The other day, we ordered an outdoor heater. We saw one at a restaurant and really liked it. It stood about seven feet tall. When it arrived at our home, it was in a three foot tall box: the picture on the box showed it as seven feet tall. My original thought was that we might have to water it and it would grow. But upon looking closer at the box, it announced “Some Assembly Required.”
After opening the box and seeing nothing but flat metal pieces, Judy asked, “Would you like me to help?” Loosely translated, the actual question was, “Do you want me to read the instructions while you try to put it together blindfolded?” After looking at the pieces and then at her, my response was, “No, no, I’ve got this,” and immediately started taking pieces out of the box – except for the directions. After all, who needs them? I set out to unintentionally prove Judy’s point, she was sitting nearby trying to look like she was reading a book but really waiting for me to do something wrong. I immediately bolted the wheels in place. Only to later find out I had proven Judy’s thinking prophetic, because I had bolted them on the wrong side of the frame. As Judy could have told me, the instructions became an integral part of further progress. In a further act of humiliation, I began to use the English version of the instructions.
Realizing that all of life is an illustration for theological truth (just wait, soon Peter will be using his puppy in sermon illustrations), I wanted to see how my frequently experienced denial of instruction parallels my life with Christ. Sadly, in many ways, I simply haven’t learned. I take little comfort in siding with Paul when he says – loosely translated – “the things I do, I don’t want to do but the things I want to do, I don’t do” (Romans 7:21-22). So often, instead of following the instructions God has given, I want to do it on my own.
It’s not that following instructions saves us. God does that. In fact, after He does that, He sees us as completed, “and in Christ you have been brought to fullness (Colossians 2:10)” just like the picture on the box. However, during our life, some assembly is required. Peter writes in 2Peter 3:18, “grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Generally, God will ask us, “Do you want help?” He has provided us with help, the Holy Spirit, His Word, access through prayer, forgiveness, observation of his power, to name just a few. He doesn’t make us take his help, He simply provides it.
Do we use it? Do we pray? Do we read Scripture? Do we cry out for help? Do we stand in wonder at what He has made? Do we forgive? Do we stand with a body of believers? Do we grow?
Or do we put the wheels on the wrong side?