You know there's another aisle in the supermarket that's full of bread, too. The crackers. That's bread. It's just a little better cooked. I feel sorry for people that have wheat allergies. That has to be the worst allergy that was ever created by Satan. I've known people whose wives baked the best of bread, but they couldn't eat it because of the wheat allergy. Just think! They can't even eat the occasional doughnut.
I went through my New International Version Bible and counted how many times the word bread is used. It's 271 times! Well, actually, I let the computer do the counting for me. It took a second. 271 times the word, bread, is used in the New International Version. Bread has always been very important. So important that Jesus compared Himself to Bread. Bread is important for your life "I am the Bread of Life."
During my first Summer as a pastor, ten years ago: I was doing my internship. I was the only person at the church because it was the middle of the week. An old orange and yellow rusty van drove into the parking lot. I knew the van had driven in because its muffler had forgotten what it was supposed to be doing. The driver's door screeched open and a young man stepped out. It was obvious that he had not been close to soap and water for quite some time. He said "Mister, I don't usually ask anyone for anything, but my family is hungry." I looked at him and it was obvious he had not been near soap and water for quite some time. And his clothes had probably not left his body for that same length of time. About that time, the sliding door of the van squealed open and there I saw his wife and three children. I couldn't tell if the children were boys or girls. Their clothes were so filthy, their hair so matted. What must have been pretty blond hair was just a tangled mass. Obviously they had been living in that van for quite some time.
Of course I wanted to give them something to eat. Our church had a very active Community Service program during the cold months, providing food, shelter, clothing, and other services for the homeless. But this was the Summer. Demand was almost nil. Our food supplies had dwindled. But I told this family I would give them what we had. I unlocked the storage room and started filling sacks with canned goods. You know what gets left over in these storage rooms: nothing very appetizing, the kind the kids don't want anyway. The canned beets, the canned asparagus, the canned cole slaw. That's about all I could find. But I was filling the bags dutifully with all the things I could get my hands on when the young lady turned to me and she asked me, "Do you have any bread?" My heart sank because I knew what we had. I opened the freezer chest and lifted up the door and there were a couple loaves of frozen, frost bitten, rock hard, stale loaves of white bread. I looked at her apologetically and said, "This is all we have." Her face fell but she smiled and said, "We'll take it." I felt so badly as they were leaving, I fumbled around in my wallet and I pulled out every bill I had. I put the few dollars in her hand and told her to go and buy some fresh bread somewhere.
YOU CAN'T GIVE WHAT YOU DON'T HAVE!!
Do you have what people want? As I said before, Jesus compared Himself to the Bread of Life. What if someone came to you and asked you for a piece of that Bread. Would you only be able to show them some stale bread in cold storage? How fresh is your relationship with Jesus Christ? Is it a day old. There used to be a store I passed every day on my way home from church. "Day-Old Bread." The whole store was full of day-old bread. It was bread that most people didn't want because it was a day old but it was a little cheaper. They sell bread cheaper because it is not as fresh as it used to be. I went in there and bought some bread. I didn't go back. I don't like stale bread. Is your relationship with Jesus a day old? Has it grown a day stale? Is your relationship with Jesus a week old? Was last Sabbath the last time you really worshiped Him, that you came to Him in prayer and song? Is your relationship a week old? Or is it a year old, or older? Have you just gone through the motions of Christianity without getting personal with Him? How fresh is your relationship with Him. Is it as fresh as this morning? What do you have to offer?
