bible, the tome that includes the gospel of His Son Jesus, to survive centuries of manhandling and still retain the core message He wants those who have “…ears that hear and eyes that see” (Proverbs 20:12) to receive. Those who believe God’s an omniscient entity won’t take issue with that statement. Furthermore, I refuse to believe He’d present the most important information mankind needs to comprehend in a form that only modern-day professional scholars (who frequently bicker and argue vehemently over the most trivial of dogma-related issues amongst themselves) can glean practical meaning from. Dallas Willard wrote, “The Bible is, after all, God’s gift to the world through His church, not to the scholars. It comes through the life of His people and nourishes that life. Its purpose is practical, not academic. An intelligent, careful, intensive but straightforward reading – that is, one not governed by obscure and faddish theories or by a mindless orthodoxy – is what it requires to direct us into life in God’s kingdom.”
Speaking of The Holy Word, sometime around Christmas I watched a NOVA episode that aired on our local PBS station about the Gospel accounts. You know the drill: who wrote them, when did they write them and why, etc. I did notice it originally aired in ’98 (when the unsubstantiated and rather insipid conclusions of the infamous “Jesus Seminar” were still reverberating throughout academia) so I took that factor into consideration but I was nonetheless struck by one thing in particular – there was very little, if any, mention of God being involved. They’d interviewed a “who’s who” roster of uppity professors and self-proclaimed experts in the field of religious studies who had a lot to say about particular discrepancies and conflicts that I guess were supposed to make the viewer think there were giant, gaping holes in the texts (there really aren’t, by the way). Yet the subject none of them seemed to want to dare go near was that of any supernatural influence being involved. But when I read the Gospels I literally feel the presence of the Holy Spirit frequently, awakening my heart and transforming my mind by way of the sacred words I’m digesting. If you leave God out of any discussion regarding the formation and completion of the Bible then, to those who may be unaware of its rich history and unparalleled impact upon society, it’ll appear to be no more than another thick old book. That’s what this unfairly-slanted-to-the-left documentary did, though, and to its detriment. It’d be like delving into the composing of the Declaration of Independence and never bringing up Thomas Jefferson! The show’s conclusions, built on sand, were embarrassingly incomplete and blatantly biased because they left out the One who inspired the Bible’s authors – God Almighty Himself. The producers were, evidently, so intrigued by the trees out on the periphery they failed to see the gigantic, lush forest looming directly behind them.
Here’s the rock-solid truth of the matter: 2,000 years ago Jesus, the Son of God, walked this earth amongst everyday men and women, showing us precisely what the Heavenly Father’s all about. He didn’t consider the Old Testament passé. Rather, He quoted from it all the time. He also left no lingering doubts as to who should be in charge of our life – God. He taught that if we put anything or anyone ahead of Him, including our opinions, we’re settling for less than competent, well-informed guidance. The more focused we stay on God the more complete we’ll be. We can’t do better than to imitate Christ. He’s the cornerstone. Jaroslav Pelikan wrote, “Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries. If it were possible, with some sort of super magnet, to pull up out of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of His name, how much would be left?” Not much, I betcha.
So how did the Christ I adore and worship manage to make such an indelible impression on the world? By reading the New Testament it becomes crystal clear. He was able to speak to folks on an unpretentious, common sense level they could savvy with ease. He was able to heal the unhealable. He sincerely loved the unlovable. He empowered those who felt they had no power to improve their condition to make life-enhancing alterations. Therefore mimicking Jesus should be every believer’s primary goal. Willard wrote of Christ, “He matters because of what He brought and what He still brings to ordinary human beings, living their ordinary lives and coping daily with their surroundings. He promises wholeness for their lives. In sharing our weakness He gives us strength and imparts through His companionship a life that has the quality of eternity.” John 1:4 informs us, “In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind.” Jesus’ enduring relevance is due to His often being the only light to be found in this dark, sin-infested world. To follow anyone or anything else is to go deeper into that darkness.
There are some that figure, “Since God’s so magnanimous and forgiving, I’ll gladly give up control. I’ll relax and let Him drive the car while I nap or play some cool games on my smart phone in the backseat.” They’re akin to those whom Paul addressed in Romans 6:1 with “What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase?” Those kinds of folks will opine that the parable of the “crazy farmer” in Matthew 20 recommends doing precisely that as a sensible option. Yet few discerning Christians see it that way. Most dedicated disciples want to be of use to their Savior in whatever capacity they can, not simply tag along for the ride. James Burtschaell wrote, “…Those who truly know the God of Jesus are not likely to ask why they should be laboring in the kingdom while others stand around all day idle. They want life and they’ve found the fullness of life in God Himself… The rest of us may ask why we should bother to live uprightly if God is going to be so generous, but not those who have found the God of Jesus. Only when our inner vision is blocked by resentment, outrage, anger, or envy do we find ourselves threatened by God’s love. The last prayer of Jesus on the Cross, ‘Father, forgive them. They know not what they do,’ is a testament from one who knew what God is like.”
When our Savior was asked which was the most important commandment Jesus answered with, “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). How can a person accomplish that without inviting God to sit in the driver’s seat of their life? To do otherwise is nonsensical. It’s also impossible. Especially if they’ve felt His warm, comforting presence for themselves. Brennan Manning wrote, “After the initial experience, perseverance in the life-long quest for greater intimacy with Jesus, no matter how often we stumble and fall, is not only the antidote to hopelessness and despair; it’s the sure path to divine certitude that overcomes all doubts, anxieties, and worries.” I’ll agree that it takes an immense amount of trust to hand the wheel over to someone we can’t even see. But I ask you, who’s better qualified to steer us through this life and directly ahead into eternity on the right side of the road than the one who created us? I can testify that for decades I tried being the “designated driver.” I got lost and eventually I crashed. But, by God’s mercy, I survived to praise His name. My advice? Let go and let God take over already.