Go Deeper with Andy B, as he talks about spiritual food.
He reads a few different Scriptures, including Hebrews 5:11-14, all of which speak of food and sustenance in one way or another.
He talks about the way water travels in a flood, how it will always follow the path of least resistance. Similarly, we often ‘take the path of least resistance’, in many areas of our lives, such when exercising; we might cycle ten miles, but might not be especially fast or focused, thus taking the path of least resistance.
He looks at ‘seeker-friendly’ services, and how they should not be the only type of service in our church, because, sooner or later, we all need to #GoDeeper. It’s appropriate for new converts to have spiritual ‘milk’, but, eventually, we need to start having spiritual ‘meat’.
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So today we're going to be thinking about Spiritual Food. Let me just jump straight into the scripture so we can have some, er, nice gentle words to encourage us by as we look at what it is to have spiritual food.
So we're looking at Hebrews chapter 5, verses 11 through to 14, and as ever I'm using my ESV translation.
"About this we have much to say and it is hard to explain since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again, the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment, train by constant practise to distinguish good from evil."
And the context of this is, the writer of these words getting rather frustrated, that, 'we've taught you all these things, you know what you're supposed to do, we've encouraged you, we've equipped you, and you're still not getting it'.
That really is how this feels to be framed.
And it's in the midst of a whole bunch of other stuff. And this is kind of almost crowbarred in.
Erm, it, it does belong where it is, but if we're looking at this grammatically, it doesn't fit, because it's not part of the other narrative. It fits because it's important!
So although at first glance you might think, well, it doesn't really belong there really, it really does, and there's no error in Scripture.
But this is sort of crowbarred in because the writer is trying to make a point.
You're, you, you've had your milk, and now you're supposed to be on food. And yet we're still back to bottle feeding you.
Where's the steak? Where's the meat?
That's kind of what is, is being spoken of.
I don't know if you've ever had a flood in your home? We've had more than one. Erm, what I can tell you about a flood, that I have observed, is when a flood happens at the top, it's going to go down. Gravity. That's the obvious bit.
But the bit that you don't really appreciate it, until you see it at work, is water will always flow the path of least resistance. It'll follow gravity down. We know water's gonna to sink because of gravity.
However, when water does go down because of gravity doesn't go down in a straight line, necessarily. It's gonna go in a sort of a jigidi jaggedy going down steps kind of way, and wherever it can go, that's easiest, that's where it's going to go.
And I've watched water finding the easiest path and then disappear into the thing, and come back down somewhere else. And sometimes when you're trying to track a flood, and you think, well, the waters come in here, what, there's nothing above it.
Well, it's 'cos it's, it's tracked, maybe 5 or 10 metres horizontally 'cos it's hit apart, an impermeable layer. So it's going to move across that, then then it finds another way of getting down.
And in the same way, with our spiritual journeys, so often we're looking for that path of least resistance.
And we're looking at spiritual food here. We're looking about meat versus milk.
Erm, as a Christian I, I found faith at 7. And when I was in Sunday school at that time there was some really good teaching. I was really blessed, erm, and privileged to have some really good, Bible based teaching. But as good as that was that wasn't enough for the rest of my life. I need to keep on re absorbing it into that. I need more and more and more of that.
We can't stand still as Christians. We need to be pushing forwards.
Just like the water's gonna find the path of least resistance, if we're not careful, we will too. Laziness is very easy to creep in!
Two cyclists. Side by side at the start of a ride. And they're gonna cycle for 10 miles. Who's going to get there first? Well the person that goes the fastest, the most consistent, that keeps going?
They're both going to do those 10 miles, in this little image in my mind.
But the person that's cycling really slowly, that's just coasting along, and getting by. Well they're gonna get to the 10 mile mark. But they're, they're not really going to be working and learning and getting better.
The person that's really pushing hard, and trying to make the best of the corners, and the up hills, and the down hills, and working on technique? They're gonna make the best progress.
They might cover the same distance, but progress is not the same as distance!
As Christians in the Western world, we've become used to, haven't we, Seeker Friendly Services? Nothing wrong with a seeker friendly service!. It's good to have church services which can encourage people to engage with the Gospel.
But having been, erm, a Christian for a long time, a church leader, I've been in ministry,. What I see is we have lots of seeker friendly services, and we don't really have any meat.
As churches we are so busy providing first time opportunities, we're forgetting to encourage the faithful. The people who actually are coming to church every week. And church is not supposed to be an inclusive club for everybody, that can come along. That's not actually what church is, when we read Scripture. It's supposed to be more of an exclusive club, if you want to look at it inclusive and exclusive. Somewhere that we go for a specific pur, purpose, to worship, and edify each other.
