Have you ever gone to a restaurant and, after being seated, memorized the menu? Sure, you listened to your server’s take on the food or drink specials and maybe even asked her opinion of various items on the menu, but the main reason you’re there is to memorize the menu. As your server returns to your table more frequently and increasingly frustrated, you simply wave her off by smiling and gently reminding her that you’re extremely busy trying to memorize and study all aspects of the menu. Eventually, when you feel good about your increased knowledge of the restaurant menu, you thank your server for the information she provided and her opinion regarding the menu, then you leave without ordering a single item.
Studying a menu does not give you food. Perfectly memorizing every condiment, side dish, and entree will not satisfy your hunger. Analyzing which part of the world inspired each seasoning and flavor will not satisfy your hunger. Staring intently and visualizing what various appetizers and entrees may taste like will not help you stop the annoying and embarrassingly loud grumbling sound your stomach is making as it reminds you that it wants something more.
Nothing beneficial happens until you take the first decisive step of applying your knowledge of the menu by placing an order. Acting on the knowledge you’ve gained from reading the menu and listening to your server will set in motion a series of events that lead to your hunger being satisfied (at least temporarily).
Anything else would be insanity.
So, why do we treat the Bible and church this way?
Have you ever gone to church and, after being seated, read scripture and carefully listened to every detail of that day’s teachings? Sure, you heard your minister’s stories about the topic or scripture and maybe met later to ask an opinion on some aspect, but the main reason you’re there is to listen. As your minister sees you more frequently at church and increasingly encourages you to volunteer, you simply smile and gently remind him or her that you’re extremely busy. Eventually, you feel good about your increased knowledge of scripture, you thank your pastor for the information he or she provided, then you leave.
This should sound equally absurd.
We may know who wrote which book of the Bible (that’s good and [sometimes] useful knowledge, just like knowing what is on the menu before you order), but if we fail to do anything other than read, study, memorize, and spend all our time dissecting every aspect of scripture, then our spiritual hunger will not be filled.
Sure, we may sit in church on Sunday, attend study classes or small groups, and thank the pastor for his additional insight, but this will not satisfy. We may have read the best, most spiritually thoughtful books by C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, Timothy Keller, David Platt, and all of the other leading philosophical theologians, but this will not satisfy our spiritual hunger.
Nothing beneficial happens until you take the first decisive step of applying your knowledge of the Bible to your life. Acting on the principles of scripture will set in motion a series of events that lead to your spiritual hunger being filled. It does us no good to agree on scripture, then walk away. Listening to a Sunday morning message is pointless, until you decide to act on it.
Many folks walk away from the church, feeling their spiritual hunger is not met. I would argue that spiritual hunger does not persist because a failure of the church, but because many professing Christians fail to act on what they’ve learned.
The Bible and scriptural teaching is a sort-of menu (yes, I’m purposely over simplifying). If you want the food you have to go to the places directed by scripture and do “the stuff” that Jesus did.
The funny thing about food… you will only be temporarily satisfied and want to return for more.
“Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.’” -John 4:34
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” -James 1:22
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