For people who love to eat there is nothing like a super buffet loaded with many different selections of great tasting food. Meats, salads, pastas, vegetables, dessert and so much more. A buffet is a real feast. We pick what we want and skip over the things we don’t care for. We eat what we want and even over indulge on the things that tickle your tummy. Oh, it’s all so good, especially because we are in control of the whole meal. A real dining delight!
Some people like to treat God’s Word (the Bible) like a super buffet, too. It’s easy to do because there is so much to pick from. There are over 66 books from Genesis to Revelation, 1,189 chapters, 31,102 verses and, depending on the translation you use, over 783,000 words. That is a spiritual feast, which, if handled the right way, can dramatically change our lives. But the truth is, there are just some verses in the Bible we don’t like. Our solution to that? Pick what we like and skip over the verses we don’t like! That is such a dangerous way to live. We will end up depriving ourselves of the spiritual nutrition we need to grow and be all we can be in God. We also open ourselves up to dangerous deceptions that can hurt us and damage others. Look at what the Apostle Paul told Timothy about this practice:
2 Timothy 4:2-4 NLT Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. (3) For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. (4) They will reject the truth and chase after myths. (Text emphasis of all Bible verses is mine.)
The time Paul warned about is here. Today many people no longer listen to sound, wholesome teaching. This is true even of many people who call themselves “Christians” and go to church. They follow their own desires, instead of God’s, and look for teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. Paul calls that itching ear disease!
What are the symptoms of itching ear disease? Ignoring the things in the Bible we don’t like and finding someone who will teach or preach what we want to hear. Now it’s very easy to find those preachers who will scratch itching ears. Why will they do that? Because their biggest goal is not the transformation of lives and spiritual growth. They just want to entertain people and make them feel good so they will return. They like big crowds. That makes the church look good and the leader look impressive. Big attendance can generate lots of money too, which can fill their pockets, expand their influence and achieve their dreams. So ear scratching preachers will gladly tell people what they want to hear and never tell them what they don’t want to hear.
What do diseased ears really want to hear? Things that appeal to their human nature, their own desires, the part of man that is affected by the sin that is in the world. So to get relief they reject the truth and chase after myths, fairy tales, things that are made up in their own minds as truth because they don’t like what God says about something. So they browse over the 31,102 verses in the Bible and, like a buffet, just skip over the ones they don’t want and pile their hearts high with the stuff they love.
What kind of verses do they like? Only those that speak of blessings or promises. They develop this mindset that God doesn’t require anything of them at all and they can live any way they want. That’s just not true. Anyone who believes this is living in a spiritual fantasy, a fairy tale.
God used food to make a point about the importance of His Word. He inspired Job, when he was going through the most difficult circumstances of his life to say this:
Job 23:11-12 NLT For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed His ways and not turned aside. (12) I have not departed from His commands, but have treasured His words more than daily food.
God has a path he wants us to walk on. (Psalms 23:3 NIV) ” …He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” A path of righteousness is one where you are doing actions in your life that are right instead of wrong. What’s the standard of righteousness we live by? All the truth that is in the Word of God (the Bible). It clearly teaches us the way God wants us to interact with Him and with the people around us. He shows us how to live our daily lives in a way that honors Him.
Job understood God’s paths of righteousness. He stayed on those paths and followed His ways. He was not one who chose to disobey God commands. Instead he treasured all of God’s words more than his daily food. He didn’t pick and choose which part of God’s Word he wanted to obey. He put the whole word of God on his plate (in his heart). Then he took it one step further and chose to put it in to practice. He obeyed it.
The prophet Micah also understood the requirements of God. He wrote:
Micah 6:6-8 NLT What can we bring to the LORD? What kind of offerings should we give Him? Should we bow before God with offerings of yearling calves? (7) Should we offer Him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? (8) No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
Do you see how these requirements focus on behavior?
