Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sermon-2-25-07--Got Milk? Faith's Call to Hunger

Lessons from the Got Milk Ads...

Drinking Milk will either make you dress up in really strange clothes or make you short and green.

Which is worse?

1 Peter 2:2-3

Faith Calls to Hunger

Several people we know have recently or will recently have children. It is a joyous and wonderful thing. We just sang the song—“In the Secret” and something jumped out at me recently about the stages that a baby goes through in its experience of the world outside the womb. The chorus says

I want to know You

I want to hear Your voice

I want to know You more

I want to touch You

I want to see Your face

I want to know You more

A baby in the womb is very limited on what he or she can experience of the outside world. The first things a baby notices from the outside world are voices. Experts say the baby recognizes a father’s voice even better than the mother’s because his is more directly going to the baby. If a doctor and a father are standing on opposite sides of the crib, the baby will most often turn its head toward the voice it recognizes best. The first taste of the outside world is hearing.

The baby’s next experience of the outside world is touch. They usually come out kicking and screaming—eyes shut. The first thing they feel is the cold air, the hands that are holding her, the towel around him, and the body that is holding her close. Those first few moments of touch communicate love, care, and a sense of belonging and safety.

It is tragically hard for both moms and babies to be unable to touch and hold due to complications or other difficulties. But before a baby even opens his eyes, he is experiencing the world through touch.

Then, ideally, as the baby is being held close to her mother, she begins to open her eyes and look around. Everything is blurry—experts say that a baby’s eyes can only focus on things 20-30 cm in front. That is just about the distance the mother’s face is from the baby the first time she holds her; arm brought up, head leaning over, crooning and crying. The first real glimpse we have of the outside world is the face of the one who gave us birth. Babies are designed to be fascinated by faces, looking from eyes to nose to mouth. That’s why today when you look at a door or wood panel with all the growth rings you see eyes and a mouth. Your mind interprets the pattern of a face even when no face is there.

As Christians we first hear the voice of God—the voice of the Spirit calling to our hearts to embrace Christ and seek His forgiveness. It’s often muffled by our pride and sin in our lives, but it gets through and we begin to recognize and comprehend it. And when we begin to turn to voice we recognize, when we give our lives to that voice, we experience His touch. We experience His closeness, the change He creates in us. The touch of God communicates His love, His care and our safety and security. When we respond to His voice, we begin to feel His touch. And then our eyes open up to the Glory of God. We begin to see His face, see His hand in every moment of life.

Only after we have heard, only after we have been touched can we “see” the face of God. It means we are brought close to Him, held in His arms. What was once far away and blurry has been brought close so we could see it, and recognize it. Eph. 2:13—“in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ”

For new parents, then the other things begin. The changing of diapers, the crying, the sleepless nights. One of the dominating forces in a baby’s thinking is hunger. Hunger causes them to cry, to want attention, to misbehave, to wake up in the middle of the night. Hunger is one of the dominating factors in their lives that they spend most of their time trying to satisfy. There are few motives in life more basic than hunger. We can live a few minutes without breathing, a few days without water and a baby only a week or two without food. Satisfying hunger is an immediate need.

Peter calls for us to have a hunger in our spiritual life; a basic need that must be satisfied. He compares us to babies. 1 Peter 2:2. And we must seek to satisfy this hunger with the same demanding, “I must have it now” attitude that an infant has. Babies are demanding because they are completely dependent on someone else to provide for them. Faith Calls us to Hunger—a spiritual hunger.

Hunger for the Word

Crave Pure Spiritual Milk—I know they can be powerful motivators. Nothing else will satisfy, nothing else seems right.

That is how we should describe our desire and craving for the essentials of the Faith. nothing fancy, just the basics—the simple, less difficult truths. This is a call to fully understand and articulate the essentials of the faith.

You’re not a better Christian if you can chart out all the angelic ranks, or if you know all the demonic strongholds and their names.

I know the latest end times timetables and the books you’ll be seeing shortly on the Iran/Russia alliance are interesting, but you’ll still be saved even if you don’t know this.

It’s great if you want to know the difference between a premillenialist, a post-millenialist, an amillenialist, or a preterist.

If you want to explore the mysteries of the Trinity and examine every analogy to see whether it is monarchian, modalistic or tritheistic. Great. But don’t desire these above the foundations of our faith—the things that are essential for saving knowledge—the things you will most need to share with someone who is lost apart from God.

We need to concentrate on the Basics, Salvation, our daily walk with God, what has our Savior provided for us, how should we live in response to His work,

The NASB points our that the source of this pure, unadulterated spiritual milk is the Word of God—“like newborn babies, long for the pure spiritual milk of the word.”

The Word for you and me is the most basic nutrition any baby needs.

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. Here is just a sample of how it deals with the Word of God.

Psalm 119:9—“PS 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Ps 119:43—“PS 119:43 Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws.

Ps. 119:105—“ PS 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

119:169—“PS 119:169 May my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word.

