Intro: Bakery in the store next door – fresh bread (Disadvantages to living 50 yds from the delivery docks of a grocery store – but also advantages…)
Fresh bread aerosol, candles, perfume?
There is something alluring about fresh bread – we are drawn to it. The aroma delights our senses, the warm bread hot out of the oven fills our stomachs, it satisfies our hunger.
It was the day after Jesus had fed the 5000 with the bread and the fish from the little boy’s sack lunch. The thought of that bread so captivated them that they followed Jesus and the disciples to the other side of the lake hoping to be fed again. Listen to the story – John 6:25-35.
Jesus recognized that we are often drawn to our physical hunger, when it is really our spiritual hunger that longs to be fed. He said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” But that is a hunger that we often try to feed with something else. We long for the fresh bread of God’s word, but instead we’ll settle for the week old package of twinkies in the vending machine.
God’s word fills and satisfies our hunger like nothing else can. The prophet Jeremiah said this, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.” (Jer 15:16)
Did you hear what he said there at the end? “… for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.” God’s word has a special appeal to God’s people. We know that’s where the wisdom comes from that we need to live life. We know that God uniquely pours his heart out to us through his word – and it is his heart we seek. Because I am God’s man, or woman, I know how much I need his words to sustain me.
God is partial to fresh bread. I was thinking about God’s people in the wilderness, and how God provided for their hunger with manna from heaven. The psalmist called it “the bread of angels.” It was nutritious, it was delicious, and there was plenty of it. But it had one other notable property: you couldn’t store it up. You couldn’t gather up enough for a week and eat on leftovers. You had to gather it fresh every day.
God told them, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.”
And as people often do, some of the Israelites ignored God’s directions and tried hoarding some back. I’m sure they thought, you never can trust God. Notice what happened when they did: “Some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.”
God was serious about trusting him. He told them he would provide enough for each day, and they had to trust him that he would – and he did.
Funny thing about fresh bread. Fresh has a time limit. A day later it’s stale and hard and it’s just not the same. For good reason Jesus instructed us to pray, “Give us each day our daily bread.” (Lk 11:3) He created us to need fresh bread daily, and nothing but fresh bread will ever satisfy our souls.
Now, I hope you’re tracking with me spiritually, because all of those things we’ve been saying about fresh bread are also true of the spiritual bread of God’s word. We need it daily – we can’t read a whole bunch in one day and that get us through three months without opening the book again. It doesn’t work that way. Each day, we need to come back to the source and be filled with the fresh, nourishing bread of God’s word.
There’s another important reason we need God’s word in our lives every day – why we must make it a priority to come to the word for guidance every day. We have a tendency to drift.
We rarely get lost overnight. We drift along and gradually float off on the waves, usually over a drawn-out period of time. And one day we wake up and wonder, how did I get here? How did I get so far away from God? Hearing from God every day has the power to counteract that drifting. You remember what the writer of the Hebrews letter wrote: “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” (Heb. 2:1) How do we do that? How do we “pay more careful attention”? By spending time every day in his word, every day submitting our lives to his lordship and to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Back in the days before GPS, navigators had to use a compass and a sextant to chart their course. They would regularly pause and take a reading, knowing that if they didn’t, even a fraction of a degree off course could send them hundreds of miles from their intended destination. And it was easier to make small course corrections when they checked regularly on their position and direction.
I need that daily reflection of God’s word as he reminds me of who I am, and whose I am. I need the frequency of it because I can so quickly forget. I need it daily because my soul will look for something else to fill it, when I don’t feed it from the source of life. I can so easily get off course, or as the Hebrews writer says, “drift away.” It is that sinful nature still trying to reassert itself, still leading me off of my intended destination, and I need God’s word to constantly realign my life with God’s guidance.
