It has been an emotionally and spiritually challenging week for a lot of us, but it isn’t the first one we’ve lived through, and it’s not likely to be the last. Election Day finally came and went, and hopefully the post-election mood swings experienced by many are diminishing. No doubt the midterms left a lot of uncertainty and a multitude of questions in their wake. But for the moment, I’m content to defer to the hordes of TV “news” anchors, political pundits, analytical “experts” and social media trolls flooding the airwaves to share their proposed answers. I’ll leave that pursuit to them and choose to go in a different, but not entirely unrelated, direction.
Ordinary Things – Profound Lessons ~
God seems to love using commonplace, insignificant things to direct our attention to concepts that have profound implications. He apparently likes to insert those unexpected revelations in the midst of a normal day, at times when we aren’t in one of those deeply reflective, spiritually engaged situations. He did that again recently in the context of an activity that I never saw as having any divine implications. Here’s how the whole thing unfolded.
It was a relaxing, ordinary Saturday until we began to notice that awkward feeling that comes with the realization that we were among the handful of people in town who had failed to make their way to our local Costco store. So, in spite of the threat posed to the welfare of our family budget, we headed out for another tour of duty in the big-box merchandising war zone.
A Disturbing Realization ~
After having overcome the temptation to buy another 25 lb. bag of dried pinto beans because it was on sale, I was feeling pretty good. Then my euphoric sense of victory was interrupted when I noticed something disturbing. The bright sunlight revealed that our beautiful family chariot was filthy. She had bug guts all over her face, and the rest of her gleaming white coat wasn’t gleaming anywhere. Her chrome didn’t shine, her glass didn’t sparkle, and she just looked gray and dingy all over. She looked neglected to the point of vehicular abuse, and it was embarrassing. I knew something had to be done.
As we settled into the ritual associated with getting underway, I said, “We’ve really gotta get Miss Torie (that’s our car’s family name) cleaned up,” Diane smiled and nodded positively, as she’s prone to do any time an idea emerges that involves some association with the word “clean”. The fact that Costco had a drive-through car wash right there in front of us made it clear that this was a divine appointment, so off we went.
An Effortless Process ~
The whole process was quick and easy. We just sat there in Torie’s climate-controlled cabin and watched as the mechanism pulled us along. They sprayed her all over with a soapy cleaning solution. Then giant rotating brushes descended to scrub the dirt off on all her painted surfaces while other brushes worked on her wheels and tires. Finally, high pressure nozzles thoroughly rinsed the soap off, and powerful fans blew her dry. We rolled out the other side with her white coat gleaming, her chrome shining, and her glass sparkling.
The whole thing took about 10 minutes and required no physical contribution from either of us. I was enjoying a satisfying “mission accomplished” feeling when it was wrecked by yet another revelation. Miss Torie was looking really good on the outside, but as the sunlight streamed in through her newly cleaned windows, I could see that everything inside looked awful.
Class Begins ~
“Okay,” I thought, “At least she looks good on the outside, and nobody else sees all the smudges and accumulated dust and dirt in here.” I told myself that I’d give her a good cleaning inside as soon as I could get around to it. Besides, it’s not such a big deal because other folks can’t see inside anyway. God took note of the situation and saw it as an invitation to declare that class was in session. After making it clear that He wasn’t interested in detailing cars, He went on to address a variety of issues. I’ll just highlight a few of them because there’s a main point I want us to get to.
- Light is indiscriminate. It will expose the dirt as readily as it makes clean things sparkle.
- Drive-through cleaning is relatively quick and effortless.
- The job doesn’t end when the drive-through ride is over.
- It’s easy to put off addressing the dirt inside when the outside is looking good.
- There’s no “drive-through” machine for scrubbing the inside.
- Inside cleaning is a demanding, do-it-yourself job.
- Internal cleaning takes time, additional supplies, and hands-on effort.
- Everyone can see the result of a drive-through cleaning, but others won’t know about the surroundings you ride in day-to-day unless they’re invited in.
I don’t want to sound flippant about comparing the indescribable gift Jesus bestowed on us by comparing it to a car wash. I just want to highlight the point that our cleansing and forgiveness required no effort or physical contribution on our part. He did it all, and it was a transformational and eternally efficacious cleansing. But we weren’t immediately transported to Heaven. Instead, we were sent into a world infected with sin. The morally contaminating influence of the world around us is pervasive – and deceitfully appealing and seductive. The result is that all of us pick up activities, attitudes, and practices that interfere with our fellowship and pragmatic partnership with Jesus.