These are hard questions but they are questions that we as Christians living in these last days need to ask ourselves. Our relationship with Jesus can be as fresh as newly baked bread. Nothing smells better than that. Nothing stirs the appetite more. Even a realtor might tell you to bake some bread before someone comes to look at your house. I makes your home very attractive. I had thought about doing this for an illustration today. I wanted to get someone to bake some bread in the kitchen down the hall. Then allow the aroma to enter the central air system and flood the sanctuary with that wonderful smell. Then I chickened out. The noise of your stomachs growing would have drowned out the rest of my sermon! You may have left early to go eat! Are people as attracted to you as this? Do you have something fresh to offer them? Nothing stirs a person like fresh baked bread. Nothing stirs somebody else's soul like fresh Christian, somebody with that relationship with Jesus that happened today. What do you have to give? Hard questions to ask ourselves. How fresh is our relationship with Jesus? Well, our relationship with Jesus can be as fresh as newly baked bread. Do you have something fresh to offer? I believe that you can.
By looking at the sixth chapter of the book of John, we can find out what Jesus' council is on how to keep our relationship with Him fresh. Turn with me now to John 6. Here we have a situation where Jesus is being asked for some bread. You probably know the story well of what took place on that grassy mountainside by the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was sitting there with His disciples when He saw a great multitude coming toward Him. This is where Jesus feeds 5000 men and their families from a stock of 5 small barley loaves and 2 fishes and had 12 baskets of leftovers for the people to take back and distribute to their neighbors.
After this, the people intended to make Him King by force. I can imagine why. Because when Jesus creates bread that has to be the absolute best bread that was ever made. I can see those people sitting on the hillside saying, "What manner of bread is this? What is the recipe? Let's share it with our neighbors. Let's make Him king. Don't let Him get away!" Jesus knew their intentions and so He slipped away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But it wasn't long before the aroma of that bread brought the multitude around the Sea of Galilee and they caught up with Him again.
Let's read about what happened there. John 6:25-35 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?"
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."
Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.
So they asked him, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe it? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but if is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
"Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread."
Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who comes believes in me will never be thirsty.
I like that last verse. I like the use of the word, "never." He will never be hungry. He will never be thirsty for what the want of this world cause us to desire. If you read this verse in its original language, the Greek, you find what is called a present participle. Some of you English majors know something about that. A present participle implies a continuous action. So a person who understand Greek reads it like this: Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who continually comes to me will never go hungry. He who continually believes in me will never be thirsty. That does away with the "once saved-always saved." That does away with "I was meeting with Jesus last week-I'm okay." That does away with "I had prayer yesterday, so I'm okay today." It says, "He who continually comes to me..." "He who continually believes in me..." That's what that promise is based on. Is your relationship with Jesus continual, not just in the morning when you rise, but through the day long. In order to have bread that is fresh enough to give to others we need to have a continual relationship with the true Bread of heaven, keeping Him first, foremost in our thoughts. Then He will be foremost in our lives and will be reflected in our deeds.
In these verses, Jesus speaks of two different types of bread from Heaven: the Manna and Himself. During the years of the exodus of God's people coming from Egypt were hungry. God supplied them with Manna: bread from Heaven for their physical needs. It is possible to see a few parallels between how God's people were to relate to the Manna, then, and the True Bread of Heaven, now.
Firstly----Manna was to be collected each day. We need to renew our relationship with Jesus each day!
Secondly----Manna was best when gathered early, or else it would melt away. What could be better that starting each day with Jesus in prayer and from His Word. If we don't do this early, too many daily pressures will melt our time with Jesus away, just as the manna melted away. The Devil will see to it. He will give you more to do you can ever imagine. This world is busy and it's not without reason. Satan wants it so. He causes things to make us to be busy in our lives, so busy that Jesus gets put on the back burner. If you are like me, you are not a morning person. I have a solution for you. Get a new puppy like I did. That dog gets me up better than any alarm clock! I have to bound out of bed and quiet her so she won't wake up the kids. I want them to sleep, too. She even wakes up the roosters! So do whatever it takes to get up early in the morning and have that fresh relationship with Jesus.
