Because of grace we have been freed from sin, from its slavery, its bondage in our attitude, in our urges, and in our actions. But having been freed and now living by grace, we can actually go too far, set aside all self-control, and take our liberty to such an extreme that we again serve sin. But that isn’t liberty at all, that’s license. And knowing of that possibility, many opt for legalism lest they be tempted to live irresponsibly. Bad choice. How much better to have such an awesome respect for the Lord we voluntarily hold back as we apply self-control.
I remember when I first earned my license to drive. I was about sixteen, as I recall. I’d been driving off and on for three years (scary thought, isn’t it?). My father had been with me most of the time during my learning experiences, calmly sitting alongside me in the front seat, giving me tips, helping me know what to do. My mother usually wasn’t in on those excursions because she spent more of her time biting her nails (and screaming) than she did advising. My father was a little more easygoing. Loud noises and screeching brakes didn’t bother him nearly as much. My grandfather was the best of all. When I would drive his car, I would hit things . . . Boom! He’d say stuff like, “Just keep on going, Bud. I can buy more fenders, but I can’t buy more grandsons. You’re learning.” What a great old gentleman. After three years, I finally earned my license.
I’ll never forget the day I came in, flashed my newly acquired permit, and said, “Dad, look!” He goes, “Whoa! Look at this. You got your license. Good for you!” Holding the keys to his car, he tossed them in my direction and smiled, “Tell you what, son . . . you can have the car for two hours, all on your own.” Only four words, but how wonderful: “All on your own.”
I thanked him, danced out to the garage, opened the car door, and shoved the key into the ignition. My pulse rate must have shot up to 180 as I backed out of the driveway and roared off. While cruising along “all on my own,” I began to think wild stuff—like, This car can probably do 100 miles an hour. I could go to Galveston and back twice in two hours if I averaged 100 miles an hour. I can fly down the Gulf Freeway and even run a few lights. After all, nobody’s here to say, “Don’t!” We’re talking dangerous, crazy thoughts! But you know what? I didn’t do any of them. I don’t believe I drove above the speed limit. In fact, I distinctly remember turning into the driveway early . . . didn’t even stay away the full two hours. Amazing, huh? I had my dad’s car all to myself with a full gas tank in a context of total privacy and freedom, but I didn’t go crazy. Why? My relationship with my dad and my granddad was so strong that I couldn’t, even though I had a license and nobody was in the car to restrain me. Over a period of time there had developed a sense of trust, a deep love relationship that held me in restraint.
After tossing me the keys, my dad didn’t rush out and tape a sign on the dashboard of the car, “Don’t you dare drive beyond the speed limit” or “Cops are all around the city, and they’ll catch you, boy, so don’t even think about taking a risk.” He simply smiled and said, “Here are the keys, son, enjoy it.” What a demonstration of grace. And did I ever enjoy it! Looking back, now that I’m a father who has relived the same scene on four different occasions with my own children, I realize what a risk my father had taken.