Inside Work Needed ~
Here’s the point. We pray for a revival, and desperately need to see a restoration of righteousness, justice, and peace in the land, but God won’t simply descend from Heaven and do it without us. God has proven that He will use all kinds of human instruments in bringing cleansing and revival, but one thing is fundamental. They must be more than just clean on the outside. Having made a trip through what we’ll call the “Gospel Car Wash” alone won’t do it. Working with Jesus in carrying out the mission of the Church is a partnership that requires dealing with the sins that creep into our lives. Providing our salvation and equipping us for Heaven is all Him, but being fit for service down here requires some personal, hands-on activity from us. Notice the emphasis we tend to ignore in these passages
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1 NKJV)
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:20–21 NKJV)
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:7–8 NKJV)
We have thousands of churches in America where millions of “Christians” gather to sing songs about victory and overcoming power. Meanwhile, the nation around us wallows in a moral and spiritual cesspool. The Church looks good on the outside, and our testimonies of a salvation experience abound. We’ve been through the “Gospel Car Wash,” so to speak, and look good on the outside, but what about the part that others don’t see? What about the internal part that doesn’t gleam so brightly when the light hits it?
God isn’t withholding the revival we desperately need because He doesn’t want it, or is powerless to bring it about. But like the passages above indicate so plainly, there’s some internal “detailing” needed to equip us to work in intimate partnership with Him, and He isn’t going to do it for us. He’ll illuminate the parts of our lives that need attention and provide just the right Truth needed to clean them up, but the application requires some hands-on effort on our part.
There’s a message once heard from our pulpits that maybe we should resurrect, and it seems like an appropriate way to close. With a passionate love for God in their hearts and tears of grief in their eyes over sin, the old preachers would fill their lungs and thunder out something like this:
“There’s a spiritual drought plaguing the land and the souls of our people are parched and dry. Revival and flourishing can come again, but God won’t send the water of life to thirsty souls in dirty vessels.”
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “The morally contaminating influence of the world around us is pervasive, deceitfully appealing and seductive. The result is that all of us pick up activities, attitudes, and practices that interfere with our fellowship and pragmatic partnership with Jesus.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “We pray for revival and desperately need restoration of righteousness, justice and peace in the land, but God won’t simply descend from Heaven and do it without us … Being fit for service down here requires some personal, hands-on activity.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “We’ve been through the “Gospel Car Wash,” so to speak, and look good on the outside, but what about the part that others don’t see? What about the internal part that doesn’t gleam so brightly when the light hits it?” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “God will illuminate the parts of our lives that need attention and provide just the right Truth needed to clean them up, but the application requires some hands-on effort on our part.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
Check out Ron’s book, “Right Side Up Thinking in an Upside Down World ~ Looking at the World through the Lens of Biblical Truth”
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© 2022 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved
That was a great post, thank you!
Steve Huyck ( Former Grove member)
God bless you for that welcome encouragement, Steve & Tammy. We thank God for our time at Grove, and pray that God is blessing your stand for Him in these challenging days. It’s a bright spot in our day to see your names and we appreciate the blessing of hearing from you.
Such a timely and appropriate reminder, Ron, that it isn’t enough to be sparkling on the outside if the inside is filthy with sin. Let us all check under our hoods, so to speak, often and with determination to clean our house for the Lord.
Absolutely true re checking under the hood, Martha. It’s always those unseen places where intimacy is threatened, and when it comes to following Jesus, when we lose or compromise intimacy with Him, then our vision and the source of our power is lost. God bless you for the way you shine the Light of His truth into so many corners, and thank you for sharing your encouraging insights with us. You’re always a ray of hope in the midst of the chaos.
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Bravo brother! Encore! Encore! Standing ovation while shouting “AMEN” here at the top of my lungs. Well said sir. Many so-called Christians will stand around and lament over the moral abyss that is America today, but very few will be brave enough to speak real truth into the situation. It’s very easy to say, “It’s their fault”, but painful to admit, “I had a role in this.” Each time we roll through the Sunday-morning car wash and spend 90-minutes singing songs, smiling, shaking hands, and going out to lunch afterwards, we think we’re “Good to Go” for the week. We promptly forget that the church house is not a place to visit and enjoy social hour, it’s a place for sick souls to go so that others can help one another get better through an infusion of God’s truth into their lives. The problem is, you might feel better after an altar call and a moment of confession, but if there’s no true repentance and you immediately revert back to your worldly and desirous ways as soon as you exit the building, then you’ve just made the building exactly that. A BUILDING. The church is not a building or a destination, it’s supposed to be a life! A life dedicated to carrying out the Great Commission by living out the Great Commandment in our lives every day. Not just for that hour or so on Sunday mornings. It’s not presenting yourself righteous (to be right with God) while you are in the assembly of others who are attempting to do the same thing, but in showing His presence and working in your life at all times so that others can see Him in you. If you look just like the rest of the world (shiny and clean on the outside, but tarnished, dusty, dirty, and smeared on the inside), then why would the world want what they already have.