Do what is right! That’s the righteousness mentioned above. If we have no desire to do what is right, how can we truthfully say we have a genuine relationship with God? Right behavior is a theme that is repeated throughout the entire Bible.
Love mercy. If we love it we will practice it. Extending mercy to ourselves and to others is God-like (godly) behavior. He extends mercy to those who repent and give their lives to Him through faith in Jesus Christ. He expects us to do the same in our relationships. We give what we have received.
Walk humbly with God! If we walk with Him, if He is our Lord, we must walk in humility. Humility is not weakness or a lack of confidence. It is realizing we are nothing and He is everything. Apart from His love, grace and forgiveness we would not inherit God’s Kingdom or eternal life. We would be doomed to an eternity of darkness and evil. Even though we who walk with Him are His special treasure, we must not walk in arrogance and self-centeredness. We must live humbly on this earth serving others and showing them, through the quality of our lives, the God who lives in us.
Micah said that living this way is more important to God than money offerings and sacrifices. (Before Jesus died on the cross, God’s people sacrificed animals and other things of value as part of their worship. That’s why Micah speaks of calves, rams and olive oil.) Nothing we give God impresses Him more than doing what He says! He has laid out a good path for us to walk on. We are blessed when we do it….and God is blessed by it too! It makes Him happy when we walk in His truth.
Jesus spoke of the necessity of living by the Word of God too! After He was filled with the Holy Spirit and about to begin His ministry, God arranged a test for Him. Matthew recorded it for us.
Matthew 4:1-4 NLT Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. (2) For forty days and forty nights He fasted and became very hungry. (3) During that time the devil came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” (4) But Jesus told Him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.‘”
Now think about that. Jesus was being tempted personally by the devil to disobey God. He had been 40 days and nights with no food. He was very hungry. That’s an understatement. I would have called it totally craving a super buffet with many plates full! So the devil hits Him at His weakest point and says, “Hey, you’re God’s son. You’re famished. Turn these rocks into bread!”
Could Jesus have done that? Sure! He had the power to do a miracle. But then He would be yielding to the devil’s temptation to satisfy Himself rather than enduring God’s test. Instead He chose to trust God to get Him through. How did He maintain His determination? He quoted a Bible verse to the devil (from Deuteronomy 8:3)! “People don’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” How many words do we live by? Every word that comes from the mouth of God. We don’t reject the verses in the Bible we don’t like. We eat them all!
So how can you apply this to your personal life?
Cherish all of God’s Word. It’s not a super buffet. You have to take all of it or none of it.
Ask the Holy Spirit to stir up His power in you to enable you to overcome your selfish human desires and help you live His truth.
Don’t follow the masses and chase after myths. Instead, hear the Word and put it into practice. Jesus spoke of this in Luke:
Luke 11:27-28 NLT As He was speaking, a woman in the crowd called out, “God bless Your mother–the womb from which You came, and the breasts that nursed You!” (28) Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”
Understand that the blessing of God comes from hearing and doing of the Word.
I also want to make this very clear. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are saved from the power of sin and from living forever in darkness (hell). His death, burial and resurrection has made it possible for you to receive the gift of God’s grace, His grace forgave you of every sin even though you did not deserve it and there was nothing you could do to earn it. You have also been made right with God, even though you are guilty of many sins. (Romans 5:16). You now have right standing with God and you are declared righteous. Since you have been saved because of this wonderful process, this does not exempt you from the other truths in the Word that deal with your behavior. If you reject them, as many have chosen to do in this generation, your Christian life will be a fairy tale. You won’t be fully blessed.
So don’t live a life that is less than God intended for you to live. Instead, cherish the Word, all of it, more than your daily food. Remember, it’s not a super buffet where you pick and choose. His Word is the power of God that will save your soul and change you as you cherish all of it and do what it says. And the Holy Spirit will help you live it every step of the way as you yield to Him.
James 1:21-22 NLT So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. (22) But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
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