Our previous car lasted us a good decade. Well, strictly speaking it lasted a good seven years. Then things started to go wrong. Every time the car went in for service, it would come back with a big bill to pay and a significant bit of work. Then there were the times when we had to take it in for emergency work. We also had a couple of scary moments when the car decided that the engine was going to overheat and we had to pull over and weight to see if it would start again when it had cooled down. One of those moments was actually fairly early on in the life of the car, half way up one of the hills in Snowdonia on the way to a youth weekend away, in the pitch black.
Well, those problems would prompt a conversation where we’d ask each other if it was time to trade the car in for a new one. However, each time, we concluded that having just spent a lot of money on her, we thought we couldn’t justify the trade in. The result was that we may well have spent significantly more than the value of the car In fact, by the time that it decided to die on route to Bradford and we had no choice but to get a new one, we were told by the garage that we would have to pay them to take it!
The reality was that we were deceiving ourselves. We were trying to make do, trying to keep patching things up and what we needed to do was something different, we needed to get rid of the old and get something new.
Spiritually we can be like that. Isaiah 10-24 warns about judgement coming to all the nations surrounding Judah and part of the reason was that the people were tempted to look to those nations around, fearing some as a threat and looking to others as potential help. The idea was that Judah could get out of her difficulties with some quick alliances, a kind of patching up.
We seek to patch things up and keep going as normal when we go around looking for spiritual satisfaction, whether that’s church hopping, looking for other spiritual answers on the internet, or seeking solutions in self help books. We do it when we invest our time and emotions into our idols. We can also do it when we turn up to church, hoping that this or that issue might get fixed. So, you can arrive one Sunday and get prayer for that stiff shoulder, another week you can respond with real emotion as the a word is shared about those carrying hurt and bitterness, then next time you might go to the front for prayer after being challenged about a particular habit or addiction through the sermon.
What we need is not the weekly patching up of things. We need deep heart surgery, we need new life, to place ourselves completely into the hands of Jesus. There will of course be things to engage with, week to week as his ongoing work of sanctification takes place but the starting point has to be that complete and radical change of new creation.