Ever heard of the “Candy Diet?” Take a look below at what a proponent of the Candy Diet said about it:
“The Candy Diet is great. Everyone knows that diet is all about moderation. Here’s how you moderate: Don’t eat anything but candy. It’s all about caloric intake, and whether you intake calories of candy or healthy proportions from the five food groups, one plus one equals two; calories are calories, they all add up to the same number. Besides, the FDA pyramid is just a government conspiracy so don’t feel badly about straying from it.”
Will eating candy give you the necessary calories that you need to feel “full” and satisfy your cravings for food? Yes, and if losing weight is your goal, following the Candy Diet help you lose weight.
However, if the question is will the candy diet give you the essential nutrients that your body needs to be healthy and productive? The answer is, “No.” The candy diet cannot provide your muscles with the proteins they need, your bones with the calcium they need, your digestive system with the fiber and enzymes it needs, and your cells with the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy. Again, the candy diet may allow you to lose weight (and losing weight may make you feel good and even look good for a while), but given enough time the candy diet will hurt you. Our physical bodies were not designed to thrive on candy.
Likewise, our spiritual bodies are not designed to thrive on religious candy.
“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Mark 4:4)
” Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (1 Peter 2:1-3)
What followers of Jesus need for spiritual health is not religious candy, but “The bread of Life, and the “pure mild of the Word.” Let me suggest that one of the greatest dangers to our spiritual growth is the danger of substituting religious candy for these two essential ingredients. Let me explain.
God uses his Word to nourish, transform, equip for service, and to lead His. On the other hand, religious candy, more often than not, does the complete opposite. So, what is religious candy?
Let me suggest that religious candy can be found in many of the religious cliches and sayings that have become part of our popular Christian culture today. Religious candy can also be found in the misquoted and taken out of context Bible verses that are served to God’s people from our pulpits today. And, just as the candy diet can make people feel good for a moment, religious candy may make us feel good for a moment. Nevertheless, just like the candy diet, dieting on religious candy cannot provide us what we needed for balanced, healthy spiritual growth. Let me suggest that Christians that diet on religious candy will never obtain the strength to “be steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58), and in the end it will hurt you.
Below is a short list of some religious candies that you may have heard (or perhaps even said) yourself:
- God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. (Is this a cliche? Look at Romans 11:22 for an answer)
- No weapon fashioned against you shall prosper. (Does this mean that the next time I am stuck up – Yes, I have been robbed at gunpoint twice – I should expect the gun to jam or the bullet to pass through my body leaving me unharmed? Take a look at Hebrews 11:36-38)
- God wants you to be head and not the tail- take a look at 2 Cor. 8:1 and 2, and note that 1) God bestowed upon the the churches in Macedonia His amazing grace, and 2) they were subjected to “a great trial of affliction”, and deep poverty.” Also note that the Macedonians experienced tremendous joy in the midst of their poverty and suffering.
Furthermore, let me suggest that one of the most faith destroying cliches (candies) ever uttered, and unfortunately believed by many Christians, is the one that says, “The safest place in the world to be is in the center of God’s will.” Don’t get me wrong, being in the center of God’s will is always the absolute best place for our lives, but it may not be the safest place to be at all times. When Jesus commanded his apostles to go into all of the world and make disciples of every nation, He knew that they had some rough, even dangerous times ahead of them. And because Jesus knew what was coming, he assured the apostles (and us) that in whatever circumstance we may find ourselves in, his empowering presence will be there too. Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen” (Matthew 28:20).
Take a look below and then ask yourself, “Is the center of God’s will really the safest place in the world?”
- Jesus was at the center of God’s will and he ended up mocked, beaten, and crucified. (see Matthew 27)
- Paul was at the center of God’s will, and according to church history he was beheaded. (See also 2 Cor. 11:23-28)
- Jeremiah was at the center of God’s will, and he was thrown into a pit and left to die. (Jeremiah 37:1-16)
- The prophet Zechariah was at the center of God’s will, and he was murdered in house of God. (Matthew 23:35)
There are many examples of men and women in the Bible who were in the center of God’s will for their lives, and yet suffered.
“Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented–of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:36-38)
The problem with the candy cliche that says “the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will” is that it gives the false impression that God’s perfect will for His people is to always be safe and comfortable as they journey from here to eternity. This kind of thinking is diametrically different from the truth, “As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” (Romans 8:36). The truth is that followers of Jesus have been, and are being slaughtered for their faith in Christ.
