Food For The Spirit

Because Jesus said that he was the bread from heaven, some people started grumbling about him (110): “This man is Joseph’s son, isn’t he? We know his father & mother. How can he claim to be the bread from heaven?”

“Please, stop your grumbling, and try to get this,” Jesus said. “No one can come to me unless God has willed it.  On the last day, I will restore physical life to all people who really do come to me.

“You know that the prophets wrote, ‘Everyone will be taught by God.’ Anyone who is really taught by God comes to me.”

(Then, as an aside, Jesus added: “I’m not implying that any of you have actually seen God face-to-face, when you’ve been taught by God.  I’m the only one who has actually seen God face-to-face.”)

Jesus continued: “The main point is this: If you will believe in me, God will give you new life – life that will continue in heaven forever, even after your physical death.

“I tell you again, I am the bread of life; I am the real bread from heaven.

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“Sure, your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died! Now, anyone who eats the real bread from heaven will never die. This bread of life is me. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever!

“Listen, the bread that I offer is my flesh, which I freely give so that people may experience real life.” In confused response, some of the people asked angrily. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Jesus didn’t back down one inch: “If you don’t eat my flesh & drink my blood — if you don’t find your continuing spiritual nourishment in me — you can never experience real life. But anyone who does eat my flesh & drink my blood will actually experience new life, real life that will continue in heaven forever — even after physical death, and even to the extent that I will restore physical life to him on the last day.

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“My flesh is the real food; my blood is the real drink. When you eat my flesh & drink my blood, you live in me & I live in you.  The point is for us to share one life.

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“The living God sent me; my life is in him. In the same way, whoever is nourished by me will have life in me.

“The real bread from heaven is not like the bread that your ancestors ate; that bread did not keep them from dying. Anyone who eats the real bread from heaven will live forever!”

God, please help me to love being spiritually nourished by You alone.

(110) John 6:41-59

What God Wants

Next day, some of the people who had been fed by Jesus took boats & crossed the lake to look for him (109).  They found Jesus in the synagogue in Capernaum, and they asked, “Teacher, how did you get here?”  As he often did, Jesus ignored that issue & addressed their real issue.

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“I know you’re looking for me because you’re hungry for more bread, not for more of God. But don’t seek food that spoils; instead, seek food that will give you new life – life that will continue in heaven forever, even after physical death. This is the food which God gives in me & which I give to you.”

Some of the people asked him, “What does God want us to do?” Jesus answered, “God wants you to believe in me.  I’ll take it from there.

Faith

“But what miracle will you do,” they said, “so we can believe you? After all, Moses wrote that even our ancestors ate bread from heaven, when God gave them manna in the desert.”

Jesus replied, “God gives you the real bread from heaven, and I am the bread that God gives.  Anyone who comes to me will never be hungry; anyone who believes in me will never be thirsty.

“I will never turn away anyone who comes to me.  But none of you will come to me unless God has willed it; I have come to do only what God has willed.

“On the last day, I will restore physical life to everyone who has come to me.

Repentance

“What God wants is for you to experience real life — life that will continue in heaven forever, even after your physical death.”

God, please help me to love doing only Your will.

(109) John 6:22-40

Four Witnesses

Jesus continued trying to persuade the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem that he had come to do God’s will (81).

“I understand that you won’t believe me just because of my personal testimony. But there are other witnesses who have confirmed my testimony. I want you to consider these witnesses, not for my benefit but for yours, so you can believe & be saved.

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John the Baptizer has testified about me. John was like a bright lamp, burning and shining, and you were willing for a while to enjoy his light.

“But there is also another witness for me, even greater than the witness of John the Baptizer. Consider the miracles that God has given me to do. These deeds testify on my behalf and show that the Father has sent me.

“What’s more, God himself also testifies on my behalf, through the words of inspired scriptures. You have never heard God’s voice or seen his face. But you study God’s words — because you believe they have the key to new life that will continue in heaven forever, even after physical death.

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“Yet, although God’s words speak about me, you’re not willing to trust in me — in order to have that new life.

“I’m not looking for human praise. Besides, I know what kind of people you are, and I know that you haven’t really surrendered your hearts to God.

  • For example, I have come with God’s authority, but you haven’t received me.  Yet you receive other people, speaking on their own authority.
  • Here’s another example: You like to receive praise from one another, but you don’t try to receive praise from God.

