I like junk food. I know, I shouldn’t, but it is difficult to go past a packet of Cheetos in the bottom of the cupboard. It’s the luminous packet and it’s crinkle. Then comes the intoxicating perfume followed by the blast of taste. Those manufactured flavours are like the morning jolt of a caffeine addict’s first expresso. It is all too hard to resist.
Junk food is so good. The taste is so direct. It’s gives us a punch of sweet or salty or spicy. It is the cuisine equivalent of the haymaker, all wild power and no subtlety. And that delicious food is so wonderfully processed. You don’t need to work hard to get the goods. Chewing is almost an optional extra. Junk food has so much going for it.
Yet, we eat real foods because we know that real food sustains us. It fills us up. It enables us to grow as we ought. It keeps on giving us the good stuff we need over the coming hours not minutes. Real food enables us to live. That’s why Jesus said in response to Satan’s invitation to make himself a snack from a stone, ‘It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’’ 1
People live spiritually by the word of God. But notice something interesting. We live spiritually by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Jesus has in view the whole of God’s word - the whole of the Bible. To live spiritually we need all of God’s word.
Real food doesn’t always appeal. Real food can be subtle or even bland. Some real foods are an acquired taste. They have such strength, depth or even complexity that you need to go back to the food again and again to acquire that taste. And then suddenly you cannot get enough. You don’t just appreciate it. You love it. Whether it’s a bit bland or an acquired taste all real food is good for you.
Real food has a bigger variety. Think of just some of the amazing foods of the world: Korean BBQ, Polish pickled fish, Italian chicken cacciatore, Singaporean Chilli jam crab and Aussie pavlova to name an insignificant number. Then think of the monotony of junk food.
So, what is the Bible teaching in your church like? Is it giving you real food? Is most of the meal the Bible taught, explained and applied? Or, is the Bible treated like an appetiser?
If your church is giving you real food, you’ll be taught all of God’s word. You’ll be taught from the parts of God’s word that melt in your mouth. But you’ll also be taught the parts of God’s word that will require some serious, serious rumination. It’ll be hard work to understand. It will require serious prayer to respond in obedience. But it will be real food.
Some parts are an acquired taste. The first time you look at some sections you think, ‘will this really benefit me?’ That is why we must take Jesus’ words seriously. Jesus said we live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. And if we take Jesus seriously then we’ll want to engage with God’s word – all of it. We’ll want our gatherings to engage with God’s word, regularly, deeply, consistently. And then suddenly, we won’t be able to get enough of it.
So, what is the teaching at your church like? Do the talks just skim the surface of the Bible? Is the Bible illustrative rather than authoritative? Is the context ignored? Are the talks full of practical self-help which fail to reveal the true and living God in all his glory? Is the greatness of God revealed or is the focus on how God will make your life great? Is Jesus mentioned like a talisman but rarely explained? Do the talks call the listeners to come under the loving authority of Jesus? Do they explain his saving work regularly, consistently, deeply and clearly? In other words, is your church serving junk food or giving you real food?
We love junk food – until it makes us sick and sorry. Junk food doesn’t fill our hearts and souls. It is gone so quickly. It doesn’t sustain us the way real food sustains. Nor will it grow us. We will be hindered - it is inevitable. Our lives will not be transformed to bring Jesus the honour and glory he deserves.
Photo by Peter Wendt Unsplash.com
1 Matthew chapter 4 verse 4 quoting Deuteronomy.