“Christ is the meat, the bread, the food of our souls. Nothing is in him of a higher spiritual nourishment than his love, which we should always desire.”
When I came across this quote last week by John Owen, I was originally looking for something a bit more penetrating. After all, he wrote “The Mortification of Sin” and he was a Puritan. As a modern Christian, in terms of legalism, this man’s ideals are a nightmare; by today’s naturally carnal way of thinking. But in the same token, we must remember that the church has come so far from where it started. In fact, now, it’s uglier than it has ever been. I personally would love to think that I could take on Puritanical thinking and apply it to every aspect of my life. It sounds good and all but, my Christians friends and my own family would condemn me as a witch or something. The real truth is, I know for a fact I am not capable because of the world I have been reared in – the church mindset is not the same. These puritanical ideals are buried under centuries of sin and just not accepted by the majority of Christians out there today. That is the truth.
With all that said, the Puritan papers and writings are still worth something to me. Not just to me but to others too. I know plenty of people who enjoy reading about what these people were like, what their theology was about, how they lived and walked with God. I was just talking to someone a few days ago and I was discussing this exact quote. He told me he considered a certain pastor he enjoys listening to as a “modern day puritan” because he found it “hard to find someone that teaches the Bible as good as this him always pointing to Christ never peddling with the Scriptures [sic].”
That comment got me thinking about the nature of Christians today. We expect to see “pastors” do this circus act around passages in the Bible; and they do this all the time. The typical scenario is where they land on a passage because it followed the passage they taught on the Sunday before. This is where they do the “circus act.” What is the “circus act” you ask? Well, imagine this happening: The pastor opens his Bible to 1 Timothy 2:11-15, he begins to sweat and think “Women are only saved through child bearing?!?! GOD HELP!! WHAT DO I SAY?!!” Then queue the circus music and he hops on his unicycle, puts on his red clown nose and blue clown hair, and finally starts to juggle Bibles. People, not impressed, begin moving around in the pews like they are all sitting on red ant hills and broom sticks. All the while the pastor is still juggling and he starts to see the congregation’s disapproval; he throws a few Strong’s Concordances in there for good measure and every one is amazed! “OOOOOOO AHHHH God is might to save,” they say.
How? How did we all crash so far from the landing strip? It is not like there aren’t pastors who are truly righteous men with good intent and good hearts. There are plenty of them! There are plenty of churches we can all name that are on the smaller scale, whose church isn’t a circus act. The question still remains: Why have we become used to this?
The answer is simple: we are not interested in even the very simple things of God. Simple ideas like spiritual nourishment: It’s boring, there’s not enough fog or lights, there’s no beer is being served, there’s no creamy heart shapes in my espresso, no one sings enough Hillsong because Chris Tomlin’s songs make more people cry. Seriously though, how much easier can John Owen explain spiritual nourishment? It’s not some deep, elongated, theological concept. It’s simply this: Christ is the food for our souls, which is love. Yet we want to turn a pastor into a celebrity so he can spruce that “spiritual nourishment thing” up so it can be hash-tagged and turned into a coffee mug that will sell out at the church cafe.
This is where we are at now! We have to market everything because Jesus just doesn’t sell anymore. The love of Jesus isn’t enough! We have to rename church and call it Fresh Life or Willow Creek or The Cause and rename prayer closets to The War Room. I could rant for days on this. Then, on the other hand, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I also don’t want to be lynched by Fresh Life people either – they are pretty hardcore. Some have more tattoos than me. Hardcore.
I want to come back to John Owen as I close. His statement coincides perfectly with my rant and that is that we, as a church, don’t desire what God wants us to. He wants us to desire Him. That isn’t to say we, as individuals, don’t desire the love of God, we all do at some point. It’s usually our breaking point. He wants us to desire Him all the time. Every minute and every second shouldn’t be wasted on enhancing the simplicity of His love. I know, for myself, I want nothing more than the bread and the meat; and I know I am nothing, my soul will be doomed, if I don’t have that desire, that yearning for the love Christ wants to give me – His spiritual nourishment.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.“
–Psalm 73:25 (ESV)