More than just a meal ticket

The Covington News - - Religion -

Cal­en­dar sub­mis­sions may be sent to news@ cov­news.com. In­clude a place, time, de­scrip­tion of the event and a tele­phone num­ber.

Ev­ery Fri­day at 6 a.m.; Cov­ing­ton Diner, 6238 Turner Lake Road; first study the Res­o­lu­tion for Men; op­tional $7.50 for book; (678) 625-3551 or acts1711.org.

Through Aug. 20, Satur­day and Mon­day 6:30 p.m., Sun­day 9:15 and 10 a.m., 5:50 p.m.; Berean Bap­tist Church, 20 Old So­cial Circle Road, So­cial Circle; (770) 3170316 or acts1711.org. Block Party

11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; One Heart Min­istries Community Block Party; Mur­ray Memo­rial CME Church, 4100 North West Street; free food, in­flat­a­bles, games, prizes, fel­low­ship, fun.

11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; Mt. Zion AME Church, Mans­field; The Rev. David F. Richards III and the Rev. Wal­ter Moon. Bethabara Mis­sion­ary Bap­tist Church Homecoming

11 a. m.; 11392 Ga. High­way 36; Homecoming and Fam­ily and Friends Day. Mt. Zion AME Re­vival

7: 30 p. m. nightly through Aug. 22; Mt. Zion AME Church, Mans­field; speak­ers the Rev. Michael Ehraim, Pas­tor Char­lie Stem­bridge and the Rev. Toni Belin-In­gram. Bethabara Mis­sion­ary Bap­tist Re­vival

Through Aug. 23, 7 p.m.; 11392 Ga. High­way 36; speak­ers Pas­tor Authur “Jamie” Croone and Pas­tor Ger­ald Simp­kins of Re­deem­ing Love Chris­tian Church, Cony­ers; ev­ery­one in­vited. Cony­ers First Pres­by­te­rian Church Pre- school

Reg­is­tra­tion now open for fall classes for 1 through 4 year-olds. Classes based on age Sept. 1. Call church of­fice, (770) 929-0700. Red Oak UMC BBQ and Stew

10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Red Oak United Methodist Church, Ga. High­way 36 next to FFA Camp; eat in or carry out, by quart of pound. Cony­ers First Pres­by­te­rian Church Preschool

Reg­is­tra­tion now open for fall classes for 1 through 4 year-olds. Classes based on age Sept. 1. Call church of­fice, (770) 929-0700.

SEPT. 29

SATUR­DAY Gath­er­ing the Har­vest Outreach

11 a. m. to 4 p. m.; Re­demp­tive Life Chris­tian Fel­low­ship, 406 Pleas­ant Hill Road, Cony­ers; free park­ing, re­fresh­ments, give­aways, health clinic, credit sem­i­nar, praise, wor­ship, gospel mu­sic; Ven­dors call Crys­tal Tay­lor (770) 855-7282; evan­ge­lism@ there­demp­tivelife. org, ( 770) 9221234. Abid­ing Grace Fall Fes­ti­val

10: 30 a.m.; wor­ship fol­lowed by free BBQ lunch, games, prizes, cake­walk, con­tests and a hayride. (770) 385-7691.

ON­GO­ING

Jersey Community Church

9:15 a.m. Sun­day Bi­ble study, 10:30 a.m. wor­ship ser­vice; 6:30 p.m. groups for adults and chil­dren; nurs­ery pro­vided; down­town Jersey, Pas­tor Terry Lit­tle; ca­sual, friendly set­ting with mod­ern con­tem­po­rary wor­ship mu­sic; jc­cga.net or (770) 464-2638. Re­form­ers Unan­i­mous

7 to 9 p.m.; The Bap­tist Taber­na­cle, 10119 Ac­cess Road; Wat Pick­ens, (770) 598-3563; ev­ery Fri­day. God’s Spir­i­tual In­spi­ra­tion Choir

A capella choir; new mem­bers ac­cepted; gdfryeliz@ aol. com or call (678) 625-4728 be­fore 7 a.m.; Min­is­ter El­iz­a­beth Par­tridge-Godfrey.

“Al­right, let’s eat!” When you hear those words, what thoughts come to your mind?

