Years ago, back in my prodigal days, I had to buy a car. Our family was growing and my college Volkswagen Bug wasn’t cutting the mustard anymore. So I needed a new car. Like most everything I do (or did at that time) I started the research to determine what the best options were. I needed data and analysis. As a pilot and engineer I was classically trained in how to assess a situation, collect data, make hypothesis and move into the conclusion stages. It required rigor, dedication, lots of effort, considerable time and good old fashion determination. I needed a concise and calculated record of my research results so the comparison and therefore conclusions would be conclusive and dependable. Decisions made then would affect every other decision from that point forward, right? What if the car didn’t have the right brakes and I was traveling with my small girls when a huge truck pulled out in front of us…? What if I didn’t calculate the right fuel usage and any savings in the sticker price would be consumed by the constant trips to the gas station? What if the price of fuel over the next 5 years didn’t increase at a standard rate but grew exponentially? What if the tires wear to fast and they need replacing so often that it offsets the cost of good gas mileage?
Like any good researcher you make a spread sheet. You get your columns and rows sorted out with conditional formatting to highlight trouble spots or lack of data. You make some charts and plots of trends and start populating the spreadsheet with data. You assign confidence levels to your data and weight the contribution based on the confidence. Pretty soon you start to narrow in on your choice. For this car purchase I narrowed in on a solution. The evidence was overwhelming. Can you believe I didn’t buy that car but another one because I didn’t care for the manufacturer of the prize winner? I guess I forgot that row on my spreadsheet (the one that had personal opinion attached).
OK, now you are convinced that I am loony, let me make a suggestion…this is the normal operating mode of Boxlandia. It is the default mode of the fallen human race. It is our standard approach to religion. It is how we “incorporate Jesus” into our lives. When we are weighing the pros and cons we are working from the energy supplied by forbidden fruit. When we are trying to determine what is “right” or “wrong” about any decision we are eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Before you go crazy on me, there are good uses for discernment. The author of Hebrews says we need to grow up in our discernment of good and evil:
Heb 5:14 But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law. (AMP)
But don’t forget the very next chapter:
Heb 6:1 Therefore let us go on and get past the elementary stage in the teachings and doctrine of Christ (the Messiah), advancing steadily toward the completeness and perfection that belong to spiritual maturity. Let us not again be laying the foundation of repentance and abandonment of dead works (dead formalism) and of the faith [by which you turned] to God, 2 With teachings about purifying, the laying on of hands, the resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment and punishment. [These are all matters of which you should have been fully aware long, long ago.] (AMP)
And what is that mature thinking?
Heb 6:12 In order that you may not grow disinterested and become [spiritual] sluggards, but imitators, behaving as do those who through faith (by their leaning of the entire personality on God in Christ in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness) and by practice of patient endurance and waiting are [now] inheriting the promises. (AMP)
So let’s go back to the spread sheet problem… When we are stuck with our faces buried in our spreadsheets we are eating from the wrong tree. Our rows and columns of the spread sheet are predicated on our opinion, experience, circumstance, history, hurts, hang-ups, external information, internal processes, commentators, rules, etc. Now add a healthy dose of Law like the Law of Moses. Perfect and good is the Law but it is just another row on your spreadsheet. It should be weighted more than the others but likely your desires will get the final vote. This Law-row highlights all the areas where you would rather do something else. In the absence of penalty you will choose what is best for you or “good” in the good and evil decision matrix. The law shows you that what you think is best for you or “good” is actually prohibited so now your spread sheet doesn’t add up. Your blood is boiling. You just want to slam closed your computer and walk away. You are stuck in Boxlandia.
It’s OK, really it is. Look up, turn around in your fancy swivel chair and look behind you. There He is. Jesus is standing right there. He is so beautiful. He radiates love and compassion. He is smiling at you. He is asking you to scoot your roller chair towards Him. As you draw near you can hear His breathing. You can smell Him (what is that?). Your mind begins to wander to places you haven’t been in a long time. You are arriving and Grandma’s for Christmas. You are fishing with your Grandpa on the pond. You are taking your first ride on your new red tricycle. You are getting a hug by your mom on your birthday. You just opened the box and there was the puppy. You are playing with your cars in your backyard pretending you are a super hero. And there He is, right there, Jesus. Then He comes close, puts His hands on your chair and spins you around. He pushes you back to your spread sheet. He leans over your shoulder and you can feel His breath against your cheek. He points to the screen and says “Pick the red one.”
Wait, all the research says pick the one with these brakes and these tires and that gas mileage and this maintenance plan and…but He said pick the red one? So you do.
Now every time you climb into your new red car you see Jesus. Every time you run your finger down that bright red paint job you hear His voice. Every time you take someone for a ride you smile and laugh and say “Jesus said pick the red one.”
Really?!?!? Yep, He is that good. Get out of Boxlandia. Put down your spreadsheet. Stop eating from the wrong tree. Take a big bite of the bread of life, the tree of life. Turn around and see Him standing right there. He isn’t a row on your spread sheet. He isn’t a weighted function in your calculations. He isn’t a formula that helps you balance the columns. He isn’t on your spread sheet. Go ahead and “pick the red one” or whatever He wants. Did you know it will have the best brakes ever, just when you need them? Did you know it will have exactly the perfect gas mileage to get you to the next gas station? Did you know the maintenance plan will include every option you needed for you driving experience?
Pick the red one.