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Sometimes I Feel Like a Toyota: A Penitent Plea for Perfection

By William Blankschaen
March 01, 2004

“Wow!”

Nothing else could he say when he walked in the showroom that day. An avid auto enthusiast, the man in the blue suit practically drooled at the dazzling display of classy automobiles in the equally spectacular showroom. His mouth remained fixed open as his feet mindlessly shuffled across the marble floor toward the nearest car.

His interest did not go unnoticed long. The wizened dealer recognized the response and strolled over to greet his enthusiastic guest.

“You like them?” The dealer folded his arms and relaxed against an ornate column. The gentleman tried pulling his eyes off the cars, but failed. He offered only a feeble reply instead.

“Yeeeeesss.” A long pause. “Yes, I definitely li — I have never see — What a collection of exquisite cars!  It’s incredible!  Unbelievable!  Impossible!” 

“I assure you,” the dealer chuckled warmly, “it most certainly is possible.” He paused to look at the customer as if measuring before adding, “You know, what you may find even more remarkable is that every single one of these cars is reconditioned.”

The man didn’t bother trying to hide his disbelief. “No. Not possible. I could maybe believe your acquiring all of these rare and exotic cars new, but to recondition them all to look this good….”  He shook his head and squinted as he now measured the dealer with a newer suspicious eye. “ I don’t believe it.” 

The gentlemanly dealer simply winked at him and tilted his head toward the corner. “Come. Let me show you.”

A side door, nearly obscured by a group of lush silk trees, opened, and they entered a darker area cluttered with cars in various states of repair. Some had windows, some tires, some gold-plating — none of them had everything. None of them looked anything like the beauties in the showroom. The blue-suited man stepped with care through the dingy piles.

“Come. This way.”  The dealer’s face began beaming as he nodded toward a shadowy shed near the rear of the cluttered area. As they moved closer, the shadows cleared. An image emerged. A man, but covered in so much grease that he seemed but a walking shadow. A greasy arm reached for a greasy wrench before the mechanic bent back into the engine, his face obscured by the hood.

“Here is where the real work gets done,” the dealer proudly noted. The gentleman stared incredulously at the back of the stained mechanic’s overalls and the dreary surroundings, then shook his head.

“Come on,” he drawled. “There’s no way —”

“This one will be in that showroom some day.”

“No way. That’s not possible.”

“All things are possible.”

“But this car he’s working on wasn’t much to look at even when it was brand new, and now look at the shape it’s in. There’s no way.”

“There’s one way.” 

The silent mechanic shifted beneath the darkened hood and murmured a muffled request for a nearby tool. Still dazed in disbelief, the gentleman gingerly picked it up and extended it toward the greasy hand reaching toward him. “I just don’t think it can be do ¾”

He stopped short as his eyes fixed on the greasy hand reaching toward him, a hand with a hole in it.

“Trust me,” the dealer patted the man’s shoulder. “He can do it.” 

Subcompact Christians

Sometimes I feel like a Toyota — not that there’s anything wrong with that — but a charred one at that. Occasionally, I must confess, I even feel like a Kia or (dare we remember the Yugo) another similar subcompact after it has collided with a Hummer — head-on. Totaled, I think, is the word I’m seeking. Might as well open the junkyard doors because my life doesn’t seem capable of repair. Even if money, time, and parts were not issues, no one could take the grimy mess that is the sin-wracked me and restore it, let alone make it resemble the gold-plated beauties in the sparkling showroom.

But then I remember Paul’s prayer — a perfecting prayer, a penitent plea that the God of Peace would make us perfect. And I pause to consider why Paul thought the impossible possible. Why would the God of Peace — peace, of all things — have anything to do with the chaos in my soul?  But then I read Paul’s qualifying remark, that the God of Peace is the One who brought up Jesus from the dead. And I begin to understand.

“Now may the God of Peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:20-21).

Paul’s aim? High. His expectations?  The complete package: all the bells and whistles and toss in the optional luxury/sport package. When he says complete, Paul sets a high standard. The Greek word he uses (katartisai) recalls the image of the veteran mechanic tinkering with the engine until it runs to perfection. It connotes a constant adjusting and repairing, tweaking, if you will, until we reach maximum operating capacity. Only a mechanic of the highest skill could accomplish such a feat on a car, so whom does Paul ask to perfect the disaster in our souls?  The God of Peace.

The God of Peace

But why the God of Peace? Why not just God or Jehovah or the Mighty One? On the few occasions I have seen flashing lights in my rearview mirror before being graced with a visit at my car window from a police officer, I have always tried to address the officers in a particular fashion, namely politely. “Yes, sir. Officer, sir. What can I do for you, Officer?”  My admittedly groveling address shows two things. First, I want something from him — grace. Second, I recognize his unique authority to grant my desire. Paul’s approach seems similar. He calls specifically on God as the God of Peace because he wants something from Him — perfecting — but also because only the God of Peace can grant his request.

