Sunday, July 12, 2009

Spiritual Food

Spiritual food according to Jesus – every word that proceeds from the mouth of God

Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mat 4:4) [also Deut 8:3].

You will remember that this was Jesus’ answer to Satan when He was tempted by Satan after His 40 days fast in the wilderness, when Satan suggested to Jesus to prove He was the Son of God by turning the stones to bread to eat since Jesus was hungry, having come out of a long fast. Jesus in answering Satan in that manner, was telling us that man is both physical and spiritual, the physical part of us needs to eat physical food (like bread) and the spiritual part of us needs to eat also and the food is every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Bible – Spiritual food?
If we say the Bible is the Word of God, then it must have originated from God, otherwise it would not be called the Word of God, would it? But does it always proceed from the mouth of God? From what I read in the Bible, God spoke His words. A key text is Isaiah 55:11 -

so is my word that GOES OUT FROM MY MOUTH: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11)

Even the Ten Commandments were spoken (whether it was spoken first or written first, it was not relevant, when it was spoken, it was to be food). Even Creation was spoken into being, if you read the Genesis story in the Bible. I believe God spoke most of the time, if not all the time (instead of just writing, for example). It does not matter in what form you received them, if it originated from word(s) that proceeded from the mouth of God, it is food to us.

The Ten Commandments for example was first spoken. Whether the people subsequently read from the stone tablets or heard them through Moses or any other person, it still originated from words that proceeded from the mouth of God. So if God spoke to an angel and the angel then told it to a man, say like Mary (Jesus’ mother), what was spoken was food too for the man (Mary, in this case). Likewise, in place of the angels if God uses the Holy Spirit, what is revealed or inspired by the Holy Spirit is food. Since the Bible is written by men and the belief is that these men were inspired by the Holy Spirit in their writings, the Bible is Spiritual food, indeed.

What about the manifestations of the Holy Spirit? Are they spiritual food?
What if God caused a man to have a dream, would that dream be food for the man? It would be if God spoke. I believe God speaks and the Holy Spirit hears and He brings the dream on. In that way, the dream was food for the man. Whether it is Old Testament or New Testament, the Holy Spirit always existed, being part of the Triune God. The New Testament talks about the Holy Spirit teaching, giving man the words to speak, speaking through man, giving utterances (tongues) to man. The Bible also talks about dreams (seeing pictures while asleep) and visions (seeing pictures while awake), and prophecies (speaking of what God wanted said) given by the Holy Spirit. Do dreams, visions and words of knowledge, wisdom and prophecies and other manifestations of the Holy Spirit qualify as food for us? The answer is yes.

What follows (of John 16:13) I believe is revelation to many, it was for me when it was first revealed to me (by the Holy Spirit). Why did I answer affirmatively for the last question above? It is because of the revelation in John 16:13.

But when he, the Spirit of truth [the Holy Spirit], comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he HEARS, and he will tell you what is yet to come (John 16:13).

The Holy Spirit will speak what he hears. That means words proceeded from the mouth of God, and the Holy Spirit hears and then goes about doing what he does – guide, speak, inspire, reveal, give dreams, visions and words, prophecies, etc [collectively I called them manifestations of the Holy Spirit]. The manifestations of the Holy Spirit are food to us. I believe the Church has not accorded a high enough importance to this food relative to the Bible. This is fresh food, we should feed on it more. The so-called Rhema Word is actually food given through the Holy Spirit. I believe going forward my perspective of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit is changed. If a manifestation is of the Holy Spirit, it is food, I will eat it.

Perhaps we are living in the last days (not last day). If that is so, then Acts 2:17-18 (Joel 2:28-29) applies:

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy (Acts 2:17-18)

Have you wondered why God would want to do this? I believe God foresees the need for tailored food to given to the Body in the last days. And the Holy Spirit is the one bringing it.

This understanding is consistent with what Jesus said as spiritual food to us (Mat 4:4) and what Jesus himself said in John14:26. Jesus himself said when He went back to Heaven after Resurrection, the Holy Spirit will be sent to the believers and the Holy Spirit will teach the believers all things and remind believers everything Jesus had said to the believers.