“Let’s eat!” I hear that and I’m start­ing to sniff the air for what’s on the menu. I’m think­ing about that meal we had in here last week. And sure, I had break­fast this morn­ing, but that was al­ready a long time ago. And even if I have eaten re­cently, who cares? The thought of good food like that gets my stomach to telling me I’m hun­gry again. I could go for some more of that BBQ, and the mac n’ cheese, and the cob­bler and all the rest.

OK — I’d bet­ter stop. That kind of think­ing can get a per­son dis­tracted. But it’s got pull, doesn’t it? Just think­ing about it makes you want more. Think of the lengths you’ve gone to in or­der to an­swer the call of your stomach. Whether it’s the hours you spend pre­par­ing a spe­cial meal, the sweat and toil it takes to grow your own gar­den, or just the huge amounts you’ve paid at restau­rants for those spe­cial oc­ca­sions — you know what I’m talk­ing about, right?

But, deep down you know some­thing else — there is a part of you that is far hun­grier than your stomach? That’s Je­sus’ point in our text, isn’t it? That’s what he does with this whole dis­cus­sion that started with Je­sus an­swer­ing the stom­achs of more than 5,000 peo­ple with a cou­ple fish and a few pieces of bread. He turns what must have been an ob­vi­ous topic of con­ver­sa­tion, the mul­ti­ply­ing loaves and fish, into talk about bet­ter bread, the Bread of Heaven, the bread that nour­ishes you not just for a few hours, but for eter­nal life.

And so, the peo­ple said, v. 34: “From now on, give us this bread!” That was a big step for them. Af­ter all, at the be­gin­ning of the text, Je­sus has to get on them be­cause they were miss­ing the point. They were just fol­low­ing him be­cause they saw some­one who could take care of them. He was their meal ticket, lit­er­ally. You see, this text fol­lows on the heels of Je­sus’ fa­mous “Feed­ing of the 5,000” mir­a­cle, where ev­ery sin­gle hun­gry per­son there ate their fill even though they hadn’t brought any food them­selves. Je­sus took that one small boy’s small lunch, said a prayer and mirac­u­lously fed ev­ery­one — 5,000 men plus any wives and chil­dren who were there too. And they had 12 bas­kets of food left over. With a mir­a­cle like that, I’d want to fol­low too, to see what would hap­pen next.

But notice, look at the text…that’s not why they are fol­low­ing Je­sus. Read verse 26 closely: “I tell you the truth, you are look­ing for me, not be­cause you saw mirac­u­lous signs but be­cause you ate the loaves Has that ever jumped out at you be­fore? It wasn’t the mir­a­cle. It was not what the abil­ity to do what he did said about who he was. It was the food, plain and sim­ple. It was a mat­ter of “What’s in it for me?” “Who cares who you are? All I care about is what I get out of it.”

That re­al­iza­tion makes this story hit a lit­tle closer to home, doesn’t it? I mean, we can tell our­selves all day that if we would have seen a mir­a­cle like that, we would have been fol­low­ers of Je­sus, we would’ve “got­ten it” and would have fol­lowed him. But that wasn’t re­ally these peo­ple’s prob­lem. Their prob­lem wasn’t that they weren’t fol­low­ing Je­sus. It was that they were fol­low­ing him for the wrong rea­sons, for self­ish rea­sons.

Now — bring that truth into your life. Sure, you’re fol­low­ing Je­sus, you pray to him…but why? Has the mir­ror of God’s law ever shown you to be one who sees God as a noth­ing but a meal ticket? Yes, he is your pro­tec­tor, and de­fender, and provider, but has it ever hap­pened that that be­comes why you fol­low him? Yes, Je­sus fed those peo­ple, but their fol­low­ing him was a prob­lem be­cause they were do­ing it for the wrong rea­sons. So how do you know if you’ve got the right rea­sons? Well, if you’ve ever been dis­ap­pointed be­cause you trusted in God and didn’t get what you wanted…there’s your an­swer. You look to God to pro­tect you from __(fill in the blank)__ and when you still get hurt, you’re up­set. You look to God to pro­vide for you, but when your house gets fore­closed on or you just don’t have enough money to buy that thing you wanted…you see it as a bad thing. Un­der­stand what I’m say­ing. If you get mad at God for not giv­ing you some­thing, or doubt him when bad things hap­pen, even if you are just dis­ap­pointed when things don’t go your way — you’ve fallen into this same trap Je­sus calls out in our text. You’re fol­low­ing Je­sus, but for the wrong rea­sons. Your re­la­tion­ship with God has be­come self­ish, sin­ful, sick­en­ing to him. What’s hap­pened is that you’ve for­got­ten who he is. You’ve failed to see all his pro­tec­tion and pro­vi­sion and power as a sign point­ing to your Sav­ior God’s love, and in­stead you started to look to those things as a meal ticket.

