by Rob Tims
We didn’t plan things the way they happened, but boy was my 19 month-old glad that things came together the way they did.
All six of us hiked about 2 miles downhill into Panthertown Valley in the western mountains of North Carolina, stopping at Granny Burrell Creek and Falls to eat and play in the water. After about 45 minutes of rest and recess, we packed up our trash, wet socks, and such and began the uphill hike back to the car.
With about a mile left, we made the decision to put my toddler into the carrier my wife was wearing. This time, however, we put him in the front like we did when he was younger; facing her, rather than on her back facing her.
He instantly became the happiest toddler on the mountain because three things converged for his joy: he got see and be close to his mother; he got to be carried instead of having to walk; and as it so happened, his mother was snacking on chips during the walk, so he got to eat the rest of the way. It was the perfect recipe for toddler satisfaction. He didn’t have to do a thing other than rejoice in what had been done his behalf.
In Ephesians 2:1-10, the Apostle Paul lays out God’s recipe for spiritual satisfaction, the heart of which is in vv. 4-7.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, 5 made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! 6 Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, 7 so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Do you see the recipe of spiritual bliss?
- We were dead in sin, but God made us alive with Christ.
- We were captive to the prince of the power of the air and enslaved to the course of this world, but God raised us with Christ and made us sit with him in the heavenly places.
- We were children of wrath and deserving of an eternity in the torments of hell, but God, instead of pouring out wrath, will spend eternity showing the immeasurable riches of his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
And perhaps the most fascinating part of this recipe is that we didn’t contribute anything to it. All that is required of us is to rejoice through obedience and worship in what has been done on our behalf.
As our hike neared its end, my wife and oldest son decided to take the scenic route home, hiking back to the house rather than returning to the parking lot and our van. This meant about 1000 yards of me leading my ten year-old, 3 year-old and 19 month-old uphill to the van. In my toddler’s opinion, this was a recipe for hiking disaster. No mom. No snacks. No transportation. What were his parents thinking by tinkering with his perfect recipe?
Likewise, there’s another alternative to God’s perfectly executed plan, but it’s a recipe for spiritual disaster. That recipe looks something like this:
- Come to the Christian life by grace.
- Do something for God to show Him what a great choice He made.
This is a recipe for failure. If we come to the Christian life believing we can do anything for God in our own strength, we fall into the same spiritual death from which Jesus saved us in the very beginning. This why Paul says in v. 10, “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” In the same way that grace saved us to God, grace empowers us to live for God.
I guess some recipes are better left untouched.
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.