I was watching Top Gear on Youtube yesterday, and the persenter was talking about the infamous AMC Pacer. For those of you not in the know, AMC was an American car manufacturer famous not so much for their successes (the AMX, their Jeep years, the Eagle, etc...) as they were for their failures (the Gremlin and the Pacer). Now, in the 70's AMC saw the impact that the oil crisis was having, and decided to concentrate on compact cars that were more fuel-efficient. One of these attempts was the Pacer. It had a large space-age bubble butt made of glass, the passenger door was longer than the driver door (to encourage people to get out near the curb, rather than the road), and a supposedly more fuel-efficient engine (not actually the case, as they scratched the original more fuelt efficient wankel engine they planned to use, and went with a gas guzzling straight six instead). This and other design highlights were meant to make this the car of the future. But it actually had the opposite effect. It made it one of the most notoriously hideous cars ever produced. It was mocked for its lack of beauty, lack of power, and even lack of style. It has been ridiculed in car magazines, People magazine, Times magazine, Top Gear US and UK, and even in the movie Wayne's World! Put bluntly, the Pacer is the eternal joke of the motoring world.
But here's the thing about jokes. Sometimes the last laugh comes from the subject, rather than the teller. Take a look at this:
That's right, a Pacer that can do a 10 Second quarter mile! A Pacer that shines on the track, and has other people looking in disbelief as it tears down the runway at the kind of speeds one expects from a Mustang 5.0 or a Yenko Camaro! This strange little reject from a 1970's science fiction movie is suddenly humbling the hard bodies all around it.
As I was watching this marvel from AMC, I thought about what Paul wrote about in II Corinthians 3-5. This is where Paul talks about what it means to follow Christ and trust in God's salvation, rather than to try and save ourselves through our works. Paul is an amazing writer, and his use of analogy and symbolism is pretty hardcore! And in these three chapters, we see Paul compare living by the Law of Moses, to living by faith in God. He expounds beautifully on the idea that none of us can be saved or perfected by the law, because not one of us can ever live up to the law fully. So rather than devote ourselves to obedience to rules, we should devote ourselves to faith in God's ability to change and restore and complete us!
This has been such a difficult albeit freeing concept, since I started following Christ. God does not expect me to earn my way into heaven by continued works, but rather wants me to love Him completely and devotedly. The works, the obedience to God's law, is a by-product of wholly devoted love to the Creator of the Universe! As I learn to love God more, I want to serve Him, to obey His rules. I don't do it out of fear or out of desire for heavenly entrance. I only do it because I want to show God that I care about Him.
But here's the thing: no matter how much I try to obey God's will, I will always fall short. No matter how hard I try, I will always fail. But the beauty of God's plan is that if I stop trying to change me, and just devote myself to God, He does the changing for me! As Paul puts it: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (II Corinthians 3:5-6)
As we love God more, God can bless us with truly making us into a new creation, a new creature. All good in our lives, all the things in us that are good, are because of Him and not because of anything we have done! If I do any good in this world, it is not my effort that made it possible, but it is God's work shining through me! Man, isn't that amazing? That concept confirms the weakness that humanity is and has. It confirms our weak wills, our selfishness, our short-mindedness. But at the same time, it confirms God's power to make the weak things strong, God's ability to make us all into new creations, His ability to heal all things and make us whole! And it all ties into that plucky little Pacer...
You see, the Pacer didn't stop being a Pacer. It still has the freakishly extra long passenger door. It still has that fishbowl rear window, couple with the shortest ground clearance of its day. But... the change came from within. The change was a larger engine, a better transmission, shorter gear ratios and a reinforced rear suspension. The Pacer didn't improve itself by adding better AMC parts. It became better because someone loved it enough to change it by making it new from within!
In II Corinthians 4:7, Paul says that we are jars of clay filled with an unsurpassable treasure. Clay jars were extremely common, and worthless by themselves. They were functional, fragile, rarely admired, and easily expendable. By themselves they were worthless. But... their value came from what was inside of them. Just like our AMC reject! Our only value is that which is added by our Creator! But in acknowledging and allowing our Creator to fully work in our lives, we go from doing the ordinary to the extraordinary. Not because we are great and wonderful, but because we love Him for what He is!
I am full of flaws. This is something I have had to learn to accept. I used to try and hide how hideously deficient I was. I lied constantly to cover up my temper, my addiction to porn. I tried to snowball everyone I knew, out of fear that they would find out just how flawed and worthless I really was. But now, I accept that I am full of sin. I accept that I am a wreck, a joke, a clay jar. And as I work more on loving God, rather than trying to fix myself, I see changes I never thought possible. I see what God is doing, and I weep at how he would take a junker from the scrapyard like me, and spend so much time transforming it into something else. I am far from where I need to be. God is trying hard to change me, but I keep stepping in and slowing His work down. Sometimes I try to take over the redo, trying to fix myself rather than letting Him do the work. Other times, I shut Him down altogether, fearful of what His changes may bring. But I work each day at trusting God that little bit more, hoping and praying that some day I can and will give him complete reign over my life.
So here's the question: are we going to continue to be Pacers, doing high 20's at the track, breaking down every time we do over 70 miles an hour (all because we insist on being our own mechanics, insist on being so-called self-made men), OR... are we going to let God take full control and do His will out of love and devotion, transforming us into race day titans? That's the real choice.