The Infinite Pit of Modern Driving
I work for the State of Michigan. Specifically, the Secretary of State (also known as MDOS, or “Michigan Department of State”). This is Michigan’s version of a DMV (also known to some as a BMV, DRS, and many other acronyms that do not aide the constant confusion of which is which), which essentially means that this is the place you go to get your Driver’s License, vehicle title and registration, register to vote and sign up for the draft. I work in what is called the CCU, or Customer Contact Unit, where I answer upwards of 150 calls per day, which is over 3000 per month, and over 40,000 per year. These calls range from answering simple questions, such as “How much does it cost to renew my driver’s license?” to “Where is the nearest branch office?” But I also have to tell people what is perhaps one of the least joyful answers to one of the most painful questions: “Is my driver’s license suspended?” Especially when this person has a driving record stretching back to the 1980’s and is so long that I have to pull up a special program just to get to the bottom.
Having seen so many driving records, I have begun to see a picture growing in my mind of what it must look like to see our life records before God. You see, in Michigan, there is something call an “Administrative Denial and Revocation,” which is put on your record for one of two reasons: having two or more substance abuse convictions within a period of seven years (i.e. drunk driving, drug crimes, refusing a breathalyzer, etc.) or for having two or more convictions of felonies on your record. What happens as a result of having either of these two things is what is perhaps the worst possible thing to hit your record: your driving privileges are completely revoked, and the only way to have them restored is to either sue the State of Michigan and win or to go before a panel and be approved by the Administrative Hearing Section, and even then, that most often results in either a Restricted license (only driving to work, school, medical visits, etc.) or simply being denied again. The sad part is, I have seen it countless times where someone has had their driver’s license denied and revoked not once, not twice, but more than three times. Some so many times I have lost count. And on top of this, they have countless tickets, driver’s responsibility fees so expensive you can’t imagine it, and multiple reinstatement fees to pay after it is all said and done. And when that person is wondering why they cannot reobtain their driving privileges, you begin to see something at work. Something that can completely looks around the wrongness of your former actions, thinking that these things will simply “fall off the record” after many years. That thing is sin, and its ability to convince someone of their absolute rightness, even in the face of an endless record of wrongdoing, is astounding.
Now, believe it or not, no matter how bad someone’s record is, they can still get their driver’s license reinstated, albeit after thousands of dollars, many hearings, and years and years of waiting and working. But none of these are even close to the record we have before God. Our sin goes back to the moment we were conceived, bearing the inherited sin of our fathers, and infecting the mind and soul. They follow every hateful thought and sinful deed, and we are even convicted for the things that we failed to do. Our “living privileges” have been denied and revoked again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again…
The point is this: Our record is so sinful- so rotten and pitiful- before the Almighty God, that the only payment for this sin is to spend an eternity in damnation. In other words, it cannot be paid off. And when you further consider the reality that each sin and shortcoming could, in and of itself, chain us to this fate, and then multiply that by infinity, you begin to see the blunt reality that is our sin. We are not in desperate need in our sin. We are not falling to our death in our sin. We are not sick in our sin. We are not dying in our sin. We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-3), and no dead man can revive himself.
God’s Response to Sin
But then we see something quite miraculous. The Gospel. You see, the interesting part about the above paragraphs is that they are the the bad news, but now that the bad news is understood, the Good News can come to an even clearer face. Once we have come to grips with the fullness of our sin and the absolute deadness of our sin, we can then see the glory of what God did. These records that we each bear before God are not unseen or glossed over, but are known perfectly in every detail, and deserve a full review and condemnation for each and every painfully clear sin. But God does not do this. He has not struck the world with the sword of His wrath (yet). Instead, He did the exact opposite. If the average person were to look at a person’s extensive driving record, and saw all of the offenses, many might back off and say “They shouldn’t be allowed even near the road!” But this is not what God does. No, instead God does something entirely different. He does, in fact, show us a mere sample of this record, by giving us the exact opposite: the Law. By showing us what perfection is, He shows us how sinful we truly are- how far we truly fall from His perfect standard. His Law was specifically designed, in and of itself, to be so utterly perfect that no man could keep it. It’s vastness confused the wisest and it’s details condemned the strongest. It was, to its very core, God’s impossible standard and expectation. And is merely a sample of His rightness.
And then He sends His Son (His exact likeness), Jesus the Christ (Messiah), to do something that we could not. Keep it. To fall short on no letter of the Law, and to not only follow the Father’s commands with purity of motives and exactness of action, but to then apply these things to every part of His life. He did not keep the Father’s standard for the sake of building Himself up, since such a thing would itself contradict God’s requirements. Instead, while keeping the Law, He then Himself was generous, selfless, not just to those around Him, but to the Father, Who Himself sent the Son to do His will. The Son did what no physician was able to do, healing thousands in broad daylight, in an instant, curing people that had sicknesses that no medicine could heal and casting out demons, things which our society has deemed wholly inappropriate and unrealistic, as they believe all things are caused by the physical and the understandable, all while indulging in the desires of their flesh and giving into temptations that lead the mightiest to the slaughter.
