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Bryan Clements - Formula Faith

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Math works for me. It is logical. I know that 1+1=2 and that a squared + b squared will always give me c squared.  It always works.  Music works for me because it is mathematical.  As long as you know the formula you can make it work; no ifs ands or buts about it.

You may not be a math person, but I think that most folks are formula people.  Athletes are formula people – rituals that they go through.  Dieters – Three easy steps to losing weight.  Cooks – are formula people. 

I have discovered that we try to do the same thing with faith and God.  If we can figure out the formulas we can make him work for us; no ifs ands or buts about it.  We go through the Bible looking for what works for other people and try to categorize it.  Because if we can figure out the formula, then we’ve got it made. 

An example of this is the Prayer of Jabez.  This little book sold over 9 million copies in a variety of different languages. New York Bestseller list.  Based on 1 Chronicles 4.10.  People have purchased this book thinking, “It has a formula that will work for anyone.”

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray.  Jesus gave them a model prayer. He didn’t say that it was a magic formula that if said in precisely the right manner, in the right place, at the right time would produce exact results. He doesn’t work that way.

It would be nice to have a magic formula that we could rely on.  Some of the most popular preachers in America would have you believe that they have it all figured out and that if you do exactly the right thing and in the right way you can make it work for you. Just buy my book on the 12 Wisdom Keys and follow the steps and God is bound and obligated to provide results.   God in a box.

Other popular preachers will tell you that God means for you to never be sick or to experience pain and that if you do there is something wrong with how you are doing it. You are not following the formula, or even worse they would have you believe that your faith is defective.  Remember, James says, “When troubles come”. Because he knows they are going to come.

If someone tells you that you will never be sick, if your faith is right or strong enough, you tell them they are a liar.

Why do so many people buy into this preaching?  Because it is formula faith. The formula goes like this:

The man telling me this is a preacher, so he must be right.

If I do the things that he knows will work and

If I do the things correctly, then they will work for me.

And as long as I do every thing correctly then I am the one in control, and we like being in control.

So what is wrong with formula faith?  Shouldn’t I be able to see what worked for other people in the Bible and do the same thing?  Shouldn’t I be able to see what works for other Christians around me and be able to do the same thing?

Formulas would make it easy. Formulas always work.  But faith isn’t about formulas it is about relationships.  There are no magic formulas that work for relationships.

Can you give me five things that if you always do them will guarantee that you will never have a problem with your wife, your husband, your children, your parents, your friends?

No. We know better than that.  Relationships are dynamic, they are living, as we grow our relationships change.

Be sure that you understand that I am not saying that God changes.  He does not. He is the same God yesterday, today and tomorrow.  But, how we relate to him changes.  I hope that you have a better relationship with God today than you did last year.  That is the nature of relationships they grow and mature.

The Pharisees had formula faith figured out. They knew all the rules and they followed them to a “T”.

Luke 11:37-42 (NASB95)
37 Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. 38 When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. 39 But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. 40 “You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? 41 “But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you. 42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

The Pharisees focused on the rules and formulas of their religion and followed them well, but there was no relationship with the living God.  They disregarded the love of God. They didn’t care about relationships.

Relationships are hard work.  And there are no magic formulas.  There are guidelines and basic rules in relationships, but not formulas.  A formula implies that it will work every time.  Can you give me 5 things that if you always do them will guarantee that you never have a problem in a relationship?  No.

But I can find books all day long that claim to have successful formulas for relationships:

"My 3-Step Formula that Stops My Divorce!"

6 Step Formula for Intimate Communication

Even Dr. Phil has a Formula for Relationship Success

Don’t you wish it was that easy?  Don’t you wish that you call Pastor Rick on the phone and say:  I’ve got…..

And then all he would have to do is give you 3 easy steps to fix the problem.

Relationships don’t work that way.

We read the Bible looking for formulas and rules.  We are formula people. What would happen if, as we read the Bible, we read it as if it were a letter from someone who loved us? What would happen if we looked for expressions of His love in these pages and then simply responded to what we find there?

If we will do this we will find story after story of redemption.  We will find a God that desires for us to love Him and draw near to Him.  We will find a relationship beyond anything that we can imagine.

This morning we want to take a few minutes and look at this relationship.  We know that if we love God we will keep His commands. and

Jesus said: “You are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you.” John 15:14

Look at Matthew 22:36-40 (NKJV)
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus says that everything hinges on these two things: 


Love God and others. He didn’t say, “follow this list of rules”.  Jesus let his disciples know that everything hinged on relationships. 

It is not enough to just be in a relationship with God.  It is easy to say, “God, I love you.”  But He also says that we have to love others. “But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” I John 1:7

 Loving God is the easy part. He is perfect.  The hard part is loving other people, fallen people, people who make us mad, people who mean to harm us.

 That is another sermon; let’s just focus on the easy part for today.

The most important thing that we can do is to “Love God”, so what happens when we love God like we are supposed to?  There are no magic formulas, but there is a natural progression that happens in our relationship with God. 

1 John 4:18 (NASB95)
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

No fear, no punishment = a sense of peace


God provides peace when we are in a right relationship with Him.

Philippians 4:7-9 (NASB95)
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Galatians 5:22 (NASB95)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control

Romans 8:6 (NASB95)
6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,

Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)
3 You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.

Like a river glorious
Is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious
In its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth
Fuller ev’ry day,
Perfect, yet it groweth
Deeper all the way.

Stayed upon Jehovah,
Hearts are fully blest—
Finding, as He promised,
Perfect peace and rest.

As we grow in love for God, His peace grows inside of us.  Things that used to rattle you aren’t quite so bad.  We don’t have to fix everything.  We have God’s peace that allows us to not worry and turn it all over to Him.

When we set our minds on Christ and are in a right relationship with Him we will have peace.


Then the peace that God gives us leads us to have confidence before God.   We find this in Scripture in several different places.

Proverbs 28.1 says. . .

1 The wicked flee when no one pursues, But the righteous are bold as a lion.

(expound on when no one pursues) they have a sense of guilt rather than peace.

1 John 4:17-18 (NASB95)
17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

We can have confidence before God because of His perfect love for us.

What does it mean to have confidence before God?

1 John 3:21 (NASB95)
21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;

Once we have this confidence before God we draw near to God,



1 Peter 2:4 (NASB95)
4 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God,

Hebrews 4:16 (NASB95)
16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The opposite of a relationship with God is to be separated from God.

Relationship with God comes only through Jesus Christ.  One combination to the lock.

All the way into the relationship, not half way.  Doesn’t work with friends, mates or God.


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