Getting There From Here

by Tom Wacaster

“And he came preaching the baptism of repentance” (Luke 3:3)

I am sure that all of us have, at one time or another, had someone jokingly say, “You can’t get there from here.” Uncertain as to the ability of someone to grasp directions, we first seek to put them in a position where the instructions are simple and easy to follow. Take for example the story of a salesman who was seeking to locate a family who had requested someone to contact them regarding a sale or delivery. The family lived in the back woods of east Texas, and every attempt to navigate the roads that had neither name nor number for easy reference produced a growing frustration on the part of the would-be salesman. Finally, the salesman came across an old farmhouse, and sitting on the front porch was an elderly gentleman sipping on a cup of coffee and reading his newspaper. The salesman stopped and asked directions to his destination. The farmer leaned back in his chair and commenced to provide instructions: “Go south on this road, and make the first turn to your left. Travel about 3 miles, cross the bridge, and follow the narrow, winding road that runs parallel to the creek bottom. This will dump you out on a gravel road, at which point you will want to turn back to the left. From there, go about 6 miles south, till you come to a small house on your right.” Anxious to get to his destination, the salesman said “Thanks,” and scurried off to his car and in search of his customer. After more than half an hour driving, he ended up right back in front of the farmer’s house. Frustrated, the salesman asked for an explanation. The farmer replied: “I wanted to see if you could follow directions before I tried to explain to you how to get to your destination.”

We might chuckle at this hypothetical anecdote, but in many respects, life is like that. One of my favorite prophets is Jeremiah. Here was a man who had the courage of a lion, and a determination to follow God’s instructions at all costs. Judah needed to repent, and Jeremiah was commissioned to call the nation back to God. Before the prophet completed his mission he would be mocked, maligned, and mistreated by his fellow Jews. God told Jeremiah, “Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth” (Jer. 1:9b). Jeremiah’s commission is clearly stated in chapter 1:10: “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build and to plant.” Pay close attention to the order of the words. Before Jeremiah could “build and…plant” he must first “root out…pull down…destroy, and throw down.” In order to build, it was important for Judah to know, “You can’t get there from here!” Before progress could be made it was essential that the rubbish be cleared away. The heart and soul of Judah needed to be changed. Jeremiah could not reform that which was corrupt – he could not get Judah to where God wanted them to be from where they were!

The application of this principle is far reaching. Let us, for example, consider the present state of our government. Fiscal responsibility is run amuck; morality means little or nothing to many (if not most) of the politicians in Washington and/or our state governments. Methinks that Washington (from the White House, to the Halls of Congress, and including the Judicial branch) needs a lesson in simple hermeneutics. The Constitution seems to mean nothing in many circles. Sensible thinking individuals seek for a return to law and order and allegiance to the Constitution. Unfortunately, “You can’t get there from here!” Perhaps those who are seeking to “throw the bums out” are much wiser than those who simply want to reform the bums who are presently there!

“You can’t get there from here” most certainly applies to those caught up in religious error. Before you can implant the pure and engrafted word into the heart of an individual, it becomes necessary in many cases to remove the error that dominates their thinking. Political correctness and relativism stand as gigantic roadblocks to any attempt to break down error and supplant it with truth. If you attempt to point out error you had better be ready to be labeled “judgmental,” “hyper-critical,” or “homophobic.” Phil Sanders commented on just such a mind-set: “The thinking of the day is not so much to deny the reality of truth as it is to dismiss it with the back of the hand. Truth becomes trivial, irrelevant…Whatever is said may be taken back so that it may not offend. Truth must be made to become uncertain so that no solid foundation will have control over our lives; no one group can ever dominate again” (Sanders, Adrift, page 26). That kind of thinking has to be broken down before we can hope to bring a person to a knowledge of and obedience to the truth.

“You can’t get there from here” is most certainly applicable to those who once “tasted of the heavenly gift…and then fell away” (Heb. 6:4-5). If you have ever tried to carry on a logical and scriptural discussion with a liberal brother in Christ (an oxymoron if I ever heard one), you quickly realize “you can’t get there from here.” Before you can convince someone who thinks instrumental music is “not a salvation issue” that it indeed IS a salvation issue, you have to break down the walls of the liberal mindset. Until the liberal is brought to the point where he can understand and apply what we call the “authority principle,” it will forever remain true that “he cannot get there from here.”

All too often the lost soul deludes himself into thinking that he is on his way to heaven (whatever his “definition” of heaven might be). Repentance means nothing to him – he wants salvation on HIS terms rather than God’s. As one author put it:

We have turned to a God that we can use rather than to a God we must obey; we have turned to a God who will fulfill our needs rather than to a God before whom we must surrender our rights to ourselves. He is a God for us, for our satisfaction – not because we have learned to think of him in this way through Christ but because we have learned to think of him this way throughout the marketplace. And so, we transform the God of mercy into a God who is at our mercy. We imagine that He is benign, that he will acquiesce as we toy with his reality and to co-opt him in the promotion of our ventures and careers…And if the sunshine of his benign grace fails to warm us as we expect, if he fails to shower prosperity and success on us, we will find ourselves unable to believe in him anymore (David Wells, God In The Wasteland, page 114).

Remove repentance from the picture and “you can’t get there from here.” The same can be said about any and every command that God has placed at the threshold of the church. If a sin sick soul thinks he is going to make it to heaven in his sin, or in spite of his sin, he will awaken on the Resurrection day to realize his tragic condition (Matt. 7:21-23), and will learn, too late, that “you can’t get there from here.”

Finally, there are scores of lukewarm, indifferent, uninvolved, absentee members who seem to think that God’s grace will somehow overlook their mediocrity and usher them into the eternal abode when Jesus comes to gather the faithful unto Himself. They will learn, too late, that the proverb is as applicable to them as it is to all the lost. Unwilling to commit themselves to the Lord Who died for them, or to take seriously the responsibilities laid upon their shoulders as soldiers of the cross, they will learn, “You can’t get there from here.”

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