Are You Growing or Are You Dying?
Daily spiritual bread is not a bonus for the super Christian; this is a part of basic living for every believer.
Consider this verse: "...that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." (Deut 8:3)
What this verse means to me is that if I am not spending time daily in God’s word, I am not only not growing spiritually, but I am also wasting away. I am dying.
Your spirit was born the moment you accepted Christ as your Saviour. This spirit needs God’s word for its daily sustenance. Many symptoms of spiritual weakness would be resolved if we simply acted on this knowledge.
If I decided to stop eating for a few days and then complained to you that I had a stomach ache, how would you respond? You probably wouldn’t put up with my whining!
Are you eating every day?
Sometimes people have a spiritual stomach ache. It could be a weakness in temptation, or a lack of motivation to share their faith, or ungratefulness to God, or feeling distant from God or uncertainty about the future. Instead of over-analysing the symptoms why not simply ask: “Are you eating every day? Are you feeding your spirit daily bread from God’s word?”
Psalm 19 mentions many effects of His word—including “reviving the soul”. Let’s start there and see what clears up first. Then we can assess if an issue needs to be addressed in a more specialised way.
Two red flags
How many times have you heard or even said yourself:
“I don’t have much desire to read the Bible, so I only do so every now and then.”
This might be a red flag! If someone isn’t hungry for an extended period of time, we know there is a problem; at best they are sick and at worst they are dead. When my one-year-old son screams because he’s hungry (several times a day!), I know all is well. Hunger is a sign of life, of health, of renewal. If he loses his appetite, that’s when I know something is wrong with him.
David says God’s word is more precious than the most valuable commodity and tastes better than a Michelin 3-star restaurant (Ps 19:10). God speaks to us primarily through his word. It is one of the key ways we interact in a relationship with him. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8).
Another red flag may be:
“I don’t think you have to read the Bible every day, because that would be legalistic.”
Let’s be careful how we use the word “legalistic”. We are in a season where it seems the religion pendulum may be swinging from an overemphasis on the law to an overemphasis on grace. We need to be careful that we do not end up believing a half truth (a.k.a, a lie) from Satan:
Don’t put effort into living the way God tells you to, because it might look like you are trying to be good enough. Besides, you will still get all the benefits and blessings from God because he loves you unconditionally.
Don’t try to be good enough because you never can be. You are saved because God loves you unconditionally and paid the price for your life. This now gives you freedom and power to live the way God has told you - thus receiving blessings that are conditional to obeying him.
The difference is subtle but profound.
If the lie takes root, we begin to see people having an “allergic reaction” to anything they think might fall under legalism. It is typically the “measurable” endeavours that fall prey to this reaction (even though they may be very good things in and of themselves), such as attending church regularly, having a daily quiet time, keeping tabs on a particular sin we struggle with, asking God to search our hearts and bring to mind specific things that are not of Him (and then actually doing something about it!).
And yes, I fully agree that we need to be careful to not associate God’s love (and thus salvation) to our performance, but just because something could be done for the wrong reason, doesn’t mean it cannot be done for the right reason. And that is what we should aim for, even if from time to time we slip into the wrong mindset.
Spending regular time in God’s word is necessary for our spiritual growth, not just some rule to make us feel better (or worse!) about ourselves.
A legalistic mindset is usually accompanied by guilt. If your time in God’s word isn’t where you want it to be, I hope you don’t feel guilty as result of reading this. Instead, I hope you feel that you are missing out! This is not about a list of rules, this is about a party, a connection, something our soul craves. Everything else is secondary and worth giving up.
If none of this is resonating with you, if you’ve never experienced a hunger for God’s word or spending time with him, I invite you to consider whether you have ever taken the step to respond to what Jesus did for you on the cross. He is standing at the door of your heart, knocking. Are you busy trying to clean up your house or have you opened the door and started having a meal with your saviour?
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God—what are you living by?
Article by Tom Clay. Tom is a 1st Congregation elder. He and his wife, Bernice, lead a Community Group at Redemption Hill Church.