“Just as you resist God in these fundamental ways, so you resist believing in me.

“But don’t think I’m the one who will accuse you before God.  Moses is the one who will accuse you, even though you say Moses is someone you actually do trust & believe. If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because God inspired Moses to write about me.

“The bottom line is that  you choose not to believe all that Moses wrote, and you choose not to believe all that I say.”

Ever-speaking God please help me choose to believe everything You speak.

(81) John 5:31-47

Harvest Time!

When Jesus had confronted her with her sin, the Samaritan woman asked: “Are you a prophet?”(52).  Jesus didn’t answer immediately, so she went right on, “Then why do Samaritans worship God on this mountain, while you Jews worship God in Jerusalem?”

Jesus said to her, “Believe me, the time has passed for worshiping God on this mountain or in Jerusalem. Samaritans don’t really know God; Jews know something about God, who has promised their salvation.

“But now it’s time for all people to worship God truly, by the power of God’s Spirit. God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people truly worship him.”

Then the woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain all these things to us.” Jesus surprised her by answering, “I am the promised Messiah!”

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At that moment Jesus’ students returned from town. They were very surprised to find him talking with the woman, but none of them dared to interrupt.

The woman left her water jar, went back to the town, and told the people: “Come and see the man who was able to tell me everything I’ve ever done. Could he be the promised Messiah?” So, many people left the town and started toward the well to see Jesus.

In the meantime his students said to Jesus, “Teacher, have something to eat.” But Jesus answered, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.” His students wondered if somebody had brought him some food while they had been in town.

Then Jesus explained: “My food is to obey the will of God and to finish the work he gave me to do. You know the saying: ‘Four more months and then the harvest.’ But take a good look at the fields; the crops are ripe & ready for harvesting now!

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“Those who gather in the harvest will be rewarded with new life that will continue in heaven forever, even after physical death. People who plant & people who harvest will share new life together! I want you to harvest from a field you didn’t plant; others planted, and now you can finish their work.”

Many of the Samaritans from town were excited to know Jesus because the woman from the well had said, “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” When the Samaritans came to Jesus at the well, they begged him to stay with them, and he did stay there two more days.

After hearing the teachings of Jesus, some of them told the woman, “Now we believe in Jesus, too, not because of what you said, but because we have heard him speak God’s truth directly to us.

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“Now we know that Jesus really has come to save the world!”

Calling God, please help me to love being called to serve in Your harvest.

(52) John 4:19-42

Woman At A Well

Later, the Pharisees heard that Jesus was winning and baptizing more students than John the Baptizer(51). And Jesus heard that John had been put in prison. So Jesus left Judea and started back toward Galilee to preach the good news from God to the people there.

On his way to Galilee, however, Jesus passed through Samaria & came to a town named Sychar, which was near a field that Jacob had owned many hundreds of years earlier. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus sat down by the well to rest.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw some water from the well, Jesus asked her for a drink of water. (His students had gone into town to buy food.) The woman answered, “You are obviously a Jew, and I am a Samaritan, so why are you asking me for a drink? You people never use the same cups and bowls that we use!”

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Jesus answered, “If you only knew what God can give you and who I am, you’d be asking me for a drink, and I’d offer you the water of new life.” Skeptically, the woman replied, “But you don’t even have a bucket, and this well is pretty deep. How could you get that life-giving water?”

Pressing him, she went on: “We got this well from our ancestor, Jacob; he and his sons and his flocks all drank from it. You don’t claim to be greater than Jacob, do you?”

Jesus answered the woman in an unexpected way: “Anyone who drinks this well water will definitely be thirsty again. But anyone who drinks the water I give will never be thirsty again! The water I give becomes a spring, which will keep on providing you the water of new life — life that will continue forever, even after physical death!”

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“Sir,” the woman said, “I need that water! I don’t want to be thirsty again, and I don’t want to come here to draw water again.”

Testing her, Jesus said, “Go get your husband and then come back.” “But I don’t have a husband,” the woman humbly replied.

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In response to her honesty, Jesus revealed his deep knowledge of the woman’s soul: “I know you don’t have a husband.  You’ve been married to five different men, but you’re not married to the man you live with now.”

All-Knowing God, please help me to love being perfectly known by You.

(51) Matthew 4:12, Mark 1:14, John 4:1-18

Paul’s Letter To His Galatian Friends

During this time, Paul wrote a letter to his friends in the churches of Galatia, the larger region of Turkey encompassing all the places he & Barnabas had visited on their extended mission trip (269).

