Suppose you wanted to bake some biscuits, but you didn’t know how. Don’t worry, just follow the basic recipe of cooking chefs. If you follow their recipe exactly, you will be baking and eventually eating biscuits. However, if you should deviate from their recipe, what you cook may be totally uneatable.
This “flaky” parable does have a practical application. The same principle applies to following God’s “recipe” of godly living. “Let him who means to love life and see good days . . . turn away from evil and do good” (1 Pet. 3: 10, 11). Faithful disciples follow the divine, balanced life of not sinning while being very busy doing good (Rom. 12:9). It is a flawed recipe of righteousness to busy ourselves just knowing what not to do. Christians are God’s transformed agents of positive change in an evil world as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
Sometimes it’s easy for us to be satisfied with a surrogate standard of soundness to “punch our ticket” to heaven. A church is often called “sound” merely by what it opposes, not in what it actively does. It’s a temptation for us to sit back, rehash the things we’re not supposed to do and point out what’s wrong with everyone else. Yes, we must never neglect hating and opposing sin, false doctrine and worldliness (2 Cor. 7:1 ff; Jude 23; Eph. 5:11; 1 Jn. 4:1). But this alone is not the sum and substance of Christianity. Are we so completely disgusted with sinners and false religions that we’re not moved by Christ-like compassion to save the lost? Do we delight in reciting a the arguments showing why they’re all going to burn in hell? Do we rationalize our laziness and lack of faith in the gospel’s power by saying, “Oh, they’re lost and they know it. Why bother?” What are we really trying to accomplish as Christians?
Many preachers seem to think that the way to convert the world is just to expose religious error. Hence the preaching to the world is chiefly opposition to the sects. If all the sects were destroyed, it might be easier to convert the world, but the work of converting the world would still have to be done.
Truth Unbalanced Is Error
Jesus teaches us a valuable lesson in Matthew 12:43-45 When evil is cast out, good must fill man’s heart and actions or evil will again overtake him. Have you ever heard, “An idle mind is the Devil’s workshop.” We cannot be holy just by sterilizing ourselves from evil and doing nothing to avoid contamination. We have confused a spiritual separation with a physical separation from the world. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. It’s difficult to motivate saints to fruitful living by the reverse of an idea. “What must I do to be saved?” becomes “What must I not do to avoid being lost?’
This is basically “thou shalt not” religion. Seed is wasted if stored in the barn (Jn. 12:24). Salt is worthless remaining in the salt shaker, and a covered light is no light at all. We have a heavenly mandate to go into all the world and turn it upside down for Jesus Christ!
The scribes and Pharisees were meticulously religious. However, Jesus condemns them as “blind guides,” “fools,” “hypocrites,” and “serpents” because of their practical failures, inconsistencies, and blindness to the truth of God and their true spiritual condition. “. . . Do not do according to their deeds to be noticed by men. . . . Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:3, 5, 28). It is incredible that a church could be “sound” mainly if it theoretically opposes instrumental music, institutionalism, Calvinism, denominationalism and church sponsored recreation; yet, this “sound” church can constantly fuss and fight, the eldership shows little leadership, personal evangelism is rare, hospitality and brotherly love are almost extinct, gossiping and cliques abound, worship is spiritless, and tens of thousands of dollars of Jesus’ money is hoarded in the bank in case of a recession. This hypothetical church is “so sound in the truth that it’s sound asleep.” Some of these symptoms infect too many churches. We can nod our heads in agreement to the truth in the sermon, but forget to walk in the truth when we leave. We don’t believe we’re saved by “faith only”, but we surely act like it sometimes.
Follow the Lord Fully
Let’s be honest with ourselves to follow God’s recipe of spiritual success as a total way of life (2 Pet. 1:3). It is good to specifically identify what we should not do. But let’s also be more specific in eagerly finding ways to obey. We often generalize obedience by just repeating, “Obey God; live right; keep the commands.” These are true but too vague by themselves without a practical plan to implement them.
God’s inspired instructions strike a beautiful balance in such practical passages as Matthew 5-7; Romans 12:1-21; 13:714; Galatians 5:13-6:10; Ephesians 4-6; Colossians 3-4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5; the book of James, etc. Let’s study and visualize the vast applications of these challenging passages. Also, meditation upon the life of Christ isn’t just the milk of the Word, it’s the meat too! He lived the greatest life ever known. He set the awe-inspiring example of what we can become. It is a life-long pursuit to have “the mind of Christ” in every daily situation, so we must continually behold His glory in the Gospels to have His life reproduced in ours. This will help us think holy thoughts and develop godly, action oriented attitudes. Honestly evaluating our progress is also essential.
Let’s learn how to set helpful spiritual goals (1 Cor. 9:24-27). For example, we could set daily goals of systematic Bible study, fervent believing prayer, meditation upon heaven and Jesus’ life, and developing right attitudes while eliminating sin from our lives. We could set weekly goals of attending all the worship services, visiting or calling the sick or spiritually weak, and reading and studying God’s Holy Word. We could set monthly goals of talking to someone about Christ, setting up a Bible study, inviting someone to services, and practicing good old fashion hospitality. We could seek to improve our life in order to be a good example for others to follow. We could do good unto all men, especially those who are fellow brethren. We must as Christians find ways to light our light so shine while we are still in their present world that the world may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven.
Let us bear fruit by looking for opportunities to express our faith and love by serving God and others. We all can do something. Let it be said of us, “They have followed the Lord fully” (Num. 32:12).