Shift Out of Neutral

Your vehicle may have the finest of equipment, but if the transmission stands in neutral it will never get you anywhere.

Neutral is good for the car wash, or coasting, but if you need to get somewhere you shift out of neutral.

The word neutral means “neither one thing or the other; indifferent.”

There are times when we want to be neutral. For example, a quarrel that doesn’t concern us. Proverbs says,

Proverbs 26:17  17He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own Is like one who takes a dog by the ears.

To try to “help” the quarrel would only be making a bad matter worse.

Or take a situation where we don’t have all the evidence. Our best position at that time is neutral, or we are like the man in this proverb:

Proverbs 18:13  13He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.

Neutral may be the best position for disputes that Paul called “idle babblings.” We don’t want any part in them.

1 Timothy 6:20  20O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge—

Paul says “Avoid…” But in any matters concerning our race for eternal life, neutral means no motion, no going forward. No progress. Stalled.

Does neutral suggest a middle ground of partly right and partly wrong? In reality there is no such place. Jesus laid down the principle:

Matthew 12:30  30He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.

Stating the same fact from the other side He said,

Mark 9:40  40For he who is not against us is on our side.

More than a thousand years before this, one of God’s mouthpieces (Balaam) refused the request of Israel’s enemy (Balak king of Moab) to curse Israel. Failing to get Balaam to cooperate with his request, Balak asked Balaam to at least remain neutral. What did Balak say?

Numbers 23:25–26  25Then Balak said to Balaam, “Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all!”

In other words, if you aren’t going to curse them, at least DON’T BLESS them! What did Balaam answer?

26So Balaam answered and said to Balak, “Did I not tell you, saying, ‘All that the Lord speaks, that I must do’?”

Balaam was committed to saying only what God said. No more, no less.

Balaam was God’s unwilling mouthpiece; he would not be neutral.

In reality there is no neutral position. What God approves and commands is RIGHT, and we must love it. Actively and openly. And what God condemns and forbids is WRONG, and we must hate it. Abhor it. Shun it, actively and openly.

To be sure there are all shades and grades of human behavior between these two extremes, but in reality there is no intervening space. The shadow of death extends right up to the border of perfection. Not until we are fully committed to God, fully surrendered; not until we have overcome can we claim full victory. What is the Scripture?

James 2:10  10For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.

Not that we have broken every law, but a chain with a broken link cannot pull us into the Kingdom. James is talking about wilful disobedience, where we hold back and say, “I won’t give this up, not yet.” Or something we know is wrong but we continue to do, perhaps by habit, because we find satisfaction in doing it. We really don’t WANT to let it go!

A sacrifice we refuse to make, a pleasure we refuse to give up becomes a broken law between us and God. A span left out of the bridge that would carry us across the “great gulf.” How many have made shipwreck on some rock of unbelief.

Our cars usually have two or three forward gears and one reverse. The controls are in our hands. The same is true of our lives. God says,

Joshua 24:15  15And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Our covenant with God makes it impossible for us to stay in neutral. If we are not going forward, we are going back.

That was the customary way with the perverse Israelites. Jeremiah spoke for God when he said:

Jeremiah 7:23–24, 26  23…this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’ 24Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. 26… they … stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers.

They seemed to have no forward gear! Jeremiah said another time:

Jeremiah 4:22  22“For My people are foolish, They have not known Me. They are silly children, And they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, But to do good they have no knowledge.”

What disgraceful ingratitude when God was supplying their every need, and guiding them the right way. He wanted to bless them. He wanted to do them good. But they simply didn’t WANT God’s way. They were rebels in heart!

We need not go in reverse to lose out. We might be going forward yet be in one of the lower speeds and find ourselves disqualified at the end because we were too slow, too stalling, hardly moving.

What can we do to get moving forward in the highest gear? Ponder the promises! Think about what God has in store for those who reach the end of the road successfully!

1 Corinthians 2:9  9But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

All prepared for “those who love Him.” This is why Hebrews advises:

Hebrews 6:1–3  1Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, …3And this we will do if God permits.

Neutral is dangerous – you don’t want to be asleep in your car in neutral with a cliff behind you. It’s a recipe for certain death!

Jeremiah warned the stubborn Israelites, “obey my voice,” “walk in all the ways I have commanded you.” But instead of going forward they shifted to reverse. They “followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward,”

We want to go full speed ahead in “automatic.” That is, make it such a habit we don’t have to think about it, we automatically adjust our speed to what we can endure, slowing for the curves ahead. We will be tested, and we must be careful to not go off the road; yet travel on toward that city with greatest speed before dark and the gates be closed.

What can we do to get moving forward in the highest gear? David prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

Remember, the shadow of death extends right up to the border of perfection. Let us keep traveling on the path to perfection––on to EVERLASTING LIFE!

If we are coasting, let us shift out of neutral and go FORWARD to reach our destination in the Eternal City!