Thirdly----One day's supply of Manna could not be carried over for the next day or else it would become stale and rotten. If your relationship with Jesus is only as fresh as yesterday, it's rotten. The same can happen with our spiritual lives. If we don't start each day Jesus and with a recommitment to love and follow Him, our relationship will grow stale so quickly that nobody will desire to have what we have. We will have nothing fresh to offer them. Jesus must be foremost in our thoughts. Jesus verifies this in verse 35 of John 6. Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry , and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
When Leonardo de Vinci was 43 years old, the Duke of Ludovinco of Milan asked him to paint the dramatic scene of Jesus' last supper with His disciples. Working slowly and giving meticulous care to details, he spent 3 years on the assignment. He grouped the disciples into threes, two groups on either side of the central figure of Jesus who had His arms outstretched. In His right hand, He held a cup, painted beautifully with marvelous realism. When the masterpiece was finished, the artist said to a friend, "Observe it and give me your opinion of it!" "It"s wonderful!" exclaimed the friend. "The cup is so real I cannot divert my eyes from it!" Immediately Leonardo took his brush and wiped it across the sparkling cup! He exclaimed as he did so: "Nothing shall detract from the figure of Christ!"
When we have the type of relationship with Jesus that nothing can distract us from it, doing His will comes naturally. The keeping of His law, the transcript of His character, comes naturally. You notice in the psalms you read, David says, "I love your law. I love to dwell on it day and night." When we think about that, is that something we love to dwell on, the law of God? It is if we realize it is showing us what God is like, it is His character. And as we come closer and closer God it becomes the natural thing to do because we become like those we are around. That's why when I went into the first grade my mother gave me some advice in the car before I got out. Be careful who your friends are. I wasn't careful. Billie and I got to be best friends. I got what was called, "whoopin's" real often. Billie got me into more trouble because I was hanging out with him in first grade. It is important who you associate with. Do they give whoopings in school today? I don't think they do. Jesus knew this to be a great principal. Be careful who you're with. Go ye into the world but don't become part of the world. Don't let the world influence your life because their life will become natural to you if you are observing the world more than you are observing Jesus. Is your television on more than your Bible is open? If so, that's where your influence is going to be coming from. Who you spend the most time with is who you're going to be the most like.
The angels of heaven loved the Lord so much that they did not realize God had a law until Lucifer started distorting their relationship with God. "What law?" "it can't be kept." "I didn't know there was one." Because the image of God is distorted in our lives the law does not seem beautiful. Lucifer did his work all too well. The study of His word should become prominent in your life. There will always be time to read His love letter to you!
I heard of a young man who when he received a love letter from his girlfriend, and this was before the days of phone calls. He would go to the mailbox and see that it was a letter from her and he would take it and put it in his shirt pocket and there he would keep it for several days without opening it. He said that it was to build character, to learn patience and perseverance. But I say, he did not love her! He didn't love her a bit! When I got a letter from Susan while we were dating, I would open it at the mail box in the pouring rain to see what she had to say to me! Does she still love me?! When we think of Jesus in this kind of a love, we open His love letter, we can't wait. We don't want to put it on the shelf. We don't want to hide it away and read it later. No! Jesus loves me. Let me see how. What can I do for Him? When we love Jesus, nothing can stop us from reading His love letter, the Bible! If you're hesitating to open it every day, look at your relationship with Jesus. Don't just say, "Well, I'll just keep more laws." No! You need to get closer to Jesus. The laws will come. Jesus has a wonderful love letter. Read it every day.
Augustine once said: "Christ is not valued at all unless He is valued above all."
Is Jesus is valued above all else in your life? Does He take precedence over your job, over your school, over your family, over your yardwork, over your entertainment, over anything in your life. Is Jesus valued above all? If Jesus is first and foremost in our lives and our relationship with Him is valued above all else, then, and only then, will people be drawn to us as a hungry person is drawn to the irresistible aroma of freshly baked bread.
Opening Song: #229:All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name Scripture: John 6:32-34 Closing Song: #493:Fill My Cup, Lord
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last updated 7/15/98 by Bob Beckett.