Sometimes I find object lessons in the weirdest things or at the most unlikely spots in life. I guess it helps me connect-the-dots spiritually to receive an object lesson. So, when I am fortunate enough to put together the pieces in a "picture view" of what God is telling me, I usually find it something I hold onto a long, long time. My latest object lesson came in a pretty unlikely location - waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles Inspection Station for my emission testing on my automobile. Yep - at the DMV! Now, lest you think I am going to go off on the Federal government for making us get our vehicles tested to keep the air quality at a tolerable level, I am not. I actually think the air quality is pretty important, so I am not going to poke fun at the DMV or the government. Yet, there was something new this time - having been over five years since I had to partake of this annual visit (new cars are exempt for the first four or five years here). As you enter the property now you have to take a ticket at a blocked entrance, much in the same way you would take a ticket when entering a paid parking lot. A gate then opens up for you to pass through and as you drive on through the gate, you are committing to stay in the line for as long as it takes because there is no other way out! It kind of spoke to me of the way we enter into sin in our lives - there is some kind of gate which reminds us we are passing through into some place we may not want to be for very long, but when we do, we are there for the long haul!
Don’t blame God when you are tempted! God cannot be tempted by evil, and he doesn’t use evil to tempt others. We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead. (James 1:13-15 CEV)
This wasn't the only object lesson from this visit, so allow me to elaborate on a few things which God spoke to me:
- All temptation comes with a stopping spot before we enter fully into sin. Just like the gate with the little ticket machine, there is some form of "barrier" which stands between us and sin. As I sat there looking at the instructions, it was plain - push the button, get the ticket, the gate will open, and you move your car through into a line of your choosing. Seemed pretty simple to me, but you don't know all it involves UNTIL you pass through the gate. You have a moment to drive the other way, but you have to choose to do so BEFORE you enter the gate. Temptation is like that - there is that moment of decision OUTSIDE of sin's full action. It is what we do at that moment which makes all the difference in what we experience after that!
- Once we enter into the "experience" of sin, there is no going back. Sin has a cycle - you enter in and then you must go through the cycle in order to get on the opposite side of it. Much as I entered the testing area at the DMV, we enter into a circle of sin which takes us places where we will have to make more decisions, pay an even greater price in both time and sometimes even our material/physical means, and then the emotional turmoil of having to go "through" what we entered into. As I pulled around through that gate, I was faced with three lines, based on vehicle type, year, fuel consumed, etc. Other cars were behind me, others in line already, so I had to act fast. I didn't have a whole lot of time to decide on which "line" was going to be the best one for me. Sin's cycle is like that - quick decisions often don't "pay off" as we might have hoped. You see, the other line to my left (the one I initially got into) moved at the pace of a jackrabbit while the one I settled on moved at the pace of the infamous tortoise!
- There is an element of the unknown in every temptation, because we cannot know how things will "play out" since we are not fully in control when we give into sin's enticement. I was waiting to get the "passing" report which would allow me to register my vehicle license for another two years. I stood the chance, as did everyone else in the lines with me, that there might be some glitch in the functioning of my vehicle which caused it to fail the test. All of life's temptations are really designed to produce some type of "test result" my friends. We might pass some of them, but there is always the chance we will not do as well on others!
- Sin has a way of taking over our lives. As I drove into the bay to undergo the testing of the vehicle, I was asked to shut off my engine, step out of the driver's seat and move to the passenger's seat or sit in a little blue booth to the side. I was asked to hand over my keys and then move aside. Sin has a way of taking control of what we may not want to just "hand over" to just anybody. I don't know about you, but moving out of the driver's seat makes me feel a little like I am losing control. Temptation lures us in - desires and passions drive us forward - and eventually we find ourselves out of control entirely!
- The "tapping into" of the car's computer system with the testing apparatus spoke to me of how sin gets inside our heads and messes with our thoughts. We don't always know we are being "tapped into", but trust me, sin has a thought process we cannot dismiss - it gets inside us and we find ourselves "fully committed" at some point. Satan cannot read our minds, but we certainly do "tell" him a lot by the way we respond and the stories we "tell" ourselves!
- The last thing I want to remind us of is the cost of sin. Even though I have to pay a huge sum to register my vehicle each year, there is this added cost of the emissions testing. Although twenty dollars is not a huge sum of money, there is an "added" cost now that I must undergo this testing each time I register the car. Sin is never free! Once we commit to the path of sin, there is a cost we will pay to escape the clutches of sin. Although it may not seem significant in the short run, in the long run it all adds up!
So, if we want to avoid the trap of sin, it begins before we push the button to take the ticket which allows us to "pass the gate". Once "inside" the cycle of sin, we ride it out - but we rarely come through without some cost to ourselves. The place of decision is outside the gate - before we take the ticket! Just sayin!