“I’m doing it! I’m doing it!” The child sits atop his first bike, exploding with joy and excitement. No more trike for this guy; he’s graduated into the “big kid,” two-wheeler world. Except, he really hasn’t. There’s training wheels back there, firmly holding him upright. He may think he’s “doing it” but he really isn’t. He’ll find that out when he tries to take a corner at speed and topples over. Training wheels are poorly named. They give a false sense of security and make learning to really ride impossible. Really riding requires learning to develop and control a sense of balance. Really riding means gracefully swooping through the curves, not lurching back and forth from one training wheel to the other.
Like the kid who thinks sitting on a bike with training wheels is riding, are those who think being a Christian means being held upright by a strict set of rules. But that isn’t it at all. Rules give a false sense of security that fails when you hit the tight curves at speed. Real “riding” with Christ is about gracefully swooping through the curves, leaning on faith, not lurching back and forth from one “thou shalt not” to another. That common misperception causes some to reject Christianity as restrictive and boring. It causes others to think “I’m doing it” when in fact they are not.
The analogy breaks down here because, when someone places their faith in Jesus, a mysterious and powerful change happens. The Holy Spirit comes alive within their soul. A living Presence, He gives guidance and strength. The initial act of faith in Jesus becomes a dynamic, continual process of trusting and following His Spirit. It’s a learning process, one which may be a bit tentative and jerky at first. Swooping comes with practice. But, just like learning to ride a bike, it does come.
That is, if you don’t put those training wheels back on. That’s why this reminder is given in the “handbook:”
Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh [That is, by following the “training wheel” rules]? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? ( Galatians 3:3-5 – with my explanation in brackets)