Intimacy with God. John 6:48-58 Bible References
48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:48-58, ESV2011)
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There is a lot to this scripture. Off-hand, I think I could probably preach on it for three or four weeks. So, settle in.
No, I’m not going to do that. Instead, I want us to grasp the main point, and then try to find some practical applications. Jesus said these words during a long conversation he had with a crowd of people, right after the feeding of the 5000. The crowd wanted more free food. Jesus is saying, in essence:
You want food for your stomach. After you digest that kind of food, you’re done with it. Your ancestors ate miraculous food, just like the miraculous bread I just gave you. But they eventually died, because it was just food. But now, I am offering you a different kind of food. Not something physical, but something spiritual. If you eat this spiritual food, you won’t die. It will sustain you eternally. This spiritual food I am offering you is me. I am real spiritual food and drink. You need to take me into yourself, just like food and drink. If you feast yourself on me, my life, and the life of my Father, will be in you. You will have eternal life.
As I said, there is a lot more to this passage, but I want to focus on the main point Jesus is making. The first thing I want to do is encourage you to believe what Jesus said. He is real spiritual food. He is real spiritual drink. His life can sustain you from the inside out in a way that physical things never can. Unfortunately our “default setting” in life appears to be an orientation toward physical satisfaction. We want to gratify our physical appetites. We seek food, and physical comfort and physical intimacy, as well as other physical things that please us. But everyone who ever satisfied their hunger in a physical way became hungry again. In fact, every person who has satisfied their physical hungers has ultimately died. Physical satisfaction simply doesn’t last, and it cannot sustain us.
So, I urge you, look to Jesus for your true and deepest satisfaction. He is enough. He is real spiritual nourishment. Feast your soul on Jesus, and He will sustain you forever. We need to believe this. We need to trust his words in such a way that we put them into action.
Now, some of us may have trouble trusting this. I have good news if that is you. Imagine two men, falling off of a cliff. Their only hope is to grab on to one of two trees that are growing out of the side of the cliff. Suppose the first man is utterly convinced that tree #1 will hold him. He has the strongest faith in the world. However, tree #1 has a very weak root system, and no matter how much he trusts it, if he holds on to tree #1, it will pull loose from the cliff, and the first man will plunge to his death. I know I said this is good news, so consider tree #2. Tree #2 has deep, strong roots, and it will save the second man without a doubt. But what if the man doesn’t trust tree #2 very much? He only needs enough faith to hold on to it. It isn’t the strength of his faith that holds him, it is the strength of the tree. All he needs is a little bit of trust – just enough to make him reach out and grab the tree.
So, brothers and sisters, all you need is just enough faith to reach out and take hold of Jesus. It doesn’t matter if you have doubts, as long as you believe enough to reach for Jesus. I shared this scripture with you to encourage you to do that.
So, that’s the first thing: reach out for the all sufficiency of Jesus. Trust that in Him is real spiritual food and drink; in Him is what you need to sustain you. Seek satisfaction in Jesus.
The other thing I want to talk about is how to practically go about “feasting on Jesus.” How do I “eat” him? How do I find the soul-satisfaction he offers? What, exactly, do I do? I think that answer varies a little bit from person to person. However, there are three things that the Bible tells all Christians to engage in in order to feast on Jesus.
The first is, reading the Bible. I started doing this when I was about twelve years old. Thankfully, I didn’t know that all good Christians are supposed to get up early in the morning and read the Bible first thing, or it never would have happened. I haven’t been an early riser since I was about 8 years old. I hate mornings. So, when I started reading the Bible, I read it at night, just before I went to bed. I read about a chapter every night. It became real spiritual food and drink for me. What began at age twelve has become a lifelong habit. Everything I am today is centered around, and based upon, God’s Word through the Bible. One of the reasons the Bible is so important is because the purpose of the Bible is to help us get to know Jesus. The Scripture reveals Jesus to us.
