Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Spiritually, you are what you eat

Have you ever heard the phrase “you are what you eat”? Nutritionists and health experts tell us this all the time, “you are what you eat!”

If you’ve read the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or have seen the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory then you will undoubtedly remember this principle demonstrated in the life of a character named Violet Beauregard. In this story, one spoiled girl who must have everything she wants, takes a very special piece of gum at the Chocolate Factory, one which has the flavors of a full meal (tomato soup, roast beef with baked potato, and blueberry pie with ice cream). However, Willy Wonka forbids her to eat this gum because it has a particular problem - when it comes to the dessert flavor, blueberry cobbler, the person chewing it literally becomes what they are eating - in this case, a blueberry! In fact, Violet chews the faulty gum, and right on cue, she starts turning purple and becomes plump like a blueberry. She is only able to waddle a little bit due to her girth, and Willy Wonka tells the Oompa Loompas to roll her to the juicing room so she can be squeezed and the pressure of all that blueberry juice can be relieved.

Well, in a very silly way I suppose, that story demonstrates something that we already know - that our appetites can get the best of us, and what we hunger for and what we consume, will change us. In other words, “we are what we eat.” 

Did you know that the same thing is true spiritually? In teaching the values of God’s kingdom, Jesus once explained that in our spiritual lives, we are what we eat. In other words, what our spirits hunger for, what our spirits most desire, will change us. You see, Jesus knew that if we hunger for the wrongs things, our lives can go tragically wrong. Lucifer, once a great angel of God, had hungered too much for power; Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon, had hungered too much for praise; and in the NT, Jesus told the story of the rich fool, who had hungered too much for pleasure. Because they hungered for wrong things and rejected God’s good things, they forfeited both. But even as it is true that we can hunger and desire after the wrong things, it is also true that we can hunger after the right things! Jesus tells us this in Matthew 5:6,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

I want us to consider why a spiritual hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness is the most important desire of our hearts. Let us consider three reasons why a thirsting after God’s righteousness is our most important decision of all.

1. We Have a Deep Need for God’s Righteousness. In fact, the Bible teaches us that we need righteousness to get into God’s kingdom and to live in Heaven. Now, the word “righteous” simply means, “characterized by what is right.” So, what the Bible teaches is that there is a standard for what is right and we need to meet it in order to belong in God’s Kingdom. Now, this talk about “standards” and “rightness”reminds me of the story of…
…the man who arrives at the gates of Heaven and is greeted by the Apostle Peter. Peter greets the new arrival and begins leafing through his book to see if the man is worthy of entry. Peter goes through the book several times and says to the man in a flustered tone. “You know I can’t seem to find anything you did really great in your life. But I can’t find that you really did anything bad either.” “I’ll tell you what, Peter continues. “If you can tell me of one really good deed you did in your life, then you’re in.”
So the man thought and thought. Finally the man said, “Well there was the time I was driving down the highway and I saw a group of biker guys gathered around this frightened girl. I slowed my car down and sure enough, it didn’t look good. There were about 20 of them tormenting this poor girl.” “I got out of my car, grabbed my tire iron and walked straight up to the leader of the gang. He was a huge man with a studded jacket and a chain running from his nose to his ear. I noticed the gang had circled around me, yet I still felt brave. I ripped the chain from the leader’s face and hit him over the head with the tire iron. I yelled to the gang, leave this poor, innocent girl alone. You are all a bunch of deranged animals. Now go home before I teach all of you a lesson.”
Impressed, Peter asked, “Wow, When did that happen?” 
“Oh, about two minutes ago,” the man said.
You know, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a terrible joke, but did you catch the problem with it? It suggests that the standard for righteousness is the goodness of the deeds that we do. But the actual standard for rightness is the will and the holiness of God. Yes, we do right things, we think right things, and we say right things. But all our rightness is like filthy rags (Is. 64:5–7). Jesus says in Matthew 5:20, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Wow, we say, is there any hope then? Yes of course, but only as we hunger after the perfect Righteousness of Jesus Christ.

2. We Must Hunger for the Righteousness of God, Not Something Else. C. S. Lewis once  observed that our problem is not that our cravings are often too big, but that our cravings are often so small and easily satisfied with lesser things. In other words, our desires tend to favor things like food, drink, and clothing. Or we crave power, pleasure, prestige and possessions. But you see, our cravings are far too small when we focus on these earthly things.

Now to correct things, we often assume that we must get a control on our cravings and just kill them altogether if we are going to be righteous. But you know, the reality of true satisfaction is not in the denial of our cravings, but in redirecting them from small things to the One Great Thing, to God Himself.

Now, just a moment’s reflection will show why this must be so. You see, it’s because God is the source of all good things: fortune, fame, success, or even happiness itself. In the NT, James says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). 

So our hearts must be redirected. And the only way we can enter into fellowship with God and find the happiness and blessing we so long for is to possess a righteousness and holiness that will commend us to God. But can this be done? Well, the answer is YES! Yes, our hearts and our desires can be shifted. But of course not by us, certainly. But God can and will do it. The heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that in Jesus Christ, God has obtained our redemption and provided all who believe in Christ with the righteousness I’ve been speaking of. The Bible says that Jesus Christ “has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).

3. When We Hunger and Thirst for God’s Righteousness, We Shall Be Filled. 

The great Church Father, Augustine once said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” 

Jesus says in John 6:35, “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.” My friends, don’t mistake the promise of God: those who hunger and thirst after God’s righteousness shall be filled.

You know, spiritually speaking, what the nutritionists say is true: we are what we eat. So you and I have a choice this morning. We can be satisfied with the righteousness of the world and all the enticements it offers. We can try to satisfy ourselves on the small things. But be warned: the world’s righteousness and the world’s ”stuff” can be compared to drinking salt water; if you drink it, the salt water simply increases your thirst and dehydrates you, eventually leading to your death. Yes, it will wet your dry lips, and yes it will moisten your parched throat, but it will not truly satisfy the needs of your body…or more importantly, your soul.

Meaning, the other choice, the better choice, is that we will choose to be satisfied with nothing less than Jesus’ blood and His righteousness. My friends, let your hunger and thirst for Jesus’ righteousness shape you into the image and likeness of Christ. You are what you eat! And Jesus’ promise is that when you seek after Him, you will be satisfied, your heart’s desire will be filled in Him. He says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” What a promise Christ has given us!