Check the Ingredients
How many of you check food labels before you buy or eat certain foods? I definitely don’t study the label, but at least a glance here and there. Sometimes a little more in depth. But even if you don’t read labels, you certainly pay attention to the foods you eat. You probably try to eat a balanced variety of healthy foods. You know certain foods you need to avoid because they are unhealthy, you have allergies or some other health issues. And you do this, because you know that the foods you eat affect you. Some help you feel better and maintain your health. Others can really harm you.
And if that’s true for the physical food that you eat, do you think it’s also true for the spiritual food you eat? You can really think of it in terms of healthy spiritual food and spiritual junk food. I know you care a lot about the church you choose to attend – not just because of the people there or the programs, but because you believe this church accurately teaches and preaches what God’s Word says. But what about beyond these walls? Never before have people had such a buffet of spiritual foods accessible to them. Many churches livestream their services online. Many pastors and theologians write books. And in addition to all of that, there are countless ways in which anyone can immediately make their ideas about God and his Word public for your consumption.
Do you read the label on these things? When you pick up a book by a Christian author, do you find out who that author is and what kind of background they have so that you can read with a discerning mind? When you click on a YouTube video because you were curious about a particular biblical question, do you consider who it is you are watching and what kind of background they have? They could be feeding you a nutritious banquet from God’s Word, or they could be inadvertently feeding you a banquet that has been poisoned by false teaching. What you read and hear about God’s Word matters just as much for your soul as what foods you eat matters for your body.
Jesus is trying to explain to the Jews that the spiritual food they had been eating did not come directly from God. Rather, it had been dragged all across the dirt of Israel, been improperly prepared by hundreds of years of misuse by Israel’s priests and teachers, and then served dirty, undercooked, and poisoned to the unsuspecting Jews of Jesus’ day. Jesus is warning them and encouraging them to check the ingredients of the spiritual food they have been eating. Because the Bread of Life is standing right in front of them, and if they don’t check the ingredients, they could miss out on healthy spiritual food and instead return to their spiritual junk food.
Jesus just revealed himself as the true bread from heaven – the spiritual food which truly comes directly from heaven. But the Jews refused to believe it. Instead, they grumbled about him. “They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven”?’” (Jn 6:42). Instead of pursuing the point to uncover the truth about his heavenly origins and miraculous birth – all of which has been prophesied – instead of seeking a fuller explanation from Jesus, they began to grumble about him. And their grumbling was meant to be caustic. It was meant to pollute his image so that people would instead turn to spiritual junk food. Their human reason couldn’t accept this amazing truth from the lips of Jesus. Although our reason is a gift from God, we have to understand that it has been influenced by sin, and therefore can lead us astray. If reason ever disagrees with what Jesus says, then trust Jesus. Take his words as they are and put reason in its proper place. There will be things we don’t understand. But faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb 11:1) because we take Jesus’ words as truth.
So, we have our human reason at times working against us, and these people that Jesus was talking to had something else working against them as well. They considered themselves to be spiritually well-fed by their scribes and teachers of the law, but they had been eating spiritual junk food. And since they filled up on spiritual junk food, they had no room for the pure bread of life. They were unwilling to reconsider the spiritual food they had been eating. Most Jews of his day had incorrectly learned from their spiritual leaders that God’s Word is filled with nothing but laws and regulations. They saw salvation as something they had to earn. Therefore, they learned to lean on their own works as their object of faith rather than on Jesus. And we sometimes fall into this same trap. We fill up on spiritual junk food without realizing it, we listen to this teacher and that teacher and form our beliefs based on what they say, but then we have no room for the pure Bread of Life. The Bible says to stand before God empty of your own good; let God fill you up with his love and forgiveness (Mt 5:5; Lk 1:53). Always save room for the pure Bread of Life. Always include the plain and simple Word of God in your spiritual diet.
