One of the biggest trends in the automotive industry during the late 1990s and the first part of this century was the sport utility vehicle, or SUV. Maybe they became popular because we baby boomers didn’t want to acknowledge that we had reached middle age or beyond, and we felt better driving some big, beefy vehicle with gnarly tires.
Most of these vehicles were built with four-wheel drive capability, but I’ve often wondered how many people actually use it. In fact, I would venture a guess that most people who have four-wheel drive capability on their SUVs wouldn’t know how to use it if they had to. Essentially, these people have vehicles that were designed for one thing but are used for another.
In the Book of Ephesians, we learn a little bit about our spiritual horsepower: all that God has given to us and all that God has done for us. The problem is that a lot of us are in spiritual cruise control. We are not pursuing God. We are not following after righteousness. We have the four-wheel drive, but we are not moving forward.
We need to put what we have into gear and use it. There are mountains to climb. There is rugged terrain to navigate. There are opportunities for growth, but many of us are kicking back.
The Christian life is like a greased pole: either you are climbing or slipping. How about you? Are you climbing? Are you growing? Are you maturing? Or are you going backward?
It is time for us to use what God has given so we can go out and do some serious spiritual four-wheeling.
One characteristic of the Bible is that whenever it tells us to not do one thing, it gives you another thing to do in its place. This is very important. We are told to not do certain things, but to do other things instead.
For example, in Ephesians 4 we read, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (verse 28 nkjv). In other words, those who have stolen need to stop stealing and do something productive so they can give to others.
Then, in verse 29 we’re told, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (nkjv). Instead of foul things coming out of your mouth, let good things come out.
And 2 Timothy 2:22 tells us to “flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (nkjv). Flee and follow. Run from anything that stimulates lust. Follow anything that makes you want to do what is right.
Psalm 1:1 reminds us, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful...” (nkjv). That is what he doesn’t do. But in contrast, “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (verse 2 nkjv).
The best way to not go backward is to go forward. The best way to not lose ground is to gain ground. The best defense is a good offense. As we move forward spiritually, we won’t do the things God tells us not to do.
This doesn’t mean that we won’t be tempted by those things. It doesn’t mean they won’t come knocking at the door of our hearts and imaginations, asking if they can come in. But it does mean that we will have a firmer resolve to resist them, because we are too busy doing the things of God.
As the hymn says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
If you will commit yourself to grow in your love for Jesus Christ and be enamored with Him and dedicated to Him, then you will see this world for what it is.
God tells us what to stay away from for our own good, but He also tells us what to do for our own good as well. Our responsibility as followers of Christ, as those who have a guaranteed hope of heaven, is to do what we can to reach others with the Good News.May God help us to do just that.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!