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Spiritual Hunger

 

There are many churches in this world who picture themselves as Christian. They have a variety of doctrines. Some believe in this...some believe in that. But they are all different in one manner or another. Baptists believe in baptism by immersion; others don't. Catholics believe in the authority of the papacy. In fact, Pope Benedict has said only the Catholic church is the original, true Christian church. Seventh day Adventists believe in the seventh day Sabbath. Many disagree strongly with the beliefs of their "Christian" peers. Why are there so many churches, each claiming to be Christian?

Why do people associate themselves with one of these church denominations instead of another? What motivates people to choose one variety of "Christianity" instead of another?

There are many reasons why people associate themselves with various churches:

1. The church is nearby.

2. They like the minister.

3. They have never heard anything negative about the church and its doctrines.

4. Their relatives or neighbors attend that church or they were "born into it".

5. They have a good youth program.

6. The church building's architecture is admired by the community.

But it is the next reason which probably describes why you are here:

7. They are attracted to the church because they have proved that the doctrines of the church conform to Biblical teaching and have found they answer certain nagging questions, hitherto unanswered, about man's relationship with Christ and our Father.

Those in this last category have experienced a drawing or attraction, both of which are forms of spiritual hunger for God's truth and God's presence in their lives.

 

It is this spiritual hunger that I want to discuss with you today in this sermon.

 

Let's first find out what spiritual hunger isn't. Turn to Acts 8:18-20 and we'll read about Simon the Magician:

Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, {19} saying, "Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." {20} But Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!

Here was a man whose motive was not a hunger for God's truth. His motive was how he could use God's blessing of the giving of the Holy Spirit to his own monetary gain. His motive was GET, not GIVE. His goal was the power, prestige, and earning potential of God's Holy Spirit. He did not understand or didn't want to understand that God's Spirit is a gift of God through repentance and baptism and obedience, or in his case, the laying on of hands.

God does not leave us out in the cold if we really want to worship, honor and obey Him; if we really want to have God directing our life through His Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ gave us very simple and easy to follow directions to do this:

Luke 11:9 "And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; [knock], and it shall be opened to you."

Mat 7:8 "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.

In Rev. 3 it is Christ doing the knocking toward His church:

Rev 3:20 'Behold , I stand at the door and [knock]; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me." [A two-way street]

Christ is here pointing out that if we want to be one of His disciples, we simply have to ask Him. But when we stand at the door and knock, what are we asking for? Aren't we asking Him to come into our lives and guide us through our life? We are asking for instruction and wisdom and direction and knowledge of Christ's way of life. We want closeness. We are demonstrating spiritual hunger for Godís Spirit to lead us.

Many people pray that they can be close to God but many people also feel that their prayers go no higher than the ceiling. What enables one person to get through to God with their appeal while another feels he can not reach God?

Proverbs 2 gives us the answer as to how to gain this knowledge, understanding and the resultant wisdom:

Prov 2:1-6 My son, if you will receive my sayings, And treasure my commandments within you, {2} Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; {3} For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; {4} If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; {5} Then you will discern the fear of the LORD, And discover the knowledge of God. {6} For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth <come> knowledge and understanding.

These verses contain the seven (7) steps to obtaining wisdom:

1. Listen for wisdom - verse 2

2. Have a zeal for more understanding - verse 2

3. Earnestly seek knowledge - verse 3

4. Ask for understanding - verse 3

5. Study to pursue wisdom - verse 4

6. Search diligently for wisdom. Don't get discouraged. - verse 4

7. Understand the meaning of the fear of God - verse 5

Some might ask, "Why must we fear God? I thought God was love."

Prov 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Fear of the Eternal is deep respect for the Eternal and the fear to live counter to His laws and instructions. Fear of the Eternal does not mean that God doesn't love us. It only means that we want to do nothing which might separate us from God's grace and His Holy Spirit. Fear of God is the avoidance of disfavor.

James 1:5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it [wisdom] will be given to him.

People are invited to seek wisdom because it teaches those principles by which they may obtain God's guidance and avoid the society and influence of the wicked. What is the society and influence of the wicked? It is the world around you. It is the world where you work, or at social functions, or wherever people, who are not led by God's Spirit, cause you to want to join in with their lifestyle, habits, and traditions. It creeps into our minds via the world of entertainment such as TV, movies, books and sports.

Prov 3:13-20 How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding. {14} For its profit is better than the profit of silver, And its gain than fine gold. {15} She is more precious than jewels; And nothing you desire compares with her. {16} Long life is in her right hand; In her left hand are riches and honor. {17} Her ways are pleasant ways, And all her paths are peace. {18} She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who hold her fast. {19} The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; By understanding He established the heavens. {20} By His knowledge the deeps were broken up, And the skies drip with dew.

When we strive for more knowledge of Christ's way of life and desire to have Christ working in and through us, we are exhibiting spiritual hunger. We speak of spiritual hunger but there are various degrees of hunger. When we are really hungry or thirsty, we are desperate to eat or drink. Nothing else matters. We can think of nothing else.

Mat 13:44 "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.

