Responsible Driving Part 3: Direction Determines Destination
On Sunday 17th February we continued our series 'Responsible Driving'.
In this blog you will find a summary of the talk.
To listen to the talk, please click here.
My “life goal” is that each day I will love God, love people, and grow more like Jesus; some days are better than others! To achieve my goal, the direction I take is to pray, read my bible and try to detect and respond to the “nudges” that God, the Holy Spirit, gives me. Oftentimes I am so busy, or there is so much “noise going on around me that I miss them ”(tele, radio, emails, texts, iphone, etc.). Or, I do hear or sense the “nudges” but I make excuses and ignore them. However, occasionally I both sense God’s “nudges”, or direction corrections, and I obey them.
A few months ago I met Chris Porter in Basingstoke for lunch. Chris was the Senior Minister at EBC for 10 years or so, before leaving to go to Andover Baptist Church. After lunch I began my journey home; first north east on the M3 and then, leaving at junction 3, I joined the A322 into Bracknell.
As I travelled towards Bracknell I sensed a “nudge” from God to go and visit a friend of mine. First of all I tried to ignore it, and when that didn’t work, I began to make excuses: he won’t be in, he will be busy, I’m busy, it’s getting late (it wasn’t) and so on. This went on right up until I reached the traffic lights at the crossroads near Coral Reef. Should I turn right there and go home, or should I go straight on and visit my friend who would be out, or too busy, or……..?
In fact, I drove straight on, and a few minutes later I was parked outside my friends house. I rang the bell several times, but there was no answer. I knew it, he’s out I thought, but then I had another “nudge”: Try knocking on the door, the bell might be broken. So I did and a few seconds later my friend opened the door. I rang the bell, I said, but no answer. The bell’s broken he said, come in.
When I went in, I could see that my friend was indeed busy baking in the kitchen, but he insisted that I stay and he made me a cup of tea. We sat a talked for about half an hour and he was clearly delighted to see me. Then he said this, “I’m so glad that you came today because…. it’s my birthday!
Can you imagine my surprise? And then I thought, what if I had ignored God’s “nudges” and turned right instead of going straight on? And then I further thought, how often do I miss opportunities, to love God (by obeying him), love people (by responding to the “nudges” of the Holy Spirit) and grow more like Jesus? I guess the answer to that question is probably, every day!
Today I want to look at the importance of heading in the direction that God shows us; both in the specifics (often the “nudges” in our daily life), and in general (loving God, people, and growing more like Jesus, our primary direction) This idea of having a clear destination and setting a course and direction to get there reminded me of something that I read about airplane journeys. Apparently, from the time the airplane takes off until it lands, it will be off course 99% of the time. It seems that all airplanes are off course 99% of the time. The purpose and role of the pilot and the avionics is to continually bring the plane back on course, to “nudge” it, so that it arrives on schedule at its destination. Just like this plane did when landing at Bristol airport: You can watch this by clicking here.
In life, each of us is a pilot of our own craft. To reach our destination, we must do as a pilot does. We must first of all determine our destination. This requires clear, specific goals, with a plan to accomplish them. Having done that, the real secret of success is that we must be prepared to make continual course corrections because direction determines destination. Just as an aircraft faces headwinds, downdrafts, storm fronts, wind shear, lightning and unexpected turbulence, we will experience the same in the pursuit of any worthwhile goal. That’s life, and we all know that! The key to success then is for us to keep our mind fixed clearly on the goal and to ensure that we are going in the right direction to achieve it!
So the question for followers of Jesus (AKA Christians) is what is our destination, and how do we get there; in what direction should we go? Well, what advice does the bible give us? Sometimes it’s said that what is in the bible is open to interpretation. However, what Jesus said about direction and destination could not be clearer.
We are going to have a look at Jesus’ words recorded by one of his closest friends, a man called John. This is the John who was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples and who recorded the account of Jesus life, which is found in the New Testament part of the bible. You can read this by clicking here. Jesus has just told his disciples that after being with them almost night and day for three years, he would shortly be leaving them. (John 13:33 “I will be with you only a little longer.”) Of course, he is referring to his imminent death on the cross, his resurrection and his return to God the Father.
