I am often amazed at the things we survived as kids. Keep in mind that I’m nearly sixty (did I just admit that?) Kids my age rode in the back of pickups. We sat unbuckled in the back and front seats of the car while rolling down the highway. Neither, as infants, were we strapped like NASCAR drivers into our safety seats. We climbed monkey bars and rode extreme merry-go-rounds like the Tidal Wave. We played Jarts – the real ones with the pointy steel tips. We even ate raw cookie dough straight from the beater. It’s amazing anyone survived! (The author says sarcastically).
Here’s a leap for you. Thinking about cookie dough reminds me of faith in Jesus. Strange, right? Our cookie dough faith in Christ could be at the stage of searching for the ingredients, or having the ingredients, or combining them into raw dough, or formed and ready to bake dough, or perfectly baked, or imperfectly burnt. Follow along for a moment, perhaps it’s not as strange as it sounds.
The first step is gathering ingredients. In the case of faith, this is accepting a set of truths but first comes the facts themselves.
We encounter factual statements every day, some of them we count as truth while rejecting others as false. That calculation is so fast and so multifaceted that we often miss it. We determine truth by our preexisting bias (yes, we’re all biased in some way), our preexisting knowledge, the vehicle of the facts (who brought them to us and how), and the perceived ramifications if the facts presented are accepted as truth. This pathway is navigated for every fact we encounter.
Faith always begins with information we didn’t have before. Paul wrote, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17, NASB95) An example was Paul’s trip to Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17:18-34) when he spoke the truth of Christ’s resurrection. At Mars Hill, some scoffed and rejected Paul’s declaration concerning Jesus’ resurrection, others adopted a “wait and see” position, while a few accepted Paul’s facts as truth.
Yet, faith is more than a single fact, but is really a collection of facts ranging from “God is” to the Resurrection of Jesus. Those ingredients are fantastic, but they’re still not cookie dough. The ingredients only become cookie dough when they’re all combined, mixed and stirred in the right order and proportions until they are one tasty truth. You could call the results the truth of the Gospel or the truth of God’s Kingdom.
This is where some folks struggle. The resulting cookie dough of faith may not be yummy because the proportions are all off like someone confused the salt for the sugar. But to move on let’s assume that we have the right proportions and a yummy bowl of cookie dough. We could stop right here and just eat the dough, but if we do we’re missing out on something even more wonderful.
Faith must be shaped and baked to achieve its purpose. Let’s call this the forming process, whether it is spooning dough onto a baking sheet or rolling out the dough to use a cookie-cutter. This forming is the moment when faith becomes real. When facts move from our head to our heart. When our lives, desires, passions, trajectories, purposes, motivations, and goals all change. This doesn’t mean we are free from doubt, but that we lean towards the Gospel truth even when contradictory information is perceived. It is when faith forms our motives.
Next comes baking which brings all the textures, ingredients, and flavors of the cookie dough into a cohesive unit. Faith is made solid and complete by the heat of acting on our faith. This heat is found in the complex tension between faith and works. Faith will result in works if it is true faith. But works alone never creates faith. And we can also overdo works which results in burnt cookies. More works doesn’t mean better faith, but more faith always means better works. As long as we don’t eat the cookie dough first.
So, faith requires gathering the ingredients of facts and truth. Then the mixing of those truths in the right proportions. The resulting dough of faith must then be formed in us, changing us on the inside. And the formed dough of faith must be baked in the heat of action. Yet, unlike cookie dough, we are continually in all of these processes as we grow in Christ. We don’t bake just one batch of faith, but we renew it every day. After all, fresh cookies straight from the oven are always the very best.