Satisfied in Jesus

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
(John 6:35 (ESV))

As I prepared for last Sunday’s sermon on Matthew 6:16-18 (Jesus’ instruction on Fasting) something occurred to me that I hadn’t ever considered before.  If the purpose of a Fast is that, rather than finding your strength from physical sources (bread, meat, caffeine), you turn to God, the true source of all life, health, and strength, then the one who is Fasting should demonstrate in their strength of character that they have indeed been fed by “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4).  Jesus had Fasted 40 days, and was hungry (an understatement), but because of His intimate reliance upon and relationship with the Father, he was able to withstand the temptations of the evil one.  He was hungry because of the Fast, but satisfied in God.

I’ve Fasted before, sometimes skipping a meal for prayer, one time even Fasting for a week.  I have, on occasion, “given something up” for Lent, usually something that wasn’t good for me anyway, as an act of discipline.  The greatest revelation provided through the Fast has always been how self-sufficient I have become.  If I’m hungry, I can just run out and get something to eat.  If I’m bored, I can grab a snack.  If I’m down and depressed, maybe some “comfort food” will help cheer me up.  Who really needs God when there’s Bratwurst, Kraut, and a Cold Stout ready and waiting?  Fasting reveals just how dependent I have become on food, but more importantly, how little I think I depend upon God.

Don’t get me wrong, I think God gave us brats and kraut, beer and wine, steak and potatoes, fish and chips, spaghetti and marinara… a smorgasbord of succulent sustenance that we may eat and be blessed.  The problem arises when we begin to think that this sustenance will satisfy, because it doesn’t.  No matter how many times you eat yourself sick, and mumble as they roll you away from the table, “I couldn’t eat another bite…” – you will be back.  You will thirst again, you will be hungry again.  Until you can find that one thing that really satisfies, your stomach, your life, will always yearn for more.

Jesus said, right after feeding 5,000 people, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”  More than anything else, Jesus is the one thing that will satisfy our souls.  We scramble around in a maddening rush trying to find that one thing to make us happy, satisfied, content in life – all the while Jesus offers the bread of life, the living water.

Perhaps the reason why we are not satisfied in Christ is that we have never really gone to him to be satisfied.  We are content with an occasional nibble of bread and a thimble of wine, when He is ready to bless us so that our cup runneth over and our heart overflows with the river of life.  We don’t want to have to trust and depend upon the provision of another, thinking that our independence is some sign of spiritual superiority, when in reality we are starving ourselves of our one source of life.  “I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Perhaps we just haven’t been reminded enough of how Christ can satisfy our souls.  I direct my sermons so that every message leads us to trust and hope in Christ, but how often do I extol the vast treasure and the unsearchable joy that comes from knowing Him?  Not often enough.

I finished my sermon on Sunday with a quote from Robert Murray McChayne’s letter to a friend whose soul was troubled:

He is not far from any one of us. He is a powerful and precious Saviour, and happy are they who put their trust in Him. He is the Rose of Sharon, lovely to look upon, having all divine and human excellences meeting in himself; and yet He is the Lily of the Valleys,—meek and lowly in heart, willing to save the vilest. He answers the need of your soul. You are all guilt; He is a fountain to wash you. You are all naked; He has a wedding garment to cover you. You are dead; He is the life. You are all wounds and bruises; He is the Balm of Gilead. His righteousness is broader than your sin; and then He is so free.

Friends, know that in Christ you will find everything your heart desires.  Turn to Him.  Find in Him your strength.  Be satisfied.

Grace and peace,

SDG

While I was talking to God…

And your Father who sees in secret will reward you..
(Matthew 6:4 (ESV)

Oh, how sneaky Satan can be!

The last couple of weeks we have been reading through Matthew 6, the section of the sermon on the Mount when Jesus talks about hypocrisy in our acts of devotion.  Jesus warns us, not to stop doing acts of devotion like alms-giving, prayer, and fasting, but to be very careful that these acts are not done for the recognition and praise of man.  If you are performing for the applause of man, that that will be your sole reward.  However, if you are performing for the eyes of God, then your soul will be rewarded.

The problem is, this is a very tricky thing.  Satan, that “sneaky-sneaker” (a literal translation of “more crafty” in Genesis 3), likes to take the good things that God has given us and encourages us to abuse them.  You say you love the law, then Satan begins to make you a legalist, holding others to a standard that you could not even hope to attain.  You say you love the freedom that is given in Jesus Christ, then Satan tempts you to a lawlessness in which anything goes.  You say you love the traditional, long held beliefs of the Church, then Satan lures you into an inflexible orthodoxy that is all head and no heart.  Satan cannot offer you anything, he is not a creator; but he will always try to twist and pervert that which God has created so that we love the gift more than the giver.  You say you love the new contemporary movements within the Church, then Satan draws you into a shallow, vacuous, “experience” in which a lot of words are said but little is communicated.

I was thinking about this on my run this morning.  “Who am I running for?”  Well, I’m running for my family – I want to lose weight and stay healthy so that I can enjoy watching my kids (and, eventually, grandkids) grow and be successful; and enjoy a long life beside my loving wife.  But then vain-glory creeps in and I become obsessed with my weight and if I’m “looking better.”

I’m running for the goal of completing a marathon, and hopefully running several over the next few years.  I’ve wanted to do this since I was in High School, and I’m only now reaching the point where that seems possible.  But then, while running, I find I like to be noticed.  I see other runners and I pick up the pace a little.  I make subtle references  to my running(or in this article’s case, not so subtle), so that others will stop and say – “Good for him, he’s running.”

What a mess.

We do the same thing with our lives of devotion.  We like to say to people, “As I was spending time in prayer and devotion this morning…” as a way of demonstrating our excellent religious affections.  We put bumper stickers on our cars like (WWJD, and “God is my Co-Pilot) to make sure everyone knows that this is a Christian’s car.  We carry around Bibles stuffed with notes and highlighted through so that everyone knows we’re serious about our study – or we get new Bibles with all the footnotes and the genuine hand sewn leather cover so that others can see how you value God’s word.

Friends there is nothing wrong, in fact I encourage you, to pray and study God’s word every morning, to put as many bumper stickers on your car, to highlight, annotate, and study the Scriptures; against these things there are no laws.  But always keep your heart in check.  Make sure that your devotion is a time of sweet fellowship with the Lord; a time to hear His word for your life, and a time to offer thanksgiving and praise for His life.

Your life of devotion should be a lot like the time you spend with your spouse.  You share quiet moments together, working through the difficult times, encouraging each other and supporting one another, whispering words of love and adoration, developing a life-long relationship.  These are the moments shared between the two of you, never broadcast for others to see.  How inappropriate it would be for someone to say, “While I was whispering sweet nothings in my wife’s ear last night…”  But what the world does see are two people who are madly in love with each other, and who will be together until death does part them.

So it is with your devotion to God.  Let your acts of prayer, charity, and dedication be done in secret.  Let it be the quiet, intimate time with God that sustains you through the day.  Don’t broadcast it to the world.  Do this, and the world will see someone who lives in the love of God, and nothing, not even death, can separate us from that.

SDG