Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Is God a Co-Pilot?

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
For the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14)

One of my pet peeves is the “God Is My Co-Pilot” vanity plate. I noticed one of them again the other day. The problem I have with God being only a co-pilot is that it speaks of a God who is not fully in control of things. It also speaks of a man or woman who thinks that they can be fully in control of their own lives and, at best, give God only second place. The way I read my Bible, and the maxim I like to use in my life, is that God has the prominent seat (Pilot, if you will). I don’t ever want to lower Him to anything less than that. The sovereignty of God (see Romans 9) trumps everything, even my free will, which I wouldn’t have if He didn’t first give it to me. In truth, I can’t even choose to come to Him for salvation if He hadn’t called and chosen me first. (See: Matthew 22:14; John 15:16; Ephesians 1: 4-5; 2 Thessalonians 2: 13; 1 Peter 2:9)

Spiritually, it is a dangerous thing to give God less than first place in our lives. God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). The God who created everything out of nothing, who created you and me, cannot and will not play second fiddle to His creation. It is ludicrous to think that He created everything and everyone that exists, only to step back and let His creation have the prominent seat over Him. Is God not still in full control? Does the sun not still rise and set simply because He has so ordained it? Does He not still give us the daily air that we breathe? Or, perhaps, do we somehow think that we can do that without Him? Of course not!

Part of the problem when God is only someone’s co-pilot is that we then also put God into the box of religion and institutionalized Him. Now we control things and essentially “dictate” to Him the terms of His Lordship. We gather around us a great number of teachers to give us what our itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4: 3-4). These false prophets then teach us to “name it and claim it” as if God were a puppet whose strings we can somehow control. If things don’t happen just as we would like, we refuse to accept the concept that maybe this is because it is God’s will that things are happening as they do. Instead, we rationalize that we don’t have enough faith to “dictate” the terms to God. We rationalize from a misreading of Scripture that He gives us everything we want simply because we ask (demand?) it of Him. While we do pray, we often forget the “if it is thy will” part (James 4:15). We bulldoze ahead of God and only afterwards do we (maybe) ask His blessing or advice. Everything needs to start with God, not with us.

If God isn’t unconditionally given the first place, if He isn’t the pilot as opposed to co-pilot of our lives, then we are guilty of evilness and greed, which in turn makes us guilty of idolatry (Colossians 3:5). I define evilness as the spirit of being contrary to God and not giving Him His proper place. By greed I mean the putting ourselves ahead of God, rather than humbly bowing before Him. There is and can be no middle ground. There is no opening in the Trinity for us to compete for.

One cannot half love God and half love our selves any more than one can be half pregnant. A woman either is or isn’t pregnant and God is either given first place or last place in our lives. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6: 24). There is no middle ground. It is really quite black and white. Who is the master, God or you? Who is in the pilot’s seat, God or you? Who is in control of the Body of Christ (the church), God or you? Who are we worshipping, God or our own little man-made kingdoms? Are we being idolatrous? I wonder sometimes.

“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the Lord. “This is the one I esteem; he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66: 1-2). Do we still know what it means to “tremble” at God’s word? Do we even know what it means anymore to “Fear the Lord” as the early church did? (Acts 5:11).

Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Even the Apostle Paul said, “Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in His kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off” (Romans 11: 20-22).

God is in total control. He is nobody’s “Co-Pilot.” Be careful walking according to your own understanding. When God speaks, we had better be listening, because if we think we know better by not taking His advice and obeying, then God says, “I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you” (Proverbs 1: 26). We may say, that doesn’t sound much like a loving God, but that is ultimately only because we didn’t get our own way. So then we pout and blame God for not being loving towards us. Sometimes we can be like manipulative little children! Of course God loves us and wants the best for us, but sometimes He does say “No,” and in all things He demands to be first.

Go ahead and put yourself in the pilot’s seat and assign God to the co-pilot’s seat. But when the plane of your life comes crashing down around you, and crashing it sooner or later will, then you will have nobody but yourself to blame. Jeremiah 2:17 says, “Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord your God when He led you in the way? After all, you wanted to lead yourselves; you only wanted God as a co-pilot.

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