Smorgasbord or Bread of Life: Which One Truly Satisfies?

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

His apartment walls and shelves were covered with hardly any open space to spare. Not much more room for additional photos, paintings or posters to be hung. Though organized, the shelved knick knacks and novelties collected during his various travels, religious ornaments of all sorts, altars and shrines with multiple “saints” or gods who were supposed to render health, good fortune or other, was a lot for the eye to take in. Much for the mind to digest. From Hinduism, to Kabbalah, to New Age beliefs, to a Star of David, other religions I didn’t recognize, and some Christian references, I was unsure what or which item(s) was offering this man a sure foundation and anchor in his life.

I was at this man’s apartment to accompany my friend who had a business exchange to make with this man who is a photographer. The man kindly welcomed us into his home. With great pride and enthusiasm, he explained what each saint, relic or ornament meant. He spoke of his travels, his Cuban, Jewish and Chinese heritage, his homosexual lifestyle, his exploration of religions and paths and his belief in reincarnation (who wants to come back to this world??). In his delight in telling us about his beliefs and himself, one might have come away feeling more enlightened; that a great key to answering life’s great mysteries and myriad questions had just been handed to them through this buffet, through this smörgåsbord (Swedish term for buffet) of stuff. You should be full and satisfied. But quite the opposite occurred, at least for me, because I am already satisfied. As I looked into the man’s hazel green eyes, though his speech was passionate and enthusiastic, the deadness in his eyes could not lie. The absence of true joy gave him away. Essentially, this middle-aged man had sampled and tasted everything, and had come away still hungry. Still searching. Still seeking substance and sustenance.

In his profound emptiness and trying to convince us of his happiness, I simply felt sadness and compassion toward him. He’s “been around the world and I, I, can’t find my baby” as the ’80s Lisa Stansfield song says. He’s dabbled, sampled, been around the world and still hasn’t found the real food that sustains. The emptiness could leave one asking, “What all did I eat? Shouldn’t I feel satisfied?”

Smorgasbord dinner

A smörgåsbord dinner.

 

Instead of offering us a smörgåsbord and leaving us unsatisfied, Jesus came to satisfy and sustain us. He is the Bread of Life. In John 6:25-59, Jesus tells His disciples this. Let’s look at verses 30-35:

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’[a]”

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

As I wrote in this April 2018 blog post, “All You Can Eat,” Jesus leaves us filled, running over and more than satisfied. He is our daily bread and Bread of Life. We can feed at His table continually and the longer we stay, the more we love Him and desire more of Him. It’s okay to linger and go back for seconds. The abundance is ours if we want it. Eating of His Bread at His table is where brokenness is healed. It’s how we gather strength to be refined by and overcome life’s challenges. It’s where we are filled and able to pour into others with a fresh word to revive their downcast souls.

The man then asked me what it is that I do.  🙂 I delightfully shared with him my serving the Lord in ministry, discipling others (particularly our youth), and also my consultant work in public relations and project management. I lovingly planted seeds of truth. I immediately felt his internal defensive walls go up when I mentioned “ministry” and “Jesus Christ.” In short, he responded with “let everyone find their own path that leads to God.”

Upon conducting our business there, my friend and I hugged him and went on our way. I continue to pray for him. Though being there was not on my agenda that day, it was on God’s. I know my being there was not by chance — if only to show the love and truth of Jesus Christ.

Many people are deceived and seeking, so we as the body of Christ continue to pray for them. The enemy is diligent to confuse, deceive and co-opt. We know God’s truth when heard, received and responded to, can overcome that. We thank God for His great mercy for those He is giving time to return to Him. We pray that they respond.

I am encouraged by a dear sister in Christ whose past is similar to this man. She had traveled the world, explored and dabbled in this religion and that one. All of this and she still had emptiness. Then at age 44, she literally wore herself out “searching.” She finally came to the end of herself. Thank goodness! In that winding down, she looked up to Jesus! Her new life began! Today, at more than 30 years later, she continues to live boldly and passionately for Him. She wastes no time nor turns down any opportunity to share about the Lord! I just love her. Her testimony encourages me and hopefully you that God’s love is so great, His patience so amazing, that those who come to Him, those who are His, He will give them eternal life, they shall not perish, and they will never be snatched from His hand (John 10:28-30).

Thank you Jesus! Keep praying saints. Be ready and available for those divine appointments.

