Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Learning Lessons at 70MPH

Yes, this is a personal story. No, I don’t think it’s amusing that your pastor both broke the law and was caught. And yes, I do think you should obey the speed limit and no, this should not give you an excuse to speed. I just thought there might be some benefit to consider some lessons I am learning from flashing blue and red lights.

1. Sin is the breaking of the law, intentional or not.
It all began with a pleasant drive with Cathy to the coast to celebrate our 7th anniversary. Our kids were left behind in capable hands, the temperature was dropping like a rock the closer we got to the ocean, and we were thoroughly enjoying uninterrupted and unhurried conversation. I saw the police car coming down the hill on the other side of the road, saw him make a hurried u-turn, saw him close the gap between us quickly, saw his lights come on.

Perhaps you too know the rest from personal experience, but just minutes and hardly any discussion later we were back on the road with an incredibly weighty half-slip of paper sitting between Cathy and me. And the first lesson was that sin is the breaking of the law, intended or not. I did not intend to speed. I hadn’t set out to break the law, wasn’t consciously aware that I had been, and wasn’t really even in a hurry. I just wasn’t paying attention and, after two hours of “keeping up with the flow of traffic,” had become desensitized to how fast I was going.

But none of that made it less sin. Speeding, of course you know, is sin because it is disobeying God’s ordained government and its rules (Rom. 13:1-2). And sin is no less sin because we didn’t “mean to.” Take a look at God’s character as revealed in the Mosaic Law, and see that all sin brings guilt, even the “unintended” kind (Num. 15:22-30.)

2. Repentance should always be my instant response to sin.
Because speeding is sin, and because I was blithely unthinking about my sin, the sight of flashing lights should have instantly caused repentance. No longer could I go on ignoring or overlooking my sin. When you get pulled over, there’s no escaping the reality that you have broken the law. And repentance should always be our instant response to awareness of sin.

As Christians, our repentance is not the initial, one-time turn from sin necessary at salvation (1 Thess. 1:8-10). Rather, it is the natural response of the redeemed heart when faced with sin. Because we are dead to sin and alive to God, our sin grieves and repulses us. We despair over the broken fellowship with our loving Father, running back to Him in keen awareness that our righteousness comes only from Christ and not ourselves. We agree with God that our speeding is sin and turn our backs on it, instantly choosing God’s commands over our own way.

3. Pride causes self-justification.
Just when I think I’ve responded correctly to my sin, more rears its ugly head. In this case, pride that causes self-justification. Pride is the exaltation of self, the enthroning of me and my wants, thoughts, desires. It is ultimately the worship of the god of self. Self-justification is the foolish attempt to declare one’s own self righteous, using one’s own standards, reasoning, and concerns.

When it came to my ticket, my temptations to self-justification included, “But I normally always obey the speed limit;” “I didn’t mean to break the law;” “Surely he couldn’t get an accurate reading while he was driving;” “Lots of other people have been passing me all day;” “I’ve never gotten a ticket before, so I shouldn’t get this one;” “Other members of the pastoral staff have been just as guilty as me and they weren’t given a ticket;” and one more time, “But I didn’t mean to.” None of those thoughts flow from a realistic view of justice. All of them come from my exaltation of my past goodness, overestimation of my current goodness, and relentless blame-shifting. Pride, ugly and enormous, lies at the root of self-defensive, self-justifying, self-excusing thoughts.

4. Pride causes anger at justice.
When justice is served and tickets are written, pride can also cause anger. “I don’t deserve this” quickly feeds into “and I’m mad that I got it.” Instead of celebrating justice, pride becomes irritated at it. Justice becomes the enemy. When police officers make you scowl, police cars make you snarl, judges make you complain, and tickets make you want to do some shredding, pride has caused anger at justice. If you come to church and don’t want to see Dave Torres’ shining head, blame your pride and not his occupation.

The reason our pride hates justice is that justice rightly condemns us. Justice means we are guilty, we are less than we think we are, we deserve punishment. In an odd microcosm, being angry at getting a ticket reflects an entire worldview that opposes salvation. Unregenerate man doesn’t think he deserves God’s condemnation in Hell. He doesn’t think he’s as bad as the next guy, that his sin is so seriously bad that it should condemn him, that his bad works have outweighed his good. In the ultimate act of pride, unsaved man trust himself for salvation. In recognition of the great sinfulness of this pride, even the slightest hint of irritation at earthly justice should be killed immediately.

5. Romans 8:28 includes speeding tickets.
God makes all things work together for good, which is that those who love God and are chosen by Him be conformed to the image of His Son. Think about God’s sovereign hand in my ticket. Our travel plans weren’t confirmed until Sunday morning, we didn’t leave home until the kids naps were over, we chose to make two stops for food and dessert before traveling…The list could go on and on. Yet at the exact moment that Officer Knox was coming down the hill we were going up. And entirely within God’s control—without assigning any of the blame to Him—was the speed at which we were going up that hill.

God’s good purposes for making me more Christlike this week included a speeding ticket. It hurts the wallet and blights the anniversary trip, but still, it is within His plan. Now I just need to allow Him to shape me. And I need to never speed again.


Blogger Jared said...

Thanks for this article Pastor David. Just another reminder that in a single situation we sin in a hundred different ways. Rather than bow to sin and continue in it, we ought to be awakened to a newfound love of our Savior, and then pursue righteousness for His glory.

And I'm sure my brother appreciates your mention of his baldness. ;)

Wed Jul 22, 08:34:00 PM PDT  

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