Do you have something in your life that you know, without a doubt, you can rely on? Is there something or maybe someone that you know for sure, that on your worst day, it or they won’t let you down? Do you find some solace in coming home to familiar surroundings after a long day at work, or get comfort in the pages of an old book that never disappoints no matter how many times you read it? Maybe it's in the reliability of having a spouse or friend that will always be there for you. I know our hope is not in the reliability of any specific thing or people, but for example, I’d like to think my wife is there for me no matter what. My friend Jonathan, far away as he is now, is my best bud that I can call on at anytime. There is a comfort in knowing that there are people in your life that you know you can always rely on. Reliability is important. It eases your mind over certain situations.
My car did the opposite. I was neither comforted or at ease.
A few years ago I bought a used car. A beautiful, cream-colored Chrysler 300. It was a big, comfy, car and I liked everything about it. Despite it being a 2006 model, it looked brand new and it ran well for about a year. But, not long after, the problems with the car became constant, nagging and especially costly. One specific problem developed in August of 2015, a few days before I was set to drive to Florida for a vacation. I give much credit to my mechanic who worked diligently to get me on the road with no worries. Despite their valiant efforts, I picked the car up the day of my drive and worried all the way to Florida and back again. I barely had an opportunity to settle in at home when that same problem with the car came back. Since then, I'm pretty sure that I haven't driven that car even once without wondering and worrying, "when’s it gonna break down again AND how much is it gonna cost me this time?"
I know its just a car, but I use it to drive to work, take my son to school, go food shopping, to the gym, and on and on. I didn’t want to worry anymore. At least, not in this area of my life. I needed something I could rely on. So with that in mind, I leased a new car, and cool as it is to have something shiny and new with lots of bells and whistles, I just felt at ease about the whole situation. For the next three years, I have a brand new vehicle, which tells me statistically, I don’t have worry about mechanical problems. There won’t be any AHA! moments of surprise. No looming repair bills. I just feel relieved because I have something that I can trust will do what it do what its designed to do without worry. It wasn’t about, “shiny and new.” (Though the car IS a nice color blue)
This is EXACTLY what I need in my Christianity and this is what I find in the Gospel.
If I had to take the above analogy and apply it, I’m the car. I’m in the driver’s seat of faith and making sure I’m always heading towards Christ. I’m always moving along and progressing so at the end I can hear, “well done good and faithful servant.” But, the truth of my life is closer to a broken down jalopy, that had a coat of paint slapped on it to hide all the untreated rust deposits. The truth of my life is that I am always breaking down on the side of the road and the closest rest area is a miles back, so I opt for that instead of the one three miles ahead. I am a believer and I fail, I sin, I struggle. Maybe its not in the same way as in the past. But different does not equal better if we truly have the high view of God’s laws that we should.
So despite knowing all this, I still take matters into my own hands. I still try to “drive the car” and think, maybe it’ll get me to where I’m going. That I might then validate God’s acceptance of me, of His gift of salvation by showing him how much I look like I have it together. Then it all breaks down. To be honest, I really wasn’t fooling myself. I know the whole time, this car is-IAM-unreliable and that it would eventually break down on the side of the road. I may have looked like I was full of hope and faith, but like that drive to Florida, I’ve been worrying the whole time.
The unrelenting, static truth of the Gospel is our only hope. That Jesus Christ is the unshakeable, unmovable object of our faith. It is this hope in Christ that we find relief and comfort. We have in Jesus, something completely and utterly reliable, FOREVER! We can trust him despite ourselves when he calls us saints even in the midst of our sinfulness and shame. And when he calls us righteous despite our filthy rags, we don’t have to see a clean face looking back at us in the mirror to know its true. We know he’s grafted into the body of believers and makes us children of God despite our constantly prodigal natures.
I don’t ever have to worry about Jesus changing how he feels about us. I don’t have to be concerned if I stepped over a line Christ won’t crossover to forgive me. He crossed every line when he died on a tree. He erased the lines when rose from the grave. This is an incredible comfort to me. Though my joy is not always outwardly apparent, it is there. Peace is there, even despite my more than occasional worry. It’s there, because I’m trusting in something-in someone- outside of me.
One day, this new car of mine will get old and stop running. For now, I have peace knowing I don’t have to worry if its going to get me to my destination. One day this old body of mine, will breakdown and stop running. I no longer have to worry about it getting me to my destination. My hope is in the everlasting One who has already sat me down at the finish line because he ran the race for me and credits it to my account.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us - Galatians 3:12
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.- Romans 8:1-2
Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'The Higher Things Simul Cast'. He is pastor of Saint John Lutheran Church in Webster, MN. A graduate of Concordia Universities in St. Paul, Minnesota and Portland, Oregon, Pastor Riley received his seminary and post-graduate education at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He colloquized into the LC-MS from the ELCA in 2008. He is married to Annie, and is the father of four children: Owen, Alma, Hoshea, and Hallel.