The Gospel According to the 2006 Harley Sportster Manual

Owners Manuals

With weather like we’ve had the past week, a motorcycle-based sermon seems apropos, doesn’t it? Since I am one who plans for the worst and prefers to keep his skin on his arms and legs, I wear a coat and jeans whenever I ride (along with a helmet). This means that temps in the 90s aren’t actually very comfortable on a motorcycle, although they are bearable as long as you aren’t stuck at a light or in traffic.

My ride is a Harley, and in my hand I have its Sportster® Models 2006 Harley-Davidson Owner’s Manual.

How many here actually read the manuals that come with things like cameras, cell phones, or, in this case, a motorcycle? Even if you play with it first…do you take the time to read about you new toy’s features?

I do. If you don’t believe me, ask my beautiful wife. 🙂

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

Now, I’m not saying that I read them thoroughly…there are parts I either breeze through or skip. And, I don’t try to memorize the book—I just want to become familiar with what is possible. I focus on the items I’ll definitely use and only worry about be aware of everything else.


And that’s what I did with this Harley-Davidson manual.

Do any of you remember how, for Bible studying, I’ve said to look for motifs as you read it…for repeating patterns?

Well, I didn’t take that approach with this manual, but I couldn’t help but notice one thing being said over-and-over-and-over as I read through it. I can illustrate it by quoting a blurb off page one:

Do not use aftermarket parts and custom made front forks which can adversely affect performance and handling. Removing or altering factory installed parts can adversely affect performance and could result in death or serious injury. (0001a)

I couldn’t even get a half a page past the table of contents without a warning that doing something wrong with my Sportster could maim or kill me…and soon after that (and on the same page) came the second warning:

Stop the engine when refueling or servicing the fuel system. Do not smoke or allow open flame or sparks near gasoline. Gasoline is extremely flammable and highly explosive, which could result in death or serious injury. (00002a)

But boy gasoline smells good! 🙂

Page 1 of the manual gives a good feel for the rest of it. As I thumb through the book in front of you, you will see a ton of “Warning” sections…which usually end with “could result in death or serious injury.” One of my favorites is on page 65, where it talks about the fork lock.

Anyone who has (or has had) a motorcycle is probably acquainted with the fork lock. Basically, it allows you to lock the fork at an angle…which has two benefits. First, it makes it difficult for someone to roll your bike away. Second, it means even if someone was able to hot wire your motorcycle, unless they get past the fork lock it’ll be pretty useless to them.

And should anyone somehow fire up the motorcycle and take off without unlocking the fork, Harley-Davidson has a warning:

Do not operation the vehicle with forks locked. Locking the forks restricts the vehicle’s turning ability, which could result in death or serious injury. (00035a)

Really?!?!?! 🙂

I suppose if somehow someone did successfully ride it with the fork locked, Harley could have added another warning: “And if using you 2006 Sportster with the forked locked doesn’t kill you, you’ll probably get really, really dizzy from going in circles.” 🙂


Now, the 80 warnings (along with the 232 cautions) in the Harley manual might seem overkill…especially the “common sense” ones. I’m assuming a lot of those aren’t from genuine concern on Harley-Davidson’s part…well…beyond genuine concern on what will happen to them when a lack of common sense produces an accident and that intersects with a good personal injury lawyer.

Should I have to be told to unlock my fork before gunning the engine?


Can you imagine someone, somewhere, successfully suing Harley if they didn’t put that warning in there and they forgot to unlock it before taking off?


Either way, between being written for the lowest common denominator…someone whose never ridden a motorcycle before (or who doesn’t actively use his or her brain cells)…and lawyers…

Harley Davidson has to continually remind it’s riders that if they do this or they don’t do that…

It could result in death or serious injury.

And they are right…there are a lot of ways you can maim or kill yourself with a motorcycle.

Our Owner’s Manual

Humans come with an owner’s manual too. It actually is more like an owner’s library with 66 books that tell us where we came from and how we work.

