Friday, April 03, 2009

Hungry or Starving? The Problem of Malnourished Christians...

There is a very interesting discussion going on over at Grace Revolution called "Define Glory" which I encourage you to check out if you're interested in such things.

Before I got into that discussion I had this post banging around in my head and I think it's somewhat relevant so I decided to actually write it. Basically, my church background is quite varied. I grew up in an evangelical holiness church (arminian slant), started dipping my toes into the charismatic world later on, then went into reformed (and slightly charismatic) for more than enough years. After leaving there, we started getting major revelations of grace and headed back toward more charismatic things again because we'd been starving for the presence of God. That's a brief summary anyway.

But one of the things that I found very different in attending Glory and Grace as opposed to conferences I'd been to in the past was the state I was in when I arrived. I wasn't desperate. I wasn't begging God to do some huge thing in my life, wasn't after the proverbial lightening from the sky or voice from heaven experience. Just wanted to enjoy God and enjoy his people, and hopefully come away with some fresh revelation of who he is, i.e., get to know him even better! Whatever else happened I was totally open to, I was expecting to have some fun. Coming to the realization that I was no longer starving but content and happy in Jesus was beautiful. So much better than any 'experience' I've ever had, and I've had some really wonderful experiences. (Don't think I'm saying I'm anti experience, they are a natural outflow of being in a real relationship!)

I don't know how clear I'm being, but I've been thinking of 3 types of malnourishment among Christians, all 3 I've lived in at different times.

1.The energy drink Christians.

These believers are trying to live on energy drinks, you know, those very dangerous concoctions invented for people who try to operate on too little rest and too little real food. They are concerned that they keep very busy doing, doing, doing, and serving, serving, serving. In fact, they don't often have time to eat or sleep, so they grab an energy drink. These people are driven, driven to do more and be more for God. It's hard to relax around these people and it's hard to have a conversation with them because they don't have time for things like that.

2. The candy Christian.

This one I can relate to more. I think these believers try to live on candy and pink fluff. They really are chasing after every feel-good experience out there in the charismatic realm. They are looking for their next sugar high, but if you've ever tried to subsist on sugar you'll know that it doesn't satisfy you for long and it has virtually no value nutritionally. And then there's the crash...

3. The vitamin and supplements Christians.

Been here too. This one is probably most deceiving because people who take vitamins are usually assumed to be very health conscious. These are the believers who try to live by technicalities, by correct doctrine and theology. They search the Scriptures thinking they can have life by them, but they never eat the real food, Jesus. True nourishment comes through true food, nothing else.

Now, in each one of these circles (and I'm sure we could think of more) I've often heard hunger encouraged and spiritualized. That is to say, they encourage people that the more hungry they are the better, you know, "holy discontent", and it is true that hunger can be good. But it is only good if it makes you eat! Hunger that is never satisfied, truly satisfied, leads to starvation and eventually death. It's good to remember that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled, but often we are hungering and thirsting for the wrong things and wonder why we are never feeling filled.

The truth is that even if you're eating every day you can still starve to death or get very sickly and malnourished. We must eat good food, real food: Jesus. in John 6 lets us in on the real food he has provided for us:

"I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty...I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

"I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."

There are many starving Christians who think they are more godly because they are so 'hungry'. But Jesus said that if we feed on him we will not be hungry or thirsty! WE WILL BE SATISFIED!!!! That is good news!!!
So believers who have not learned to feed on Jesus will be hungry, but if they refuse to feed on Christ and try to feed on any other thing they will never be filled. They will slowly starve to death, and it will not be pleasant.

Now, the reason I'm not hungry? I am constantly feeding on Jesus! I'm grazing in his green pastures every day! He lives in me and I in him! How can I be hungry??? I no longer feel the hunger pangs that come from living deprived of his love, a deprivation I experienced when I tried to live under law. He is my good shepherd and he takes care of me and makes sure I lack nothing. Why do you think he told us to remember him every time we eat?

So when we are truly well nourished we can then truly enjoy some dessert! Serving, charismatic experiences, and study of Scripture and doctrine can all be very enjoyable and good, but they never fill us or feed us. Only Jesus can do that!


lydia joy said...

This is GOOD FOOD for thought!!

SLW said...

That was really interesting! People that are hungry, in my experience, are hungry for revival or experience, hardly ever just hungry for Jesus. Perhaps you've just explained why.

Anonymous said...

WOW !!! Julie, you really blessed me so with that post. I must say I agree with you 100%
99% of people that cry out more and hungry, desperately desire some kind of "experience" or revival or fire ... they are even desperate for more "revelation and knowledge of God" and that sounds so good, but the FULLNESS of God's glory is Jesus. You speak truth when you say we need to eat and drink Him all day every day, and in our unity with Him, experiences will happen, signs will manifest, revelation will come in abundance when we are not even looking (hungering) for it, knowledge of God will flood our hearts even when we are on the run ....
Thank you for your post and for seeing so clearly, you are always a blessing!
Much love in Christ
Suzy (from grace revolution)

Sheila said...

This gets my vote as "Post of the Month"! Great stuff, Jul. Thank you...

Blessings on your Resurrection Sunday!