Milk and solid food
Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 talked about different food for different stages of our spiritual growth. Paul seemed to say that if we are still with jealousy and are quarrelsome (v 3), and we boast of human wisdom and boast about men (v 18-21), we are still infants. Paul said for infants, you get milk, not solid food. The writer of the Book of Hebrew in Heb 5:12-14 talked about different food for different spiritual maturity (just like what we have in the physical realm, babies have milk, adults have solid food). Here (in verse 13), the writer used a more all encompassing word, “righteousness” to distinguish between infancy and adulthood. This righteousness I have come to term it as "active righteousness". After you have read the rest of this article, you will understand what is meant by active righteousness. The mature Christians, by constant use (of the words, gifts, etc of God) have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Such can feed on solid food.

How we grow
All of us have varying degree of difficulties over the time of our Christian walk in understanding the content of the Bible. Some things we did not understand previously, maybe now we understand. This is because we are growing. It would be a concern if over time we did not come to understand more of the Bible. But how do we grow?

First we start with faith. How does faith come? Faith comes by the HEARING, and HEARING by the word of God. This is not my quote. It is Paul’s quote in Roman 10:17 (NKJ). There is something powerful about the SPOKEN word of God. For faith to come, you need to HEAR, to hear, you need the word of God to be SPOKEN (to proceed from the mouth). There seemed to be a pattern here [reality bears it out] - if we release the word of God like God does it (by letting it proceed from the mouth), it will possess the kind of power that God intended it to have. (the power that God talked about in Isaiah 55:11 – see above) – this is revelation to me even as I write, the more excellent way is to SPEAK the word of God. I now must aspire to speak the word of God (not just write them like this), especially the revelations that I believe I received through the Holy Spirit. May the Lord open up the platforms/doors for me for this purpose.

Second, with faith we act. Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (James 2:17). James went further to elaborate with the life of Abraham. This is what is spoken of Abraham in this regard:

You see that his [Abraham’s] faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone (James 2:22-24).

James went on to cite the faith and deed of Rahab, the prostitute [you can read the full story at Joshua 2 & Joshua 6], and concluded in verse 26 as follows:

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead (James 2:26)

What am I saying? What I am saying is that we do not grow if we do not follow up our faith with action. The pattern is this: We feed on the word, the word brings faith, we are to act on the faith, in that way we grow, and then we go back to feed on the word again, faith again comes, again we act on the faith, and we grow further and we are able to feed on more solid food, and it is to go on and on. If you do not act or are without deed you won’t grow, and when you are not growing, the more solid food would not be suitable for you, i.e. they would not spur you further to greater good works, and without the works, again no growth, finally you ended up at where the writer of the Book of Hebrew talked about, in Heb 5:12 –

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again (Heb 5:12).

Are manifestations of the Holy Spirit solid food?
I have touched on Hebrew 5, verses 12 & 13. What the writer said in verse 14 is very interesting:

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:14)

What was the writer trying to say here? I believe the writer of the Book of Hebrew was painting to us a picture of a mature Christian. He was one who had done what I talked about above – about one who had repeatedly fed on the word, put the resultant faith into actions, grew and went back for more, over and over again. So, by “constant use”, the mature Christian has trained himself to know what is good and what is evil. A growing process obviously included learning and by learning, it meant we stumbled at times, we made mistakes at times but we learnt, including spiritual things, what is of the Holy Spirit, what is not, how to test and interpret spiritual things, what is the appropriate thing to do, what is not the appropriate thing to do, etc.

I believe manifestations of the Holy Spirit tended more to be solid food, although some people started younger (in the faith). Of course, age and time do not necessarily correctly indicate the maturity of the believers. The reservations of some quarters in the Body of Christ concerning the emphasis on the works of the Holy Spirit, I believe, stem from the fear that one is not able to distinguish good from evil. But the writer of the Book of Hebrew said by constant use we can train ourselves to distinguish good from evil.

What I like to see is that the Body regards the manifestations of the Holy Spirit as spiritual food, as tailored food, as solid food and goes for it. Let the less mature (no offence intended) seek help (showing humility) from the mature, and the mature extend help (freely you received, freely you give) to the less mature, so that the whole Body is built up and becomes stronger.

Anthony Chia - Manifestations of the Holy Spirits are food

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