He must have looked at the disciples “body language” and saw that they were dismayed and distressed. He says this to them, and to all of his followers since that time (John Chapter 14:1-6):
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. My Father’s house has plenty of room; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the place where I am going.
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
A “troubled heart” is the state of mind of many people in our society today, but the antidote is trust. Jesus tells the disciples to trust him. After all, they have spent the past three years with him. They have seen him “up close and personal” in many different situations, and he has always been truthful and faithful.
He goes on to say that he is going to a particular location, his Father’s house (today, we use the shorthand term, “heaven”), and that he will secure their future destiny when he gets there. Then, he will return and take them there.
You already know the place that I’m talking about’, he says. Thomas, another of Jesus’ twelve disciples, replies, not only do we not know the place, we don’t know the way either!
Jesus famously replies, “I am the way (the issue in question) and the truth and the life.” And in case there is any doubt, he goes on to say, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
This is unambiguous and clear; the way to eternal life, to heaven, is Jesus himself. The exclusivism of this statement is not always popular today, but it must not be “watered down”. It wasn’t meant to be diluted, and Jesus’ first disciples certainly didn’t do that. Talking about Jesus in Acts 4:12 Peter says,
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.”
Jesus is the way to God and heaven, but he is the way for all. By his love and grace he welcomes everyone, and if they will come through him, he will prepare a place. The Christian message then is both exclusive and inclusive at the same time.
In these six verses, recorded by his disciple John, Jesus makes it absolutely clear for his followers, what the destination is and the direction to get there. I wonder what these verses, spoken unambiguously by Jesus, mean to you?
Why does Jesus say, “no one comes to the Father except through me”? The answer to this question goes to the heart of the gospel, which is not, “come to Jesus and he will satisfy all your needs, provide a wonderful plan for your life, and take away all your problems”. Of course there is some truth in that, but would that always ring true to our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church, or to those living in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan?
The Christian gospel, or the good news, is that you are separated from God because of sin for which there is a penalty and therefore you will face just punishment.
“And that’s good news?” I hear you say.
No it isn’t, but thank God that’s not the whole story. Jesus has paid the penalty on your behalf, (something that you cannot do by performance), and if you recognise that you are indeed a sinner, turn away from that life (repent), turn to God and accept what Jesus has done for you by asking him into your life, then your life direction and destination are clear. This is a gift. This is the gospel; this is the truth and there is no other way. However, although it’s true that this is a gift, and the entrance fee is nothing, the annual subscription is everything.
You may hear it said that all religions are the essentially the same – that they all lead to God but via different routes. It’s just not true! The different religions cannot all be true because they flatly contradict each other when it comes to the identity of God. It is simply not possible for them to be true at the same time. So you have a choice to make, and you should make that choice wisely because our direction determines our destination!
Clarity and certainty about our direction and destination will enable us to develop an eternal perspective, which in turn will help us to deal with the headwinds, storm fronts, and unexpected turbulence of life.
At EBC we believe Jesus is the (only) way, truth and life. If we want to be in a permanent and personal relationship with God – if that is our dream destination for our lives and our eternity – then we need to keep heading in His direction, and be open and sensitive to “direction corrections” from the Holy Spirit, because direction determines destination.
1. What do you think about the idea of having a “life goal”? Do you have such a goal? If you don’t, what might such a goal be for you?
2. Do you ever feel a “nudge” from God to do something? If yes, when was the last time that this happened, and what were the circumstances? If no, why do you think that might be?
3. Do you agree that a “troubles heart” is the state of mind of many people in our society today? Is it increasing or decreasing, and why do you think that is?
4. What is your concept of heaven? Is it something that you are looking forward to?
5. What do you think is meant by the statement that the Christian message is both exclusive and inclusive?
6. Do you think that the Christian message really is good news? If yes, why is it? If no, why is that?
7. How will an “eternal perspective” help us to deal with the ‘storms of life’?