The God of Peace can answer Paul’s plea for one reason: He alone qualifies. He alone brought up Jesus from the dead. Note that Paul’s emphasis is not that Jesus arose from the dead but that the Father was the active agent in Christ’s resurrection. Paul’s Greek verb (anagaagon) translated “brought up” means that the Father led Him up or brought Him out, by the hand, as it were, in a formal presentation. Luke presents a similar scenario when he says that the Jews “led” Christ into the council (Lk. 22:66) and again when Peter was to be led out before the people by the magistrates (Ac. 12:4). Paul cites the same truth in Romans where he again emphasizes that “God has raised him [Christ]” from the dead (Rom. 10:9). We might imagine a ship being christened and put to sea for the first time. First, the bottle is broken on the bow; then the tugs lead her out to sea in a formal presentation of the new creation. The idea is the same here — but without the broken bottle.

What Paul seems to be emphasizing by stressing this qualification is that God the Father, the Just Judge of all men, led out Jesus from the grave and formally presented Him to the world as evidence of a debt paid in full. As Jonathan Edwards opined, “God, as a testimony and seal of his acceptance of what [Christ] had done as the condition of life, raised [Christ] from the dead….”1 Paul’s emphasis then is on God’s legal discharging of Christ from prison. If we follow the sequence of Isaiah 53, our sins were laid on Christ (v. 6). The Father declared Him officially guilty though personally innocent. He was cast into punishment where “it pleased the LORD to bruise him”(v. 10). But when it was over, God’s justice was satisfied (v. 11).  His sheep were reconciled to God through Christ, our great Shepherd. At that point the Father could do nothing but what He alone could do: lead Jesus out of captivity and take upon Himself the title of the God who has been reconciled with sinful man — the God of Peace.

Consequently, the wondrous power of the resurrection is not simply that God raised Jesus from the dead physically, but that the Just Judge of all men brought out Jesus from the dead legally. Now that is quite a qualification. Although the blood of the everlasting covenant cleanses us from our dead sin, it is the power of the resurrection that enables us to walk in newness of life. The resurrection is evidence that the blood was accepted, that Christ’s life is our life, as well. Thus, the authority of the Father as the legal Life-giver is what Paul appeals to when he prays for our sanctification. On the basis of the power evidenced in the resurrection, Paul prays that the God of Peace may make us complete. Truly then, “Christ and His finished Work is the ground of all our hopes.”2

God’s Garage

So if we were to stroll into the work area behind God’s eternal showroom, what would this completing process look like?

The goal. Porsche. Rolls Royce. Ferrari. In short, a heavenly showroom gleaming with perfectly tuned Christians. His prayer is for arduous adjustment, distinctive detailing, and fine framing. In fact, Paul employs the same word earlier in Hebrews 11:3 when he states that the worlds were “framed” by God. So we may expect the same detailed attention in our lives that God devoted to Creation.

The purpose. Why are we being perfected? This one is simple: “to do His will.” The late imagineer Walt Disney often reminded his theme park designers that they had only one purpose — to put smiles on faces.3  Likewise, the God of Peace is in the single-minded business of reconciling us to His eternal plan. Consequently, He tinkers with us to make us beautiful in His showroom, not ours. This truth should comfort us, especially when we feel scattered across the repair yard; the most important thing we need do at those times is simply to endure (Heb. 10:36).

The method. His ways are not our ways. Don’t forget, our ways lead to head-on collisions with Hummers. We can be confident that He is working in us when we see adversity. As in any construction zone, we may expect inconveniences. “Pardon My Dust” signs abound when God is working. But God can do a lot with dust. Leadership guru John Maxwell observes, “The people’s ability to achieve is determined by their leader’s ability to empower.”4  If that is true, then Christians may achieve anything for our God empowers us infinitely.

The result. When the God of Peace is at work, Paul assures us that when the dust settles in eternity, we will be “well-pleasing in His sight.” Fully agreeable to God, we will hear that He finds us acceptable in His sight. Thus, we may be confident that though our mangled lives often show no more promise to our eyes than a dilapidated dumpster, “He who began the good work will be faithful to complete it.” (Phil.1:6)  He has to. He already said he would do it by bringing Christ out of the grave, declaring to the entire world that He has been reconciled to man through Christ. Christ came that we might have abundant life, and the God of Peace is the only one qualified and eternally bound to provide it.

Perhaps Walt Disney may again help us acquire the biblical perspective on the perfecting process. On many occasions, Walt set new employees straight when it came to who got the credit. “The only name you need to worry about is Walt Disney. If you’re here to make a name for yourself, you’re in the wrong place.” Disney recognized the importance of his name to his company. Likewise, there is only one name that we need to worry about. The divine mechanic whom the Father brought out from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep who specializes in reconditioning lives wrecked by sin. If, by His grace, the God of Peace has assigned Jesus to work on you to the praise and glory of His name, be assured that you will one day roll into the eternal showroom to see the Father’s beaming face and hear him speak in awe at His Son’s perfecting work.

(Endnotes)

1 Jonathan Edwards, The Complete Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. II (n. p.: Banner of Truth, 1997), 597.

2 A.W. Pink, The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002).

3 Bob Thomas, Walt Disney: An American Original (n. p.: Disney Editions, 1994), 264.

4 John Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 1998), 126.


Topics: Biblical Law, Culture , Christian Reconstruction, New Testament History, Theology

William Blankschaen

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