A Christian dies and the time comes to stand before Jesus for Judgment. They are excited. They sat in very good Bible studies for years and were quite diligent in their Christian education through church, books, sermons, videos, etc. They have found very interesting insights in the Bible that no one else has found or even talks much about. They have regularly spent hours cross referencing just a single subject or doctrine. They can enthusiastically tell you the difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. They can confidently articulate their position on pre, mid, or post tribulation rapture with all of their supporting Scriptures. Understanding the Nephilim in Genesis 6? Check. Knowing the altitude of Golgotha, where Christ was crucified at (777 meters)? Check. Understanding the incredible hidden structure of sevens in the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew? Check. A solid Biblical view on predestination? Check. An ample understanding of Arminianism vs. Calvinism? Check. They even know quite a bit of Greek and Hebrew and can quickly to tell you what “that” really means in the Bible. They have really grown in their Bible knowledge and confidence and they are really excited about their love for God and his amazing word.
However, when they stand before Christ they are shocked to discover they have been found wanting. In spite of the fact that they spent years increasing their theological understanding, they don’t make it to heaven.
They got ensnared by the temptation to study the Bible for intellectual stimulation, rather than to be changed by it. They failed to receive true bread from heaven that would change their life and the lives of those they were called to practically serve.
Had they ever visited the mission field or spent time with seriously hurting people, they would have discovered that what they were learning, although very interesting and even fascinating, was worthless bread when it comes to feeding God’s needy children.
I remember meeting a lady who lost her marriage of 17 years because of her husband’s pornography addiction. She said, “We went to our church leadership for help and they didn’t even know what to do with this. They were unable to provide us with any real help and we essentially got pushed to the side. It was so frustrating.”
The leadership in her church had tons of intellectual and theological stimulation for the congregation, but they had no real spiritual food to set before the needy. They had words, but no power. They didn’t know how to do the very practical part of the gospel where we are to be willing and able to wash people’s dirty “spiritual feet”.
Rather than studying and understanding sin and repentance, the fear of the Lord, obedience, grace, the commands of Christ, holiness, faithfulness, purity of heart, love, denial of self, serving others, etc. they studied the things that brought them intellectual stimulation.
There are people all around us who have dirty spiritual feet, or who are in chains by the devil, or who are spiritually starving to death, but if we ourselves have not yet found the real bread from heaven, how can God ever call on us to give it to others. Instead, He’ll have to call someone else even if we were closer to the need.
If we want to be useful to God, we must give diligent study to what is actually useful to God for making us more like Jesus. It is by God’s grace that I was not smart enough to become the theological nerd that I would have surely wanted to become. God has spared me from being able to be puffed up by all of my accumulated knowledge. I have to work very hard for the bread I receive. It does not come easy and I thank God it doesn’t, because it keeps me humbly dependent on Him. Perhaps you don’t have this blessing of intellectual inferiority that I do. Perhaps learning and studying is a built in desire and capacity that you have. I beg you to yield it fully to God for proper use in the kingdom. After all, it came from Him to begin with.
I receive several emails like this each week in my ministry and I am honored that God sends me some of his dirtiest children. Especially since I used to look down on these kinds of people and quickly judge them as not being as good as me. Even after I got past being a Pharisee in that way, I still often lacked compassion and patience for those who stayed stuck too long.
Fortunately, God began to work humility and patience into my heart as I responded properly to the suffering and brokenness that He allowed into my life. With His help, He began preparing me to one day feed others by first feeding me with the bread that comes from heaven.
Today, God has watched me spend thousands of hours diligently studying his practical principles for victorious Christian living. He continues to give me bread so that I can set something before his needy children when they come. There is no greater joy than being a part of God’s clean-up crew and doing all the work in the strength He provides.
Supposing I had spent thousands of hours studying the subjects I detailed above. What would I have to set before this young man when he calls? How could I help the suicidal brothers and sisters who contact me in the throes of pain? Shall I say to them, “Oh dear brother and sister, but you just need to understand the theological differences between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven…and don’t you know that the layout of the tabernacle provides a superior model for your prayer life, and plus you just need to understand that the genealogy of Jesus Christ is divisible by 7 in more ways than you can imagine…isn’t this stuff neat…don’t you well fed and free now?”
Even I think some of these things are interesting. I find all things about my Father and His word to be fascinating, but it is such a small fraction of my Biblical focus. Instead, I am interested in learning the things that will actually help me to be more like Jesus, and to help others be more like Him.
Maybe not in the same way, but All of us are called to meet the PRACTICAL physical and more importantly the spiritual needs of those in our path.
Note: When Jesus speaks of food and drink and clothes in the passage below, he does not only mean physical needs. He more so means spiritual food and drink (bread from heaven) and clothes (truth). We can physically feed people really well and still have them end up condemned in eternity. But if we feed them spiritually, they will live even if they die. See Mat 4:4, John 4:13-14, John 4:32, 6:35, 41, 49-50, 6:63, 7:38, Luke 12:42.
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Mat 25:31-46)
How can a man or woman give what they do not have?
Perhaps, like me, you may feel intimidated by actually serving the hard and sometimes smelly needs of others. My friend, that is only because you have yet to receive anything substantial from your Father to give them. When the Lord gives you true spiritual bread, you will have a desire to give it to others that you may not currently have. You will also have the confidence to do so.
Don’t let feelings of fear or inadequacy keep you from practically loving others. Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness (spiritual bread) and He will give you more than enough bread for yourself and for others. Once you truly eat of it, you will know that it is too good to keep to yourself.
Feed yourself first!
What are the areas of your life that you still don’t have victory in? Do you struggle for control of your life or others’ lives, love of the world, pleasure, a bad temper, selfishness, fear, anxiety, addictions, etc.?
Then first humble yourself before the Lord and ask Him to give you some bread from heaven to eat and to strengthen you against these weaknesses. Then, get in that Bible and pull out the bread. You have to labor for it, but God will help you.
Then, once you have eaten and have been satisfied and strengthened, God will give you more bread to go and do the same to others! And, it will not be a burdensome act that you dread, but a fulfilling act of love to both to you, the Father, and the recipient.
As you open your Bible the next time, join me in praying this, “Father, please give me some bread from heaven today for my own soul and strengthening, not for my intellectual stimulation.” Make that your focus and he will bless you now and in the age to come! Then you will not lay on your death bed regretting how you studied God's word and then stand before Jesus as an intellectually satisfied Christian who still hears, “Away from me you worthless servant!”