Jeremiah 31:33—“"I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people

Colossians 3:16—“16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

The Word of God was never meant to be on the outside, never meant to be a book that sits on the shelf. The Word of God was intended to be on the Inside—working to change us from the inside out—to provide encouragement in times of distress—to confront our selfishness--to reveal the character and heart of God. So we must crave it, hunger for it so we will consume it like a piece of your favorite pie.

The Bible is the clearest and most direct means God has for communicating with us today. It is the basic nutrition, the formula that we need. Our experiences, hopes and dreams as believers today must be evaluated, compared and understood by what Scripture teaches. Experiences today will not contradict the Word. All other beliefs that are foundational to our faith, are known only because God chooses to reveal it to us in Scripture. One of the primary teaching and growing roles of the Holy Spirit today is to open up, or illumine the Scriptures for us to understand and apply.

The Word of God is Pure Spiritual Milk—

Other basics are these--Worship—Worship is nourishing to the Soul. Imagine only eating once a week. That’s what some of you are doing if you worship only on Sunday mornings and expect it to sustain you all week. Worship is acknowledging God for who He is—it is devotion—it is allowing your spirit to be moved by His presence—
music doesn’t have to be a part of it, but music is a powerful means of worship.

Fellowship is another basic—uniting around others of faith as often as possible—the early church met together daily and we complain about twice on Sundays and once on Wednesday

The great cloud of witnesses also exists in this room from which we draw strength. While we are not perfect, true growth requires interaction with other believers—it is not good for you and I to be alone—we need each other united together as one body in Christ.

Prayer is Pure Spiritual Milk as we not only give a list of needs, but lay out our concerns for each other, as we go into the spiritual battle, as we also take the time to listen to His voice to give us direction.

Ministry and serving is pure spiritual milk—because it is not living for yourself only, but using the gifts and abilities God has given you. Rocky Balboa can drink all the raw eggs he wants but if he never works and exercises his muscles, he’d still be weak.

If you never use your spiritual muscles to serve others, you are missing out on some of the basic nourishment, the vitamins that God has in mind for your steady diet of spiritual growth. God did not give you your talents & abilities only to be used @ work, as a job or just to make money. Part of my role as pastor is to get to know you and your gifts and make sure you have the opportunity to use them for the Kingdom of God.

These things are the basics, the vitamins and minerals we must have in our daily diet of spiritual fitness. When we crave the pure spiritual milk, the basics and have a hunger for the WoG, we will be able to have a…

Hunger for Growth

It is by this hunger for the basics, the pure spiritual milk—the WoG, prayer, fellowship, and ministry-- that allows us to grow—not growing physically, but growing spiritually. You are called to “grow up in your salvation”. In other words, you weren’t meant to stay where you are, content to be saved. Faith calls you to grow in your understanding and relationship with God.

We know that babies who never grow are sick in some way. You and I grow through the WoG and the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the sharpening that comes through discipleship, mentoring and accountability to each other in community.

There are far too many believers who don’t have a hunger for growth—are you one of those? Content with where you are?
Do you think there’s no passage you haven’t studied, no sermon with anything new, so you’ve seen it all and have nothing more to learn. If you don’t believe you have any more growing to do, then you won’t hunger for it. .

More than this is the lie that you’re doing fine—that you don’t need the Bible study, you don’t need to pray or come together or that you won’t get anything out of coming.

It’s no wonder that when I am sick, one of the first things to be wrong is that I lose my appetite. My appetite is also one of the last things that returns to normal after I’ve gotten better.

A lacking hunger for growth is really a sign of spiritual immaturity. Likewise, spiritual maturity is not dependent on age but on one’s walk with the Lord and time spent with the WoG.

That’s why Paul could say to Timothy with confidence not to let anyone “look down on [him] because [he was] young” (1 Tim. 4:12). God will bless your desire and hunger for growth. And a young believer with a hunger for the Word and for God and for Growth is more useful to God than an old believer that has their craving satisfied.

The flipside is also true—an older believer who is hungry for spiritual growth is more useful to God than someone young who is apathetic and content. A true hunger for the WoG and for Growth will then create a Hunger for Righteousness.

Hunger for Righteousness

Matt. 5:6—“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” When Jesus said these words, He meant them. “Hunger and thirst” suggests a deep, profound, even painful desire that increases to the point of desperation until it is fed. That kind of thirst you get after mowing the lawn on a hot afternoon. Or the way your stomach rumbles after missing breakfast and lunch.

But this hunger for righteousness should not be satisfied with a single drink or meal. As long as we are growing as Believers, our appetite for righteousness should always keep growing. When we lose our appetite for the Lord and His kingdom, when we’re just as content with the world’s junk food as we are with the Word of God, that’s when we know that something is wrong.

That’s why Peter after commending his readers in 1:22--for purifying themselves “by obeying the truth” and developing a “sincere love for your brothers—from the heart”. After that he asks them to do even more.