How many are so desperate to drink in God's Word and obey God and receive God's Spirit that they are willing to sacrifice everything they have? - home, job, family, spouse, prestige, reputation, personal desires. Itís a matter of priority. Where does the urging of Godís Spirit fall in our list of priorities?

Isa 55:1-11 (written about 700 BC) "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters [the law given at Sinai and the Holy Spirit given at the first Pentecost]; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. {2} "Why do you spend money for what is not not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. {3} "Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, <According to> the faithful mercies shown to David. {4} "Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples, A leader and commander for the peoples. {5} "Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, And a nation which knows you not will run to you, Because of the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you." {6} Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. {7} Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. {8} "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. {9} "For <as> the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. {10} "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth, And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; {11} So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding <in the matter> for which I sent it.

God works with those of promise. Employers do not invest in people who show no promise. Neither does God. If God does not think people will grow and keep His word, He will not fulfill that hunger. People who call upon God for knowledge and truth and wisdom must be properly motivated and demonstrate a willingness to obey and grow.

Acts 2:37-39 Now when they heard <this> [that they had crucified their savior], they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" {38} And Peter <said> to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. {39} "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself."

Notice the chain of events: First, as verse 37 indicates, we must have a spiritual hunger - in this case it was generated by their consciences which were turned on by Peter's remarks. Then, as verse 38 indicates, we must repent and be baptized. Then we must turn to God seeking spiritual knowledge and understanding. Through the Holy Spirit, given at baptism, we will have access to God to ask for His spiritual knowledge and understanding. All the way along we must try to obey God according to the knowledge and understanding He gives us. How many hear instruction through a sermon or by reading scripture, then reject it as "not that important"? I have seen many examples of that. God will not draw you unless you eagerly go through the door He is holding open for each of us. Keep in mind, as verse 39 indicates, God does the calling. But we are free moral agencies. God created the human race that way. Our response is up to us.

Mat 5:6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Luke 6:21 Blessed <are> you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.

Do these two verses say we will receive material things? No, Christ promises us righteousness. Can we simply say "I will turn to God when society or social pressures make it easy and in a way that I find sufficient?Ē That day will never come. We must turn to God when He is near. We must turn to God when we have been instructed by His Word. And we must do His will. That is when our spiritual hunger will be satisfied. In actuality, spiritual hunger should never be satisfied. It should be stimulated. More on that as we move along.

Now I want to give you a long list of scriptures which all make the same point: Commit yourself to God, then wait on God to respond to your spiritual hunger by coming into your life. First let's see what Moses had to say:

Deu 4:29 "But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find <Him> if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.

The most impassioned writer of scriptures addressing his hunger or thirst for God's presence and truth was David. It's no wonder he found such favor with God. David yearned to be close to God. He never lacked spiritual hunger. No wonder he is destined to become king of Israel under Christ. Let's read some of what he wrote: As we read these psalms of David, notice how often he stresses his willingness to wait for God, and the importance of obedience to Him.

Psa 22:26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!

Psa 24:1-6 The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it. {2} For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the rivers. {3} Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? {4} He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, And has not sworn deceitfully. {5} He shall receive a blessing from the LORD And righteousness from the God of his salvation. {6} This is the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Thy face.

Psa 25:5 Lead me in Thy truth and teach me, For Thou art the God of my salvation; For Thee I wait all the day.

Psa 27:8 <When Thou didst say>, "Seek My face," my heart said to Thee, "Thy face, O LORD, I shall seek."

Do our actions confirm that we have this much dedication?

verse 14 Wait for the LORD; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.

Psa 33:20 Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.

Psa 34:10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing.

Psa 37:9 For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.

Psa 37:34 Wait for the LORD, and keep His way, And He will exalt you to inherit the land; When the wicked are cut off, you will see it.

Psa 40:1 I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, and heard my cry.

verse 8 I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart. "

Is the law in our hearts? Do we keep the Sabbath Holy or do we allow ourselves to pollute it when we want to? Do we take God's name in vain with those "Oh my Gods" nearly everyone is using today? Do we drive God away with our lawbreaking, then wonder why God seems so distant? Do we realize that lawbreaking can even separate us from God's people? Do we lead a double life depending upon who we are with?

Psa 42:1-2 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for Thee, O God. {2} My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?

Psa 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.

How deeply do we repent of our sins?

Psa 62:1 My soul <waits> in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation.

Psa 63:1 O God, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly; My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psa 70:4 Let all who seek Thee rejoice and be glad in Thee; And let those who love Thy salvation say continually, "Let God be magnified."

Psa 84:2 My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.

Psa 86:11-12 Teach me Thy way, O LORD; I will walk in Thy truth; Unite my heart to fear Thy name. {12} I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Thy name forever.

Do we glorify God's name to others by our actions? Or do we keep our love of God hidden under a basket?

Psa 119:2 How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, Who seek Him with all <their> heart.

verse 10 With all my heart I have sought Thee; Do not let me wander from Thy commandments.