The issue that I have, with too many seeker friendly services, is that we miss the depth, and the meat, of this good book. And we end up teaching milk all the time.
You can go online and you can look at the 10 top podcast preachers, pastors, worship songs. You can get the best 10 of everything. We're very selective now. We can be very selective. Maybe we should be slightly selective. We should be selective in what we're hearing.
But it's very easy to access, on demand, whatever we want.
COVID if, if it's, if it's done anything else, if it's done anything else, it's helped us to understand that we can easily access sermons, worship pastors from all around the world. We can get the best of everything through our smart screen.
But that isn't really church!
It can be a substitute for church when we can't do church. As somebody who's work shifts and can't get there on a Sunday, and I've met many people who have more, more difficulties than that, they will never be there on a Sunday morning. So having these other things are a really really good thing!
But on their own, they're never going to be quite enough. We need to be with other Christians who can edify us, encourage us build us, challenge us, hold us accountable. That's what church is all about. Church is not supposed to be an inclusive club.
It's actually supposed to be far more exclusive. It isn't for everybody that fancies turning up.
Anybody should be welcome. But church shouldn't be designed around the people that don't know Jesus.
When you look at the church services, and the issue that Paul's taking of churches, when they're, they're so busy trying to 'look at me, I'm speaking in tongues', he's making the point that what's the point in speaking in tongues? You need to be prophesying and doing other things that are far more important for a church service.
By no means do I think that a church should be exclusive, that we should exclude people.
But we get this inclusive, exclusive model getting very very mixed up, and muddled, because we're in an inclusive society, and it's about diversity.
If anything, the church should be leading the charge of diversity. But it doesn't mean what the world wants us to think it should mean.
Diversity isn't about making sure that we, erm, more think of one group of people. Actually, diversity means that we should be represented by everybody.
But here's the thing. That representation of everybody. Those, that, 'everybody' shouldn't stay the same, that should change.
Too often in churches we expect people to come to church for the first time and become like us. But we don't want to become like them. And church is not about making people fit into our mould. Church is supposed to be about us growing together. And when somebody comes to faith, and they've got excitement and zeal, I've watched that squashed, and crushed, by people 'oh we're not having change, we've got to make sure they know they can't do that forever, they're gonna burnout. oh we've got to make sure they.
Yeah, there's a, there's a time for pacing people.
Think about this, when you first get married or you first find a new job, or you start a new hobby. Those first weeks, months, years, are very easy, generally. It's very exciting. It's new. It's, it's all new, it's good. And after a time the newness will wear off.
And in my own marriage, I know that the first months and years were, were actually quite great. They were simple. It was easy. There were some hard work involved, but they weren't complicated. But you roll on five years, and, all of a sudden, that newness has gone. And so many relationships break up, and fail, in marriage, because the excitement has disappeared. Well, that excitement can't sustain. It cannot carry on, for 30 years like that. It's impossible. You would be an emotional wreck.
That bonding stuff to your, erm, spouse. That new hobby, or whatever it is, we should have excitement. But at the same time we need to be in stuff for the long haul, not just to try and pick out, and have a go. That's you seek a service friendly, if you've got too many of those. People have a go, and then think I, I don't like that.
Alpha's brilliant. I love what Alpha does. But one of the greatest flaws of Alpha, is, people go through Alpha, find faith, find a church, find a home, find a fellowship. And then they're, basically, kicked out to the main church service, and they think, 'well, I don't like that, I like Alpha', and then they stop going to church.
It's not a huge problem, but it's one of the biggest flaws of Alpha, that people go through it and then they don't want to go to church anymore. Because we're creating a very specific environment, that we're not going to replicate later on. Maybe we should?
But we need to be far more honest in our churches, in our Christian faith, about who Jesus is to us, and what we expect people to be, and to aim for.
And what we've got in a church in the West is we've got a lot of milky teaching. A lot of pampering to people with nice easy subjects. Submission in marriage. What does submit as a wife mean? Well you need to tackle that. You need to think about it. You need to work through it with the scripture. You need to know how it applies to you. If you're not married, it still applies to you.
But we like to not tackle stuff like that, because, well, it's a bit politically difficult, and people might misunderstand.
All of God's word is useful for teaching and rebuking. It's all good!
So those difficult, tricky subjects? We shouldn't shy away from them. That's where we develop meat, rather than milk.
But if all we are saying to people is Jesus loves you, whilst true, that becomes very much like the milk. It isn't going to sustain you forever, because we need to be growing further forwards.