Consider it this way. What happens when you don’t eat a healthy diet? What would happen if you didn’t care what you ate, how much you ate, how often you ate? You would probably end up harming your body with unhealthy habits and unhealthy foods. You would also dramatically decrease your life expectancy and quality of life. Yet too often, this is how people eat their spiritual food. They don’t consider how often they eat. They don’t consider the ingredients. They get it from any source they want. And when they find one that tastes good, no matter how healthy it is, they binge on all they can get! This is harmful. This is dangerous. And it has a bearing not just on your life now, but into eternity. I’m speaking primarily of videos that are so easy to find online. I’m talking about books and articles by Christian authors. Even choosing a church for something other than the fact that it teaches God’s Word purely and accurately falls under this category. And the scary thing is, once you start with a source of spiritual food that has even just traces of false teaching, you may begin to consume more and more without realizing the poison you are eating.
Be discerning of where you get your spiritual food from. Eat carefully. And I’m not saying you have to avoid all Christian books or online videos and articles, but always compare what they are telling you to what the Bible tells you. Judge carefully how they use Bible passages and apply them to make sure they are doing so correctly. And sometimes, what I find best if I’m searching a question is not to just search the question and read whatever articles pop up. But search for passages that relate to the question. Then I know that I am getting my answer straight from the source. Then I know my spiritual food is not tampered with or poisoned. The apostle Peter says, “Crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Pt 2:2). Anything other than pure spiritual food could be very harmful.
Jesus tells us exactly where to get this pure spiritual food. He says, “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die” (Jn 6:48-50). The food that you receive from Jesus, his words recorded in the Bible, are the purest form of spiritual food you can get. Check the ingredients! The Bible says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:1, 4, 14). Make this source of spiritual food your primary source. It’s packed with all the right spiritual nutrition you need and no preservatives, additives, substitutions, or anything else that would be toxic or harmful. That’s why we always have readings directly from God’s Word in every worship service.
Jesus goes on to explain that learning from God’s Word leads to a correct understanding of Jesus and his work. If only the Jews would have gone straight to the source of God’s Word instead of allowing their priests and teachers of the law lead them astray. Jesus points out what their own prophets have said, “It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me” (Jn 6:45). Only people who eat pure spiritual food will understand and believe who Jesus is. The Father draws people to Jesus, to understand him correctly when they learn directly from his Word. The Jews had trouble believing Jesus because they thought they had known Jesus’ origins. But if they truly listened to God through his prophet John, they would know that Jesus’ origins stretch back long before he was born of Mary. But they couldn’t get over their own reasoning. They allowed their reason to trump God’s Word and so were misled by spiritual junk food.
“I am the living bread that come down from heaven” Jesus said, “Whoever eats this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:51). Pure spiritual food is truly beneficial – for eternity and even now. Think of it this way: Eating healthily can increase your life expectancy, but you don’t just receive the benefit of it when you are advanced in years and living a little longer. No, eating healthily helps you feel better right now and gives you a better quality throughout your life. The same is true for eating healthy spiritual food. Yes, it prolongs your years and gives you life everlasting. But it also means something right now. It means you don’t have to keep searching for spiritual food because you have found it. It means you don’t have to wonder what is going to sustain you through times of need. It means you have a healthier outlook on life knowing that it’s all in God’s capable and loving hands. Ever since Jesus gave up his life for the life of the world, your biggest problem is solved, and all the rest are put into proper perspective. Salvation is yours. You don’t have to fret over your sins or past wrongs, just lay them at Jesus’ feet. You don’t have to stress over how you are going to remain in him, the Father will draw you to him. Feed on the pure Bread of Life by reading and studying his word, comparing everything else to his Word, and you will have a healthy spiritual life.
How much attention do you pay to the spiritual food that you eat? It matters just as much, actually, far more than the physical food that you eat. Choosing correct spiritual food means the difference between an eternity of regret and hunger for God’s grace, and living in his love, filled with his blessings each and every day. Check the ingredients of every source of spiritual food you eat. Not all bread is from heaven. Only pure bread is beneficial. Think of all the sources of your spiritual food. The Bible, your church, your friends and family, Christian books you read and videos or articles you find online when searching for answers. Now, reconsider each of those sources. Hold them up to God’s Word, because the Bible says, “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God.” “Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me” (Jn 6:46, 45). Hold every source up to God’s Word. See if they are accurately proclaiming, teaching and feeding you God’s Word. And do this often. Some sources of spiritual food may be healthy on some points of the Bible, but toxic on other points. Continuously compare every source of spiritual food to God’s Word. Because only pure bread from heaven is beneficial.