You are what you eat

Perhaps you have heard of “food deserts.”  The term refers to places where people have limited (or less) access to grocery stores and other sources of healthy food.  Now there are “food swamps” — that is, where food is plentiful, just not nourishing.  Food swamps feature lots of gas stations, fast-food joints, and other places that promote obesity and bad eating habits.  No farmer’s markets or kale smoothie shops, though.

Studies differ with regard to whether proximity to grocery stores is actually an indicator of general health.  (They sell Snickers bars at Publix, you know.)  But there’s certainly a case to be made that the food’s quality may be as much a factor as its availability.

“Food” is relative — whether the food is carnal or spiritual.  We can pat ourselves on the back all we want for “going to church” or even “reading the Bible.”  But if we are not nourishing our spirits, what good is any of it?  A preacher who does not “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2), substituting human philosophy and personal opinions, may be doing more harm than good.  Reading for five minutes just to say you did it, without an eye for application or contextual understanding, may be feed a sense of “fullness” that is completely misleading.

With that in mind, consider the following spiritual nutrition tips:

Your Bible is food.  Eat wisely

Jesus declared Himself “the bread of life” in John 6:35.  He meant, of course, that internalizing His nature and His will would provide spiritual vitality and nourishment that can be found nowhere else.  Just as God brought manna down from heaven to feed the people in the wilderness, so also He sent Jesus down from heaven to enliven us (Matthew 4:4).  ‘So we delight in reading the word He sent to us through the Spirit (John 16:13).  But we must do so with our heart, mind and eyes open.  Only those who are truly given over to the guidance of the Spirit will find the way Jesus has provided (1 Corinthians 2:14-15).  Wolves in sheep’s clothing, to use Jesus’ own metaphor in Matthew 7:13),will always be here, attempting to use the Bible itself to draw us away from the truth — and some, those who do not love the truth enough, will believe the lie (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).  We must be more discerning than that — “shrewd as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

Your preacher’s words may be food.  Eat carefully

Some of the wolves are in pulpits.  I would like to think brethren generally trust their preachers.  (What would it say about us, and preachers, if we didn’t?)  But no one should be considered infallible — and some, in fact, should be considered disreputable.  If the Bereans were commended for “examining the Scriptures daily” to check on the work of the inspired preachers Paul and Barnabas (Acts 17:11), and if direct revelations of the Spirit were to be tested by the early church (1 John 4:1), then certainly modern preachers without the benefit of direct inspiration should be measured by the word of God.

Your “Christian” novel or film only resembles food.  Eat sparingly

With all the tripe and filth out there ready to be consumed by an entertainment-loving public, we justifiably delight in light reading that attempts to elevate God and His righteousness.  In recent times it has become popular to base novels and films on Biblical stories and characters.  In theory this is little different from a preacher or class teacher putting the Bible “in his own words.”  In practice, watching a detailed depiction of Bible stories, most of which are extremely lacking in detail, can become confusing.  Motives and back story that are suggested by writers and directors can be confused for actual Biblical content.  Inaccurate or even false information can be spread by naïve consumers, all in the name of Jesus.  Be cautious.  Examine your “food” carefully (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  Wax fruit, and even poisoned fruit, can look very much like the real thing.

Your creed is not food.  Do not eat

No one ever got closer to God by adhering to something written by men.  Creeds boil down “what we believe” into terse statements and challenging our neighbors to either accept or reject them.  Battle lines are drawn over what we have done, not what Jesus has done or the Spirit has revealed.  If “the gospel” doesn’t suffice for an answer to the question, “What is the basis of your faith?”, we have been poisoned by the “food-like” offerings of men — some of which may have been written with good intentions, but none of which were written by God.  Read the Bible.  Do what it says.  That is “creed” enough.