You ever cheated in a game to get to the end, 'cos you can't do it? And you get to the end 'cos you've cheated, and you get back to the game, and you're frustrated 'cos now you can't play it, 'cos you haven't learned what you need to progress to those more complicated levels on the game?
We try and do that in our faith don't we? We try and get to the end, and speed there, and we need to gradually grow.
The longer I've known Jesus Christ, the more I get closer towards Him, the more I realise how much closer I need to get towards Him. It's a growth, and it's an exercise.
If you think about, erm, trying to do weight training. You can lift a 5 kilogramme weight. Great off you go. Well if you want to work towards lifting 50 kilos, and you're only ever lifting 5 kilos, you're never gonna get there. You're sticking with the milk, with the easy. It's that water trickling down the path of least resistance.
Being a Christian. If your Christian walk is dead easy, I will challenge you, now, you are not living the Christian walk Jesus wants you to walk. That does not mean to say, however, that Christians need to have a hard, miserable, horrible, terrible existence. That's not the point. But if your life is always easy, and nobody's ever challenging anything, and it's all, there's always comfort everywhere, then you're not walking the life that God wants you to walk. Because walking, as a Christian, is about surrendering ourselves to Jesus Christ in order to become more like him.
What does that do? Well, in our pursuit of meat, rather than milk, we need to surrender parts of ourselves to become more like Jesus. Jesus is very gentle in this sense. He doesn't force us to become like Him. He doesn't trick us, or blackmail us, but He desires , and longs, for us to become more like him. And we do that by letting go those things in our lives that are not helping. That are not healthy, that are not gonna help us move towards Jesus Christ.
If you want to grow your muscles for lifting weights, you have to lift heavier weights. If you want to lift 100 kilos, you don't just go out and lift 100 kilos. You're going to break something, but you need to work towards it. There's a progression.
Spiritual growth, milk and meat? How does this apply to us? Well, if you want to grow in your faith, then that seeker friendly series might be a fantastic opportunity to meet Jesus for the first time. But it's a very nice service. I've been involved in stuff like this. It's very easy to put them on at one level, 'cos there's no real challenge, there's no political incorrectness, there's no, 'what will people think if we say this or that?'.
And there's nothing wrong with that. We need to be there for, for people to show them Jesus Christ for the first time. But showing people Jesus for the first time, is not what we should be doing for them every, every week, so that after 10 years all they ever know is that I need to become a Christian. That's the milk that's the first step.
There are many people I've met who know OF Jesus, but don't KNOW Jesus. It isn't enough to know of Him. We need to know Him in every possible sense.
"About this we have much to say and it is hard to explain, since you'll become dull of hearing"
If we're not careful, and we say the same messages every week, and we don't cover the whole of scripture, and we don't use exegetical teaching, where we, we look far deeper than just what we can read, in the nice bits of the Psalms and all of that. We need to have a much wider grasp.
We need to condition ourselves as Christians as we walk together with Jesus Christ. And that means going to church. That means having fellowship and accountability.
During COVID that's more difficult. We can still have accountability, and fellowship, in a different way.
My wife and I had a Zoom call with a pastor, and his wife, from Nigeria. We were doing church. We were having fellowship. It's not a substitute for being with people in the flesh. But it's good when you can't do anything else.
But we need to balance these things.
"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food."
When a baby is first born, it has colostrum. It's the thickest part of the breast milk. It's quite a chunky stuff really, in one sense. And it's very thick, and rich, and it helps that newborn baby with the first days of growth. And eventually they go on to breast milk, which is thinner. And eventually they go on to solid food.
But there are many Christians, I've met, who enjoy the colostrum, and maybe the breast milk, but they don't really want the meat. Because we have to actually work at that. We have to actually chew our food, and swallow it. But if you want to get bigger and stronger than you need proper food. And there is that progression, in life, that we see from a newborn child. And it's the same in our in the principles of how we walk with Jesus Christ as disciples.
If your Christian walk is really easy, you never have any challenges, nobody ever makes you feel uncomfortable about having a faith, then you're not walking your faith properly. Being a Christian is not supposed to be an easy little walk.
We know as things get difficult that people quite happily back away into the shadows when difficulties come and, 'well, I am a Christian but it will not, not really a Christian'.
If we're gonna be disciples of Christ, there's gonna be uncomfortableness. Because the word of God is offensive to those who don't want to hear it.
There's no way of making hell sound nice. There's no way of tricking people into heaven. There's no way of doing these things. We need to give them the truth. "The truth will set you free", the Bible says.
With so much stuff on demand, we need to make sure that we're not demanding of God to make us quickly get to where we want to get to. We need to be working on our faith, each and every day. We need to be praying. We need to be reading our Bible.