So Je­sus calls us on it. He says there is some­thing so much more im­por­tant than what we too of­ten are go­ing for. He of­fers food that doesn’t spoil — eter­nal life. So look at the re­ac­tion of the peo­ple in verse 28. “OK, what do we have to do to get that?” You see what they did again?

In­stead of see­ing Je­sus for who he is, the giver of life — they by­passed that and fo­cused on the gift. “How do I get that?”

And we can’t avoid the ob­vi­ous here. We do the same thing. “What do I have to do to get God’s bless­ings?” “If I give my of­fer­ing, then he’ll be pleased and take care of me. If I go to church enough, then my faith will be stronger and I’ll be in God’s good graces. If I read my Bi­ble, I’ll re­ally be a Chris­tian.” Now, don’t mis­un­der­stand. All those things are good and im­por­tant for you to do — but the is­sue is the at­ti­tude with which we do them. Is it based on what we can get, or fo­cused purely on the giver?

You see, no mat­ter what we do, the work we need is not the work we do, but the work done in us. Our faith is not “do” but “done” — not fam­ished and frus­trated, but fin­ished; be­cause of that, our works are not “must” but “may.” That’s why Je­sus an­swers the way he does. Verse 29: “The work of God (lit­er­ally “God’s work” — the work God ac­com­plishes), the work of God is this: to be­lieve in the one he has

It isn’t about what we do; it is about who Je­sus is and what he has done for us. And he proves it. The peo­ple asked him what mir­a­cle he would do to prove that he was the one God sent.

They lis­tened to Moses, they said, be­cause he gave the Is­raelites that life-sus­tain­ing bread for 40 years in the desert. “So what are you go­ing to do Je­sus?”

So Je­sus re­minds them that it wasn’t Moses, but God who did that. And then he puts it all on the line. He pro­claims that he is the one God sent from heaven to feed us eter­nally, not phys­i­cal bread — but bread that gives true life, eter­nal life.

Look at verse 35, “Then Je­sus de­clared, ‘I Am’ the bread of life.” Did you catch that?

“I Am.” I Am, the true God from all eter­nity, the keep­ing-his-prom­ises God, our Sav­ior, “I Am” is the bread of life — the food that our souls have been crav­ing, the nour­ish­ment we need.

And you know why. It’s be­cause God’s law writ­ten on your heart has told you that you have not been per­fect. It’s be­cause you’re aware of the self­ish­ness that per­me­ates so much of what you do, even if you don’t want to ad­mit it. You know. I know. And your soul hungers for that to be fixed. So the bread of life came down from heaven.

Je­sus took the hunger of hu­man­ity. He felt that weak­ness and pain. He saw the grief that makes our souls starve. And he took it away by re­mov­ing its cause. He took our fail­ures. He took my sins and he paid for them. See this for what it is. Be­cause of who he is — Je­sus died on the cross to pay my penalty. God died to de­feat our death. And he rose. He de­clared our vic­tory once and for all. He re­moves the hunger of our souls for­ever, be­cause the hunger of our souls was to be with God. He made that hap­pen. Now God lives here (heart).

We have the bread of life. So eat it. Be those peo­ple in the text at the end: “Lord, from now on, give us this Let that be your daily prayer — “Give us this bread.” And then see who God is when he does. Not be­cause you are so good at eat­ing this bread… It’s a sim­ple fact — eat­ing bread does no good un­less the bread is good. It is not in our act of eat­ing that there is power, nor in our act of be­liev­ing that we are saved. This is the gift that has come down from heaven. All glory to God. Eat­ing this bread lets us see who God is. So Lord, from now on, give us this bread.

And all of you, never for­get why we pray, “Lord, from now on, give us this bread!”

Be­cause it is him, plain and sim­ple. Yes, there are amaz­ing ben­e­fits for our lives from it — but that’s not what we ask for. We ask for what our souls starve for — Je­sus. And my, does he feed us. In Christ,

Amen.

Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pas­tor of Abid­ing Grace Lutheran Church in Cov­ing­ton. Wor­ship ev­ery Sun­day is at 10:30 a.m. Full ser­mons and more in­for­ma­tion can be found at abid­ing­grace.com.

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