Why the Formula “Works”

I don’t often get theology from television shows, particularly a show like House.  But Dr. House has a helpful saying when we are trying to understand why the formula works for some people.

You know what I mean.  “Ever since we began studying the Bible early in the morning the discipline issues in our home have stopped.”  “Our children love to do their chores.”  “They always eat joyfully whatever is set before them.”  “No one complains at our house.”  “Our children made a commitment to stay pure by xyz method and their first kiss will be at the wedding altar.”  “If you just follow the “teacher’s” teaching, your home will be righteous and happy.”  “No, we never argue.  Our marriage is wonderful ever since we went to this conference.”  “All my struggles with sin went away when I started doing this.”  The testimonials are endless.

But, when you try the same things they did, nothing happens.  No changes.  The wonderful conference, the new commitment, the great habit, the superior teaching—all of these are parts of formulas guaranteed to work.  At least they seemed to have worked for so many others.  Why don’t they work for you?

Well, as Doctor House would say, “Everybody lies!”  Yes, that seems like a pessimistic outlook.  Yes, it may be an overstatement.  But it explains what we have experienced.  The formulas don’t work for us because the formulas don’t work.  The testimonials are not true.

Why do people lie about these things?  Some lie to cover up their failure.  They believe the formula works and they cannot admit that it didn’t work for them.  Like the emperor’s new clothes, their “success” is imaginary.  But they don’t want you to know that.  They want you to respect and honor them.  They want to be better than you.  So they lie.

And some lie because to say that the formula didn’t work seems like blasphemy.  They want so badly for it to work that they “name it and claim it.”  Never mind what they see.  Never mind the failures.  The formula is working and they will promote that success.

Some lie because they are part of the promotion.  They have a vested interest in getting you to the conference or doing the activity.  They look good when they bring friends or they believe God will somehow reward them with the success they seek.  Like the “honest” review online about the weight loss product (the one where the product is sold on the same website) the buyer should be aware of the compromised position of the one giving the testimony.

I am increasingly convinced that lying/deception is an integral part of legalism.  As long as performance is the key to spirituality, the lie will be present.  It has to be . . . because the formula doesn’t work.

6 Comments

Filed under grace, Grace definition, Legalism

6 responses to “Why the Formula “Works”

  1. Mike Albin

    I have to agree with this. As a past “works” victim, I always wondered why I couldn’t get fixed like others did. I mean, I think my wife and I went to at least three marriage conferences and at least 3 years of Christian marriage counseling, and a little better, but not fixed. The Dr. House comment hit me rather hard while watching the show years ago. So much, that I remember rewinding the DVR to listen to the clip over again. “Everybody Lies”, especially us Christians. We want to make Jesus look good, when it’s Jesus that makes us look good. I have often brought up that phrase in conversations at studies and what not to startled looks and comments like “well, that’s not necessarily true”, which make it completely true!!! I even bought the t-shirt, which used to get evil eye stares from my co-pastor.
    I have found myself in more “real” conversations when I admitted that I didn’t have it all together, even though I was a “Pastor”, sometimes you could actually hear the collective sigh of relief in the room!

  2. Sunflower

    Sometimes it appears to work for a while……..after all, whitewashed sepulchres are…..white, right? And so we believe it is working. Ask any narcissist; pretending can get you a long way, and even convince you till you believe it yourself. We even attended a marriage seminar where we were told that men change from the outside in. So he has to behave right and eventually he will be Mr. Wonderful. Funny thing is, the man leading the seminar was such an obvious actor (as was his wife) but most of the people believed it. And can it be that some really follow the Lord from the heart and THEN try to make a formula out of it because they want to share it and don’t know how? (just trying to make sense out of my life)

  3. UnForsaken

    Sunflower, Wow. YOur last point is absolutely true. My family followed formulas for years, and there were always “new” ones to implement, but I believe that the success we saw was because we were Already open in our hearts. ( Unfortunately, we tended to confuse openness with people for openness to God . And people who want power use formulas to get it. You “need” the formula, therefore you “need” them and will do waht they say. And all the while, we were just looking for a way to be closer to God!) If only I had understood from the beginning thet to seek God first is to read His Word and spend time with Him personally , not try to get knowledge of Him from a third person! Legalism follows that method exclusively adn forgets God’s power , kindness, and justice.

  4. Sunflower

    I do have a concern about the ‘everyone lies’ theory. It has been used on me recently by a pastor who believed my N spouse and presumed I was lying. He said awful untrue things to me because he thought he knew who was lying and who wasn’t. Is that not judging? It has been used on me by counselors who read my very carefully factual journal and my N told them I’d made it up. It has been used on me by doctors when I told them my symptoms and they didn’t want to help me. After 30 years of being sick, sometimes extremely, I went to an allergist to just ask about my cough of many years, and he questioned me for over 3 hours. I told him the same things I’d told the other doctors and this one believed me and is pretty sure he knows what is going on. Though it may be too late.

    • UnForsaken

      Sunflower, I know Exactly what you mean. I also have varying problems that stump doctors, and they – Everyone – assumes want they want to believe. But we both know that what they think has nothing to do with the weird things we experience every day: the Real facts. Keep looking up for answers. It may seem too late but this is God’s timing . I will be praying that your allergist can really do something for you ! It is so sad that the people who have not believed us probably have not looked at the real truth for a long time ; they can’t recognize it or the ones really telling it! But the Truth can be our greatest comfort. Even when we are felling foolish, we Are able to see, with His help. My issues are far from over, but they haven’t lasted 30 years either, just about 10 . Recently found an anti – inflamitory diet that might help some , so I’m hoping to try it this coming year. All blessings on your journey, Sunflower !!!

  5. Recovering

    I am really beginning to understand that for those whom the formula appeared to work for are the ones on television with all the kids. The other 98% of us probably don’t want a TLC show because it just isn’t that pretty, it’s real. Let’s face it, they are getting paid to be on tv, and that helps it look even better. Who couldn’t do all that they do and have with that kind of income. Dave it is as you said, CIRCUMSTANCES created their pretty perfect life, NOT a formula. In the future I am going to remember this so I don’t get sucked into a depression that I just couldn’t make life work. Too bad they don’t show on tv the whole story.

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