Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Life Is a Story not a Formula

We like formulas. You put in the right ingredients, crank things out, and get your answer. So we look for formulas for the good life, formulas for the good marriage, formulas for being spiritual, formulas for raising children, formulas for serving God, formulas for reviving the church, formulas for reforming society. And there is only one problem with these formulas: they do not work. Life is more complicated than that. Life is much more of a story or a journey, full of twists and turns and surprises we would never have anticipated. Not a formula.

Now it is true that salvation is simple-- for us. It is simple because it involves trusting totally in the work of Another. It is not something we do, but a gift we receive (Romans 6:23; 3:23-28; Ephesians 2:8,9). But it required considerable work on God's part to bring this about and it happened in a way that cannot be boiled down to a simple formula (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). It plays out more like a story than a pat formula, and even those who followed God, including the angels, seemed surprised at how it turned out (1 Peter 1:10-12; Luke 9:43-45; Mark 9:9-10). There are those who would bridle at this, thinking that if it is a story, it must be false. But this seems much closer to reality than a formula, which is just too simple. Our growth in Christ is pictured much more as a lifelong trek than a quick fix (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:12-16; Hebrews 12:1,2). Our service for God is pictured in the same way (2 Corinthians 3:5,6; 2:14-16; Colossians 1:28,29). Even history as a whole is something God is working out to His desired conclusion (Ephesians 1:11; Matthew 16:18; Isaiah 43:10-13).

What should we conclude from this? If we live our lives based on formulas, we will be discouraged when they fail or become complacent if we think we have gotten them to work for us. We can conclude it is useless to try to live for God or that it is only possible for a few super-spiritual people and can give up trying, or at least trying very hard. We can go rushing from one formula to another, hoping against hope we will finally find the one that will work. Or we can convince ourselves we have truly obtained spirituality and need look no further, cutting ourselves off from the next thing God wants to do in our lives. And perhaps setting ourselves up for a future spiritual failure when we are attacked at a weak point (1 Corinthians 10:12,13; Proverbs 16:18; Matthew 26:31-35). Or we can lay aside formulas and embark on the step-by-step journey of being changed into the people God wants us to be (Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 2:6,7).

1 comment:

  1. "Or we can lay aside formulas and embark on the step-by-step journey of being changed into the people God wants us to be."

    Good stuff Mike!