Do you enjoy eating candy? How about as a child?
It is no amazing thing to take a child to a grocery store and have them stop and stare longingly toward the candy isle, hoping that there will be some great appropriation of the presented treats and that, in the end, they will have their hands and face coated in the surgery sweetness of some chocolate delight. Every parent who has ever taken their child shopping has probably heard the desperate plea of their offspring, hoping that somehow they can convince their mom or dad that their survival hinges with absolute certainty upon whether or not they get a piece of candy. Perhaps they go so far as to cry against their parents, claiming that mom or dad just does not love them because they would not get them a morsel of sugar.
Sugar candy is a child's delight. But good parenting knows that there must be a necessary limit on the sweet treat, and a greater emphasis on better nutrition that will grow and sustain their lives. And so it is in the Christian life.
Peter wrote in his letter, "Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation--if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good" (1 Peter 2:2-3). Anything other than that which will cause you to grow and mature in Christ is merely sugar candy.
But what is spiritual sugar candy?
Basically, anything that is drawn from your immature passions or desires, those things that feed your whims and not your soul, and those things, like candy, that do not provide any real spiritual nutrition but only a quick "sugar high" that ultimately leaves you longing for another "fix." It is possible to get addicted to sugar--and to use the illustration, it is possible to get a spiritual addiction to those hyped-up moments that give you the spiritual "buzz" but leave you without anything of real substance.
Jesus deals with this issue of the immature seeking the spiritual sugar candy in John chapter 6. If you have a Bible, take a moment and go and read the whole chapter as our Lord feeds the 5000 then challenges them against their selfish desires.
Okay... hopefully you've returned. I want to highlight one particular verse--verse 26. "Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves."
Ultimately, what the people wanted was breakfast the next morning. They had ate their fill, and now, being hungry again, they wanted Jesus to do it all over. So Jesus told them that their only reason for coming was to have their superficial hunger satisfied. They were looking for "sugar candy." They had no desire for Christ Himself, despite the fact that He had just demonstrated His divine authority and power.
But what are the modern versions of spiritual sugar candy?
Again, as I stated above, anything that we crave that only satisfies our selfish delights, those things that fill up our whims and fancies. Let me put it another way...
Do you go to worship because it tantalizes your feelings or because it increases your knowledge and awareness of Christ? Do you read the Scriptures, seeking to find those morsels that presumably speak of your own personal aggrandizement and avoid those texts that teach of sacrificial submission to Christ? Do you look for Christian fellowship that will continually stroke your ego, boost your sense of worth and avoid those fellowships that will remind you of the holiness of Christ and your call to live a selfless life?
If the answer is, "yes," then you are one who is seeking spiritual sugar candy.
It is time to repent of such childishness. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways" (1 Corinthians 13:11). There must come that time when we all put away our childish ways and grow up.
What does maturity in Christ look like? It looks like one who continues striving toward the goal of Christlikeness: humility, faithfulness, holiness and love. Consider the words of Paul to the Philippians:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. ~ Philippians 3:12-16
We all start off as immature. But do not let that be the place where you remain. Let us do as we are instructed by the Scriptures, "Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1).
I need a catharsis. Everyone does. There are those things that we keep inside our souls, deep in the recesses of our hearts, that weigh down life and prevent us from having the buoyancy needed to continue sailing in the ocean of God's grace and love. Hebrews 12:1 calls them "...every weight, and sin which clings so close." They are the dross of life that needs to be burned up and purged away.
Years ago, doctors would give people a mixture of rather unsavory tonic to cause them to "purge." Today it's known as Ipecac and it does the same thing--as every parent is probably aware. The ancient Greek physicians would call it "kathairein" and it would mean to "make pure" or to "cleanse." It wasn't pleasant... but it was purifying.
Today, people seek for those cathartic moments, experiences and situations that would help them purge away the emotional baggage from their souls. However, rather than purging themselves of the sinful nature they run to that very nature in hopes that they will soon feel the release from the demands of their conscience. If only they could feel comfortable in their own skin and not have the burden of a continued sense of guilt. It would be like a person dying from ingested poison, only to seek out more of the poison in hopes that their body would soon get used to it.
It's foolish. But it is happening all around us.
However, it doesn't change the need for a catharsis. The weight of burdens and sins that cling are still there. What does it take for us, for those who believe on the Lord Jesus for salvation and yet still carry the burdens of past failures, present sins and personal griefs, to experience that catharsis?
We must come to Jesus.
As Jesus washed the disciples feet in John chapter 13 He said this in verse 10, "The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean." That is to say, those who have come to the Lord Jesus for salvation (bathed) still walks through the dirt of this world and needs to have their feet washed. There are still things we pick up along the way, sins from which we still struggle to be free, and past failures that still weigh us down with sorrow. Ignoring them does not cause them to go away. He has already invited us to come in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
So, how do we come to Jesus?
Our Lord answered that very thing--we come to Him by faith through His word. John 15:3 Jesus said this, "Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you." That cleansing, that purging that is so desperately needed is going to be found through the Word of God. It is the "tonic" that the Great Physician has given so that all who drink deep of His water will discover a well of everlasting life.
An interesting illustration of this, and I use this ONLY for the illustration, is Revelation 10:10. "And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter." And so it goes with much of God's medicine of His word. It is sweet to us, we desire it for we know the cathartic properties it will provide. Yet it is bitter and will cause us to grieve and sorrow. But consider the words of 2 Corinthians 7:10, "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death." It is the very thing God has given to us in order that we should be purged of our burdens and sins.
But it's not magic. You can't just read the Scriptures and walk away thinking that somehow it will magically transform you. It is to be ingested... made a part of you... obeyed. The Word of God must become the living and active experience of your life (Hebrews 4:12-13). James 1:22 says, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."
All of us need catharsis. All of us need that cleansing and purging of sins and past weights that cause us to sink into personal sorrow. Will you pick up the "tonic" of God's word and begin to drink deep of His remedy? I will too.
From the Mountains to the Sea
Every step we take on this journey called life ought to be used for greater understanding. I've lived from the mountains to the sea, and this blog is my personal thoughts and observations with a desire for Biblical understanding. Welcome.