People love formulas.
We just do, formulas make everything so neat and tidy.
Three large scoops of ground dark roast = perfect pot of coffee
Change the oil in your car every 3000 miles = longer lasting car
Drive 80 in 55 zone = get pulled over Etc.
The math works excellent when you’re making that recipe for your grandma’s perfect waffles, but it all starts to get fuzzy when you apply to relationships. However, those formulas are so lovely! What about the happy wife formula: Do all the items on your “honey-do” list = happy wife… Or what about the obedient teenager formula: Buy 16-year-old new car = 16-year-old loves you and follows your household rules…
Hmm, yea, formulas starting to break down here…
They are just so dang nice, those formulas, trouble is they don’t work so well with people.
Why? There are a lot of reasons, here are two:
ONE, people are NOT math problems, they’re complex creatures with emotion, dreams, fears, and baggage.
TWO, motivation… Your motivation for following the “coffee formula” is to make a perfect cup of coffee, no problem. However, what’s the real motivation for checking the boxes off that “honey-do list” or buying little Fester his first car? Is the motivation actually love, or is it manipulation and control.
It comes to motivation.
WHY are you doing what you’re doing, saying what you’re saying?
Of course, you CAN buy Fester that new Toyota out of love, but are you?
No where in life is this made more evident or more essential than in our relationship with Christ.
As humans, we want that simple formula:
Accept Christ + Be a Good Person + Read Your Bible Everyday + Go To Church + Feed The Poor (etc.) = Get Into Heaven.
The trouble is God isn’t after a formula, He’s after relationship. PERIOD.
Christ’s sacrifice is the total formula. Complete. His work on the cross is the final algorithm, there is nothing more that can be added or taken away from what he did.
We are made perfect through Christ, this is made abundantly clear in scripture.
We fall short regardless of what we do…
Christ died in our place, in lieu of our “sentence”…
If we accept him, we are made perfect “through” him, not what we do/earn/accomplish…
Once we are made perfect, we can never be ‘perfecter’ it’s simply not possible…
The trouble is, our formula minded brains then try to back into that calculation with questions like:
Are you saying that how you live your life doesn’t matter?
Does sin not matter?
Does obedience not matter?
Of course all of those things matter, scripture makes this abundantly clear. Saying love is the motivation that God is looking doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to serve Him with every part of our lives in every way possible. If we really do love him, we will want to become the very best version of ourselves, however, this MUST be done out of love.
Our MOTIVATION should always be LOVE. Service & obedience are critical, but only if they are done out of love. The moment we “serve” out of fear, or to earn more righteousness is the moment that our service is 100% selfish. We are actually only serving ourselves. NOT God.
We should serve out of LOVE alone, there is NOTHING we can do to earn more love, to be more saved, to be more justified, to be more holy, or more righteous.
The moment you try and quantify any of the above things (holiness, righteousness, etc.) you create a paradox that can’t be resolved. You’re right back with the formula again, where you must achieve a specific variable in order to qualify. A formula like (you+certain amount of good deeds=righteousness.)
The very notion flies in the face of Christ’s sacrifice. In fact, suggesting we can do something to get “more” of anything disrespects the very sacrifice Christ made himself, because saying this would be to suggest that His sacrifice was not complete, not final.
The trouble is many Christians believe in a doctrine of “proving, earning, working.” This theology flies in the face of what Christ clearly did for us on the cross, and was the primary issue that Jesus took up with the Pharisees over and over.
Remember, the Pharisees (for the most part) were not dirtbags, they were actually really dialed in. They followed the law perfectly (or nearly perfect), they took every aspect of scripture seriously and lived their lives in purposeful and righteous ways. Yet Jesus railed them again and again.
Why? Their motivation was not correct. Ultimately they were serving themselves, NOT God.
The moment you say to yourself, I’m going to live a sinless life and serve God SO I can go to heaven and have a big mansion, you are serving yourself, not God. Your motivational driver is in your own interests (as in go to heaven and have a big mansion), not service out of pure love for your savior.
Everything you do must be out of love, there is simply no way around this truth.
It’s written into the DNA of every human. To love, to long to be loved. It’s written into our DNA because it’s in God’s DNA. Man was made in God’s image. He wants us to love him and serve him through a desire to make him smile because we love Him. NOT because we want more jewels in our crown.
At the end of the day, unless we can understand the impossible paradox of God’s love for us, despite our very best efforts falling short, we will never understand the true nature of salvation or of what Christ did for us.
The idea of service for love feels Illusive, not only is it human nature to “slip” into a doctrine of formulaic salvation, it’s taught every day by thousands of churches all around the world, either deliberately, or out of simple ignorance.
The truth is both simpler and more laborious.
Simpler in the fact, that God wants a relationship. Simply put He loves us so much He made the ultimate sacrifice for us, and He wants us to love Him back. Obedience, works, prayer, all are part of the tapestry of our love relationship with him.
At the same moment, it’s harder because very little in the world is motivated through pure love. People like “do this, and I’ll give you that” SO MUCH MORE.
Our sinful nature is to remove vulnerability and replace with a transaction.
What would the world look like if we make the shift from “transactional love” to “pure relational love”?
What would your marriage look like?
What would your parenting look like?
What would your relationship with God look like?
It might be time to take a hard look at your motivational drivers. It might be time to make some pretty serious changes in the “why” you do what you do, and say what you say.
Hmm, something to think about, and make needed changes.