We were given a Christmas gift by some very good friends. It was a pot with ingredients for bread. Using a bowl, you need to stir a beer into the mixture until the mixture and beer are well blended. Then you need to grease the pot the ingredients came in and put the mixture into the pot. When the oven is at 180 degrees, you pop the pot into the oven for 45 to 50 minutes.
I made cardinal mistakes! Firstly, I forgot to grease the pot, and secondly, I warmed the oven up at 260 degrees to preheat to 180 degrees quicker. After 35 minutes, I went to check and saw the crust was too brown. I gazed up at the temperature dial to find I forgot to reduce the temperature to 180 degrees once I popped the bread into the oven. It was then that I realized I forgot to grease the pot. I reduced the temperature immediately, but could do nothing about the ungreased pot.
I left it in until 45 minutes and then took it out. The recipe says to leave the bread in the pot for another 10 minutes before removing and placing on a grid. I used a long knife to ease the bread away from the side of the pot and put a few dribbles of virgin olive oil in the sides. Eventually, I managed to remove the bread … but the bottom crust came off. I loosened this from the pot and shared it with Jenny. We enjoyed the bread with butter, cheese and honey for lunch. It was delicious!
Returning to those cardinal rules I broke. Was I nervous, was I hasty, did I not read the instructions properly, did I take a shortcut without realizing it … or all of the above? I could argue this to be the first time I have made bread … but let me rather agreed to “all of the above”. The strange thing is that I did read the instructions at least ten times since we received the gift. I followed it point after point. I even read it just before I made the bread … yet I forgot to grease the pot and reduce the oven from 260 to 180 degrees. I made mistakes even though I read the instructions over and over … and just before mixing the dough. What went wrong? And … is there a purpose for the instructions in the bread recipe?
The spiritual counterpart is equally interesting. How often have you read through the Bible? If you have not, how often have you read through the Ten Commandments, Sermon on the Mount, Psalms, Paul, Peter, John and James’ writings? How often have you read and then got it wrong … or read and sinned? If you’re like me, you would have to admit “all too often”. Our general intentions are good, yet so often we follow only half or three-quarters of God’s instructions … and sometimes we break God’s instructions outright without even blinking an eye.
Why? I read the bread recipe over and over, but did I read it with understanding? Did I grasp every aspect of the process properly? When I was a long distance runner, I had a game plan for each race, be it a marathon or the comrades or a 100-miler. I would run that game plan through my mind so often, making certain each aspect of the plan was ingrained to be executed at a moment’s notice. I lacked doing this with the bread making. So often, we neglect to do this with our spiritual walk. The biggest point we need to understand is that the whole Bible is God’s instruction to us … but He does not give us instructions without a purpose. There is a reason behind every instruction. As a prime example, the Gospel Message is an instruction.
Mk 1:14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Both words “repent” and “believe” are instructions, not suggestions or good ideas. Then think about the purpose of this instruction … take it slowly … reconciliation with God!
Ro 5:9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
When thinking of reconciliation, we need to remember it starts with the Gospel Instruction, “repent and believe”–turn from sin in repentance to believe in Jesus’ blood sacrifice, being saved from God’s wrath and enjoying the free gift of eternal life. The Gospel Instruction’s purpose is pardon, reconciliation and eternal life. When one does not follow this instruction, damnation is the only alternative! Let me cite another two examples.
Est 2:19 When the virgins were assembled a second time, Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate. 20 But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up.
The instructions Mordecai gave Esther were for her protection (2:10) … and being a man of God, he could see more clearly into the mind and purposes of God. Did Esther not become queen and did she not lead the way, guided by Mordecai, to Israel’s freedom? Instructions include purposes.
1Ti 5:3 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. 8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Religious instruction’s purpose (v7) is practical religion (v4). Perhaps a good exercise is to take every passage of the Bible you read, including the passage for your devotions, and ask two questions: 1. What is the instruction? 2. What is the instruction’s purpose? It is possible that answering these two questions could go a long way to preventing making mistakes like I did when making the bread.
Dear Lord God Almighty, thank You for Your precious instructions in Scripture. Help me to find the purpose and reason for each one so that I might love, serve and obey You better, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.