I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like it when people lie to me.
I especially don’t like it when a pastor or spiritual teacher lies to me.
But I really, really, really don’t like it when I’m the one lying to you!
Oh, my word, two episodes ago at the end of Grow Your Worship, Part 4 I promised that I was going to tell you The Cake Illustration on Part 5.
Well, guess who completely did not talk about any cake at all on Part 5.
Yup, it was this loser.
So, today you’re getting a bonus episode.
It’s nothing more than a tasty, yet potentially lethal encounter with your favorite cake.
And, in addition to that, it will serve as a delicious conclusion to our Grow Your Worship Series where we mix together all the ingredients, bake it up, and serve it with your favorite choice of beverage.
And speaking of beverages, Truth.Love.Parent. is trying to get 100 brand new donors to commit to giving $20 a month next year.
Will you please strongly consider and pray seriously about whether or not the Lord would be glorified to have you participate?
On episode 464 of Truth.Love.Parent. I explained our current financial situation, and it’s definitely a huge burden right now.
And since The Celebration of God is a ministry of TLP, it’s being affected too.
I’ll link that episode in the description of today’s show. It’s called “The Easy, the Hard, and the Impossible,” and I invite you to listen to it.
And then I invite you to partner with us so that Truth.Love.Parent., The Celebration of God, and the other members of the Evermind Ministries family can continue spreading God’s Word all over the globe.
Will you do that?
I hope you will.
But what does that have to do with beverages? Well, as an incentive for becoming 1 of our 100, you’ll receive an awesome, super-sturdy mug from Truth.Love.Parent.
And — as everyone knows — a mug is a beverage hug.
And — with that ridiculousness out of way — let’s talk about The Cake Illustration.
Most of you should remember well The Faith Knife Illustration I used to help us understand why we want what we want.
Well, I can’t always perform that illustration in a counseling session. It takes a lot of time, and sometimes it would just be overkill.
But I can easily talk about cake.
So, I want to share this illustration with you today for two reasons.
Now, you’re not going to find any episode notes at CelebrationOfGod.com, but you will be able to access today’s transcript. So, you don’t even have to memorize the illustration. You can read it if you want to.
When you look at it online the “script” part of the illustration will be in bold, and my commentary will be normal.
Ok, here it goes.
Imagine if you will that I have two pieces of cake sitting before you. On your right is a decadent, beautiful piece of your favorite cake.
And for you sociopaths out there who don’t like cake . . . I give you permission to pretend it’s something else that you really like.
But — since this is the cake illustration — I’ll continue to refer to it as such.
Now, this is not your average favorite cake. This cake was handcrafted from scratch. It’s moist. It’s flavorful. It has the perfect ratio of cake to your favorite, mouth-watering frosting.
You cannot imagine a better slice of heaven on earth.
And on your left side is your least favorite kind of cake. But not only is it the kind of cake you dislike the most, this one has been frozen in the bottom of the freezer for a month and has just been thawed for this illustration. It’s old, it’s dry, it won’t taste very good, and it doesn’t even have the right amount of icing.
Now, you may have whichever slice of cake that you like. You may not have both, but you may choose whichever you like.
At this point, you have obviously made your decision. You didn’t even have to think about it. You had already decided which slice you wanted when I first described it, and you’ve been impatiently waiting for me to hurry up and let you have it.
Your mouth is watering, your stomach is growling, and you’re really looking forward to eating this cake — the endorphins are flowing and you haven’t even tasted it yet.
You believe this cake is going to be the best thing you’ve eaten in a long time. Therefore, you obviously want to eat it, and your emotions, words, and actions are falling right in line with what you believe as you reach your hand out to grab the plate to your right.
But then I stop you.
Before you can lay a finger on the rim of the plate, I say, “Oh, I forgot to mention that the cake on your left is a perfectly normal piece of cake. It’s pretty terrible as cake goes, but it’s totally harmless. However, I poisoned the cake on your right. It’s been laced with a highly potent dose of botulinum. Even the smallest bite will cause your body to seize, your nervous system will fail, and you will experience excruciating pain, and slip into eternity with your last experience on this earth being the worst torture known to man.
“I’m sorry I forgot to mention that. Now which slice would you like?”
Okay, let’s stop right here.
Obviously, as you have come to recognize, so many of my illustrations have to take a hyperbolic turn.
I do this because things are so much easier to understand when they’re presented in the extreme. Decisions over which people agonize for months when they’re presented as small and innocuous become so easy when they’re magnified the right way.
So, here we are. Do you eat the best piece of cake ever baked and die the worst kind of death before you can even swallow the first bite, or do you eat the cardboard to your left, not enjoy it at all, but live?
Well, the cake you choose isn’t really the point.
Far more important than which cake you choose is why you chose it, and — subsequently — what effect that choice had on your desires, feelings, words, and actions.
Let’s say, for sake of argument that you believe what I just told you about poisoning the cake.
