A few years ago a client came into town for a series of meetings. He asked for a restaurant recommendation, and I suggested my favorite restaurant, The Gandy Dancer. The next day he came to my office and raved about the restaurant. He was going to recommend it to every one of his colleagues.
I asked him what he’d ordered. “Nothing,” he said, he’d been too busy. But he had “stopped by and studied the menu, and everything looked incredible.”
I thought he was nuts.
But I’m beginning to think that most of us believers are equally “nuts.” We read the menu and miss the meal. We nourish our Christian lives by feasting on a cardboard menu of untasted truths.
The cardboard menu is a link to a spiritually nourishing banquet, but too often we simply chew on the cardboard. Is it any wonder our lives look like cardboard-cutouts?
Frankly, cardboard is neither life-giving nor nourishing. Even with a dash of salt.
The Christian life is more than the menu
Let’s examine the menu item of Justification by Faith. Christians believe that they are justified by faith and not by works. I do too. But too much of our teaching merely expounds the menu concept of Justification. It doesn’t teach us how to feast on—how how to live a life of—Justification by Faith.
We are reading the menu and missing the meal.
It’s as though we think that entry into heaven is a single-question multiple-choice test. We arrive at the pearly gates and St. Peter hands us the Entry-Into-Heaven-Exam,
The Incarnation of God, the earthly ministry of Jesus, the suffering and death of the Messiah, and the resurrection of the Son of Man; they all boil down to this moment. Which box will we check?
The hosts of heaven wait in anticipation. The disciples stare; the martyrs watch; the angels, the seraphim and cherubim all wait with hushed eagerness. It all comes down to this: which box will we check?
Is this the essential ingredient of the Christian feast? Does it all boil down to an impersonal, abstract, dry, lifeless check-box on a test?
Justification by Faith is an invitation to a literal feast that feeds us now. Christ’s abundant life promises more than an extension of a cardboard-cutout life in the hereafter.
Are we content with the correct, cerebral concept; or are we operating in the personal lived-in reality of the truth. Are we chewing on the menu or feasting on the meal?
There are two ways to know the sweetness of honey. We can study it under a magnifying glass or we can taste it. God says there are two ways to know Justification by Faith (or any truth). We can study it on the menu. Or we can taste it.
We can read the right menu but feast elsewhere
It is possible to hold the correct abstract concept—Justification by Faith—and not actually be Justified by Faith. In fact, this happens all the time. I suspect even Satan could check the right box.
Justification is what we turn to for our own self-value. When life seems sour, where do we turn for sweetness? Where do we turn for a personal sense of significance?
We may claim Justification by Faith in our heads and yet find our sweetness elsewhere:
- We may primarily feel good about ourselves when our children behave
- We may receive our self-esteem from success, promotions, or money
- Perhaps we only feel fulfilled when in a romantic relationship
- Perhaps we get our personal applause from successful preaching or ministry
Ironically, we can even get our sense of self-significance due to our correct adherence to an abstract doctrine, even if we don’t live it. In fact, when we justify ourselves by checking Justification by “Faith,” it is a type of justification by works; the “work” is our theological correctness.
Acknowledging the correct answer—Justification by Faith—is not the same thing as the state of being justified by Faith. Reading the menu is not the same as eating the meal.
What can we do?
We need to find and then starve our self-justifying habits. Our self-significance activity (our true self-justification) dulls our appetites for the real meal.
If we eat enough cardboard, even the best meals look unappetizing.
God himself, in himself, is the only satisfaction for our deep inner hunger for significance. Other self-justification—romance, career, family, even self-congratulations for correct doctrine—are poor substitutes for the justification that comes from God.
Why else would God invite us to “taste and see how good our God can be” (Psalm34:8)? Joyful are all who take their meal with him.
We’re all hungry. What are we going to have for dinner?
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Hearing God is supposed to be normal. God himself longs for us to grow in intimacy with him; and the greatest way to know God is to learn to hear his voice. Buy Now