In order for that love to continue to grow—that unity of the fellowship to remain strong—they must not only have a hunger for the good things, they must have a distaste for the bad things 2:1—“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”

Malice—which is a desire to injure,

Deceit—where you are decoying—directing attention to something else or Stealth which is hiding ,

Hypocrisy—which is impersonation or like stage acting an expected role,

Envy—wanting or being jealous of what others have, and

slander—which is speaking evil of someone

These things are incompatible with deep and genuine love. If you have a hunger for righteousness you will not want these things a part of your life.

Titus 2:11-12—“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,

We must hunger to be free from sin, hunger to be free from the power of sin, free from the desire for sin and because those things cause hurt and division.

You should be hungry for Righteousness, and have a Distaste for all those things that hurt and hinder relationships. Instead we should hunger to be controlled by the Spirit which shows itself in true love and forgiveness and patience with each other. We must have a true hunger for the LORD.

Hunger for the Lord

No other relationship can be as important to you as your relationship with God. Anything that hinders you, anything that distracts you, anything that comes between you and living for God must be removed and discarded.

This world offers many things to try and give satisfaction out of life, like relationships, alcohol, drugs, soap operas, your favorite TV shows, sports, activities—many of them ar good and fine, but they should not replace your walk with God.

Commercials constantly claim their product will satisfy your hunger or thirst. Politicians claim that they are what the nation needs, but rather than satisfying our hunger, they are depriving us of what we need the most.

Satan tries to make many things look and taste good, but when we actually try and live on his deceptions and lies, we slowly begin to realize the emptiness, the pain, the worthlessness of them. Some realize it sooner than others, some never learn until it is too late.

Diet Coke has only 1 calorie—some argue it tastes good—but what does it contribute to your nutrition? Nothing.

There are people who are surrounded by food they won’t eat or won’t let themselves digest—we say they have an eating disorder—anorexia, bulimia—very serious medical issues.

You and I are surrounded by spiritual nourishment in the Bible we carry with us, in the brothers and sisters around us—we are surrounded by opportunities to feast and fellowship around a banquet of spiritual nourishment and yet so many refuse to eat, refuse to partake.

As a result, you’re walking around spiritually under-fed and malnourished. If you’re not taking the opportunity to feast on the pure spiritual milk, you are spiritually anorexic. If you not allowing yourself to digest what you hear—allow it to feed, nourish and change you, then you are spiritually bulimic.

If you wonder why you’re struggling with deceit, envy, anger, slander, restlessness, worry—it’s very likely because you are spiritually starving for lack of the essential nutrients of the faith—these things are often symptoms of your spiritual condition.

Wouldn’t it be better to have a spiritual obesity problem? Where you are feasting on the choice and best spiritual food—tasting and knowing that the Lord is good.

Our problem may very well be that some of you believe that the Lord is Good, but that He or what He provides tastes bad, you don’t trust Him to provide what is best for you or that other things are better, more important or more worthwhile.

As a believer in Christ, you are invited to the Wedding feast of the Lamb—and don’t think for a minute that He is going to be serving scraps of that table—that He’ll be providing 2nd rate food. Jesus is extravagant in the feast and nourishment He provides—He gives generously. Think about it—if Jesus provided the best wine at Cana for someone else’s wedding, imagine what He will be serving at His own, for His bride!

We have tasted the goodness and blessing of the Lord—starting with Salvation.

We should know that He is not only the best for us, but He is the most satisfying, the most worthwhile, the only thing that has an eternal value.

Only God can truly satisfy our greatest hunger and needs. If you don’t look to Him for them, you won’t grow like you should.

Some of you may not be growing up in your salvation and faith because you are underfed. It’s hard to grow when you’re always hungry. Some have not grown up because even though you’ve been born again, though you’ve made the decision to accept Christ—you’ve never told anyone about your decision, never made that decision public—you’ve got some growing to do that can start right here, right now

Some of you have not grown up b/c you’ve never followed Christ’s command to be baptized now that you do believe—you’ve never, by your own volition and will deliberately pledged your life to Him by that demonstration of your dying to yourself and being raised to live a new life fully and completely devoted to Him. It is hard to grow an obedient faith when you disobey one of the first things we are called to do. You’ve got some growing to do by following in Baptism

Some you you are not growing because you have not united in fellowship with a church body where you take responsibility for the spiritual direction of the church and allow the church to take some responsibility, accountability and support for you. You may have some growing to do if God is calling you to join with this fellowship.

Some of you may not be growing because you have not committed yourself to a discipleship process. Some of you may not be growing because you have lost your hunger and thirst—you no longer crave the things of the Spirit, the Word of God, prayer—surround yourself with those who love Him and seek that refreshment and renewal together.

Some of you are not growing and will not grow because you’ve never been born—spiritually born again into the family of God. You may have entered into this world kicking and screaming in your physical body, but until you turn away from your self—turn to Christ and receive the free gift of forgiveness—you will continue to go through life missing the most important thing.

Do you want to know God? To Hear His Voice, to Feel His Touch and See His Face?

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