Recipe for Faith

When I was about 10 years old, there was a wonderful lady who would invite me over to her house sometimes after church to make cookies.  One of my favorite recipes that we used to make together was something she called Chinese Noodle Cookies.  You might know them by another name: haystacks.  They’re made with crunchy chow mein noodles, butter, butterscotch chips and/or chocolate chips, peanut butter, peanuts, and mini marshmallows. The recipe says to melt and mix the butter, chips, and peanut butter together, then stir in the noodles, peanuts, and marshmallows.  Once mixed, you scoop it out into clumps onto a baking sheet then put them in the fridge for a couple of hours until they set. If you’ve followed the recipe carefully you will have delectable Chinese Noodle Cookies.

The Bible contains a recipe: the recipe for faith.  If you follow it carefully, it’ll produce faith in your life that resembles a faith like the picture in the recipe book.  “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) it says. We often talk about faith as Christians but do we really understand what it is?  Scripture explains that faith is the one and only condition for salvation.  Ephesians 2:8 says, “By grace, we are saved through faith and not of our own doing but as a gift of God.”  

We are not earning salvation by faith; we are receiving salvation by faith.  It’s not a work, at least not a work of our own doing. Like salvation, faith itself is a gift from God.  John Wesley said, “Of yourselves cometh neither your faith nor your salvation: ‘it is the gift of God;’ the free, undeserved gift; the faith through which ye are saved, as well as the salvation which he of his own good pleasure, his mere favour, annexes thereto” (Sermon: Salvation By Faith).  God empowers us with the ability to choose faith in Christ so that we can receive the gift of salvation. 

Secular spirituality would have us believe that if we look deep within ourselves we will discover faith, self-love, and the “divine within.” But the truth is, if we look deep within ourselves, what we will discover is only a deep black hole of depravity.  Until Jesus takes up residence in our hearts, there is no real faith to be found within us.  All righteousness, holiness, goodness, and faith come from God. We don’t seek Him out.  It is God who draws us to Himself.  The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sinfulness and makes us aware of our need for salvation through Christ, which is the reconciliation that brings us back into eternal fellowship with God, something that was lost to humanity in the garden—something we didn’t even realize was missing.

Just as there are key ingredients to make our favorite cookies, there are essential elements needed to produce Christian faith: repentance, belief, trust, and obedience. Without these four essential ingredients, there is no faith. 


The first ingredient we need to get our dish started is repentance.  Growing up, I was taught—and you probably were too—that repentance is turning away from sin and toward God.  While that’s basically it, repentance has a deeper meaning; it specifically means to change one’s mind, not just our direction, but to become convinced in our heart and mind that Scripture is telling the truth about the nature of God, the condition of man, and our need for salvation in Jesus Christ.  When we repent, we alter our thinking and doing according to our new convictions.

Before we encounter the Gospel, we don’t even know how sinful we truly are.  Ask almost anyone.  They will most likely tell you, “Well, I may have made mistakes here and there, but I’m a pretty much a good person.”  The self-love crowd will tell you the same thing.  people are essentially good but sometimes make bad choices, but biblically speaking, this is not true.  It’s a complete polar opposite of what Scripture says about the human condition.  When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, they completely lost the righteous and holy image of God, and because of that, all mankind inherited a sinful nature—a propensity to think and do sinful things.  But when we encounter the gospel message of Christ, the Holy Spirit makes us aware of our broken moral condition and reveals to us our need for a Savior.  We either reject it and go our own way, or we change our minds and become disciples of Christ.  In repentance, we finally realize how much we need forgiveness, and we fall to our knees before God and beg our Creator for mercy just as David did in Psalm 51:

“Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:1-7).    

Repentance leads us to the salvation offered through Jesus Christ and into an experience of God’s infinite mercy, grace, and holy love—a love that we never knew existed.  The God who created everything in the universe loves even us despite our rebellion against Him.  And because of His love for us, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, gave Himself up as the atonement for our sins so that we could be reconciled to Him and marinate in His incomparable love for all eternity.   


