Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Properly Baked Cake

Do you ever approach something with the attitude: I just want to get it done. I just want to get it out of the way. What this attitude reflects is a dislike or displeasure, but vital need in doing that something that needs our action.

When we apply this to our faith in God some people have a ready file to show they got it done a while back. It may have been in their childhood. It may be through mere association with others who profess a faith like them. They've taken care of it. It's out of the way. They are, as they understand, free to carry on with their lives.

There are others whose faith in God means an endless, tiresome exhausting task of work. No matter how small or how big the task they are sure to do it and add it to their works account ready for presentation to God at the appropriate time as proof of their faith in Him.

What these two, faith and works, represent are what I call the "alone" extremes to which people go to get the God thing right and out of the way. They are the extremes of "faith alone" and "works alone."

The Jews in Jesus' day came to Him and asked him (John 6:28,29) for the quick, easy work they needed to fulfill the God thing. Jesus replied that they were to believe in him whom God had sent. In other words, as Jesus states, belief is a work. It is something one does. It is not merely a thought between our ears.

Ironically, Jesus' reply to the Jews has resulted in some who take that and run to the "faith alone" extreme. These two, faith and works, are not opposed or contradictory to each other as some mistakenly understand when they read the letters by the apostle Paul to the Romans and by the apostle James in the letter which bears his name are favorites. The "faith alone" group favors Romans for its emphasis on faith and belief. The "works alone" group favors James because of its emphasis on works. This same approach of viewing one better or more important than the other is not limited to these two. It extends to repentance, confession, etc.

As I drink my coffee, cake comes to mind. It may help illustrate the importance and significance of a humble and sincere obedience to the one whom God has sent. Suppose you invited some friends over for coffee and cake. As they sit at the table you serve a bowl of eggs to one of your friends. Another you serve a bowl of shortening. Another receives a bowl of flour. Another one a bowl of water.

You announce, "Enjoy!" They look strangely at you.

Finally, one brave soul informs you this is not a cake. Another joins in and tells you these are cake ingredients. Another tells you these ingredients are to be mixed and baked in the oven to create a delicious cake.

You gather the bowls with ingredients mix them up. Thirty minutes later you remove it from the oven only to realize the bowl of eggs is on your kitchen counter. No problem, you say, as you break the eggs and spread them over the hot almost-cake. You serve it to your friends. After a while another brave soul informs you this is not a properly baked cake.

Which of these ingredients, flour, eggs, etc., is more important in baking a cake? Clearly, it is not a matter of which is more important but that all these ingredients work together to create a cake.

Similarly, to put one's trust of belief in God and put that belief into action is to understand faith. It is no more important than works or belief more important than repentance. The act of breaking and spreading eggs over the almost-cake is to misunderstand not only the importance of all these ingredients in baking a cake, but to misunderstand the importance of belief over confession, etc.

As an example of this scrambled mixup of imitating the New Testament obedience to the gospel there are some who discard one thing over another as being unimportant. Others will state it is important, but it doesn't need to be done. WHAT?!?!?! Specifically, you may have probably heard baptism discarded as something unimportant. Does anyone believe a person could openly confession Jesus as Lord, be baptized and tell him he can repent of his continued fornication or other sin some time later. Is there anyone who would tell him repentance is not important, or it's good to "DO" it, but not important. This teaching is what leads some to think they have gotten the God thing take care of and it's out of the way. Someone took the liberty to wrongfully teach them of their own accord what they thought as being important and what was unimportant.

A life with that approach to belief and obedience of God does not mock God because God cannot be mocked. However, it does lead one to a life of misery and ruin because they are going about their own lives and not, as Paul wrote, "Christ living in me." The God thing, well, that's at home in their hidden file but ready, if they really must, for display. They mistakenly thought believing and obeying the one whom God has sent is something done once and not something they live in love thereafter.

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