March 4th, 2018
Lent is often referred to as 40 days of renewal. Webster gives three definitions of the word “renewal”. The first is “an instance of resuming an activity or state after an interruption.” If we use that definition in a spiritual sense and apply it to the season of Lent, it could mean resuming a more active prayer life, or more regular church attendance; or even a state of repentance and forgiveness – repenting of our own sins and forgiving those of others. The second definition is “the action of extending the period of validity of a license, subscription, or contract”. We all have to renewal our driver’s license, the license plates on our car, our magazine subscriptions, gym memberships, etc., etc… So why not renew our vows to the Lord - to serve Him, to worship Him, and to honor Him with our lives? The third definition is “the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken”. Let’s go with that one this morning…
My husband, Ed, works on cars, both for a living and as a hobby. He is currently in the process of restoring a ’64 Comet. He can tell you even more accurately than me what is all involved, but basically you first have to remove everything that is worn out, broken, and unusable, before you can proceed to rebuild. What if Ed didn’t do that? What if he only made the outside look good, but didn’t restore the inner workings? His Comet might look good sitting in the driveway, but would be useless on the road or the dragstrip.
And if the Lord is going to renew us, that is what He also must do first. Just as a car engine that has locked up needs to be replaced, so it is with our hearts, as God says in Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart”. So if your heart has locked up, and is unable to love and forgive, it needs God, the master mechanic, to replace it.
(photo is of Ed back in 2014 replacing the engine in his Mustang)
Of course, a car needs more than just the engine. Ed just replaced the rear differential in his Comet. For those of you who aren’t quite sure what that does, it is what the driveshaft hooks up to and turns the wheels. If that doesn’t work, your car won’t go anywhere. For some Christians, who think their faith is a private matter, they are like the car that can’t get out of the garage. They keep their faith hidden away from the world. But God has commanded us to share the Gospel with others. He needs to replace your indifference with a ‘differential’, so that your love for God goes beyond the garage and out into the world as a witness for Christ.
But once the car is able to drive out of the garage, you still need to repair or replace the steering gear if it is loose or worn out, otherwise you will wander all over the road and end up in a ditch. So it is with us as well. We need the guidance of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit in our lives, or they will end up in a ditch as well.
And don’t forget the master cylinder and the brake pads… Without them you might be able to drive, but you won’t be able to stop! What do we as Christians need brakes for? To stop sinning, of course. Even though we have accepted Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit, as long as we are in our human flesh we will be tempted to drive headlong into sin, and “putting on the brakes” is difficult if we let our prayer life get rusty and worn out.
You’ve heard of ‘flushing the radiator’? If gunk builds up in the radiator, your engine will overheat. Likewise, if you let your daily schedule overwhelm you, and don’t regularly flush the gunk out of it, you too will burn out.
What about your tires? If the tread on your tires is worn down, the tires can’t grip the road, and you end up ‘spinning your wheels’. If you allow yourself to get physically worn down, you are not functionally at peak capacity, and will also spend your days just spinning your wheels, desperately just trying to make it to the end of each day. Replace those worn out tires by giving yourself a chance to rest, by eating properly, and by taking care of yourself.
Now we can take a look at the body of the car… Let’s start with the floor boards. A good running car is useless if you fall through the floor when you get in it! And we need a good support system in our lives, too. People we can depend on is vital - people we know who will be truthful with us, be there for us when we need them, and who have our backs.
And then there is the shell. This is what the world sees. If it is rusty and the old paint is chipped and worn, it needs to be sandblasted before being refinished and repainted. What does the world see when it looks at you? Does it see Christ? Does it see His love, His light, His hope, His forgiveness? If you, as part of the body of Christ have gotten rusty, or you have maybe tried to just paint over the pits and dents of sin, you need the Holy Spirit to remove the sin first. Then a fresh coat of good works will reflect your renewed heart, your restored faith, your re-energized commitment, and your revitalized sense of purpose.
So when someone looks in your garage, will they see the car that is like a Pharisee, to whom Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27). In other words, will you have a fancy paint job in an effort to impress others, but an engine that is dead? Are your good works only for show, but your heart is cold and dead?
Or will they see what Ed calls a “sleeper”, a car that outwardly looks unimpressive, but inwardly is full of power? Are you humble on the outside, but full of the power of the Holy Spirit on the inside? The Bible says of Jesus, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). But inside His unassuming human body was the power of God almighty. And remember Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these” (John 14:12).
In today’s world, just as in Jesus’ time, it’s what on the inside that counts. So restore your engine with the love of God, build it up in prayer and the Word, rev it up with the Holy Spirit, and then you can laugh at the devil, and tell him to run!
What if your favorite teddy bear,
Started to droop and fall apart?
Would you take the time to care,
And give it a brand new heart?
Or what if your favorite toy car,
Was damaged in a crash?
Would you take the time to fix it,
Or would you throw it in the trash?
Sometimes we also need repair,
To be renewed and be restored,
And for that we all have Jesus,
Our loving Savior and our Lord.