21 Egyptian Christians being marched to a beach in Libya, forced to kneel and then beheaded
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
Let me suggest that God’s perfect will for Christians is that they bring Him glory by living lives that bear the image of Jesus. The question is, “How do we do this?” I think that the Bible answers this question very concisely, saying:
¶ Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. (Philippians 2:14-16)
Consider this: if bringing glory to God means putting to death my selfishness, experiencing danger instead of safety, hardship instead of plenty, and suffering persecution instead of enjoying pleasure, popularity, and praise then amen. For it is also written:
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)
Considering the above, I like what Erwin. McManus (An Unstoppable Force: Daring to Become the Christian God Had in Mind) wrote,
“The truth of the matter is that the center of God’s will is not a safe place but the most dangerous place in the world! God fears nothing and no one! God moves with intentionally and with power. …. “Following Jesus is a dangerous undertaking. He was willing to die on our behalf. The Father was not only willing to let him die on our behalf, but He commanded it. The only way that I could truly follow God was to die to myself and to live for Him. Only dead men can follow the God of the Cross.”
Finally, I love what the Spirit said to us through the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20, telling us that the life we lead as followers of Jesus cannot be called the “Candy Life”, however, it is rightly called the “Crucified Life”.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
cru·ci·fy ˈkro͞osəˌfī/ verb past tense: crucified; past participle: crucified 1. – to put (someone) to death by nailing or binding them to a cross, especially as an ancient punishment. For as…
Mark 9:33 Then they came to Capernaum. When He was in the house, He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, He called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.
Philippians 2:5-7, “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave…” (Bible quotes from HCSB)
I am a follower of Jesus Christ because He has purchased me (bought my freedom) out of the slave market of sin. As my Master, Jesus compels me into His service; I am not compelled by force or by threats of violence, but by the power of His love (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Cor. 5:14-15). As my Lord, Jesus commands me to take on His posture (“the form of a slave”) and become a servant (a slave) to others.
I was reminded of the above after reading Mark chapter 9 this morning for my devotions. I took note that as Jesus walked down the road to Capernaum with his disciples (Wow! Wouldn’t you give anything to walk the road with Jesus?), His disciples were engaged in a “Who’s going to be the big man on campus” debate. Later, Jesus instructed His disciples (and us) to consider that greatness is not seen in how much status you have in the eyes of others. Jesus taught His disciples that greatness in God’s kingdom is seen in how much you serve. For when we take on the posture of slaves and serve one another, we take on the image of Jesus; and isn’t Jesus, truly, the greatest person of all.
Let’s be honest: we do not like being servants, and we especially do not like being called slaves. However, Michael Card reminds us (A Better Freedom) that the, “choice is not between slavery and freedom. The choice has always only been… whose slave will you be?” Michael Card continues, “As Jesus had offered wisdom through foolishness, maturity through childlikeness, and wealth through poverty,” Jesus’ followers understand that the only way to a “better freedom” is to be found in slavery to Christ.
“In order to become rich you must become poor, (Lk. 12:33) in order to become mature you must rediscover your own childlikeness, (Mk. 9:36) in order to become wise you must embrace the foolishness of the gospel. (I Cor. 3:18) In Jesus, life comes through death (Jn. 5:24) and the only true freedom comes from slavery to Him. (I Cor. 7:22) He came to turn the world upside down, to shatter all our definitions and images, and to fulfill them. The fundamental mysteries of following Jesus are always rooted in paradox.”
“These are the harsh realities of faith in Jesus and if we are to be followers of him, in the truest biblical sense, we must give ourselves to understanding them.” (Michael Card, A Better Freedom)
We went to church in Paterson Sunday and there were three things in this church that I could not help but take note that, 1) there was an over abundance of women in the church, and 2) there was a noticeable lack of teenagers to thirty-something year old folk in the church, and 3) the music in the church was awesome!
As we drove through a blighted neighborhood in Paterson to the way church Sunday, I could not help but reflect on a book by Tom Burrell that I’ve been reading lately titled, “Brainwashed.” In Brainwashed, Burrell encourages his audience to, 1) consider the power of the ancient wisdom that says, “as ‘a man’ thinks in his heart, so is he”, and 2) to consider the horrible impact that generations of negative thinking is having a significant number of our neighbors, and finally 3) to seek significance by reaching for the amazing potential for good that God has placed inside of each of us (and not the destructive and ugly stereotypes far too many have brought into as the “truth”).
