From Formula to Faithfulness

I have a particular memory of Broc, my second oldest grandson, when he was about 8 months old. He was able to hold the bottle himself and was sitting on my lap and I was talking to someone else in the room. With an incredibly accurate aim, in a split second, he popped the bottle out of his mouth, squeezed and shot a stream of formula right in my mouth! Yuck!

Fortunately, Broc set aside the bottle for a covered cup and progressed to a regular glass. At seven years old, he can eat as well as most adults; if we’re grilling steaks he needs a full-size one just like Dad.

But let’s be honest: there are lots of people who call themselves Christians who are still satisfied with formula; they’ve still not matured to a life of faithfulness.

Some people live under the assumption that faithfulness is attained by more and more study of the Bible. While Bible study is an important component of faithfulness, we have to be careful to hear James, who says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22) We have become proficient at gaining considerable Bible knowledge but putting very little into practice.

Faithfulness actually combines knowledge, obedience and service.

Faithfulness is a result of obedience. We’ve heard it many times: To believe is to obey and to obey is to believe. That’s the bottom line. But is it possible that we’ve succumbed to cultures’ message that fulfillment is found in getting to do whatever we want, whenever we want? Jesus calls us to follow him and following Jesus means I’m not in charge. (Matthew 16:24-28)

The life of obedience begins at the cross – my cross, your cross – the cross where we put to death our selfish ways and submit to the leadership of Christ. (Galatians 5:24) It’s a cross we may have to come back to often; to submit our will to His will; to learn how to obey. Faithfulness demands it.

Faithfulness does not mean living a perfect life. Not one of us learned how to obey without failure. Parents patiently teach children how to obey and often allow us to experience the consequences of faulty behavior. God, our Heavenly Father, has never required perfection. He is infinitely patient with us because he knows our weaknesses. He is prepared for the times when we take the wrong path or make the wrong choice or even blatantly disobey.

In those instances our faithfulness is proven we when confess and repent. Confession is simply acknowledging that we have sinned against God. Repentance is turning away from the patterns, behaviors and attitudes that lead to sin. People still dependent on formula seem to be trapped in cycles of confession and sin and more confession without inserting the vital step of repentance. Moving from formula to faithfulness requires genuine repentance and that always results in change.

Faithfulness is revealed and proven in real life. How we apply Scripture to various circumstances and situations is important but letting Scripture penetrate to the very core of our being is critical. I will never forget the scathing verbal barb from a teenager. She said, “At home, my parents are no different from my friend’s parents who never go to church.” The statistics support her charge.

In all the areas where faithfulness should be illustrated by lifestyle there is no statistical difference between people who attend church and those who don’t. Divorce, infidelity, pornography, substance abuse, and financial miss-management are epidemic in the church and outside.

The way we live is a stark reminder of our need to move from formula to faithfulness!