And as I thought about it…it has something in common with my Sportster’s manual. For instance, we hardly get anywhere in Genesis before we read this:

15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:15-17).

Just like my Harley’s manual, right off the bat mankind…in the form of our original father…had to be told not to do something…”or else.”

In fairness to Adam, he was like a new Harley owner who never used a motorcycle before…so it makes sense that God might have to give him a heads-up about one tree in the garden.

Sadly, only a chapter later we learn that Adam and his wife, Eve, didn’t pay attention to those very specific directions…or the warning that came with it…and started off thousands of years of sin, pain, and death with a simple bite. They gunned it with the forked locked.

Cause and Effect

Let me ask you this. When I go to page 101 of this manual and it says:

Do not downshift at speeds higher than those listed in the Changing Gear Speeds table. Shifting to lower gears when speed it too high can cause the rear wheel to lose traction and lead to loss of vehicle control, which could result in death or serious injury. (00045a)

When it says that…if I am dumb enough to drop it into first gear at 65 miles per hour…

And it kills me.

Did someone at Harley-Davidson punish me? Did they execute the sentence from a judgment?

Of course not.

It would be cause and effect.

The cause? My stupidity in downshifting at high speeds (leading to a loss of vehicle control).

The effect? My death.

Nobody could go back to Harley-Davidson and claim their punishment didn’t fit the crime.

It wouldn’t be punishment. It would be a natural consequence

The Effect of Sin

When it comes to sin, Paul tells us a bit about cause and effect. Turning to Romans 6:21-23:

21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.





At this point, however, I suspect most Christians would say that that death…which ultimately is spiritual death (not just physical)…is just punishment from a righteous God.

And there is no question our God is just and righteous.

However, just like dying from downshifting to first gear at 65 wouldn’t be an executed punishment…why are we so convinced that if we sin it’s God that kills us?

That it isn’t a “natural consequence” of sin?

How about this statement from God, repeated twice in Proverbs (Proverbs 14:12 and Proverbs 16:25):

There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.

Does that sound more like “executed punishment” or natural consequence?

Life and Death

Because I figured it was going to be hot here today I purposely decided to keep this sermon relatively short…so I want to share two more scriptures and then I’ll let you escape…hopefully to some air conditioned location. The first are the words of our Lord, through Moses, to the Israelites:

11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” (Deuteronomy 30:11-20).

First, notice that God’s command isn’t too hard for them…just like unlocking my fork is definitely not too hard for me.

But also notice there is a choice…good and evil…blessing and curse…

Life and death. The result a consequence of the cause. No surprises.

Gave Them Up

Now let’s quickly head to something else Paul said in Romans…this time Romans 1:24-28:

4 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Three times Paul says that “God gave them up”…does that sound like a God punishing…or a God allowing natural consequences to happen?

Don’t Do That

Throughout the Sportster® Models 2006 Harley-Davidson Owner’s Manual it warns me what not to do…and what to do. If I don’t listen to it, Harley won’t send some big biker dude to cause serious injury or kill me. My injury and/or death will be a natural consequence of my actions (or lack of action).

Throughout the Bible God warns us what to do, and what not to do.

If we do not believe in Jesus, sin will be the cause and death will be the effect.

Eternal death.

I do not claim to have given convincing evidence that that death is a natural consequence of sin…however, is it that far-fetched for a congregation who has on it’s sign:

“I am the WAY and the TRUTH and the LIFE”

Is it that far-fetched for us to believe that if someone chooses evil…chooses curse…chooses to be separated from that life…?

That the natural, eternal consequence would be death? Regardless…

Please read your manual much more thoroughly than I read the Harley manual.

Please take your manual’s warnings more seriously than I took some of the Harley’s.

And, of all things…

Please choose life!

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Alan is an ordinary guy, living in a small, high plains Colorado town...and humbled to be a minister of God...

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