Constant Craving?

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

Who here likes fast food? I doubt many of you will admit that you like to grab hamburgers, pizza, chicken sandwiches, subs, fried chicken, and tacos as you taxi your family from one event to another. I guess we don’t want to admit to being one of the billions of people in the world who go to McDonald’s. It reminds of when one of my sons was young and he was just learning to read and he saw the McDonald’s sign and exclaimed, “Billions and Billions survived,” which is probably more accurate than “Billions and Billions served.” But what I am seeing is that none of you admit to casting your lot with the billions served at Mickey D’s. Actually, I love you, but you are liars! I have met too many of you at McDonald’s, especially after church on Sunday nights. We don’t like to admit it, but we often choose the quick meal that accommodates our busy and fast-paced lives.

My wife does not like fast food and eats it only out of necessity. However, there was a time when she liked fast food. Well, one type of fast food and for only a short season. Any guesses when that season of her life was? When she was pregnant. When she was expecting, she would get a craving for a whopper from Burger King. For a while in our marriage, we ate a lot of whoppers when babies were coming every few years. I even put on some sympathy pregnancy weight to identify with Lori. I would get so excited when she starting wanting a whopper and we hadn’t taken a pregnancy test yet. I just knew whoppers, both the burger and the baby, were on their way. Now in our family, there are no babies and no whoppers! No more constant cravings for whoppers – it was just temporary.

I am wondering if your cravings are just temporary like Lori’s were during her pregnancy and I am not just talking about what you put in your mouth. Do you have a daily hunger and thirst for Christ or do you have just temporary cravings for Christ? Maybe you are like Nancy Leigh DeMoss who once confessed, “A number of years ago, after going through an 18 month period in which my schedule had been unusually grueling. I woke up one day and realized that I had become a spiritual fast-food junkie … Oh, I usually managed to get in some sort of spiritual meal by reading a passage or a devotional or listening to a sermon. But all too frequently that meal had come to consist of hurriedly reading a short passage of Scripture just before running out the door to accomplish one more thing for God. Spiritually, I was living in fast-food drive-thrus. I was having my devotions, if you could call it that. But I wasn’t having devotion.”[1]

Maybe today you resonate with Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ confession? If you had to admit it, you are not fully devoted to Christ. Join the club! Let’s read about a group of people who followed Jesus to the point that they chased Jesus back and forth across the Sea of Galilee. They even wanted to make Him king! But there was a problem. Let’s find out what the problem was as we read John 6:22-71. But there is also warning. You and might need to go on a different diet where your spiritual appetite and palate will grow to replace things you are consuming now! Read John 6:22-71!

Did you catch the problem as I read John 6? I’ll form it in a question: do you just have temporary cravings for Christ? Here is how to find out if your cravings for Christ are just temporary. I call these the symptoms of making Christ just a temporary craving:

  • Chasing after the next big thing (v. 26). And this can even be very spiritual. You are looking for signs – signs that Jesus is doing something miraculous. You look back to that miracle in your life or in church and want to go back to that day. It could be that camp experience or Vacation Bible School when you first Christ saved you. It could be that worship song that helped you through a hard time. It could be the so-called “glory years” of your church experience. The Jews who chased Jesus around the lake wanted another sign. Jesus says this explicitly in verse 26, “Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” Jesus was referring to the day before when He miraculously fed 5000 men and their families with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Are you chasing after the next big thing or success? That is the first symptom of having Christ just as a temporary craving in your life. The second is that you are…
  • Working for your food instead of receiving grace. (v. 27) My Grampie Knowlton instilled in his family, which was passed onto his children and grandchildren that a person is to work hard and not to be dependent upon others, while at the same time helping others in need. I guess you learn, like my grandfather did, that you have to fend for yourself when you are just 14 years old and are sent out from your house during the Great Depression because you are getting to be too big a mouth to fill. In some ways that work ethic has served our family well as most of Grampie’s children and grandchildren are teachers, nurses, and doctors. But Jesus makes it clear that life, eternal life, is so much more in verse 27, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” Before I explain further, I need to address a question that you might be asking: Is Jesus teaching us that we must work for our salvation? We can find the answer by reading this verse very carefully, especially the second part of the verse. Jesus says, “Work … for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” Don’t miss that last part because the Jews did. They focus on the working part, but not the giving part. But it begs the question: what is Jesus giving us? ANSWER: Everything! Eternal life! Food! Even the work! An example may be my daughter who recently got a job. How did she get the interview? I heard about it from a friend and told her. Who had to drive her to the interview? Lori and I did. Now who has to drive her each morning to work? I do! And who picks her up each workday? Her mother or her grandparents! Who provides the food for her lunch? I do! But who is the one working? She is! And who provided the job? God our Father! This helps us to remember that all we have is because of God’s grace! But grace has to be received and acted upon. This is critical and will not only help us understand the rest of what Jesus is teaching, but also how we live our lives. Jesus gives us grace to receive or reject. If we receive it, it will nourish us to do God’s work and will. If we reject it, we will walk away from the only thing that will truly nourish and sustain us. And it is in the leaning hard on Christ and receiving His grace that you will be able to make it through the difficult times – the times when nothing else will satisfy. That is your work each day – your most important work. We see this clearly when the Jews ask Jesus in verse 28, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” and Jesus responds in verse 29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” Your most important work each day is to wake up and pray for God to help you believe in Jesus whom He has sent. And at lunch, you need to pray, “Father, help me to believe in Your Son Jesus whom you have sent into my life and into this school or workplace or community or home.” Are you going to receive and act upon Christ’s grace or you going to buy into the fallacy that you are working for your own food? That is the second symptom of Christ just being a temporary craving in your life. The third is this…
  • Wanting “comfort food” over coming to the Father. (v. 32, 44-45) I have to admit this is very convicting for me personally. I love my food and my comforts. Have you settled for the belief that a good life is to be married and have children, to have a nice house, a good paying job, some nice vacations, a comfortable recliner or two to watch your favourite flick or show and to eat whatever you want? We may even pursue being the upper crust of society. I recently watched a show about the history of bread. Ironically, to become the upper crust of society is to choose a less nutritious bread. The aristocracy would get the bread that wasn’t burnt, but also was fluffier than the hearty bread served to the common worker. There is a lesson in that today. Our pursuits of comfort may fatten our bodies, but they also bring leanness to our soul. Proof is that these pursuits of comfort consume more of our time than coming to the Father. Now food is not all bad! It gives us energy to make it through the day. God created food as good, but also to teach us so much more. The best times of life involve food – think of celebrations – they always have food. It was the physicist Richard Feynman who said, “All life is fermentation.” Yeast ferments to make bread and grapes ferment to make wine. These staples, bread and wine, are the center piece of our fellowship meals and what so often enriches our bodies and souls as we eat and drink them together. But there is something even more than bread and wine that sustains us as Jesus taught us when He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “God humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (c.f. Matthew 4:4) You see as Nancy Leigh DeMoss reminds us, “The more you taste of the Word of God, the more you will long for it. The more you partake of Jesus, the Bread of Life, the more you will hunger for Him. If you do not have an appetite for spiritual food, there is a good chance you have not been fueling that appetite.”[2] Instead, Jesus wants us to know in John 6:32, “Truly, truly I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.” And what is that bread? It is the Word of God – both the Incarnate and written Word of God! Jesus goes onto explain in verses 44-45, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”

And it is here that we get a new diet. We move from temporarily craving Christ to find our daily sustenance in Him. And like all new diets, it is going to hurt. We think that if it’s good for you, it tastes bad, This is why we need to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). I learned recently about a woman who had to go through a cleanse in her body. She stopped eating the foods she was used to and it shocked her system requiring her to not get too far a distance from a restroom. Apparently, there is a term for trauma in cleansings called a “healing crisis.” That is what is happening to us when we stopping feeding on things that don’t last and start a diet of feeding on Christ. Our bodies may literally rebel as we crave the old things that we were use to. However, those things that we have been gorging ourselves on are in fact killing us. That rebellion in our flesh is called withdrawal and it is like going through a death as anybody who has tried to stop smoking or drinking can attest to.

Here is the truth: To experience spiritual life you need to feed on Christ! We must want Jesus Himself! Spiritual growth requires spiritual hunger and consumption of God’s Word! Your real work is to find what your soul craves for! You have to know what it is like to be hungry and have an ‘empty spiritual stomach’ to want to eat. Once you have found this “soul food,” it will last for all eternity. And you can only find this “food” in Jesus and only He can give it to you. To experience spiritual life you need to feed on Christ! Jesus says this repeatedly for emphasis. In verse 35, “I am the bread of life, he who comes to Me will not hunger and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” Again in verse 48, “I am the bread of life.” And then again in verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever…” If you grew up in church or around the Bible this is familiar enough that it doesn’t weird you out, but it sounds strange at first glance. Eating things that aren’t food is actually not as weird a concept as you think and is actually part of our everyday vocabulary. George Beasley-Murray reminds us, “We are more familiar with this kind of ‘eating’ metaphor than we may realize: We devour books, drink in lectures, swallow stories, ruminate on ideas, chew over a matter and eat our own words. Doting grandparents declare they could eat up their grandchildren.”[3] To say that you are going eat somebody is not necessary a desire for cannibalism or something sensual – but has the idea of consuming a person and for them to become an integral part of your life. Most of us can get past this metaphor.

