Sixth Sunday of Easter
“The Theology of Seatbelts”
Pastor Don Ginkel
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
It takes 7/10 of a second to kill a person in an automobile crash without safety restraints as it hits a tree at 55 mph. When I was a Seminary student I preached at a church in northern Illinois one Sunday morning and was returning to the Sem when I came across an accident like this just a moment after it happened. This fellow went off the road and hit a tree, and he was not wearing a seatbelt. I stuck my head in the window of the car only to see that he was still sitting there behind the wheel, but he was very, very dead.
In view of this and all the facts, why is it that the average person is opposed to seatbelts? Ever since they have become mandatory people have been devising plans not to wear them. When my Mother was in her 80’s, she wouldn’t wear a seatbelt.
Let’s take a quick look at the progression of belts. At first the powers that be introduced the buzzer system. It would keep on buzzing until you put the seatbelt on. This worked for awhile until man took his little screwdriver and destroyed the annoying buzzer by disconnecting its power.
Then the creators of seatbelts said, “We can take care of that. We’ll create a device that will prohibit man from starting his car unless he first puts his seatbelt on.” But man was not to be restrained that easily. He found out that if everyone in the front seat of the car would lean back and raise their posterior off the seat for three seconds, the car could be started and no one would have to wear seatbelts.
By nature man doesn’t want any restraints. By nature man says, “I’ll make it on my own.” Lest we think this philosophy leaves us once we become a Christian, think again. The human desire to try and make it on our own never leaves us. Our old human nature continually tries to get us to believe again and again that we can do it on our own.
Our human nature is 100% opposed even to God stepping in to save us. Even after we are converted to faith in Jesus Christ, we still have that same human nature that remains defiant. This is true even after we learn all the facts.
We know from the Bible that because of our sin we deserve punishment. Paul says in our text, Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We know that. We know that Jesus went to the cross to pay for all those sins we have committed. We know that fact well. We even know how this is appropriated to us.
Paul says in Romans 3:24 that we “are justified (declared holy) freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
We believe this to be true. We claim it to be true. But yet there is that old human nature within us that says, “You can make it on your own.” A recent survey showed that the vast majority of the adults questioned believe that “Anyone who is generally good or does enough good things for others during their life will earn a place in heaven.”
Someone has said that we are spiritual schizophrenics, that is, we have two personalities that try to run our lives. We drive down the road of life with the love of God wrapped around us in Jesus. We begin to worry. We begin to doubt. We take off the seatbelt of love and forgiveness in Jesus, and we say, “God, I have to figure this out on my own.” We become angry and by doing so we say, “God, I’m going to take vengeance this time. I’m not going to let You handle this one.”
We start a new day without first going to the Lord and asking His guidance and by doing so we’re saying, “God, I don’t need You today. I’ll control this day. I don’t need the seatbelt of Your direction and power today. I’m not going to read my Bible. I’m just fine. You see, God, I don’t need a seatbelt to restrain me—maybe others do, but with me it’s different. I’m going to make it.”
It’s to this kind of person that God ought to shower down His wrath and hurt him real bad. It’s this person that God ought to abandon. But wait a minute. That’s me! I don’t want to be abandoned. I don’t want to go to hell. Even if I have to come with every scheme possible to unlatch God’s hands from around me—I still don’t want to be lost.
And to that person, that’s you and me, God says, “Because of Christ dying for your sins on Calvary I declare you not guilty. I love you and forgive you.” For the life of me I can’t understand that. I’ve been trying to take the seatbelt of God’s love off of me. I’ve avoided God. I’ve sinned against His love. I’ve refused to share His love. And yet God comes up saying that He loves me more than I can imagine. To this kind of sinner, and that is what I am, God says, “Because of Christ I declare you not guilty, Don Ginkel. You’re Mine no matter how many times you’ve driven into the garage of the evil one. You belong to Me!”
I become overwhelmed with that kind of love. It brings me to my knees. It causes me to repent. There’s nobody on the face of the earth that would ever put up with all the evil we’ve done — if they knew about it. If your spouse or a friend knew all those things you’ve thought, all those things you’ve felt on the inside, all those things you were tempted to do — he or she would not put up with you.
But God knows all about those things. He knows it all. And He makes a decision about you. Listen to Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem (buy back) those under the law, that we might (be called Lutherans or Baptists or Methodists?) receive full rights of sons (This is your inheritance. Everything the Father has belongs to you including heaven!”)
You don’t do anything to get it or earn it! There is no synergism involved, gross or fine. Let’s define those two words. Examples of GROSS SYNERGISM might be things like worshiping money or yourself. An example of FINE SYNERGISM might be what some people say: “Well, at least I have to do my part by believing in Jesus.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”
2 Timothy 1:9 says, “God who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”
You don’t even decide to become a Christian. God does that. It is a gift from God. Revelation 22:17—“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”
At one congregation I served about 30 teens put on a free car wash on a Saturday afternoon. They held up signs by the heavily traveled street in front of the church. announcing the car wash. People drove into the church parking lot by the hundreds. When people asked about the cost and were told that it was free, most of the people couldn’t believe it. The teens would then share Ephesians 2:8-9 and then give a handout explaining those verses and a Gospel of John. Even with that explanation, some people refused the free car wash.
Billy Graham once said that when you get to heaven you won’t find anyone boasting about what they did to get there. In fact, in Revelation we read that all the saints in heaven this very moment are lifting their arms and voices up high and they are giving all glory to Jesus for their salvation.
I can’t understand this kind of love, but I sure believe it. God’s Holy Spirit gives us the power to believe it. And when we believe it, then we are free. The reality of God’s love becomes REAL and MEANINGFUL just by believing, by faith alone.
There is a wonderful word picture of what is happening to the sinner in Zechariah 3:1-5—“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD (“the angel of the LORD” is usually the pre-incarnate Christ), and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, I rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?’ Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’ Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.’ Then I said, ‘Put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the LORD stood by.” So Joshua exchanged his spiritually filthy clothes for pure, rich garments.
Let’s use a modern-day example of what not to do. It appears that Princess Diana made at least two gigantic mistakes in her life. First, she refused to wear a seat belt when riding in a car. As a result, she died. Experts tell us that she would have easily survived the crash if she would have worn her seatbelt. She decided not to. The price was high. Second, it appears (I can’t look into her heart) that she rejected the seatbelt of God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ choosing the dark side of religion including the occult. If that is true, she is lost. Jesus says in Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” That is a terrible tragedy for anyone. It is also an eternal tragedy.
Folks, it’s time to buckle up! As you drive down the road of life in the days ahead and for as long as you live may you buckle up spiritually. St. Paul writes in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Take Jesus as your Savior today and every day. He will keep you safe. He will walk with you through all your days, even in the hour of death, and He will then take you to His Father’s House. God grant it! Amen!