I don’t mean to move off into some “political” tangent here, but since the election outcomes, I’ve given some thought to what we’ve seen. In exit polling, I was ashamed of myself how greater than 70 percent of voters cited abortion rights (since when is murder a right) as the most important issue, while only 23 percent cited inflation or the economy. What tore at my heart was the fact that none of the voters cited that voting for those candidates who held a true biblical worldview was important to them. How that speaks volumes to me about where we are as a “Christian nation” today. In my lifetime, I’ve seen true God-focused morality, values, and one’s character move from the most important factor to no longer even being a factor in deciding who most people vote for. Perhaps therein lies the root of the problem. Words like “Character”, “Morality”, Integrity”, “Honor”, “Reverence”, and yes, “God” no longer hold any value in society. Why is that? Because if the truth be told, these words no long hold any value or precedence in the lives of many so-called Christians.
Have we “the Church”, Christ’s true church, become so complacent and deceived by worldly concerns and cultural awareness that we have surrendered what was once the moral high ground that made us unique, exceptional, and the strongest, most vibrant, and yes (in modern times) most blessed nation in the world?
Until each one of us honestly asks God to shine His bright light of truth into our souls and show us the filth our compromise and complacency has corrupted, and we begin to slow process of allowing His Spirit to clean our interiors, we cannot shine for Him the way we should. Until each one of us determine to make His way our way, we will continue a slow downward spiral that results in death.
I’ve given the warning to the church at Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29), or about there, much thought this week. While I believe there remains a “righteous remnant” of Christ’s true church here in America, I also believe it has become a minority. This is evidenced by the facts that present themselves each day as the nation moves further and further away from God’s plan for our lives that this once great nation was founded upon.
My apologies again for being “long-winded”, as I often feel I’m preaching to the choir when I respond to you, but I want to echo your sentiments that while we certainly won’t give up the fight, we must be the watchmen on the wall to call out in alarm the threat that is rapidly approaching our walls. God’s blessings to you and your family old friend. Let us not tire of speaking God’s truth into this deceived and spiritually sleeping world. Let it not be said before the Bema Seat that we slept as the world was burning.
While I’m shouting AMENs back at you, Diane is declaring this to be another “post-worthy” response and suggesting that we ought to publish it next week as a follow-up. Once again we’re on the same page regarding the status and condition of Christianity in America these days. One of the worst things we ever did was to foment the erroneous and insulting practice of referring to an inanimate, soulless, powerless, impotent, and mostly empty building as “the church.” The disturbing truth is that the Church of Jesus Christ has acquired many of those same characteristics. Instead of choosing leaders on the basis of the evidence of God’s Spirit and power working in their lives and their commitment and allegiance to the Bible as God’s inerrant and infallible Word, we’ve decided to go in a more culturally accommodating direction. We decided to choose them on the basis of their winsome personality, their impressive academic credentials, their “on camera” presence, their skill in composing and delivering sermons with catchy titles, artfully alliterated outlines, and impressive audio-visual accompaniment. But mostly, we want to ensure that our leaders are well trained in avoiding the direct mention of any of those behaviors that God not only forbade, but that He found personally repulsive. The individual, familial, or national consequences of embracing the devil’s world system must not be enumerated lest someone feel verbally assaulted. Our commitment to the comfort of “good feelings” at the expense of the transformational power of the “Good News” is exacting an awful price.
Sorry–couldn’t stay off the soap box, but we share your assessment and mirror your response to the exit polling data as well. It was shocking (if that’s still possible) to hear how many were willing to sacrifice their hope of personal security and financial stability to preserve their right to commit premeditated murder on their own babies. What an awful legacy our spiritual apathy has brought.
But in spite of the morbid atmosphere nationally, you once again sent us a bright ray of encouragement and uplifting inspiration. Please pass our love along to your Diane, to John, and anyone else around the Cross-Dubya. Oh, and while you’re at it, scratch Bubba’s ears on our behalf, too.
How blessed I am to feed at your “fountain of truth”. In a thirsty world, you are a fountain of God’s living water through the life you and your Ms. Diane live. Thank you for all the encouragement and the infusion of hope we find in God’s truths. Thank you my friend. I think your response is the stuff for next week’s post. Well said author!