By W. Frank Walton
Suppose you wanted to bake some biscuits, but you didn’t know how. Don’t worry, the South Carolina chef is in!
Recipe for Biscuits
1. Do not use these ingredients: oatmeal, cake mix, grits, chili powder, jalapeno peppers, mashed potatoes or any house construction materials.
2. Do not drop the dough on the floor.
3. Do not knead the dough for eight hours.
4. Do not heat the oven to 700 degrees F.
5. Do not leave town or forget the biscuits are in the oven.
It might sound silly, but all the above instructions are vitally important that they not be done to have edible biscuits. But all you know is what not to do. This cook failed to tell you what to do with practical, step-by-step instructions.
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, NASB). 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; 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?
David Lipscomb, who was no soft compromiser, wrote “The Practice of Truth” in the Gospel Advocate, November 28, 1907:
There is great danger that we let opposition to the sects and to error usurp the place of fidelity to God and the practice of truth. It is easier to fight error than it is to practice truth. It is more in harmony with our fleshly nature to fight error and errorists than to subdue the flesh and obey God. So we often substitute that for this. Much of our zeal is for party dogmas rather than for practice of the truth . . . . This party zeal becomes a substitute for love of truth and the practice of godliness. Many preachers seem to think that the way to convert the world is 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 ac: tions, or evil will again overtake him. “An idle mind is the Devil’s workshop.” We cannot be holy just by sterilizing ourselves from evil and doing nothing to avoid contamiination. 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 sav; ed?” 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. But 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”; we just 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, actionoriented 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 daffy goals of systematic Bible study; fervent, believing prayer, meditation upon heaven and Jesus’ fife, 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 a gospel paper or bulletin. We could set monthly goals of talking to someone about Christ, setting up a Bible study, inviting someone to services, and practicing hospitality. We can set annual goals of trying to convert one person to Christ, having a singing for saints in the home or writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper protesting the evils of pornography or abortion. These are some suggestions.
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).
Guardian of Truth XXX: 6, pp. 163-164
March 20, 1986