by Danny Forrest
What’s your favorite pie? Pecan, coconut cream, sweet potato, chocolate, lemon or maybe you would prefer a savory pie like chicken pot pie, or other meat pies. My mother made the best pecan pie that I have ever eaten. I have her recipe that I follow meticulously, but my pecan pie still doesn’t seem to be as good as Mom’s. I have learned that recipes are very important. Every time I have ever veered off a good recipe to try and make it my own creation, it never seems to measure up to the original.
Good cooks oftentimes keep recipes in their head. They follow that recipe so many times that it becomes entrenched in their memory. My brother-in-law Joe was like that. He created dishes that I would travel from Texas to Alabama to partake in. Joe recently passed away of a sudden and unexpected heart attack. He was a good friend and will be missed by many. His recipes will also be missed. As I was preparing to deliver the eulogy at Joe’s “celebration of life” service, I thought of the very first time I met Joe almost 30 years ago. He was dating my sister Mary, and since I was the first person from Mary’s family that he had met, he wanted to make a good impression on me. He did what he did best, he cooked.
The dish I remember most was Joe’s spaghetti and meat sauce. He was meticulous with the ingredients. My idea of spaghetti sauce usually comes from a jar but that would have been an insult to Joe. He combined all the ingredients for the sauce and then he cooked it all day. Needless to say, Joe became my friend very quickly. Joe and my Mom both taught me something about cooking and about life: put in the right ingredients and the outcome will be good, maybe even great.
I have discovered that God is the master at putting together the right ingredients. Just look around at the beauty of creation. God’s character, His eternal power, and His divine nature are seen and understood through what He has made (Romans 1:20).
When God put together the ingredients for the salvation of man, He did not get it from a jar or a can. It wasn’t a list of impossible tasks for man to accomplish or a book of wrongs to avoid. God’s ingredient for our salvation was Himself. A very simple recipe, God became a man. The only one who could satisfy a righteous, holy God was a righteous, holy God.
The Apostle Paul called this recipe the “gospel.” Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” The gospel is the “power of God” but the only ingredient is God Himself. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (15:3-4) he broke down the ingredients of the gospel: “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” I reverently call this powerful recipe “gospel pie.”
Sadly to say, not everyone likes gospel pie. To those who reject it, the taste is bitter and just not satisfying. Many try to improve on the recipe by adding their own ingredients.
No matter how hard I tried to improve on Mom’s pecan pie, I could not do it. Less sugar, more sugar, more pecans, more or less Karo, it didn’t matter. I could not improve on the recipe. Most of the time I just messed it up. When we try to add to or take away ingredients of Gospel Pie, we just mess it up to the point that the new Gospel Pie that we create becomes ineffective with no power to save.
How prideful we are to think that we improve on God’s Gospel by adding our pious religious rituals and traditions. No matter how good the added ingredients are (church, baptism, service, giving), by adding anyone of them to the God’s Gospel we change the entire structure of the message. I think many would agree that Blue Bell Butter Pecan ice cream is very good. But what would it do to Joe’s spaghetti recipe if we dropped in a half gallon while he wasn’t looking? It would ruin the spaghetti!
Adding our favorite religious ingredient to God’s Gospel Pie does the same thing. The Gospel of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is powerful and satisfying. Most important is that God Himself is satisfied with His work. There are just some things you cannot improve on — Mom’s pecan pie, Joe’s spaghetti, and God’s Gospel Pie to name a few.