Paul had learned that — in Turkish Antioch & the rest of Galatia, as in Syrian Antioch — certain Jews were trying to have it both ways.  They claimed to be Christians, but they also insisted on keeping the law of Moses which was the foundation of Jewish faith.

These Jews were trying to persuade Galatian Gentile believers first to become Jews — in order, as they said, to become complete Christians.  Their initial appeal was for the new Gentile believers to be circumcised, just like the Jews.  But then they also appealed for the new believers to follow other parts of the Mosaic law — such as keeping certain feasts & holy days — just like the Jews.

Paul was very worried about his new Galatian brothers & sisters in Christ.  His letter to them emphasized that salvation from God’s punishment for our sins comes by God’s grace, through living faith in Jesus Christ.  Salvation cannot come by keeping the law of Moses, apart from living faith in Jesus.

Paul recalled a particular incident in which he had corrected Peter for the same error that was now tempting the Galatian believers.  Peter had been enjoying an extended period of fellowship with the Gentile believers in Syrian Antioch.  But when a delegation of Jewish believers came from Jerusalem, Peter had separated himself from the Gentile believers & begun to fellowship exclusively with the Jewish believers.   Paul thought this was two-faced, and he had called Peter on it in public.

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In his letter, Paul challenged the same hypocrisy of the Galatian believers.  He presented a compelling scriptural argument that we can’t have it both ways; we can’t be legalistic Jews & faithful Christians at the same time.

In our day, it would be like saying that we can’t be saved from an eternity in hell by obeying any religious rules – regardless of which “church” is trying to impose those rules on us.  We can only be saved & assured of eternity in heaven, by trusting Jesus as our savior & obeying Jesus as our master.  In other words, we not only have to believe what Jesus teaches, but we also have to do what Jesus teaches.  Paul referred to doing what Jesus teaches as “faith working in love.”

The only way this is possible, said Paul, is for us to surrender our entire lives to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit.  Our human nature is essentially selfish; only God’s Spirit can make us unselfish.  When we are born again by God’s Spirit into new life, we must then let God’s Spirit control that new life.

Paul listed some of the many sordid sins that result when we are ruled by the desires of our flesh.  These were contrasted with some of the many virtues that result when we are ruled by God’s Spirit.  Foremost among these virtues is love — which expresses itself variously as joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control — all known together as the fruit of the Spirit.

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Our love for God is shown when we love other people & help them bear their burdens in life.  Paul said that it simply doesn’t matter if a person is circumcised or not.  All that matters is if we live by “faith working in love.”  In other words, we have to show our love for God by loving other people.

Paul’s bottom line in his letter to the Galatian believers was essentially this:

  1. We are freed from trying to live by the letter of the law of Moses, when we accept the impossibility of ever doing that in the strength of our sinful flesh.
  2. We are freed to begin living by the spirit of the law of Moses, when we faithfully submit to the leading of God’s Spirit & rely on the strength of God’s Spirit to love other people.

God, please help me to love the fruit of Your Spirit.

(269)  This letter is known simply as Galatians; some believe it may have been written several years later.

Gentiles Grafted In

The witnesses and other believers in Jerusalem heard that Gentiles (non-Jewish people) at Caesarea had received the spirit of God (258).

When Peter returned to Jerusalem, some Jews — who insisted on circumcision according to the law of Moses – accused Peter of unlawfully sharing fellowship with Gentiles: “You went in to uncircumcised Gentiles & ate with them!”

So Peter explained everything to them in careful detail, exactly as it happened from the time of his vision in Joppa through the time of his message to the house of Cornelius – including the messengers from Cornelius, the vision of Cornelius, and how the Gentile people gathered in the house of Cornelius to hear from God.  He concluded in this way:

“After I began to speak, the Holy Spirit suddenly invaded & took over the Gentiles’ hearts & lives, just as he did with us at Pentecost!

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“Then I remembered that Jesus said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

“So if God was blessing them with the same gift that He gave us when we surrendered to Jesus, how could I withstand God?”

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At first, there was stunned silence when Peter finished speaking.  Then all the church leaders glorified God, saying, “Praise the Lord for also leading the Gentiles into repentance & new life!”

God, please help me to love Your leading.

(258) Acts 11:1-18