And all the while, Jesus was raising twelve men to follow in His footsteps after He was gone, to grow a church that would survive countless assaults, contradictions and even current attempts to defame, or else replace it. These being His eleven disciples, and one man, Saul of Tarsus, who was still being raised at the time by the leading hypocrites in their era, the Pharisees, only to later become one of the most hated declarers of the Gospel and enemies of the legalists.
And in the end, Jesus Himself gave up His own perfect life to die on two wooden posts nailed together, as He hung there in agony, not merely from the physical torture, but especially from the thing that no man can know: the full brunt of the wrath of God, bearing down on one Man. Imagine, if you will, this fact: if the only payment for our sinful record is an eternity in Hell, how can that be compacted into less than a day and placed upon one person, as opposed to an eternity on billions of people? And even more shocking, to successfully bear it?! Because when this Christ rose from the grave, He did not do some petty miracle from being called from death, but having actually conquered death, He now bears the keys to the very gates of death and Hell. Not only this, but now Himself also having the full rights to judge men for their sins and to save men from their infinite record of Godlessness, and to justify them before the Father, being Himself the fullness of God, having always been the I Am, being the once-for-all Mediator between God and man.
The Response of People
But then comes something that shocks me to this day, especially since it comes more from the professing church than the wicked world. “How unfair! How unloving!” The most common of these being, “How could a loving God condemn one person to Hell and another He choose to save??”
There are two responses that we can have to the Gospel, and they are most evident in the modern, professing church of America. The first is sadly so often found in conservative, traditional churches, just as much as it is the liberal, wiggly “Christians” of the”youthful” era. And is, essentially, this: “I would never worship a God who chooses to save some people, but at the same time, chooses to condemn people who don’t even know of Jesus. That isn’t fair, and it isn’t right. A loving God would never do that. Instead, a loving God is one who would give people a choice, that way, when they are condemned for their sin, it’s their fault and not God’s. God can’t help that people sin. He desperately wants them to be saved, but they won’t listen, and they shut the door in His face and He sits there sobbing because they will not listen. God gives us a free will, because He loves us.”
The fundamental issue with this viewpoint is simple: it denies our record. Because our record before God does not prove us simply sick, or dying, but dead. And no dead man can revive himself. Instead, in the midst of what is his most helpless state, he needs Someone who is not dead to save him. Someone who is Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life. One who Himself conquers death, not only by raising men from the dead, but raising them from their spiritual death into eternal, abundant life- knowing the one and true God. Knowing Him personally, as a Father, not as an idol who cannot speak, or a person who falls flat on every promise.
Which then leads me to the other response, that I think is the best response, and is a true (and dare I say the only) Christian response…
When we come to a full understanding of the Gospel- of the bad news of who we are before God in our sin and the helplessness in being dead, having such a long record before God, and the Good News of what He Himself did for us regardless of our record- it should invoke an awe of God’s power and control. Instead of becoming the constant critics of God, instead we become what we ought to be… the worshipers of Him! Instead of confusing ourselves with the infinite list of “What if…?”s, we instead marvel at the reality that He is unhindered in His will, and that our sin is most assuredly dealt with. No matter how sinful I am- no matter how long my record is, nor how quickly it seems to expand- my Father is in complete control, having dealt with every sin (even the sins I didn’t know about!), having known them in every detail, and thus cleansed them to the smallest point. That no amount of sin, nor sinners, can defeat His will. That it isn’t a battle of “Will God’s will be done??” but, quite bluntly, “God’s will shall be done!” Instead praying “Your will be done!” with sadness and uncertainty, we say it with all confidence and clarity of mind, not needing to know how it will be done, because we are not the ones who make it happen in the end. Instead of plaguing our minds with the question, “How could a loving God judge sinners who don’t know the Gospel??” we instead are flooded in our brains with the question, “Why would such a holy and righteous God save a sinner as wretched as I am?” and marveling at His ability to cleanse a record so wretched and deep. And even more than these, to attempt to comprehend the reality that our seemingly infinite record of sin has been utterly dwarfed by the truly infinite account of Jesus Christ’s perfect record, both in what He was able to refrain from doing and by exceeding abundantly in doing all that He was required to do by the Father, in complete perfection. When we see the sinner in his sin, we feel sadness, not because we see God as evil for condemning them, but because we ought to desire to do even more to share with them the wonder of the Gospel that has since saved us from our hopeless estate!
So no. Under no circumstance should we ever become the critics of God, regardless of what our sinful feelings tell us. When we see the Gospel in its undeniable truth, we should marvel and be in awe of God. We should never be the judgers of the Judge, but instead must revel in the fact that we are free to worship Him wherever we find ourselves on this ever-fleeting earth…