What do Aircraft Engines have to do with your Christian Life?
I have always liked airplanes and things that fly, whether they be maple seed keys, dandelion fluffs, birds, or aircraft. So, when I was in my 20’s and still in university, I obtained my private-pilot license flying out of a small airport in Guelph. Eventually life’s responsibilities and busyness prompted me to cease flying.
One of the things that I learned was that running a piston engine properly was potentially complicated but also critical if you wanted to keep it running safely for years and for every flight. One point as an example: when in a cruise mode, the engine power needed to be set for only 75% of its maximum power. Sure, at take-off full power is important but if one continued at full power for a lengthy flight, the engine would suffer stress, overheat and possibly start to fail.
Okay, so what does this have to do with living the Christian life?
Let’s start with the Old Testament. There are two distinct sets of law that God handed down to Moses: the ceremonial and the moral. The Old Covenant that the Pharisees and Scribes adhered to (religiously!) majored on the ceremonial law. Jesus had some very strong words to say to them insofar as they did well on the externals but failed to understand two things: the deeper meaning of the law, and the New Covenant that Jesus brought to them, a covenant with God through a heart surrendered to Him and renewed through His redemptive work on the Cross.
The Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 (also recorded in Deuteronomy 5) represent the moral law in clear and simple format. Jesus summarized these even further in Matthew 22:37-40. The focus that Jesus emphasized safeguarded a right perspective in all aspects of our lives. He did not abolish the meaning or intent of the law; indeed, in Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus is recorded in his comments on the law: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets…therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…”
Now, legalism which is the dogged, pharisaical tedium of outward adherence especially to the ceremonial law can become a “ball and chain” in our Christian lives. Our salvation and our joy are not dependent on our adherence to law but solely on the finished work of Christ on the Cross.
Narrowing the discussion further, I would point out that of the Ten Commandments the fourth one is the longest of the ten. Check them all out in Deuteronomy or Exodus. The fourth starts: “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy….”. Jesus and the Pharisees had an ongoing dispute over the keeping of the Sabbath. In Mark 2:27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
So, we have two considerations: first, the Sabbath was to be holy to the Lord; second, Jesus makes it clear that the Sabbath day was to be for the benefit of individuals. Is there a conflict between the two? No! Read on.
Back to the airplanes. The engine that is not given a reprieve, that is run at full power, and that has no maintenance, will fail and sometimes with disastrous results. “Flame-outs” of engines may mean a forced power-off landing in some very hostile terrain.
“Burning out”, as can happen to us, results in the failure of our vitality and effectiveness in handling life’s challenges. It also compromises our ability to handle stress or to be helpful to those around us. We can become depressed, suffer sleep disturbances, and develop harmful habits.
All God’s laws had a purpose for healthful living. We need to think about the spirit of each of the Ten Commandments. Our salvation is purely dependent on the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross and His life in us as we open our hearts to Him. It is this renewal which then allows us to fulfill the intent of the law unselfconsciously.
With regard to the Sabbath then, as Christians we need to evaluate the matter not in terms of whether we “do this” or “don’t do that” but rather, are we handling the Sabbath in a way that we are drawn closer to God. We need to evaluate whether we live in such a way of spiritual refreshment that we feel a renewed vitality to live for God in the next six days. There are two questions that we can ask ourselves: first, does what we choose to do make us more tired or does it refresh us in mind, heart, and spirit?; second, does the activity that we choose on a Sabbath draw us closer to God? And of course, there is the spillover effect that the fourth commandment clearly articulates: how do we affect others in our use of the Sabbath and do we draw them into the spirit of what the law and Jesus intended?
Especially at this time of history, we need to draw close to God: yes, daily, but we need to have a time of special renewal on the Sabbath. For us Christians, our sabbath is on Sunday, being the first day of the week and a celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. It is the source of our hope for our life with Him in His eternal kingdom.
Food for thought!