Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: "Those unwilling to work will not get to eat." Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people's business. -- 2Thessalonians 3: 10-11 (NLT)
Now the above verses from the Apostle Paul clearly are dealing with matters of physical sustenance. Paul was reminding the believers at Thessalonica that when he was with them, he made sure he was not a burden to them. But I want to take a look at these verses from a spiritual angle today. We all should know that we walk in two different realms as believers. We walk in the physical world and in the spiritual realms as well. Quite frankly, a great deal of our struggles as Christians comes from a poor understanding of the spiritual nature of our walk or a flat out ignorance of it. Too many Christian leaders and pastors pay mere lip service to spiritual warfare but do not practice what they preach, leading to a sheepfold that is clueless when the enemy attacks. The end result is to find worldly excuses for sin, seek worldly solutions for struggles, and usually end up with worldly levels of success -- meaning they are still struggling in the spiritual realm.
Food provides nourishment and sustenance for our bodies. If we refuse to eat, we will starve our bodies of what they need to be healthy and to grow. The same is true for our spirit. We have the Spirit of the living God inside of us and we need to be feeding Him regularly so that His power can be nourished in our lives and He can grow big and strong in our walk. It is when the Spirit inside of us is big and strong that we can begin to see more and more success against the schemes and the wiles of the enemy. But looking at the key verse we see a very simple principle being outlined by Paul. Those who are unwilling to put the work in that is necessary simply will not eat. They will starve themselves essentially. And we know that we rarely like to starve ourselves so the real truth we need to grasp today is that except for times of fasting we will be feeding ourselves either spiritually or on the things of this world. There is no third choice beloved. Think about that for a minute. Whatever does not feed our Spirit by default is feeding our flesh. Now we are not supposed to live in a Christian bubble so the flesh is inevitable. The question is which is going to be bigger in our lives? Are we going to have a stronger Spirit inside of us or a bigger flesh on the outside? Which is going to rule our feelings, our thought processes, and our lives?
Well what does this mean for us practically? What is the work that we must put in as Christians? It is simple -- we must read and understand the Word of God. We have far too many spiritually illiterate Christians. Christians in name only who do not understand the promises of God, the contract they are under, and the power that is inside of them.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. -- 2Timothy 3: 16 (NLT)
I know we see this verse all the time but for a moment let us actually feed on it. Let it nourish our souls for a minute. Can you imagine if you always knew what was true versus what was false in this world? Of never being fooled again and tricked into believing something that was a lie? Imagine being able to always spot what is wrong in our own lives -- before the big problems come? You all know what I am talking about. Whenever there is a big problem in our life we usually had some opportunity to get out of it before it blew up. Read the story of David and Bathsheba and see how many times God tried to get David to realize that path he was on. How sad that David's flesh over-shadowed David's Spirit in that incident. As a result five people die and he loses his kingdom. There are real consequences when our flesh over-rules our Spirit.
Don't be misled--you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. -- Galatians 6: 7-8 (NLT)
This is what is known as the principle of sowing and reaping. So imagine these things and realize they are possible through a constant diet of the Word in our lives. All of the Scripture we have is breathed by God! All of it is useful to our Spirit so that we will know what is right from what is wrong and what is the will of God versus what is a lie from Satan. There is too much on the line for us to push the plate away and not want to grow the Spirit inside of us.
Yet there we can go, casting it upon the coffee table until the next Sunday. Leaving it out for the appearance of holiness without the work Paul is talking about in our key verses. Coffee-table Christians. The appearance of a form of godliness devoid of any true spiritual power. Paul warned Timothy about this:
You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! -- 2Timothy 3: 1-5 (NLT)
These are the last days Paul speaks about. Nothing is sacred anymore in most churches. The secular world has infected the church to the point where all lines are blurred. What was considered anathema years ago is now permissible. And if you dare to object you are labeled as being too serious and a Bible thumper. Well, I would rather thump my Bible than get thumped by the devil so paint me as you wish.
You see, we have become real good at our appearances but not so good at our Spiritual strength. We are feeding on the things of this world and then wonder why we only have a religious act, devoid of any true Spiritual power. Coffee-table Christianity. Please realize the dire importance of this because it will not be noticeable in the worldly realm. The worship songs may be crisp and the musicians skilled but without the Spirit it is nothing but noise before a Holy God. Singing a song does not mean you are worshipping God. Raising your hands does not mean that you have surrendered your life to Him. In the days of Amos the Prophet Israel had become real good at feeding their flesh instead of their Spirit. The result was a nation that understood how to "do church." They had the market cornered on religiosity. They held grand religious festivals and stood in solemn assemblies. They sang the right songs and danced the right dances but their hearts were nowhere near the Lord.
"I hate all your show and pretense--the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living. -- Amos 5: 21-24 (NLT)
So it was and so it still can go today. A worshipping mouth without a worshipping heart is not pleasing to God. It is only for appearances and not substance. It will not be able to win anything in the spiritual realm because it is not feeding the Spirit inside of them. Besides praise and worship we can also have similar problems with the spoken Word of God. The Word may be intellectually preached by a dynamic speaker but without the Holy Spirit there will be no one drawn to the cross. Sure, there may be a fleshly, emotional response but no true regeneration of the heart because that is the work of the Spirit of the living God not the works of man. Altar calls will become forced with guilt used to draw the masses instead of the Spirit. The bar will become lower for counting salvations as the church has become numbers driven instead of salvation driven. The Gospel compromised for the theoretical goal of "reaching as many for Christ as possible." Without an intact Gospel, it is not Jesus Christ we are saving them to. They are saved to a church, not the living God. That is the truth behind the seeker-friendly heresy that has overtaken so much of the church. There are two verses which outline for us the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which we desperately need to feed our Spirit today:
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. -- 1Corinthians 2: 1-2 (NIV)
Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. -- Acts 20: 26-30 (NIV)