In this verse David proves the interdependency of obedience to God's commandments and spiritual hunger.

verse 19-20 I am a stranger in the earth; Do not hide Thy commandments from me. {20} My soul is crushed with longing After Thine ordinances at all times.

verse 40 Behold, I long for Thy precepts; Revive me through Thy righteousness.

verse 77 May Thy compassion come to me that I may live, For Thy law is my delight.

verses 116-117 Sustain me according to Thy word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope. {117} Uphold me that I may be safe, That I may have regard for Thy statutes continually.

Psa 123:2 Behold, as the eyes of servants <look> to the hand of their master, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress; So our eyes <look> to the LORD our God, Until He shall be gracious to us.

Psa 130:5-6 I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope. {6} My soul <waits> for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning; <Indeed>, <more than> the watchmen for the morning.

Psa 143:6 I stretch out my hands to Thee; My soul <longs> for Thee, as a parched land. Selah.

Prov 8:17 "I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.

How do we love God?...By doing what he commands.

verse 34 "Blessed is the man who listens to me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at my doorposts.

The prophets expressed the same feelings:

Isa 8:17 And I will wait for the LORD who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will even look eagerly for Him.

Isa 40:31 Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up <with> wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

This prophesy is quoted by many who believe that when we flee the tribulation, God's people with be given super-natural strength to escape our pursuers.

Jer 29:13 'And you will seek Me and find <Me>,when you search for Me with all your heart.

Lam 3:25-26 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. {26} <It is> good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD.

Please turn to Hosea 10:12. Thereís a lot of meat in this one little verse. Listen to what it says.

Hosea 10:12 Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.

Can you see Hosea's link between righteous living, kindness, and God's reward?

In the New Testament, Paul expressed the same desire to seek God:

Phil 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained <it>, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. {13} Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of <it> yet; but one thing <I do>: forgetting what <lies> behind and reaching forward to what <lies> ahead, {14} I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please <Him>, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and <that> He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

But God doesn't just want us to sit around with a low level of hunger. He wants us to grow:

1 Pet 2:2-3 like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, {3} if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

Peter is here reiterating what Christ said. Notice that Peter describes our needs as milk, not beef steaks. He is talking to spiritual babes in whom he expects to see growth.

In First Corinthians, Paul describes the same shortcomings in the Church at Corinth:

1 Cor 3:1-3 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. {2} I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able <to receive it>. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, {3} for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?

Notice Paul's admonition to the Corinthians to put aside their carnal selves - jealousy and strife. Notice how we can not absorb stronger meat until we have grown spiritually. How spiritually mature are we? When we receive strong meat, do we take exception to it? Could it be that we are simply too spiritually immature to accept it? How long have you been committed to God and how much have you grown? Is your life still full of strife and envy and other sins? Is that whatís holding you back?

In Hebrews 5, Paul scolds the Christian Jews for lack of growth:

Heb 5:11-14 Concerning him we have much to say, and <it is> hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. {12} For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. {13} For everyone who partakes <only> of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. {14} But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Paul probably recognized the advantage the converted Jews should have had over the converted Gentiles and was irritated over their lack of growth. Again he uses the analogy of milk versus solid food. Again I ask, how much have we grown...what is holding us back? There was a time when we were spiritually hungry and God fed us with His Truth. How far have we grown? Let's read verse 14 again:

{14} But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Are you mature or do you still fail even the most basic tests? Do you change when you hear or see new truth? How much of God's Spirit do you have? Does it matter to you? Are you satisfied with what the world provides and figure that what knowledge you have is sufficient?

In your mind, has God given you enough knowledge that you can get by...that your physical livelihood will get you by now without yielding anymore to God's Way of life?

Let's see what God told the Israelites about that:

Deu 8:3 "And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.

Christ reiterated this. Let's look at John 6:

John 6:33-35 "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." {34} They said therefore to Him, "Lord, evermore give us this bread." {35} Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

I'm sure we all say "Give us this bread". But what do we do with it? Yes, Christ is the bread of life. We shall not hunger or thirst if we are filled with the Holy Spirit, do things Christ's way and believe and do what he has told us. Can we then just say, "we no longer hunger and thirst for God's word?" How much have we grown since first receiving His spiritual food? Or do we still fall back into our old ways because "it's not that big a thing"?

Are we satisfied with our status quo or have we grown and are now hungering for more of God's Word. Do we crave steak or milk? Or do we crave anything?

 

There will someday be a cutting off of the Word of God. No matter how hungry people are at that time for God's Truth, it will not be available. Notice Amos 8:

Amos 8:11-13 "Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord GOD, "When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD. {12} "And people will stagger from sea to sea, And from the north even to the east; They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, But they will not find <it>. {13} "In that day the beautiful virgins And the young men will faint from thirst.

People will hunger and thirst for the Word and will not receive it. Why? Probably because they will be so terrified at the threats from the world around them, they will turn in desperation to seek Godís way of life and His protection. But Godís teachers will be unavailable.

The time to satisfy Spiritual Hunger is now while knowledge and understanding are available.

 

 

Sermon given by Wayne Bedwell

9 February 2013

 

 

Copyright 2013, Wayne Bedwell

 

 

 

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