You Are What You Eat
November 24, 2019*
By Pastor John Partridge
Deuteronomy 26:1-11 Philippians 4:4-9 John 6:25-35
Do you remember all the encouragement and education that we once had to eat right?
Maybe they still do that in school, but we once studied things like the food pyramid, and the four food groups, and were encouraged to eat a balanced diet. We were told that breakfast if the most important meal of the day so that we wouldn’t run out of energy before school was over and so that we could be at our best and learn things more efficiently. We were discouraged from filling up on junk food and empty calories and we were told, repeatedly, that “You are what you eat.” Our options seemed clear. Did we want to be full of wholesome stuff? Or full of junk?
But if we think about our connection to God in the same way that we think about food, we discover that scripture says a lot of the same things about our spiritual health that we heard about our physical health. As it turns out, taking care of our spiritual bodies is just as important as taking care of our physical ones.
But before we talk about today, or what we plan for tomorrow, let’s start with remembering what we have been given and learn how the people of Israel made the connection between thanksgiving… and faith. We begin in Deuteronomy 26:1-11 as we hear God’s instruction to his people as they entered the Promised Land.
26:1 When you have entered the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, 2 take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name 3 and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the land the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” 4 The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the Lord your God. 5 Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. 6 But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor. 7 Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. 8 So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. 9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him. 11 Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.
Even before the people entered the Promised Land, God established a system of giving offerings to give thanks for what they had been given. But it is important to notice that for Israel, thanksgiving was not the Fall, but in the Spring or early Summer. As the people began to harvest their crops, when the very first plants began to produce fruit, long before the full extent of the harvest was known, the people would bring gifts to God. Rather than being a tithe, or a percentage of the harvest, as you might do in the Fall, these gifts bridged the gap between thanksgiving and faith. By bringing the firstfruits of the harvest, the people of God showed their gratitude for what they had been given, but also relied upon their faith that God would bless the harvest that would come in the days ahead. In this way, the celebration of Israel was not only a time to give thanks for what God had given in the past, but also a bridge to symbolize their trust in God for the future.
But then, with the coming of Jesus, the food for which we are thankful is seen as something altogether different, as we see in John 6:25-35.
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
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.’”
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.
Because it is a common theme of the human condition, Jesus often uses illustrations about food to help us understand. Humans have always had to work for their food. Either we hunted for it, worked the soil to grow it, or labored at other things in order to pay for it. But when people started following Jesus in hopes that he would feed them, he cautioned that they shouldn’t work for earthly food that spoils, but instead should work for spiritual food that will endure throughout eternity.
Before we can begin to do good works for God, we must first believe in his son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the bread, the foundational sustenance of our faith, the staple food that anchors everything else. Jesus is the true bread sent from heaven and not just earthly food that makes us feel good today and hungry again in a few hours. Once we have accepted Jesus and have taken him into us, so that he becomes a part of us, then our spirit will never again be hungry or thirsty.
But then what?
If accepting Jesus, and having him become a part of us, is the first thing that we must do, then what is it that we are supposed to do next? And for that, we turn to Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi where he says (Philippians 4:4-9)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, —put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
What Paul says is that accepting Jesus and allowing him to become a part of us, makes a difference. Being a follower of Jesus Christ changes who we are and how people see us. In other words…
…We are what we eat.
As the followers of Jesus, we are called not only to be thankful, but to rejoice in what God has done, and in what God is doing in your life every day. Allow the love of Jesus to flow through you so that it can be seen by the people around you as gentleness and kindness. Instead of worrying, pray and be thankful. But, if indeed we are what we eat, then, Paul says, don’t stop eating. It’s obvious that our physical bodies will starve if we don’t eat enough, and we’ve had it drilled into our heads that eating junk food all the time is bad for us, and Paul says that the same thing is true for our spiritual bodies. If we want to stay spiritually healthy, we need to have a regular diet of healthy spiritual food, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, —put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
You can’t be physically healthy on a steady diet of Twinkies and no exercise.
If you want to be physically healthy, eat a good balanced diet and do a little work in the gym.
Likewise, you can’t be spiritually healthy on a steady diet of Desperate Housewives and no exercise.
If you want to be spiritually healthy, give thanks, have faith in Jesus, eat a healthy diet of good spiritual food, and do a little work in the spiritual gym by doing the things that Jesus, Paul, and the other disciples taught us and modeled for us.
It makes sense because, just it is for our physical bodies…
…you are what you eat.
Maybe we’ll give that some thought this week before we reach for seconds.
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