But here is where it gets weird. The last part of verse 51 Jesus declares, “… and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” The Jews not surprisingly respond to Jesus in verse 52, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” If you know anything about the Jews, they are very particular about what they eat and they do not eat or drink blood. Kosher steaks are always ordered extra well-done. But Jesus steps it up in verses 53-57, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.” No wonder the disciples said, “This is a difficult statement, ‘who can listen to it?’” It was scandalous and a stumbling block. And we can’t just pass this on to referring to the Lord’s Supper ceremony as our Catholic friends do. They believe if you take the bread (host) and the cup as a sacrament, this is part of your salvation. Colin Brown explains, “John 6 is not about the Lord’s Supper; rather, the Lord’s Supper is what is described in John 6.”[4] This is more than an event. It is about an entire life. That you become what you eat! Having Jesus as your daily bread – He is real food and drink! As D.A. Carson teaches us, “The true bread from heaven, the true Torah, is Jesus Himself.”[5]

So the question still stands: Do you have a daily hunger and thirst for Christ? The truth and problem is that we don’t, at least not every moment of every day. We choose to consume other things. In fact, some of you will walk away today just like in Jesus’ day. He actually “got rid of the crowd in one sermon.”[6] This may be a church emptying sermon as well. That is okay because those who are true followers will be like Peter who respond to Jesus after most everybody else left Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life. And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67) All that Father has given Jesus will come to Him, and Jesus will not certainly cast out. (John 6:37) I don’t know who here is going to experience eternal life by feeding on Christ and His Words and who may be like a Judas and betray Christ. I don’t want any of you to have a temporary craving for Christ. So maybe there are some of you here today who need to respond, “I want to believe on Jesus wholeheartedly and find my satisfaction in him alone. I want to consume Him. I don’t want just His bread and other stuff. I want Him.” We are going to a sing a song in a moment that describes bowing the knee to him. Would you bow in your seat to the Lord Jesus? Others of you have felt empty lately and your soul needs to be filled by Him. You too bow! And during the singing, when you sense the Lord wants you to come up, you can come and take Communion to symbolize that you believe in Jesus and are satisfied with Him and His sacrifice. Just dip the bread in the cup. This far table has gluten-free only. If you can’t make it, just raise your hand and our Elders or Deacons will bring it to you.

[1] Nancy Leigh DeMoss, A Place of Quiet Rest (Chicago: Moody Press, 2008), 104.

[2] DeMoss, 130.

[3] George R. Beasley-Murray, John – WBC (Waco: Word Books, 1987), 99.

[4] Colin Brown, NIDNTT, 535.

[5] D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 286.

[6] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 311.

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Is Food Getting In Between You and Others?

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

Is food getting in between you and others? There are all sorts of ways that food gets in between people. Maybe you have a food addiction? You spend more of your time and money on buying, preparing and eating food than with people. Or maybe you have a food aversion? I bet there are some foods that you won’t eat and that has caused you to miss out on fellowshipping with others. When I was a boy, I remember being invited to a South Korean friend’s house for lunch where they served cold rice. I had always had my rice served hot and so I turned my nose up at it. The funny thing is that now I like cold or lukewarm rice, especially in sushi. Maybe you have a food allergy? You’re gluten-free and stay away from wheat products. Or you’re dairy-free and drink only almond milk. Or you’re nut-free. Maybe you’re a vegetarian? I have people I love dearly who vegetarian. If you are a vegetarian, what type of vegetarian are you? A lacto-ovo-vegetarian who eats both dairy products and eggs? A Lacto-vegetarian who eats dairy products but avoid eggs? Or are you vegan who does not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products, which are derived from animals. Or maybe you have to make special dietary considerations because of the religious or cultural practices around you? If you are Muslim or Jewish, you don’t eat pork. Jews can drink alcohol, but alcohol is forbidden in Islam. Many Hindus do not eat meat, especially beef because cows are considered sacred. I have travelled to various locations around the world and have experienced dietary observances. In Israel, you do not have cheese and meat at the same meal because of the Jewish practice of trying to not coming close to the line of the rule not to “boil a goat in its mother’s milk” (Exodus 23:19; 34:26). Believe me when I got back from Israel, the first thing I wanted was a nice juicy cheese burger. Then at another time at a mosque where I once preached in Pickering, Ontario, the food my Muslim hosts offered me was halal chicken and rice. Food restrictions often restrict friendships. Frankly, food restrictions show just how affluent we really are, that we can actually be choosy in what we eat and even more importantly, WHO we eat with. Many people in the world just want something to eat and it doesn’t matter much what it is! But we often use food to separate us. Food gets in between others and us.

