I enthusiastically confess I love the Food Network show, “Chopped.” It is a contest starting out with four chefs who have to create appetizers, entrées, and desserts in a given amount of time with ingredients unknown to them until the timer starts ticking and they open up their food baskets (with some additional basic ingredients available from the show’s fridge and pantry).
Each round, one chef is “chopped” from the competition and he or she who wins the dessert segment takes home the cash, the honor, and an almost insured boost in his/her own food-related business.
Sometimes the basket contents make sense, but other times the stress intensifies as ingredients are selected to be over-the-top challenging. For example, contestants might be charged to create an appetizer of, say, a bottle of root beer, a pound of Gouda cheese, and a can of creamed corn. The entrée might require creative use of, say, a pig’s head, a package of phyllo dough, and a jar of horseradish. For dessert, they may open the basket to a bag of fried won tons, a handful of gummy bears, and three avocados. Taste, creativity, and appearance are at stake.
I am always amazed at the results—and the talent.
But it’s the spiritual kind of “tough ingredients” of the contents of our lives, if you will, that intrigues me just now.
Permit me to indulge in a dollop of metaphor.
Were God, say, a “contestant” charged with making something of “us,” and if He was even one iota less than perfect, can you just imagine the difficult job He might have trying to create something good with the contents of our lives, so to speak, when we finally surrender to Him–particularly if it’s in adulthood? Not to mention the equally tough task He faces with the contents of any given moment in the lives of all believers dealing with the “ingredients of daily challenge”: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Newcomers to the event might reveal, say, several pounds of unresolved anger, a bundle of failed relationships, a magnum of sorrow. Returnees might present a passel of defeat, a flask of disappointment, a heartful of regret…
But of course God lacks no iotas; He is not challenged by “works in progress.” And when He views the often sorry state of our lives, He sees, as one preacher put it, “not us, but His Son, Jesus, the Perfect One.”
(And) in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:10-12, NIV).
St. Paul was talking, here, about the error of those who had been leading young believers in Colossi astray with the notion that salvation “depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (8). Paul goes on:
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (13-15).
The cross of two millennia past is the “essential ingredient of our salvation,” as it were.
But also a mystery, from our vantage point.
Somehow, in the spiritual program, we are at once caught up in a game of good and evil here in this time-constrained domain while at the same time free from the ticking clock in another realm altogether, having been forgiven and perfected in Christ. A realm where the contest is already finished. Done. The Victor, Jesus, Who won it once for all time at that cross—for us.
There, we “win” by putting our faith in Jesus Christ—even that faith provided by God (see Ephesians 2:7-9).
But, what of those daily challenges we still face in the continual contest between spirit and flesh?
Here is where it gets even better.
The victory is ongoing: (Being) confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
Jesus not only won the eternal challenge for us on the cross, He helps us daily. Indeed, He promised to “never leave nor forsake” us (Hebrews 13:15).
Some say the continual struggle teaches us lessons, draws us closer to God, and/or becomes part of our contribution to others as we “comfort wherewith we have been comforted” (2 Corinthians 1:4). Others say it’s a testament to the true freedom of free will so that no one can charge God with forcing us to believe. Many preach E) All of the above.
But it becomes clear: through this additional “grace-ingredient” Jesus, by His sacrifice, has provided for the day-by-day, minute-by-minute challenges, too, as we still face the clock.
Through the Holy Spirit, ours at re-birth, we have access to the wisdom, comfort, and guidance of the Word of God via the Word Made Flesh. Ingredients AND instructions. For the asking. Until the challenge this side is complete.
(Pause for commercial break: have you, curious reader, put your faith in Jesus Christ yet and received salvation through His sacrifice on the cross? Today’s deal: free while grace is available. Offer good in all areas. Promotional code: ASK HIM.)
On the spiritual stage, there are some benefits for later and others for now.
For the hereafter: treasures in that place “where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).
For the here: the fruit of the Spirit—“love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
In sum, what God has prepared for you today is this: Jesus took on the contest between good and evil for us, won it at the cross, and He is available to lead and guide us to the prize of eternal life with Him.
The plan even before time commenced.
Consider—and rejoice in—this:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will… (Ephesians 1:3-5).
And everybody who perseveres to the end of The God Show wins.
Image credit: http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=public+domain+image+of+baskets&qpvt=public+domain+image+of+baskets&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=8FAE233B763EA6E5EBAD0C39D919698E41128377&selectedIndex=126