A daily time with God’s word will build guardrails in your life. On the inside, they act like the rumble strips that parallel the sides of the highway. A couple of feet outside those lines on the highway edges are those indentations that when you veer off and run over them create a seismic moment that triggers alert. It will send your heart pounding and the adrenaline pumping. They are meant to alert you to the dangers you are about to encounter because you’ve drifted off course. But if that doesn’t do it, on especially dangerous stretches of highway there will be guardrails. Guardrails are a bit more severe than the buzz strips, but if you ever hit one it will save your life. We all need buzz strips and guardrails to keep us going on course and out of danger.
We need God’s word in our life to shout the alarm – “You’re getting off course – danger ahead!” And that won’t happen with a casual acquaintance with God’s word. Only when we spend time letting God’s word into our life, engaging it on deeper level, laying it up in our hearts will it provide those life saving alerts when we’re in danger.
In the book of Proverbs, Solomon tells us that wisdom cries out for our attention: “Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD.” (Prov 8:33-35). “Watching daily at my doors” – we need that regular, daily realignment of our lives to stay in step with Jesus.
“Reading” the Bible and “engaging” the Bible are two very different experiences. Reading the Bible will expose you to history and facts and various teachings in the Bible. Engaging the Bible puts you into the Bible, walking within its pages, wrestling with not only what it meant, but what it means – to you today.
Paul wrote in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” We want everything to be easy and quick – get rich without working, lose weight without exercise or diet, become a spiritual giant without effort. Faith is built layer by layer – growing in God’s word and putting it into practice – seeing God’s faithfulness and putting your trust in him. You can’t take a shot or a pill for it. You grow into it day by day, step by step, word by word. It comes only through consistency, and it yields its deepest treasures to those not in a hurry for a quick fix. Faith is like muscle and you don’t build muscle overnight.
If you take the word of God into your head, but you never take it any further, that’s called information. The Pharisees were great when it came to biblical information, intellectually amassing knowledge, debating the finer points of doctrine. But they neglected to apply it to themselves. They refused to live it. They never oriented their lives to it – even though they loved to apply it to others. No wonder Jesus told his followers, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Mt 23:2-3) Information alone isn’t enough.
If you hear an exciting message that makes you want to stand up and shout, but you never take it any further, that’s called inspiration. We love to be inspired by a moving message or a powerful book. We love to go to seminars or retreats – but that’s usually as far as it goes. We come away with this incredible excitement and burning in our hearts to change and be more than we are, but once we get back into our usual routine, the excitement has leaked out and we’re back to same ol’ same ol’. Inspiration alone isn’t enough.
When you ask the question, “How will I live differently because of what God has just said to me?” then incarnation has begun. Incarnation is when the word becomes flesh. And when that word of God begins to change how we live, it is accomplishing what God intended. Incarnation can change your family, rewrite your future, literally change the world.
When the word is just in your head, that’s information. When it’s just in your heart, that’s inspiration.
When it changes your life, that’s incarnation.
There is a famine in the church today. It’s not always easy to spot, because we tend to look through the wrong lens. But if you go back a few centuries, the prophet Amos will clue you in: “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.” (Amos 8:11)
The church suffers from a famine of fresh bread – the bread of life. But it’s not from a lack of resources. A recent Barna Report says Americans spent 59 billion dollars last year on Christian products and programs. There are conferences and seminars, books and DVDs, Christian music, wristbands and wall hangings, boxed sets and plug-and-play ministries. You can listen to your favorite Christian musicians, watch your favorite Christian speakers, set at the feet of your favorite Christian teachers. But despite all this, there is still a spiritual famine across the land.
All of these things are good and can have a place in your life. But if you aren’t spending daily time engaging God’s word, laying it up in your heart and applying it in your life, they are all a waste of time and money. Do you long to see the Spirit of the Lord working within you? Do you desire to reflect God’s heart more than your own? If so, I have one piece of advice for you: Eat fresh bread. Let God’s word have its place in your life.
Posted on Sun, May 22, 2011
by John Roberts