Even though everything in you was prepared to consume and epically enjoy that cake, in a mere thirty seconds everything has changed.
You were going to reach out and take it. Now you’re recoiling.
You had told me — with a smile on your face — which cake you wanted, but now you’re telling me you want the other piece.
Your emotions were elated at just the thought of that cake, and now you’re disgusted and even petrified at the thought of eating it.
You wanted to eat that cake, but now you hate the idea.
Everything changed because you chose to believe what I said about poisoning it.
But here’s the thing. You don’t know that the cake is poisoned.
I told you it was, but you have no proof.
Your choice to reject the cake is entirely dependent on the fact that you have made the choice to believe what I told you.
And that choice completely changed not only the course of your life, but also how you felt about it too.
You see. You really can change how you feel about something. You do have the ability to change your emotions.
Your feelings, just like your actions, words, and desires bow to the whim of your belief.
But now we have to ask another question.
What if I lied about the poison.
What’s really strange is that many of you would have chose to believe what I said. Of course, that’s kind of ridiculous, and even mildly offensive that you would believe me to be that terrible of an individual that I would do that you and potentially risk your life.
But, you didn’t really think about that. You’ve grown accustom to believing what I say. And instead of being offended, I’m going to choose to be flattered by the fact that you trust me.
But let’s say that you didn’t believe what I said.
You stopped for a moment — mid-reach — and you considered it, but then you smiled as you thought to yourself, “That is just the kind of thing Aaron would say to make a point. I get what he’s doing, but there’s no way I’m eating that nasty cake on my left.”
You wouldn’t have believed for a minute that I actually got my hands on botulinum poison and would risk murdering you in cold blood.
You believe it’s a mind game, a simple test, a mere illustration to make a point.
And so you happily reach out for your favorite piece of cake and dig in.
You did what you did and said what you said and felt what you felt because you wanted what you wanted. And you wanted what you wanted because you believed what you believed about the situation.
Of course, you don’t know if it’s poisoned. You simply have faith that it’s perfectly safe.
Like I said earlier, this illustration beautifully proves the premise we’ve been discussing in this series. Your worship is intrinsically tied to what you believe about the information you have.
In this case, the information you have is what you know about me. That’s it.
But this illustration also reveals a deeper, and darker reality concerning faith.
I’ve presented two very convincing arguments. One of those arguments will convince you to choose the cake on your left.
If you choose the cake on your left, you will never know if the other slice was poisoned. You will choke down a crusty old piece of yucky cake, but you’ll live. You’ll never know if those couple minutes of eating gross cake was necessary. Some of you may even obsess about your decision for days to come.
“Why didn’t you just eat the other cake and enjoy it?”
But . . . you’ll be alive either way.
But what if my other convincing argument resulted in your choosing to take the cake on the right?
You don’t believe it’s poisoned, and you’re looking forward to the taste. So you take a bite.
One of two things will happen. You will instantly know whether or not I lied about the poison.
You’ll either finish off the cake and leave feeling very contented, or you’ll die in the worst possible way a person can imagine.
But you won’t know for sure until you try.
This is a painful reality about faith. You won’t truly know until you try.
Remember how I said that humans are such control freaks that we absolutely want to know everything before we make a decision?
But that’s not how life works, and God wants us to choose to trust what He says even though we don’t know.
In conclusion, I want to show you this truth from the Bible itself. Let’s look at the uncomfortable tensions of genuine faith.
And for that I’m going to read a number of verses from Hebrews 11.
Starting in verse 1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
That is our definition of faith. It’s an assurance of things we do not yet see. We’re convinced of it because we choose to be.
And then the passage goes on to say, “2 For by it the men of old gained approval.” He’s talking here of the approval of God. And then the author illustrates his point.
“3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”
As I said before, we don’t know that God created the universe. But He said it, and so we accept it on faith and gain His approval.
And then the passage goes on to talk about why Able offered the sacrifice he did. He tells us why Enoch was taken straight to Heaven without having to experience physical death.
We’re told that they did what they did because they believed what they believed about God, His Word, and themselves.
Verse 6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
But then the author continues his illustrations. He tells us why Noah did what he did. We learn why Abraham was ready to sacrifice Isaac. We’re also told why Sarah was able to bear children in her old age.
They each trusted God. They believed Him. They had faith even thought they didn’t know for certain that what He promised would come true.
But then verse 13 says, “13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises.”
Did you catch that?
Yes, Sarah gave birth to Isaac and Abraham didn’t have to kill him, but those acts of faith were smaller examples of the larger faith they had in God. The promises that Abraham and Sarah’s seed would multiply to be as many as the stars of the heaven . . . they didn’t ever see that come to pass.
Even Noah and Able didn’t live to see fulfillment of all of God’s promises to them.
And . . . guess what . . . neither will we. The chances that any one of us is going to live on this earth to see the fulfillment of every one of God’s promises is slim at best.
Many of us too will die not having received all of the promises.
