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An Instrument Rating

Film documentarian Ken Burns recently released an eight-part series entitled “Country Music” in which he sought to tell its story over a sixty-year period (1940’s to 1990’s) and call attention to its major influences along the way. One of them was Patsy Cline (1932-1963), who died along with three others in the crash of her Piper Comanche in Camden, TN after encountering bad weather with low visibility. Investigators blamed the crash on the pilot, who lacked an instrument rating to augment his pilot’s license. 

The story parallels the Christian life inasmuch as God desires to save believers from their sins (pilot’s license), then grow them into the likeness of his Son, the Lord Jesus (instrument rating). The instrument rating of which we speak is learning to live by the PROMISES of God despite the turbulent weather (CIRCUMSTANCES) we encounter along the way. The great failure of churches today that call themselves “Evangelical” and "Fundamental" is their failure to produce ‘Instrument-Rated’ believers. In other words, the concept of ‘STANDING ON the promises’ seldom translates into ‘LIVING BY the promises’. 

There are four biblical texts that attest to this truth:

(1) 2 Corinthians 1:20--"For ALL the PROMISES of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” The Christian life is primarily one of AFFIRMATION, not prohibition!

(2) 2 Peter 1:4--”Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious PROMISES: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” A believer's growth into Christ-likeness is the result of knowing and believing the PROMISES of God as revealed in scripture. He CANNOT experience (partake of) Christ by adopting a regimen of PROHIBITIONS. 

(3) Colossians 2:6-7--“AS ye have therefore RECEIVED Christ Jesus the Lord [by faith in the PROMISE of eternal life in him], SO WALK ye [relying daily upon those PROMISES] in him: ROOTED [with roots having been sunk deep into PROMISSORIAL soil] and BUILT UP [having been erected upon a PROMISSORIAL foundation] in him, and STABLISHED [firmed up by those PROMISES] in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein [thriving upon those PROMISES] with thanksgiving.”

(4) Ephesians 6:2--"Honour thy father and mother, (which is the first commandment with PROMISE)." The fifth commandment as given to Moses is the first and ONLY commandment God gave with a PROMISE attached. The other nine commandmnets (Exodus 20:3-17) were strictly PROHIBITIONS as indicated by "Thou shalt not!" It's impossible for a believer in the Lord Jesus to achieve an instrument rating in life by compliance to PROHIBITIONS! 

In so many instances, the message of the church to believers is ‘STOP DOING THIS’ as the formula for living the Christian life, or discipleship. In other words, when we've "cleamed them up" they'll be true disciples. Its message ought to be ‘START DOING THIS’ (i.e., learn to think-act upon ALL the promises God has given us in Christ Jesus). Such is the ‘Instrument-Rated’ life in Jesus!

We wonder why so many church youth ‘crash and burn’ upon reaching adulthood. It’s because no one ever trained (discipled) them in how to live an ‘Instrument-Rated’ life, flying through life’s turbulence focused on the PROMISES of God rather than PROHIBITIONS of the Law! If a church gears its 'discipleship program' strictly toward the PROHIBITIVE, it will produce POWERLESS believers! 

These young people are taught 'NO smoking, NO drinking, NO shoddy clothes or appearance, NO movies, NO dancing, NO cursing, NO pornography, NO illicit sex and NO missing church' as the equivalent of Christianity. And having complied with and conformed to all these PROHIBITIONS, they enter the real world with NO PROMISE-based experience (1) enjoying intimacy with God, (2) dealing successfully with temptation, and (3) bearing the fruit of the Spirit. 

This raises another critical question: “Is the Laodicean (lukewarm) nature of the church today due largely to the fact most of its pulpits are occupied by preachers who themselves lack an Instrument Rating?”

The bottom line is this: As a believer, do NOT be content with acquiring your pilot’s license. In addition, do NOT think for a moment that living a life based on PROHIBTIONS is in any way living the Christian life! 

One of my seminary professors Charles Culpepper used to tell us preachers: “Christianity is Christ living in his people!” Real life in Christ is the experience of the ‘Instrument-Rated’ believer. Please do NOT settle for less than a life rooted in and established upon the promises of God!


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