As I drove home from church, I could not help but renew my belief in the hope that we have in Christ; hope that is unleashed through the bold proclamation of the gospel, and through the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
In every place, in every culture, at every time, and in every circumstance the gospel has proven to be the difference maker. For this reason, when God used the apostle Paul to reach out to the amazingly messed up Corinthians, He did not empower him to preach religion, nor did he inspire him to lower the lights, plug in the praise band, and rock the house. The LORD empowered Paul to preach the gospel to the Corinthians, and to encourage those that believed the gospel to come together as brothers and sisters and form a new community not based on race, or religion, but based on faith and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Bible calls this new community the church, the body of Christ, and it is here where God’s love is displayed in living color to the watching world. As members of this new community, our obligation to one another is to love one another, and to encourage one another to live this life just as He lived it on earth almost 2,000 years ago. As it is written:
1 Peter 3:8 ¶ Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
FYI – Below is an excerpt from Burrell’s book Brainwashed
Our Family crisis is inseparable from our black male and female identity crisis, and brainwashing has left a great many of us fearful, confused about our
identities, and hopelessly caught in a cycle of relationship underachievement.
To many black men are still stuck in roles ultimately dictated by slavery. Some, living up to the expectation that they are irresponsible, take pride in making babies knowing they can leave without stressing about the outcome of their actions.
Black boys are not the only recipients of the psychological and physical trauma inflicted on their emasculated fathers. Vulnerable black daughters seeking love and validation from the first man in their lives are often left to fend for themselves, relying on their mothers or society to define black manhood for them. Like their mothers, the girls are saddled with feelings of disillusionment and disappointment in black men that often becomes a permanent fixture of their psyches. …. many black women have been brainwashed to be active enablers of irresponsible men, supporting the unhealthy behavior of their mates, leading to future relationships fraught with unnecessary drama.”
“As the saying goes, black men have been brought p by mothers conditioned to ‘raise their daughters and spoil their sons.’ For many black mothers without committed male partners, the son becomes the ‘little man’ whom the omther overindulges and neglects until he gets to an age where she can no longer handle him. Rationalizing that he is indeed a ‘man,’ she submissively allows the boy to come and go as he pleases.
Poor young black women with little education pay the greatest toll. Many are tragically retro, stuck in the past where women had little control over their sexuality. Following in the footsteps of their female ancestors, they are brainwashed into believing that motherhood is the means by which they can validate themselves; having babies with no resources is seen as a way out. ….
THESE DISTRESSING PATTERNS MUST BE ACKNOWLEDGED AND ADDRESSED IF WE EVER WANT AN INKLING OF A CHANCE TO FOSTER STRONG BLACK FAMILIES.” (Tom Burrell, Brainwashed: Challenging the myth of Black Inferiority, p.32-33)
Don’t be discouraged after reading the above citation from Burrell. There is hope! For the Bible says, “Be Ye Transformed!”
Romans 12:1 ¶ I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Once when serving the LORD as a missionary in Queens, I had the opportunity to share the gospel with a 76 year old man from Nepal that I will call mister M. For three days we’d meet in the park on 208th and Hillside Avenue and talk about eternal things. He was an evangelistic Hindu and very serious about following the teachings of this religion that he was sure would lead him to god and eternal life.
As I sat and listed to Mr. M, the LORD gave me and opportunity to share the gospel with him on our second day of meeting when I asked him, “In all of your life, have you ever found anyone that was able to truly keep the Hindu precepts? When I asked this question, all of his religious enthusiasm and joy drained from his face, and he responded, “No!” Then he solemnly said to me, “Eric, the only thing that I am looking for is peace of mind.” He went on to say that he did not need money because he had enough to travel the world and do what he wanted to do.
With this said, I shared with him what Jesus said in John 14:27, which says, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” I went on to share with him other verses from the Bible that talk about the peace of God and how it is obtained (Isaiah 26:3. Ephesians 2:14-22, 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, and others). After hearing God speak to his heart from the Word, MR. M asked me to give him a Bible and to mark all of the verses of Scripture that I shared with him.