Now, I recently spoke with someone who has tried reading the Bible, and it just hasn’t helped them. They just don’t get anything out of it. I have two thoughts for someone like that. First, my Bible reading really began in earnest shortly after I asked God to fill me with the Holy Spirit. I think we need the work of the Holy Spirit in us to truly benefit from the Bible:
10Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. (1Cor 2:10-12, HCSB)
So, begin by asking the Holy Spirit to come and fill you; ask the Lord to baptize you (immerse you in) the Holy Spirit, so that you can understand what the Spirit says through the scripture. Then, I recommend that you find your best time of day – and it may not be morning – and try to read about a chapter each day at that time.
I also think we need to recognize that like almost anything that benefits us, it takes time and consistency. Imagine you wanted to get into physical shape. So, you exercised… three or four times. You didn’t particularly enjoy it. You didn’t lose any weight. You don’t really feel any better. Would you then conclude: “Exercise doesn’t work, I don’t notice any difference.” Of course not. You need time and consistency for exercise to make a difference in your life. The same is true of dieting. The same is true if you want to learn a new language, subject or skill. The same is true if you want to earn money at a job. So it is in spiritual things also, particularly in reading the Bible. Read the Bible every day for six months, and then come back and tell me whether or not it has made a difference. Until you do, I do not think you can say you have genuinely tried nourishing your soul on Jesus through scripture.
The next thing is prayer. I think at its heart, prayer is simply giving Jesus access. You are opening your heart and mind to him. You are inviting him to be an ongoing part of your life. I have a constant, running conversation going on with the Lord. It isn’t just about spiritual things. I share my thoughts with him while I’m fishing, or cooking, or walking. We even crack jokes sometimes (he actually gets my sense of humor!) I invite him into my thought process, constantly. There are times when I am also more deliberate and directed in my prayers. Those are the times I am specifically “praying for” someone or something. But the conversation with Jesus is always open.
By the way, my best way to pray is out loud, while I am walking. I can pray for an hour while I walk. But put me in a prayer chapel, and I’ll probably just fall asleep. Don’t confine prayer to some particular place, time or posture. Find out what works best for you.
Part of prayer is giving thanks. Giving thanks is a way of receiving. When we thank the Lord for something, that helps us to appropriate it more fully. So for me, thanks and praise are important components of my praying.
The third big path to “feeding on Jesus” is this: we need fellowship with other open and genuine Christians. I recognize that a lot of Christians are jerks, and sometimes it’s hard to find Christians you like. Author Tim Keller agrees:
I will grant that, on the whole, churchgoers may be weaker psychologically and morally than non-churchgoers. That should be no more surprising than the fact that people sitting in a doctor’s office are on the whole sicker than those who are not there. Churches rightly draw a higher proportion of needy people. They also have a greater number of people whose lives have been completely turned around and filled with the joy of Christ.
…I realize how risky it is to tell my readers that they should seek out a church. I don’t do it lightly, and I urge them to do so with the utmost care. But there is no alternative. You can’t live the Christian life without a band of Christian friends, without a family of believers in which you find a place.
As Keller concludes, however, there is no alternative to Christian fellowship. We need fellow-Christians in order to truly feast on Jesus. For myself, I need people who are “real,” who are not pretending to be something they are not. When you find “real” people, you can have meaningful relationships. It may be messy at times, but ultimately such Christian friends have become very dear and important to me. I couldn’t do life with Jesus without them.
Those are the big three: Bible Reading, Prayer, and genuine Fellowship with other Christians. But I’m going to offer a few more ways that help me stay close to Jesus, and to find my soul-satisfaction in Him. These next few are not in any particular order of importance – they all help me in various ways. They may, or may not, be helpful to you.
Solitude. When I spend time alone, the conversation I have going on with the Lord comes to the forefront. It becomes He and I, hanging out together. Usually once or twice each year I go away alone for two or three days. I read, I write, I listen to music, hike and fish. But most importantly I’m doing it all with the Lord. I am making room for Him. Generally, I do not make use of a lot of media during these times, other than reading and music.
