I think everyone knows what a formula is. For some it is the chemical composition of a compound. Maybe it is a recipe for a cake. How about a conditional response like a force exerted on an object results in an equal but opposite force. Maybe you are into orbital mechanics and everything is in ellipses. What about stuff in life? Do you find that when you do something that is familiar you have an expected response. Like when you are nice to people they are generally nice back. Or maybe you have learned the formula for combustible engines, no gas = no go. In any case we know formulas even if we claim no connection with math geeks or engineering nerds or quirky chemists. We all know formulas.
Formulas are part of our world experience. Here is the interesting part. Before Adam and Eve ate from the wrong tree, we didn’t need formulas. Yep, when we consumed the knowledge of good and evil we needed formulas to make sure we could predict outcomes. Based on our performance or input we could expect an output. We call that reason. God calls it law. Before bad fruit we only needed one formula…God. He was the answer to all questions. Our job was to manage what He gave us. Our downfall was to step out from under that provision. We moved from the place of His covering and wisdom into our own reason, logic, self-everything and all around bad choices. Why? We aren’t God. He knows everything. He is unlimited. He has everything. He sees everything. He lacks nothing. We lack everything outside of Him. We see nothing other than what the world shows us. We live from deception since the ruler of this world is the devil. We are hopelessly trying to use our lists and reason and formulas to get a desired response. The problem is, outside of faith, everything is sin, everything falls short of what it could be in Him.
OK, background set here we go.
I felt like God wanted me to learn about what formula means from His perspective so I did a little research. First this is what the dictionary says:
Formula: a set form of words, as for stating or declaring something definitely or authoritatively, for indicating procedure to be followed, or for prescribed use on some ceremonial occasion; any fixed or conventional method for doing something; a recipe or prescription.
That is a definition we would understand. Then I searched the Bible in the KJV. No hits for formula. So I ventured out on a limb and I searched the Message Bible. Here are the two instances:
Matthew 6:13 MSG “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.
Matt 7:13-14 “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.
Here is Matt 7:13-14 in ESV:
Matt 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
There are a few words in Greek that are associated with the concept of a formula. One is a “recipe” like baking a cake but with the added emphasis of putting it in the oven. Another Greek word for formula is “the combination of words (logos).” I really like that since this passage applies:
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (ESV)
And this is the best Greek reference for formula:
5179 týpos (from 5180 /týptō, “strike repeatedly”) – properly, a model forged by repetition; (figuratively) the correct paradigm, based on reliable precedent for others to then follow, (i.e. the right example, a proper pattern).
And here is where it is used…wait for it… (mark):
John 20:25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (ESV)
I don’t know about you but I was blown away. Our formula is JESUS! Of course you probably knew that but I was so excited to find it this way by just following what God said…come on! God is that good.
Jesus is our way. He is the narrow road. He is the Kingdom inside us. His nail scarred hands prove it!
Under the old covenant of law relationship the nation of Israel had to follow a formula. God hasn’t changed but our relationship has. Under law the people were required to perform to receive. Think of a ray of light shining through the clouds. They had to position themselves in that light beam to receive. God gave them blood sacrifices to atone for their sins but their receipt of blessing was based on their position. Their formula was to follow the rules to stay in His blessing. When they moved away they were outside His blessing and came under the curse of a fallen world.
Under Grace He lives in us. We are as close as one. Jesus paid the price for our righteousness so we are always in the right position. Our requirement is only to believe. That’s it…believe. That is our formula. He gives all the time. We receive by believing. It really is that simple. God really is that good. Jesus did it all. We must stop living by formulas other than the one that was intended…Christ in you the hope of glory. Our obedience is to the faith. We trust in our loving Father and we receive. We believe in our risen Lord and we are made righteous. We believe in His finished work and we rest.
Now unleash the impossible!!! Our formula, Christ in us, will change the planet. We get to be like Jesus. We get to live in a perfect relationship with our Abba. That is a pretty good formula. Newton is cool and all, Einstein revealed a pretty powerful formula and I really like cake but our formula for a relationship with God is absolutely mind-blowing. Every moment of every day I am baffled by such an infinitely perfect but unbelievably simple formula. JESUS.