Shifting the truth

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

It took me a long time to learn how to properly drive with a standard transmission. I got pretty good pretty fast at improperly driving with one, largely due to a steep hill on my route to work. If I had to stop at the red light -- chanting please don't change, please don't change as I approached -- at the base of the hill, I was a multitasking marvel. With one hand on the steering wheel, one hand on the emergency brake, one foot on the clutch, the other spanning the distance between the brake and the gas pedal, goosing the accelerator as needed to keep the engine at an idle, I waited for the green. Easing up on the clutch I slowly released the emergency brake and pressed down on the accelerator. The car would lurch forward, the ride smoothing out just in time to shift into second gear.

In the mid-70s we bought a sweet little Chevy with four on the floor. She was silver and black, sleek and sporty, with a sunroof and an excellent sound system. It was love at first sight. I wanted that car. She made me look good. And in that driver's seat, I finally learned the fine art of shifting -- and learned to love the downshift.

The Chevy went the way of all cars and has been replaced innumerable times in the intervening years. Whenever we are forced to car-shop, it is my fondest hope to find one in our price range with a standard transmission. Unfortunately, most cars nowadays are automatics, and my hope for four, or five, on the floor, while my knees can still take the workout, is the first item to fall to compromise.

Compromise is part of our daily fare. And, for the most part, it serves us well to be flexible about certain things. I'm always ready to compromise on supper. I was known to compromise on curfew in favor of a particularly special event. Even bedtimes were open to compromise if certain conditions were met.

Some things should never be open to compromise, but all too often, are.

"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?'

"They replied, 'Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.'

"'But what about you?' he asked. 'Who do you say I am?'

"Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'

"Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.'" (Matthew 16:13-18)

This rock of faith is immovable. And the rock is this: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. There is no other.

But we have opened the gates of compromise. And that gate has been opened so wide that I recently discovered a list of no less than 211 religions or cults that mention a belief about Jesus that counters the one revealed in the discourse quoted from the Gospel of Matthew. And I'm certain that this list is not all-inclusive.

Certainly some of those beliefs are pretty far-fetched -- one group claims that Jesus is an ascended master, the same as Buddha, Confucius and all the great religious teachers; and another says Jesus is a spaceman called Michael of Nebandon. Too many, however, which are largely accepted as Christian religions in modern society, are listed because they have either limited Christ's ability to save by adding other requirements or have given his exclusive authority to save to someone else entirely. Still others have introduced components of primarily Eastern religions, including yoga, contemplative prayer and other mystic teachings. Each of these departures from the Gospel of Christ has, at its base, a moment of compromise, a conversation that began, "What can it hurt? It is but a small thing."

One act of compromise is one act too many. Reading in the Old Testament about how God chose to deal with his people when they acted independently of his will, especially in matters of worship, one quickly discerns that this is no small matter in his eyes.

When God set out the terms of worship for Israel, he was very detailed in his instruction. The New Testament is remarkable for the brevity of worship instruction given to those who follow the risen Christ. Nevertheless, all that is needful has been provided in those brief pages, and we are called to worship God in spirit and in truth.

"'Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.' The woman said, 'I know that Messiah' (called Christ) 'is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.' Then Jesus declared, 'I who speak to you am he.'" John 4:23-26 (NIV)

Things you won't see in heaven:

Holy Bible, abridged

Audio from KNGN 1360 AM:


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