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15).

Nicole

 

 

 

 

 

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I Thought I Was a Christian

Today, we are delighted to share with you the testimony from a young man who thought he was a Christian by trying to be a “good person.” Like many others with similar stories, he grew up in the church, believed on the surface that God existed but he did not have a true relationship with His Savior, Jesus Christ. But as he continued through college, it was becoming clear to him that he was far from living as a Christian…and the Lord was reaching out to him. Read his story below and please share if you’re led. We pray his testimony blesses you and others.

Kurt Yoder Bio Pic 0082718

Kurt Yoder, VATG Guest Blogger

If you would have asked me about five years ago how long I’d been a Christian, I would had said my whole life. You see I grew up going to church. I always had at least a surface belief that Jesus is God, and I used to think that as long as I try to be a good person, I’ll make it to heaven because I believe in Jesus. A lot of people fall into that trap, but Jesus said himself that,

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

Looking back, I had no desire to keep God’s commandments.

I remember reading Matthew 7:21 and it really hit me like a freight train. Jesus said, Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

And this, The demons also believe, and shudder. (James 2:19)

Even demons have an intellectual knowledge of God. In some ways they probably know more about God than us since they were once in his heavenly kingdom. But they do not have the type of belief that saves; saving faith that produces repentance and a longing to live godly.

I did not have saving faith growing up. To show you that, I will tell you a bit about my old self. I quit going to church in high school. To give you an idea of what kind of kid I was, at the age of 17, I started drinking every weekend. Nobody around me found that wrong – not my friends, family, or family’s friends. Everybody lived like that and once you were around that age, you start partying. People thought that was just a part of growing up. The false notion is that you’ve got to have rebellious times when you’re young, so you have something to laugh about when you’re old. By worldly standards, I was a fine kid. I got good grades, was pretty involved in extracurricular activities, and played sports. I even did some good things while I was an unbeliever. I remember specifically standing up for an outcast several times when he got made fun of. You see, I thought of myself as a pretty good person.

I thought I was a Christian

Lines from poem written by Michael P. Johnson

In college, I joined a fraternity. It was the type of stereotypical fraternity you hear about – lots of drinking and sexual immorality. Although, I was not the most immoral person in the fraternity, I was no doubt a part of that lifestyle. There were always people around me that seemed worse than me, and they made me think, “I’m a good person.” I had a friend from high school who went to college with me and did not join a fraternity. Instead, he lived in the dorms his whole time at college and tried to win people to Christ.

At the time, I thought that was a nice thing he was doing, but it wasn’t for me. We had coffee a few times. I remember he would always bring the conversation to Jesus. My thought while talking to him was always, “Why is he telling me this stuff? I believe in Jesus. I believe everything in the bible.” I don’t remember exactly what he said but looking back he knew I was lost. I made clear to him that I believed in Jesus and always had. I promised him one day I would read the bible. Just not now. I was too focused on college then.

Procrastination is what holds a lot of people in unbelief. They put off reading the bible, joining a bible study, going to church, and doing so they never come to face with the truth that they’re a sinner and need reconciliation. They fall more and more into sin and then lose the desire to know God. The governor Felix procrastinated. Paul presented him with the gospel, and Felix began to understand that God is a holy God and we are sinful people. Felix said, “I will hear you again on this matter.” He put off getting right with God. As far as we know, Felix never repented and came to faith. Procrastination damned him.

I procrastinated for a while, but God kept working on me. Shortly after college, I did start reading the bible. At the time, I thought of it as a checklist item. I have to do this once in my life. I thought of it as merely a pursuit of knowledge. I wanted to add bible knowledge to my belt. I did not know that through reading God’s word, God would reveal to me how sinful I was and would give me a new heart. Shortly after I started reading, I was seeking through the radio stations one night, and was compelled to leave the station on a station of a man giving a sermon. I never listened to talk radio at the time. If I was seeking through stations, I would listen for music. If I didn’t hear music, I would instantly keep seeking before I even heard what was being talked about. For some reason, this night I left the station where it landed and heard the man preach and continued to listen to him. I didn’t even know there were Christian radio stations. The next morning when I got in my truck, a new man was preaching. I kept listening and I’ve been listening to sermons on the radio ever since. It was through that radio preaching and my own reading that I began to receive Christ.