Do you know what God thinks about all of this? Food is meant to bring people together. God created food to nourish our bodies and relationships! One of God’s big desires is for the nations to come together and have a family meal where He is the Father at the head of the table. The Apostle John’s description of this meal is found in Revelation 19:9, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” The Lamb being Jesus and His marriage to His Bride, the Church. In order for that supper to occur, there is an invitation. That invitation is still available and this is why we are on mission with Jesus and His Church to invite others to this supper. It is a supper for all those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord. Are you going to this supper? Later on, we are going to be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. It is an appetizer to the real supper that will occur at the end of history when Jesus comes back for His Bride. We remember what it took for Jesus to rescue us from our rebellion and make us part of His family and it should whet our appetites for His return to when we can be with Him in person forever.

The problem is that some are letting food keep people from God’s family; they are letting rules wreck their relationship with Jesus and His family. Let’s read about how God changed the rules about food so that everybody benefits. Let’s read from Acts 11:1-18 about how we should respond to those who don’t like the rules. Read Acts 11:1-18!

As we unwrap this story, let’s start by thinking about people who are starving. Imagine if severe drought hit our land and there was a great famine. But we had a storage of food. Enough food to keep everybody alive. And yet, we hoarded it for ourselves. This is the scenario of this story, only not from a physical standpoint, but a spiritual one. Acts 11:1-2 says, “Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” Now that sounds a little crazy if you aren’t familiar with Jewish customs. What does this have to do with circumcision? Circumcision was a physical sign for Jewish men to be daily reminded that they belonged to a covenant with God. However, they forgot that having a covenant with God was not something to hoard, but to herald. They were to serve and bless other nations and tell them about God’s love. They were set apart to be a witness of God’s rescue plan. However, the Jews, even the ones who became followers of Jesus, treated this covenant as club membership dues, not as a duty to call new members. They thought they were special because as a baby they lost a little skin. When in reality, they did nothing to deserve God’s favour and grace. They didn’t even have a choice in the matter.

My friends, I hope you have not bought into the same lie, thinking that you are better than others because you gave up a little for God. Jesus was the one who gave up His life for you. He is the difference maker, not us. The problem is that Jewish Christians saw themselves as the difference maker. “The phrase ‘contended with him’ comes from the same word translated ‘doubting’ in Acts 10:20 and 11:12. It means ‘to make a difference.’ These legalists (rule makers) were making a difference between Gentiles and Jews after Peter had demonstrated that ‘there is no difference.’”[1] What was making a difference was that Peter now was giving out the spiritual food of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which enabled spiritually starving people to live forever. Verse 1 said they “received the word of God.” We know that “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) The word of God is spiritual food that is meant to be shared, not stockpiled. This is why we can’t just sit here and consume God’s Word without applying it to our lives and sharing it with others.

One of the great ways of sharing spiritual food with others is sharing your physical food with others. I love how Christina Mayer, our Missions Intern, is striving to do this by having BBQs for her neighbors in effort to share the Gospel and disciple them. Maybe you need to host an end of summer BBQ for your neighbours to get to know them and show God’s love for them? Women, you have heard that the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. It is actually true for all of us. When you eat together, you conveying that you trust that person. You lay your weapons down and pick up your forks. You talk as you take bites. Probably some of your greatest memories and deepest levels of human interaction has involved food. Christmas dinner! Thanksgiving dinner! Engagement meals! Wedding receptions! In fact, this is the main point of this passage. When food gets in between you and others, tell Jesus’ vision of using food to fill people with love and His Spirit. This is what Peter did. Peter told the story of how he was in Joppa praying and then saw a vision of all the animals of the earth. A voice from heaven commanded him to eat. At first, he resisted because he was used to certain foods being considered “unclean.” In verse 9, we read, “But a voice from heaven came a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’ All foods were to be considered holy. Food is holy in the sense it links us to God. God made food to nourish our bodies and our relationships. Not that eating itself makes you right with God, but that food is now redemptive to restore our relationship with Him.

