I have a confession to make. Over the last 12 years, I have been pulled over by the police on five separate occasions for exceeding the speed limit, usually by 5 – 10 miles per hour. Some of these have been out on country roads with no one in sight for miles, except of course the police car that was waiting to catch me. In all these five occasions. I never once received a ticket and only received warnings. So much for the mercy of God. I am however considering holding a class to teach people how to relate to the police when stopped. Obviously, I know a little about how to do it. However, on top of that, I was recently coming home from church on a Sunday night, and as I was nearing home, I was pulled over again. This time I was driving 15 miles per hour. I thought it must be because I had a tail light out, but it turned out I had not completely stopped at two stop signs. I assume that the police officer may have thought I was drunk. Once again, I was let off with a warning.
However, I have been thinking that I need to change my driving habits; after all, it is not a good example to others, including my grandchildren. But can you teach an old dog like me new tricks? Can I learn to drive more carefully? Can people change?
TEACHING A DOG NEW TRICKS
Years ago, my wife Dorothy and I were reflecting on a passage in Romans 12 which reads, ‘And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.’ Three dimensions in doing His will.
The simple starting point to teaching an old dog new tricks is you need the renewing of your mind. Now, that is a study all in itself, but let us stick with three points – What Dorothy and I call ‘Three Steps to Maturity,’ based on Romans 12:2.
STEP 1 – THE ‘GOOD’ WILL OF GOD through the fear of the Lord. This is where you realize God’s will is meant for your good. This comes through the fear of the Lord, which is described in Psalm 11:10 as, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. . . .’
So, why do people do the right thing? Why don’t all of us go out and rob banks, fail to pay our taxes, or drive 100 mph on city streets? Some do, but most of us don’t for ‘fear of the law’ and the consequences that come as a result of such actions.
The same often applies in the spiritual realm. We do the right things, because of the fear of the Lord. We know that if we do it, it will be good for us. ‘Fear’ in the case of the Lord, is a matter of respect, reverence for who God is. We recognize His position as God Almighty and that His plans for us are good plans.
STEP 2 – THE ‘ACCEPTABLE’ WILL OF GOD through the agony of obedience. In this process, we are growing, listening to God’s voice, understanding more and more what He desires of us and what is His will in all areas of our lives. Often this reveals the conflict between what God wants for us and what we would like instead. To bring our lives into line with the ‘acceptable will of God,’ we will often be required to pass through the ‘agony of obedience.’ It would seem that even Jesus experienced something of this in His earthly life. Hebrews 5:8 tells us, ‘though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things that He suffered.’ He also did it for the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).
You can see this worked out in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to His crucifixion (Matthew 26) when He shared that ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful even to death’ (v 38). And in agony, He cries out to His Father in heaven, ‘If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless not my will, but as you will.’ This was a submitting to the good and acceptable will of God even though it came through the agony of obedience.
We too often face times in our lives when we will be face to face with the agony of obedience in regards to –
- Making a decision
- Doing something, we don’t naturally want to do
- Walking away from something, someone
- We could go on and on . . . .
All this brings us to the third step.
STEP 3 – THE ‘PERFECT’ WILL OF GOD when we come into ‘The Rest of Faith.’ That is where we are doing the will of God not because of the fear of the Lord or the agony of obedience, but because we are submitted totally to His will and purpose for our life. We come to a point where we start to delight in His will as we abide and rest in Him.
Psalm 40:8 declares, ‘I delight to do your will, O my God. And your law is within my heart.’ That is the goal, that is maturity; when we no longer fight God’s will for our lives, but we actually start to delight to do His will. It’s in our hearts.
CAN AN OLD DOG LEARN NEW TRICKS?
Coming back to where I started with being pulled over for exceeding the speed limit by the police five times, could I change? Well, it is happening as I follow these three simple steps regarding God’s will.
- Fear of the Lord – In this case, it involves the fear of the Law. I couldn’t afford to be pulled over again for driving too fast.
- The Agony of Obedience – By the grace of God, I have become conscious of the speed limits, which can at times change, even on the same road, and learn to obey them.
- The Rest of Faith – I am beginning to come to a place of actually delighting in driving more carefully and enjoying driving at the right speed.
A FINAL THOUGHT
God doesn’t want us to do all this in our own strength, sweating our way through it each time. He has given us a new life in Christ and with it comes the power of the Holy Spirit that lives within us and empowers us to live victoriously.
I was so grateful for the mercy of the Lord that on those five occasions that I was pulled over by the police, I only received a warning. However, I knew I couldn’t keep exceeding the speed limit and expecting to get off scot-free. I needed to change!
Can an old dog learn new tricks? Can an old man like me change? I am here to say, ‘Yes, you can. You can teach an old dog, like me, new tricks.’ How about you? Is there something that needs to change in your life? Why not seek God for Him to work in your life and enable you to change.
Wonderful teaching Pastor Alan!
I just read it while John was driving under the speed limit (?) to our walking start for the day in Joplin Missouri.
We are learning new tricks!
We love you and Dorothy greatly!