Full Restoration in Christ

My son and I are in the process of restoring a ’61 Olds F85 that my parents bought new and that I drove when I was in high school. When we moved to Utah over 30 years ago, I gave the car to my brother. About 8 years ago, he decided that he wanted to get rid of it, so we hauled it here and it has been sitting in my garage waiting for us to take the time to restore it. With my son closing in on his 16th birthday, I thought that the Olds would be a good project for us to work on since he is the same age I was when I tried to master the “3-on-the-tree.”

There is nothing particularly remarkable about this four-door sedan except its unique 215 V8 and that it was the first year of production of what would later become the Cutlass. When I was in high school I spent a lot of my time trying to keep it running, and now, nearly 40 years later, the work has not lessened and replacement parts are nearly impossible to find.

Our first chore was to get the engine running. I was confident that it would start, but of course, with old cars it is not always that simple. Draining the oil showed the jelling effects of oil not being changed for nearly 10 years. With that done, our next task was to try to start the engine. With some coaxing (and a little gas in the carburetor), we got it to fire up, but it would not stay running. After disconnecting the fuel line and running it straight from the gas can, we discovered that fuel was not getting from the fuel tank to the fuel pump. This was not surprising since leaks in the tank were patched with bondo and some of the fuel was as old as the oil.

We dropped the fuel tank and found the fuel tank filter clogged. A local radiator shop was able to not only fix the leaks but could also “dip” the tank to remove the rust and resin that had accumulated over the past 55 years. However, the chemical treatment would also open up holes where the rust had compromised the steel, potentially leaving us with more holes that we had started! While this may seem counterproductive, our end goal was not only to stop the leaks, but to clean the tank also.

This offers a good spiritual illustration, for just as the dipping revealed the problem areas in the fuel tank, trials will reveal our need for Christ. Peter says, “You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7) The promise is that God will use trials to burn away our self-reliance and self-serving attitudes, so that the genuineness of our faith will result in his glory and bring praise to him.

Had I been satisfied with simply filling the holes in the fuel tank with more bondo, the car would still not run because the rust and resin would have continued to clog the fuel tank filter. Similarly, if I try to cover up my sin by trying to do better, my sin problem remains unsolved. We don’t need a patch job we need a full restoration.

Like my fuel tank, we need to be dipped, not in chemicals but in the cleansing blood of Christ. Paul tells us in Romans 5:6 that, “Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn't, and doesn't, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn't been so weak, we wouldn't have known what to do anyway.” (Message)

While we may be tempted to plug up the effects of our sins with the bondo of self-righteousness, what we really need is to be cleansed by Christ’s righteousness. And while confessing our need may seem to weaken our steel exterior, it will, however, allow for our full restoration. As Peter testified, the refining fires of life will not only draw us to Christ, but will also make us whole resulting in “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

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