Since I thought I was a Christian all along, I can’t exactly tell you the moment I was converted. I can look back on a few moments and say it wasn’t then.

I remember the first time I read the book of Romans, it was like it went through one ear and out the other. I had no idea what I just read. Then, I read Romans about a year later and was in awe. I thought, holy smokes! That was incredible! So much doctrine in that one book. I remember looking back and thinking, I don’t think I had true faith the first time I read the book of Romans. You can only understand this book if you have a new heart. Unbelievers can understand things like historical and geographical things in the bible, but they can’t understand doctrine. The book of Romans is rich on doctrine. The only reason we can understand God’s word is because we have the Holy Spirit. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God… But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them. (1 Corinthians 2:12, 14)

Unbelievers cannot understand the word of God. I see that proven all the time and it breaks my heart. There are several people close to me that started reading the bible once and they said they had to quit because they just had no idea what it was saying. I couldn’t understand when I first started reading, but God convicted me of my whole sinful life and I came crawling to God to give me salvation and with that salvation he gave me understanding of his word.

Another moment that I can look back and confidently say that I wasn’t a Christian – the time I heard on a Christian radio program a man telling a woman that she can be forgiven for her sin of abortion. My thought was, “What? Abortion is murder. Murderers don’t make it to heaven.” I was confused what this man was talking about. Now I know that anybody can be forgiven. We are all sinful.

There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, there is not even one. (Romans 3:10-12)

I may be slightly better than a murderer, or an adulterer, or a drug addict. They’re here and I’m here. But the reality is that God is way up there at the sky. He is HOLY, HOLY, HOLY! He demands perfection in his holy kingdom.

We are not saved by our works. We are only saved by Christ’s works! He lived the perfect life, then died on the cross and bore our sins. He paid for an eternity’s worth of wrath for each one of us in those hours on the cross. It pains me to think how much pain Christ bore for me on that cross, not even including any others wrath that he paid for, but I’m sure glad he did.

No, we’re not saved by our works. Because once you put your works into the equation, you have to also put all your bad works into the equation, too. One sin cancels all your good works and is enough to condemn you forever. I now know that salvation not by being a basically good person. Salvation is by faith!

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) The righteous man shall live by faith. (Habakkuk 2:4) “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:30-31)

My old self thought I had been a Christian my whole life, but there is no such thing. We all are born into sin and live a life rebellious to God. The only way we can live a life of glorifying God is if we have been born again. I thought the born again was only for really bad people – prostitutes, drug addicts. The truth is that I am just as guilty as they are. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

Jesus told that to a leading Pharisee, Nicodemus. Even Nicodemus, who was surely much better than me, probably didn’t fall into that partying lifestyle, and probably went to synagogue several days a week, and prayed several hours a day, needed to be born again.

To reiterate the point,

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I have learned that the Christian life is much more difficult than an unbelieving life. It’s much easier to go with the ways of the world and be a man-pleaser. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

Jesus received undeserved hate. He proclaimed the truth and way of salvation, and the world hated him for telling them they were deceived and living a life against God. The whole world is hostile toward the true Christian viewpoint. They’re not hostile to false Christian viewpoints, such as cheap grace – just believe in Jesus and go on living like a heathen; or the prosperity gospel – that God wants to make you healthy and wealthy and he’s going to really take care of you if you just have faith; or universalism – that God is a loving God and everybody’s going to heaven and there is no judgement for sin. God is a loving God, but he is also a just God. The world loves those false forms of Christianity, but they hate true Christianity. The Christianity that says, “All men have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God,” and all men need to repent and place their faith in Jesus Christ, for “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

I know this Christian life is tough. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

Although I know this Christian life has been and will be tough, I have great joy and peace. I do because I know the price has been paid for me by Jesus on the cross and whenever I die or Jesus comes to take me home, I will have eternal life in a kingdom where there is no sin and I have no sin and I can worship my savior face to face! I can’t wait for that day! I also have great joy and peace because of Christ’s last words on the cross, “It is finished.” My salvation has been worked out! Victory has won over death! And I know that because I didn’t earn this salvation, I cannot lose this salvation. God freely gave me salvation, and my salvation is in his hands. No one can take this salvation away from me.

For Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29) 

Kurt Yoder, 27, has been a Christian for about three years. He lives in rural western Missouri and is a member of a Southern Baptist Church. He and his wife have been married for two years, and have been blessed with a six-month old daughter.