What caused sin to enter the world and break our relationship with God? What did Adam and Eve do? They ate the forbidden fruit. God gave them great freedom. They could eat from any other tree in the Garden of Eden, but from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they could not eat. Nevertheless, Eve ate from the forbidden tree after being deceived by the devil and Adam joined in her disobedience. Now, fast forward. Jesus, who the Bible calls the new Adam, came and lived a perfect life. He then died on a tree for the first Adam’s sin to pay the price. He redeemed Adam and He redeemed food. There is no longer any forbidden fruit or any other forbidden food because of Christ.

Do you see how this is a message for the religious who use food as a barrier to determine one’s relationship to God? It is a message for the Church. It is one that we need to keep telling ourselves. God repeated the vision to Peter three times as we read in verse 10. I suspect that you have heard a similar message before, but sometimes it is difficult to swallow the first time. It is heavenly message. Why? Because we put all sorts of barriers between ourselves and others on earth. What type of clothes we wear? What songs we listen to? What food we eat? What we drink? How we spend our time? How we spend our money? How we worship? These are all ways that we try to set ourselves apart from others. To prove that we’re not only different, but better!  This is why I am telling you once again that whatever issue you have between you and another believer, it doesn’t matter from an eternal perspective. 10 trillion years from now will it matter? You are going to be with people as long as they know Jesus Christ. That is the only real barrier. Jesus! Do you trust in Jesus because He is the only way into heaven? One the greatest things about Jesus is that though He calls Himself the Door (John 10:9), but He also calls Himself the Way, the Truth and the Life! (John 14:6)

He even identifies Himself as living water (John 4:10) and the bread of life (John 6:35). He used food to help people understand more about Himself. Remember how when Jesus was feeding all the people the Word of God by teaching them. There were at least 5000 men there. What did Jesus do when they didn’t have enough food and then was no Subway sandwich stores open? He miraculously fed the people with just 5 loaves and 2 fish. “In terms of addition, 5+2 = 7. But if you add God into the equation 5+ 27.When you give what have to God, He multiplies it so that 5+2 = 5000+!”[2] Jesus used food to teach His disciples that He was the one who would satisfy in abundance. This is why He made His disciples gather up all the leftovers and there were 12 baskets full (Mark 6:42-43). I think one of the reasons why there were leftovers was to show the disciples that Jesus had more people to feed.

Jesus used physical food to teach the greater spiritual lesson. The disciples forgot this. At another one of Jesus’ teaching rallies, 4000 people showed up and the disciples started worrying about feeding the people again. They hadn’t catered the event. Jesus miraculously feeds the people again. This time they pick up 7 baskets worth of leftovers (Mark 8:8).  There was more food for more people once again. You might think that it would be difficult for the disciples to forget the first miraculous feeding of the 5000 and so when the 4000 people at another rally were in need of food, they would have just asked Jesus to do His miracle work again. However, how many times have you seen Jesus provide for you and you still get anxious when you are lacking something?

This is why Jesus used food to fill people with love and His Spirit. How? On the night He was betrayed, He took bread and said, “This is my Body. Do this in remembrance of Me.” And “This cup is the new covenant of my blood, do this in remembrance of Me.” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25) What you are doing when partaking of the bread and the cup is saying Jesus alone is my satisfaction and my salvation. He is food for the spiritually starving. He didn’t save His life, but gave His life.

The really Good News is that this invitation to dinner is open for everybody. The Jew and Gentile. The circumcised and uncircumcised! It is open for everybody who trusts in Jesus alone. Food represents Jesus’ communion with us. It is a change that occurs from the inside out. Just like food when consumed changes us. It grows us. The Holy Spirit also comes inside and changes us. He grows us. This is why the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles as well. (Acts 11:15-16) We needed a change from the inside out.

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You see, food came between God and us. We ate and were forever tainted by sin. It became a part of us. But because of Jesus, food no longer comes between God and us and it should not come between us and others. It is time to eat up and be satisfied in God’s rich provision of Jesus Christ.


[1] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 448.

[2] Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 49.