Mr. M heard the gospel over the next couple of days that we saw each other, but to this day I do not know if he ever believed it and became a follower of Christ. Pray for Mr. M. Pray for Nepal. In our local church a couple of weeks ago an offering was taken to share with the suffering people of Nepal. As the LORD gives you an opportunity to share, please prayerfully do so. They will need our financial help to help them rebuild their destroyed villages and cities, but more so, they need Christ.
Luke 21:11 “And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.12 “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.13 “But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.
CLICK THIS LINK BELOW AND TAKE A LOOK AT THIS FOOTAGE OF THE EARTHQUAKE. PRAY FOR NEPAL.
Through the gospel God exerts his power to transform lives and change cultures. I am of the opinion that the church does not need another summit or conference on racial reconciliation or multi-culturalism; what’s needed today are preachers who will prophetically proclaim the gospel. When the gospel is preached to people whom the Holy Spirit has prepared to receive it, they receive it, and they demonstrate their faith in the gospel by walking in “newness of life.” (Romans 6:4) Let me suggest that anything short of this (changing or accommodating our music styles, or creating night club like atmospheres in our sanctuaries, etc.) will not bring the needed flame of radical revival, but will produce a mere reshuffling of the same old deck of lukewarm cards.
I love this section from George and Woodward’s book, The Mark of Jesus. Using an example from the history of the church, George and Woodward challenge us to consider afresh the power of the gospel to change our lives. They write:
The Testimony of Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr effectively depicted and defended the lifestyle of Christians. In his First Apology (c. A.D. 155), Justin challenged Emperor Antonius Pius to take a good, hard look at the way Christians lived. Justin apparently did not fear that an investigation by the emperor would find the Christians to be hypocrites: “It is for us, therefore, to offer to all the opportunity of inspecting our life and teachings, lest we ourselves should bear the blame for what those who do not really know about us do in their ignorance.” Then, in a marvelous passage, Justin described how the power of the Gospel had transformed Christians at the very core of their aspirations and desires:
Those who once rejoiced in fornication now delight in continence alone; those who made use of magic arts have dedicated themselves to the good and unbegotten God; we who once took pleasure in the means of increasing our wealth and property now bring what we have into a common fund and share with everyone in need; we who hated and killed one another would not associate with men of different tribes because of [their different] customs, now after the manifestation of Christ live together and pray for our enemies and try to persuade those who unjustly hate us, so that they, living according to the fair command of Christ may share with us the good hope of receiving the same things [that we will] from God, the master of all.
According to Justin Martyr, Christians turned their backs on sexual immorality, on the making of money as a life avocation, and on yielding to racism. Rather, they shared their goods even with those whom they had formerly disdained for racial reasons—those who belonged to other tribes. Many Christians were living in unity and were intent on seeing their non-Christian neighbors come to Christ. They prayed for their enemies with the hope that they might likewise become followers of the true God. They believed that only those persons were worthy to be called Christians who actually obeyed their Lord’s teachings.
As for those persons who did not obey Christ’s teachings (hypocrites), Justin Martyr offered little comfort: “Those who are found not living as he taught should know that they are not really Christians, even if his teachings are on their lips, for he said that not those who merely profess but those who also do the works will be saved. For he said this: ‘Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’”Justin Martyr, therefore, viewed “apologetics”(the defense of the faith) in a somewhat different fashion than we often do, if we limit its scope to the presentation of the “theistic proofs”or historical arguments for the resurrection of Christ. Certainly Martyr made the case for fulfilled prophecies in Scripture, the reality of Christ’s miracles, and the truthfulness of the resurrection. But Martyr was not hesitant also to make the point that many of the Christians he knew obeyed Christ’s teachings. This would mean that any hypocrisy charge regarding them would not stick. He wrote: “Many men and women now in their sixties and seventies who have been disciples of Christ from childhood have preserved their purity: and I am proud that I could point to such people in every nation.”
Justin Martyr’s presentation of how Christians actually lived out their faith received confirmation of sorts from a surprising quarter. Pagan critics, while condemning Christianity as an irrational faith that attracted the weak-minded, on occasion paid backhanded tributes to the Christians by describing them as those who kept their word and shared their goods with each other. Undoubtedly, the early church had its hypocrites who by no means followed Christ in the way Justin Martyr indicated. At the end of the second century, Tertullian complained that he knew Christians, including members of the clergy, who ran after money and church offices rather than seeking to follow Christ’s teachings. For many early Christians, not following Christ’s teachings indicated a person was worse than a hypocrite; the person was a “non-Christian.