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by Phil Ware

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    I was approaching driving age. I was interested in all things that had to do with cars. So my father was educating me on how to change the oil, use a timing light, and most importantly, how to keep the whitewalls clean. Keeping a car clean and looking nice was a test of male integrity. A car could be clean inside and out, but if the whitewalls weren’t clean, it indicated the driver was a slacker, a corner cutter, and had a deep character flaw. Not getting your whitewalls clean when you washed your car was like leaving the heels of your shoes un-shined when shining your shoes! Whoa baby!

    Recently as I was driving up to a major intersection and sitting through multiple light changes, I noticed that whitewalls had vanished. Deep in my consciousness I knew that they had gone out of style (except for low riders and period cars), but I was shocked. In the few minutes I sat at that light, I saw well over a hundred cars; not one car had whitewalls. Hmm!

    We live in a world of change. Some of those changes are cosmetic. Whether you have blackwalls, whitewalls, or raised letter tires really doesn’t matter. That is a change of style. Some changes are not cosmetic; they’re detrimental. Taking care with matters of integrity, cutting corners, and hedging on the truth are matters that will always matter. Learning to distinguish between the two is the real challenge for all of us.

    How do we know what matters and what doesn’t? How do we know what should be genuinely lasting and what is a passing fad? In an era of relativism and anti-standards, should we try to hold on to anything as permanent?

    These are very important questions that will determine our character and our integrity. So in a world of constant flux, rather than giving hard and fast answers to those questions, let me suggest two principles that I believe will help us address their concerns so that we can hang on to the moral principle and let go of the cosmetic ones.

    First, we are going to change. Change is not optional. We cannot stay the same, simply because our bodies are changing, the world around us is changing, and people around us are changing. So if we are destined to change, let’s focus on transformation — changing into something better and more permanent — rather than being blown around by every whim and pressure of cultural fads. As Christians, we have the power and freedom of the Holy Spirit to transform us (literally to be “metamorphasized”) each day to become more like Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:18) The real secret to this transformation is our focus upon Christ and our desire to become like him. (We reflect his nature as we behold him!)

How do we know what matters and what doesn’t?
    Second, as we focus on Jesus, we learn more about God’s unchanging character and grace. (Hebrews 13:8; cf. Malachi 3:9) One of the most helpful things each of us could do is to get a new Bible and highlight every name for God or description of God as we read through it. As we look at Jesus, God’s ultimate message (John 1:1-18; Hebrews 1:1-3), and as we seek after the character of God, the Holy Spirit will help us know more clearly the unchangeable qualities that we need to pursue. When Bible teaching is tied to the nature and character of God, or his Son, then we know that we must not let culture wash away the call of these qualities on our own character. They must be imprinted on our values.

    I haven’t washed a whitewall tire in many years. However, I just got back from the car wash, and I can tell you that my tires are clean and the heels of my shoes are polished. While I may have forgotten how to wash whitewalls, I’ve learned the enduring lesson of not cutting corners. I believe that is exactly what God is calling us to do in our ever-changing world — to hang onto to the spiritual truth even when the context and culture changes around us.

    So let’s finish with the words of an old hymn: “O, Thou who changest not, Abide with me!” (Henry F. Lyte)

 
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      Title: ""
      Author: Phil Ware
      Publication Date: February 17, 2003


 
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