The next ingredient the recipe for faith calls for is belief.  Repentance leads us into belief—not just intellectually but in the very core of our soul.  However, this is not a blind faith.  Our faith is not belief without evidence as the dictionary defines the word; we have good reasons for believing in Jesus.  Our faith is supported by the overwhelming evidence of the accuracy of biblical prophecy and the eyewitness testimony of the apostles and prophets.  There are a number of really good books and other resources that explain in detail all of the evidence for Christianity.  Some of these are Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands A Verdict, and one of my favorite books, Mere Christianity by CS Lewis.  I’d also highly recommend Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace.  All of these authors started out as atheists attempting to prove the claims of Christianity to be false, but in every case, when they dug into the evidence they could no longer deny the truth, that Jesus is Lord.  

Belief in Christ requires knowledge about Him, and our knowledge of Jesus only comes from Scripture. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” When we read the Bible, we gain the knowledge that makes it possible for us to repent and believe, and as believers, the Holy Spirit gives us understanding. But with that knowledge and understanding, we must apply it to our lives, or it has no value to us. As we study the word and live out our faith, it grows stronger, and our relationship with Christ grows deeper.   

Unlike Chinese Noodle Cookies, where you can substitute butterscotch chips for chocolate chips, You cannot substitute the ingredients in the recipe for faith.  If we ignore the recipe and substitute belief with doubt, or throw in a dash of fear, we won’t have faith; we’ll just be left with nothing but a hot mess.  If we want our faith to look like the picture in the recipe book we need to use the right ingredients and follow the instructions.  Like sin, doubt and fear are like yeast, and Paul warns that just a little “yeast works itself through the whole batch of dough (Galatians 5:9). These things will corrupt your faith and leave you unsatisfied.     

The Apostle Thomas struggled with doubt. After Christ had been buried in the tomb and the apostles were hiding away, after the womenfolk came to tell them that Christ had risen from the grave, Thomas, dear Thomas, blurted out, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”  Days later, Jesus appeared to him suddenly and He said, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. But believe!” (John 20:25-27)  

He didn’t have to, but Jesus provided the evidence Thomas asked for. The blind faith crowd might say, Well, Jesus rebuked him for requiring evidence in the first place.  He shouldn’t need evidence for faith.” But that’s not why Jesus rebuked him. Thomas had spent the last three years of his life following Jesus Christ. He was one of the twelve. He’d seen the miracles, the healings, the resurrections. He had performed miracles himself that he never could have imagined. Thomas sat at the feet of the Messiah and heard the teachings and prophecies from Jesus about His own death and resurrection and the salvation that would be offered to the entire world through Him. Thomas was there for all of it. He had the knowledge and the evidence that Jesus was exactly who He said He was. Despite all that, Christ showed his disciple grace, and He honored Thomas’s demand for evidence of His resurrection. And all Thomas could do in a moment of repentance was to reply, “My Lord and my God!” (20:28)

If you have doubt in your life, if you are struggling with fear, take it straight to Jesus in prayer.  He is merciful and full of grace.  Get into the Word and really read it.  I promise the answers you need are in there.  If you don’t understand what you’re reading, ask a pastor or find a knowledgeable Christian friend who is mature in their faith and ask them to help guide you through it.  Lay your doubt at the foot of the cross.  He will help you through it.  Matthew 11:28 says,  “Come to me, all of you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.”


Our recipe is starting to take shape. We have the first ingredient: repentance. We’ve added the second ingredient: belief. We’ve mixed them together, and now it’s time to add the third ingredient: trust. Just as belief grows through knowledge and understanding, trust grows through the experience of promises kept. God is trustworthy, meaning He is worthy of our trust in Him. God has demonstrated His faithfulness by keeping His promises to the nation of Israel and in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, who has proven Himself to be the promised Messiah, the One who would come to deliver His people. He has been faithful to us by rescuing us from the slavery of sin and by the gift of the Holy Spirit to all who repent and believe. The evidence is overwhelming, and our experience is undeniable. Because of these kept promises, we can trust in the future promise of eternity with Jesus Christ. We are guaranteed eternal life with Him, and He is faithful to His Word. The writer of Hebrews tells us,

“God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls” (Hebrews 6:18-19a). 

