I remember a night several years ago when a friend decided he wanted to make some cookies.
Now, there are a lot of accepted variations when it comes to the world of cookies. There are chewy cookies and there are crunchy cookies. Some people prefer the classic chocolate chip. Some people opt for white chocolate chunks or peanut butter. There are even some people—people who I will never be able to understand—who seem to enjoy ruining a cookie with raisins and nuts. But despite variables like these, there is still a pretty well-established concept of what constitutes a cookie.
What my friend made that night were not cookies.
He went about making them in the normal way. He scooped out the flour; he added the eggs, mixed in the sugar and other ingredients. We waited (somewhat impatiently) while the oven slowly baked them to doughy perfection. But when the timer went off and we opened the door, what we found were not cookies so much as formless blobs of goop. Something had gone terribly, terribly wrong. It was almost as if…
My friend reexamined the ingredients he had used…and upon closer inspection discovered that his jar of “flour” was actually full of powdered sugar. It looks like flour, it sort of even feels like flour, but it turns out to be a pretty awful stand-in for flour…and a pretty great way to ruin a batch of cookies.
The need for recipes
A good recipe is kind of like an equation. In the same way that we can look at 2 + 2 = 4 and know that adding 2 and 2 will give us 4, we can also look at a good recipe and know that if we put in all the listed ingredients at the right time and in the right way, our finished product should match the one shown on the recipe. If we start changing things—if we swap out flour for, say, three cups of powdered sugar—then we’re likely to end up with an unexpected (and usually unwanted!) result.
Through His word, God provides us with a different kind of recipe. The ingredients aren’t physical, but spiritual in nature—and when combined they make something far more impressive than cookies or a cake. The apostle Peter writes about this recipe in his second epistle to the churches:
…add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. … Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(2 Peter 1:5-7, 10-11)
This recipe gives us the ingredients required for finding an entrance to the very Kingdom of God. Do you want eternal life as a child of God? Then the preceding verses lay out what we need to be mixing together in our spiritual bowls. Examining each ingredient is far beyond the scope of this article—instead, we’re going to take a look at three important points to remember while following God’s recipe for a perfect Christian.
1. Examine your ingredients
Salt is not sugar. Baking soda is not baking powder. Powdered sugar is not flour—and yet, if we’re not careful, each of these ingredients can be confused for its look-alike. Paul warns us that “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Since before the dawn of man, Satan the devil has been striving to blur the lines between right and wrong, persuading mankind to “call evil good and good evil,” to “put darkness for light, and light for darkness,” and to “put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).
Satan wants us to be as confused as possible when selecting ingredients for God’s recipe. If he can trick us into believing that we’ve found true knowledge when we’re looking at lies, or that we’ve discovered an acceptable substitute for self-control, then he can derail and ruin the finished product. It is essential that we take the time to examine what exactly we’re using as ingredients. Salt may look like sugar at first glance, but a quick test before dumping it into the mixing bowl can save you a great deal of headache. In the same way, holding every spiritual ingredient up to the standard of God’s word will reveal Satan’s forgeries before they ruin what we’re making.
2. Don’t rush it
“The only reason for time,” Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Solomon phrased the same concept this way: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
God has an order to things, and we can’t extend or shorten the bits in between. Just because something in the oven starts smelling delicious and looking great doesn’t mean it’s done. If the recipe says to leave it alone at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, then leave it alone at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Too much less and you’ll get something with a goopy center; too much more and you’ll get a charcoal briquette. 2 Peter 1:5-7 has a very specific progression—we add virtue to faith, then knowledge to virtue, then self-control to knowledge, and so on all the way to agape, Godly love. We can’t just decide, “Eh, today I guess I’ll add in some perseverance” without first getting a handle on self-control, and we can’t expect to understand the need for self-control without first gaining Godly knowledge. Trying to leapfrog ingredients or rush from one step to the next will only result in a mess.
The same principle holds true elsewhere in life. Really wanting something doesn’t mean you get to skip saving up for it and just steal it, just like really loving someone doesn’t justify skipping past marriage and straight to sex. When we do things in the order God established and wait on His perfect timing in between, we’ll find that many of life’s messes clean themselves up for us—not to mention that the end result is more enjoyable than any shortcut would have been!
3. Enjoy the variety!
As we’ve seen, there is a core to being a Christian, and if we are choosing to follow this way of life, that core must become our core. Just as a cookie without flour isn’t much of a cookie, so too a Christian without the qualities listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7 isn’t much of a Christian. God doesn’t want a family full of identical yellow pencils, but there are certain non-negotiable traits we must all come to share if we hope to have a part in the Kingdom of God.
That said, God allows for quite a few variables in your life. You can mix in chocolate chips; you can add some peanut butter. You can even (if you absolutely must and refuse to be talked out of it) sprinkle in some raisins (although I may forever question the soundness of your judgment). Again in Ecclesiastes, Solomon admonished,
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth,
And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth;
Walk in the ways of your heart,
And in the sight of your eyes;
But know that for all these
God will bring you into judgment.
In other words, God has provided us with morals and boundaries—and as long as you stay within those lines, you’re free to “walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of your eyes.” Just because your friend likes his cookies to be filled with white chocolate chunks doesn’t mean every cookie needs to be made that way. God gives us the gift of personalization—of having our own preferences, our own mannerisms, our own personalities. As long as these don’t conflict with God’s law, they become the additions that make each recipe a little unique—and that’s a wonderful thing.
Even if that means adding raisins.
Until next time,