Did you ever have one of those mini single seat cars, with the pedals that go back and forth for awesome power, and it actually steered? I might be showing my age, but mine was almost entirely metal. The only plastic was the little red hub cap covering the nut and bolt on the ends of each axle.
Pretend play was fun, even it mimicked real life scenarios. A journey to my neighbors, three houses down the block, in a suburb where the houses were about 50 feet from each other, was a trip worth repeating four to six times.
Gliding along the sidewalk was even better if someone pushed fast! I'm positive the pedals had a built-in speed control that would jam if you tried to pedal too quickly, like opposing keys on a manual typewriter from the 70's.
But, tell me to get in a real car because we're going on a real journey, and I'd run to hide in the closet quicker than a parent can ask, "Anybody have to 'go' before we go?"
Yes, I understand sometimes we have to get in the passenger seat of life, willingly or carried. But, if I have the option, I'll drive. I like to be in control of the vehicle, the chosen route, and my destiny, as much as I am motivated and able.
Today, (many) years later, I'm reminded of this childhood example, car rides, in regard to my spiritual walk. I have a heart to diligently seek God, know Christ, understand grace, truth, faith, and His eternal plan for His church, the body of Christ.
I don't wish to simply hand the reigns over to someone with worldly credentials who purports to be a spiritual authority, declaring, "I'm an excellent driver."
To me, it ultimately doesn't matter if they have a masters or doctorate degree in divinity, if they're in a denomination well established by solid church history, if they're intelligent scholars, best-selling Christian authors, charismatic crowd-pleasing orators, outspoken evangelists (dead or alive), if they have a heart-wrenching ministry, are well-dressed and highly moral, live in an exclusive secret society, or if they just love everybody all the time.
No, I'm convinced there is a higher purpose for God's word, the revelation of His eternal plan, and that we can and should know His will (Romans 12:2~). Only then will I know what "good works" are that He "prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10, following Ephesians 2:8-9~~).
No, I'm not going to simply hand over the reigns with something as precious as my soul. I believe God exists and rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6~~~). I believe this pleases Him as much as it delights me (Psalm 37:4*).
Definitely, there are eternal rewards. But, there are also rewards for here and now, such as rest for my soul, peace in my bones, contentment in my mind, joy in my heart, and (let the reader really get this point ...) growing into the fullness of Him who is the head, into Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16**).
Those rewards, both eternal and present, are compromised, big time, when I let someone do the seeking for me. As a result, my "good works" may even be burned to a crisp (1 Corinthians 3:10b-15***).
Yes, I found an excellent pastor/teacher who teaches from Scripture. But I show up, listen carefully and thoughtfully, follow up with private study and prayer, and carefully test his teachings against the Scriptures (Acts 17:11****).
The idea is that learning from Scripture is so much better than learning from Religion. In the days Jesus walked the earth, religious leaders were constantly trying to trap Him in His words and even kill Him.
In fact, many religious leaders today, and throughout history, are trying to do the same thing by twisting Scripture and suppressing the truth. So, I assert Religion is the antithesis to understanding God's thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9*****).
But instead of running away from the Bible, I went deeper, essentially ignoring what religion had to say. Now, I'm getting, and have been getting for a few years, a lot of spiritual growth and enjoyment out of the study of Scripture.
And even that's saying it lightly; I frankly didn't know it was possible at first. I merely hung on to the hope the Scriptures were all true, and what religions were saying about it was false. That humble attitude was eventually rewarded.
How great are the rewards from God!
Previously, in attending a few mainstream religious churches, I was preoccupied with behavior modification, often having to wonder about and even maintain my salvation instead of using my freedom in Christ to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.
I got involved in humanitarian efforts in one place, which felt good to my soul, and religious tradition at another, which satisfied my self-righteous mind.
Neither shed much light, if any, on what God "decreed before the ages for our glory" (1 Corinthians 2:7+).
Now, although I'm in North Carolina and "attend" by conference call, I study with a small home-church based in New Jersey, where we are "serious students of God's word, the Bible."
Are we arrogant making a claim like that? Am I arrogant for bringing it up? You would think so, especially when I don't follow the norm of studying famous theologians, charismatic evangelists, seminary professors, best selling devotionals, common commentaries, larger and shorter catechisms, published confessions of faith, popular and wealthy congregations, or prioritizing involvement in just any local church family.
On the other hand, perhaps you see what I mean when you read that list and compare them to your own experiences. Rather, as I've studied His eternal word and His eternal plan, I've come to realize what He really means by "good works" (2 Timothy 3:16-17++) and how to get there (2 Timothy 2:15+++).
Maybe you get my point, and maybe you don't.
This isn't private interpretation in isolation where we make the word mean whatever we want; we take His word for it. We clearly see in the world that our sort of study and reliance on God's word is very uncommon. We also see the common mistakes, hypocrisy, and arrogance that result from following the world's ways of religion. I wouldn't trade this intense focus on the word of God for anything in the world, especially man's religion.
Whose word are you following? Are you driving your own relationship with God? Or is someone else strapping you in the car seat of religion? (Galatians 5:1++++)
~ ~ ~
Scripture References:~ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
~~ For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-9, 10)
~~~ And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who [diligently, KJV] seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
* Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
** And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
*** Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10b-15)
**** For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
***** Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)
+ But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7)
++ All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
+++ Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 MKJV)
++++ For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)