We can't sustain what, what those first few moments of coming to faith alike.
Doctor Michael Brown talks about this. Er, he's a really good theologian, preacher, and pastor from the, from America. And he talks about, when he came to faith, how many hours he'd spend reading the Bible and praying. But he makes the point that although that was good and that was exciting, it's not sustainable. Because ultimately, and eventually, he needs to go out into the world, and actually meet people, and talk to people. And you can't read the Bible for 20 hours a day, as great as that might be, because eventually you need to go out, and understand what the scripture means, and help others understand it too.
When we start something, it's exciting.
How do we continue? We need to have endurance.
The whole point of what we do with Endurance, is you need endurance in your spiritual life.
It isn't easy. And let me just say this one more time, to reiterate, to reiterate the point.
If your life is easy, it's a good chance you're not walking as God wants you to walk. Now, we could interpret what easy means. There are times when it shouldn't be hard. But if you're never challenged, in your faith, are you really walking for Jesus?
Because getting deeper with Jesus is gonna get more uncomfortable for us, in the world we live in, because the Jesus Christ in us is going to shine out more, and more, and that is offensive to people.
So don't try and water down the scripture.
Don't try and defend God.
Don't look at some of the difficult passages of Scripture, and never ever talk about them, or study them, or work with them. The psalmist tells us that it's good to wrestle with Scripture, and to go to God, and say, Lord, I don't understand this! Please God, Holy Spirit, empower me. How do I interpret this? How do I live with this? What does that mean for my life? That's healthy, that's good!
Water will travel the path of least resistance, and so will we if we're not careful. We need to be pushed on towards progressive, er, er, working on our faith in a progressive way. That doesn't mean we become progressive in adapting the scripture, to make it fit better.
That means we're supposed to progress, in regards to, learning more of Jesus, and learning more and more of Jesus, and learning more and more and more of Jesus.
I've got a really great friend who's a minister, who, erm, often gets up very early in the morning. And he'll pray for people in his church, and the world. And I remember having a conversation with someone. 'Oh, he's a new vicar, he's gonna burnout if he's not careful.'
This guy is like the Energizer Bunny of Christian Vicars. He's amazing! He's a great guy. I don't think he's in risk of of burning out, because he loves Jesus, and he's serving Him. And if he serves God, he gets refilled with the Holy Spirit and he can serve more.
Along time ago, er, when I was on the PAIS project in Manchester, in 1996, er, 95 to 96, erm, our pastor did a great analogy which he said 'I've borrowed from the PAIS team, they've encouraged me'.
And he got a glass of water. So picture this. He's got a glass of water, fills it to the top. And he puts a drip of water and a drip of water, and another drip of water.
He said that's how we come to Jesus sometimes. We ask for a little bit more. But, actually, our Christian faith isn't supposed to be a little tiny bit more, and he started pouring the jug in, and it was just flowing everywhere. He said that's a picture of our faith. That's a picture of our faith journey. We should be making a mess around us, in regards, people should know that the goodness in us is spreading around us.
That can be very uncomfortable when you're speaking the truth in a situation where people do not want to know the truth. And that's why I say if your Christian walk is really, really easy, and you never have any challenges, or anything makes you ever uncomfortable, you're probably not walking for Jesus as you need to. Because walking for Jesus, it's not the easiest journey. It's not the easiest path. It's not the path of least resistance!
How do you make water not flood? Well you put layers in. You put protections, you stop it from going where you want it to go.
You might have something really precious and valuable, so you protect that even further,. And that's how we should see our Christian faith too.
"Everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child."
I'm gonna close with this.
We are supposed to have a childlike faith, not a childish faith.
We're supposed to behave like children would towards their father who loves them.
We should go to our God, expecting that He loves us, and wants to equip us, and strengthen us, so we can get more like Him, more like Jesus Christ, less of ourselves.
But we're not supposed to be childish and stick to the simplest topics.
Yes, Jesus loves you, but there's far more depth to that.
Yes, if you are a Sinner who's saved by God, and Grace, you can go to Heaven. Yes, this is true! But there's so much more to that.
So let's be careful with our Seeker Friendly Services that we're not becoming a Seeker Friendly Christian, where all we ever talk about are the nice subjects.
Jesus loves you. Yes, it's true! There's so much more to it.
Let's get deeper in our relationship with God.
Let's be prepared for life around us to be uncomfortable. For there to be challenges. Because it's those challenges, and that uncomfortableness which means we look towards Jesus Christ, to equip us and strengthen us, rather than to our own abilities.
Written by Andy B