Music. Music opens a back door into my heart. It doesn’t even have to be specifically Christian music. But something about it softens my heart, and opens me up toward God. Listening to music is often a quick way to bring me closer to the Lord.
Nature. God made the world. When I immerse myself in the natural world, particularly in beautiful places, it softens my heart toward Him, much like music. I am often moved to praise and thank God when I am out in nature. I feel like the beauty I see in nature is a reflection, perhaps an echo, of God’s beauty.
Beauty in General. True beauty awakens a longing, or desire in us. I see beautiful scenery, and I think “I want that!” But what does that mean? What exactly do I want? The truth is hard to put into coherent words. I want to be immersed in it somehow, filled with it. I want to take it into myself. The longing itself has a kind a joy associated with it. I believe that ultimately, the longing that beauty awakens in me is a desire to be fully satisfied in Jesus. When I keep that in mind, beauty helps me grow closer to Him. It keeps me focused on the eternal promises of satisfaction in God.
Letting God love me through other people. When someone is unexpectedly kind or generous with me, it is normal to think, “That’s really sweet of that person.” I get a tender spot in my heart for the one who gives me something, or does something special for me, especially when I don’t expect or deserve it. I think it is good and right to be grateful to that person, and it’s normal to feel more open or tender toward him or her. But the Lord has encouraged me to look beyond that person and recognize that all grace comes ultimately from Him. It is the Lord who gives people the ability and motivation to be kind, generous and good toward others. This is true whether someone knows it or not.
16Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. 17Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. (Jas 1:16-17, HCSB)
So, when another person blesses me with a word of encouragement, a kind act, a gift, or in some other way, I try to recognize that the blessing originated with the Father. It may come through a person, but it comes from the Father. When I trust that is true, that helps. The tenderness or kind thoughts I have for the person who blessed me are now also directed at the Father.
Reading (in addition to scripture). I probably read more than the average person – perhaps one book every week. I read both fiction and non-fiction, and at different times what I am reading in addition to the Bible helps me feel closer to Jesus. Books like The Lord of the Rings, with its epic themes, inspire me, and help me draw close to the Lord. Sometimes, it is Christian books that do that for me. A few of the non-fiction books that stand out in my mind over the past few years include: The Pressure is Off (Larry Crabb); The Rest of the Gospel (Dan Stone); The Sacred Romance, and Journey of Desire (John Eldredge); Desiring God (John Piper); The Reason for God (Timothy Keller).
In addition to books, I sometimes read daily devotionals. Lately, with the difficulties we’ve been going through, Streams in the Desert has been wonderful for me.
Journaling. I find that writing my thoughts and prayers often helps me feel connected to Jesus. It is a physical expression of that ongoing conversation in my head.
I think that all of these ways to “feast on Jesus” involve two critical components. The first is time. We have to carve out time for some of this in our lives. If we really believe that Jesus is the source of eternal life, that only He can truly satisfy, then it stands to reason that we should devote a certain amount of time to ways that we can take hold of that. There is no way around this. Either Jesus is important enough to spend time on, or he is not. This isn’t “McJesus.” It isn’t an instant happy meal. We spend time on the things we truly believe are important. So, if you believe what Jesus says, we need to say “no” to some things in our lives in order to say “yes” to more of Him.
Second, all of these ways of being close to Jesus involve some sort of receiving from Him. The essence of the gospel is that we are totally dependent on God. We can, and should, carve out time for this. But ultimately, we depend upon Him to come and bless us. Music is a way of receiving. Thanksgiving is a way of receiving. Even reading the Bible is about receiving what He wants to say. This isn’t about us doing our duty. It is about putting ourselves in a humble place, about preparing ourselves to receive what He wants to give.
Remember, you don’t need to have a faith that is beyond all doubts. What helps you is not the strength of your faith, but the strength of Jesus himself. All you need is enough faith to reach out towards him, to seek him for your satisfaction.