God has given us His guarantee by sealing His promise with the gift of the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Spirit in us is like a down payment, for lack of a better term. The Spirit is God Himself, guiding us and transforming us into His holy image. As Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” and heirs to the promises of God. Our experience with the presence of the Holy Spirit in us demonstrates that God is trustworthy to keep His future promise of eternal life. Through our faith in Christ, we have hope for the age to come. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” When we turn our lives over to Christ, the presence of faith in us becomes itself the evidence of God’s trustworthiness because it’s not a faith of our own making but rather a faith with which He has empowered us. Because of what we have seen and experienced so far, our hope is not misplaced in those future promises of God that we have not yet seen but have only heard about.   


Our fare is nearly complete. We’ve mixed the ingredients and followed the recipe. Now it’s about to come out of the oven. What remains is to add the finishing touches. In those food competitions on TV, the final presentation is called plating, where they add garnishments and arrange the food in a way that makes it visually appealing. A good presentation can make a world of difference. And I hope you can follow my train of thought here, but in a similar way, genuine faith will manifest itself in amazing and beautiful ways through our obedience. We demonstrate our devotion to God when we present ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice. A demonstration of obedience makes all the difference in the world when it naturally flows out of genuine faith. 

Obedience is not just holy living but also declaring our faith to the world. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” If we truly believe and trust in Jesus, our enthusiasm will lead us to share it with the world; we won’t be able to hold it in. And if we love others the way God loves them, then we, like Him, desire for all to be saved. Salvation only comes from hearing the good news about Jesus Christ, and if we don’t share the gospel message, how else will they discover the unending, steadfast love of God? It is what the Lord has commanded us to do here on earth, and we do it gladly. 

God has given us a message to deliver, and the message is this: “Anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.” (John 3:36). According to this verse, disobedience is opposition to belief. Without obedience, we demonstrate that our faith is not fully developed. If we have truly repented from our sins and turned to God, then our daily lives will reflect our deeply held beliefs in thought, word, and deed; perhaps not immediately, but the desire for living sanctified lives is implanted into our hearts by the presence of the Holy Spirit.     

In Paul’s introduction to the Romans, he writes, “Through him we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles on behalf of his name” (Romans 1:5). When he talks about the obedience of faith, it’s not just a result of faith but is itself faith in action. James, the brother of Jesus, explains this further:

“How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.” (James 2:20-22).     

If our faith isn’t producing obedience, the key is not to work harder at obedience but to go back and take another look at the recipe to see what else we’ve missed along the way. Sometimes we focus on trying to live obediently, but we haven’t followed the recipe properly. Often in those baking competitions, the contestants will take their masterpieces before the judges, and while their cuisines are visually spectacular, they sometimes don’t measure up in taste and texture. Likewise, if we attempt to live obediently without repentance or a full measure of belief or trust, we will fail the taste test. If we get the recipe right, our actions will make our faith complete.  

Ready To Serve

Real Christian faith requires a full measure of all the ingredients, but we also need to follow the instructions on how to apply the ingredients. When you’re following a recipe, oftentimes you need to do things in a certain order to get the right result. With Chinese Noodle Cookies, you need to melt and mix the butter, butterscotch chips, and peanut butter together before you add the noodles and the peanuts. If you add the noodles too soon, they get soggy. The marshmallows go in last, or they’ll dissolve into the mixture and lose their specialness in the flavor and texture of the cookie.  

With faith, there is also a proper order to how it’s produced in us. If we turn our lives over to God through repentance and if we believe fully in Christ and trust His promises, then obedience will naturally follow, and our faith is made complete. As the Word says, “Work out your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12b-13). When we commit ourselves to Christ, the desire and the power to do His will comes from Him. If we’re relying on ourselves, it’s like trying to make Chinese Noodle Cookies with mud and twigs. It is just pretend and has no substance. It is only an illusion of the real thing. The true ingredients for faith come from God Himself. Repent, believe, trust, and obey; “For there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”      

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