One of the tensions of faith is that we won’t know until we know.
But another tension of faith is that we may never know this side of eternity.
As we lay on our death bed, we’ll have no more proof that the next moment will usher us into our Savior’s arm than we did when we chose to follow Christ; we will either have to believe it or doubt it.
So, how can one live with this seemingly unbearable tension?
The author of Hebrews explains, “but having seen [the promises] and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.”
They refused to live for the here and now. They were focused on the eternal kingdom with God. They were living their earthly life as if they were already citizens of God’s spiritual kingdom . . . because they were.
And the author then warns us, “15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.”
When we focus on and obsess over the world and the lies of sin and Satan, we will be tempted to live for this temporal existence.
We’ll stuff our faces with the disgusting cake of this earth, and we’ll completely miss out on the glorious delicacies God had planned for us.
Or, let’s turn that around. We’ll pass over what looks like boring spiritual realities to enjoy the decadent allure of this world only to experience torture for all eternity separated from God because we gained the whole cake, but lost our own lives.
Instead we must “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called [our] God; for He has prepared a city for [us].”
Jesus promised that He was going way to prepare a place for us. Do you believe Him?
If you do, then why do you live like you don’t? Why do you worship yourself with this life? It’s because you don’t believe what God has said.
You don’t believe His promises. You don’t believe that His way is best. You don’t believe that your heart is deceitful and wicked.
You call God a liar to your own detriment.
Moving on, the author goes back to his illustrations. He talks of the faith Isaac had to bless Jacob and Esau. He talks of the faith of Jacob to bless the son’s of Joseph. We learn of Joseph’s faith, Moses’ faith, even Rahab’s faith. But more importantly, we see that their faith did something.
It wasn’t head knowledge. It wasn’t detached from practical reality. Their faith was evidenced in the choices they made.
And then the author says this, starting in verse 32, “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection.”
One of the comforting things about faith in God is that He doesn’t make us wait until we’ve slipped out of this life to prove that He was trustworthy. Many times we receive the blessings of our faith in this life.
But this leads me to final tension of faith.
The first tension of faith is that we’ll never know for sure until we know sure. That won’t be until God provides the promise.
The second tension of faith we learn from this passage is that we may never know this side of eternity. We won’t know for certain the vast majority of truth concerning God until we’re in glory.
But here’s third tension of faith. We will likely experience many things in this life that will tempt us to believe that our faith is foolish.
Right after listing out those glorious blessings experienced by the soldiers of the faith, the author of Hebrews writes, “and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.”
My friends, our anxious, controlling, sinful natures are going to take every pain, every hurdle, every struggle and unkind word, every sickness, every financial distress, and — if we’re truly living for the Lord — it’s going to try to tempt us to believe that our faith is in vain.
“You see! You believe in God, but look at your life! You’re being made fun of! You’re being fired! You’re being imprisoned! You’re being beaten and hunted! You’re being sawn in two! Where is that God you believe in? You see . . . if he even exists, He’s obviously not a good God. He doesn’t love you. You’re clearly not doing His will. He’s not happy with you. Or, more likely, He’s not even real, and you’re wasting your life with all that nasty cake when you could have all the joy of any cake you want!”
But listen to how Hebrews 11 ends.
“39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”
Jesus Christ was the something better that God has provided for us. He is the answer, He is the key, He is the way, the truth, and the life.
When we put our faith in Him and His Word, it will not return void. It will not let us down.
Yes, we will have to live in the tension of true faith. We won’t know for sure what we want to know. We will have to constantly live out our faith until the day we die to know for sure that we will spend eternity with Christ. And we will have to experience a lot of pain and struggle in this life, and we will be tempted to doubt God. We’ll be tempted to worship ourselves instead of worshipping Him.
But if we do, we’ll not only miss out on the blessings He does have planned for us in this life, more importantly, if our faith was a dead faith, we’ll suffer in torture for all eternity separated from Him in Hell.
My friends, that was the Cake Illustration.
It beautifully shows us how what we believe controls absolutely everything we think, want, feel, do, and say.
But it also unveils the painful tension that is inherent in faith.
But here’s the thing. Even though faith in God will always require that tension we discussed, faith in this world does the same.
No atheist escapes the tensions of faith. No atheist will know for sure if he were right until it’s too late to change his mind.
He too will experience tribulation and pain in this world. He’ll have to make sense of the fact that his faith in himself and his reason isn’t all it promised to be.
All faith requires tension.
And the only way we followers of Christ will grow in our worship of God is as follows:
1. Know what the Bible says.
2. Understand what the Bible says. Really study it.
3. Believe what the Bible says.
And 4. When you experience the painful and frustrating tensions of your faith . . . go right back to knowing, understanding, and believing what the Bible says.
Obey God by living for His eternal kingdom, not our pathetic kingdoms of self-worship.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets and join us tomorrow as we discuss how to worship God better this December.
Oh, yeah, and go have some cake.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.