Charlotte is extremely rich in church culture and provides a wide variety of worship experiences. Indeed, the Queen City offers a smorgasbord of spiritual delicacies for one’s palate. This having been said, there are a number of ways that we can be spiritually fed.
By “being spiritually fed”, I mean that we as Christians need to hear the Word of God through preaching and teaching by our church leaders on a regular basis. This teaching and/or preaching is what edifies or builds up the inner-man (our spirits) –
Eph 3:16 “ That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;”
We humans are all triune beings, meaning that we are comprised of a body, a soul (the mind, intellect, emotions, etc.), and a spirit. Our spirits are the only part of us that can directly commune with God (through His Holy Spirit) –
Rom 8:16“ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”
Our spirits must be “fed” or edified (built up, taught, or strengthened) –
Rom 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
Rom 15:2 Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification
1Th 5:11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
We grow spiritually by both hearing and being taught the Word of God regularly. Our pastors and ministers have the divinely ordained task of making sure that we grow in our knowledge of and faithfulness to Christ.
That’s why I started this important series – because I (and every other spiritual leader) am responsible for seeing that you grow in The Lord. –
2 Cor 10:8 For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed:
What are you being fed?
A crucial part of “being fed” is your understanding of where you are spiritually and attending a fellowship that truly suits your needs (notice that I said needs, not wants).
When I refer to “where you are spiritually”, I mean that we all as Christians develop or grow at different rates. If you have been saved recently (a babe in Christ), then you are not yet ready to be taught certain difficult Biblical concepts. You need to first learn all about Christ and the plan of redemption.
If you have been saved for years and are “maturing in The Lord”, you need to have a more advanced type of learning geared towards knowing the “Mysteries of God and His Christ” (Rom. 11:25, Rom. 16:25, I Cor. 2:7,I Cor. 4:1, Eph. 3:4, Eph. 3:9, Eph. 5:12).
Some pastors focus on only one type of food. A good pastor must prepare (with the Holy Spirit’s leading), a variety of “spiritual delicacies”.
Sweet and Sour
We must be careful to take in good, nourishing spiritual food. There are some pastors that only serve one meal over and over again. You cannot grow in these settings.
Some pastors focus only on “shouting and falling out” in church (I call them “good-time Charleys”). They emphasize the praise and worship emotional high, but offer no real sustenance or nutritional value.
They feel that church should be like a never ending party and everything they place before you is “sweet” to your ears (Paul refers to those who teach pleasing things as "tickling the ears" - 2 Tim. 4:3). But soon afterwards, all they really gave you was a stomach ache, followed by spiritual cavities (a hole in your soul).
“Prosperity preachers”, "Word of Faith", and those pastors who always preach about “It’s your time” and “expect a miracle” are very much in this category as well. They can only show you “cotton candy”, which tastes very sweet, but only leaves you hungry later.
Watch out for these types of leaders – they have no real nutrition to give you.
Next are the sour preachers that always condemn everyone and everything. They have nothing but bad things to say about everyone except themselves.
These folks leave you so depressed and frustrated, that you are too upset to eat spiritually. You can’t get that awful taste of your imperfections out of your mouth. They leave you with little hope and even less desire to serve God.
They tell you to fast more, get deliverance more, pray more, cry out to God more – but all of this is never enough. They focus on “works” or legalism – which could not save you to begin with, which is why Christ came to die for us in the first place. As the Scripture tells us –
Rom 8:15 For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba, Father!
Heb 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Over seasoned food
Some pastors try to “force feed” their flocks, meaning that they keep shoving way too much down your throat.
They love to share all of their knowledge and never think about whether the people can bear it. Their meat is too seasoned or too burdensome for the congregation to stand. You can only get nutrition from what you can digest.
These pastors don’t realize that people are spiritually “puking” in the aisles on Sundays. Or else they’re flushing it down the proverbial toilet because it’s too rich for them to handle.
1Cor 3:2 I have fed you with milk and not with solid food, for you were not yet able to bear it; nor are you able even now. "
Pastors have the responsibility of serving “wholesome meals” – exhortation (encouragement/hope), reproof (disciplinary correction), teaching sound doctrine, instruction in Godliness, and trust in the infallibility and the reliability of God’s Word
2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
2Tim 3:17 that the man of God may be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work.
2Tim 4:2 preach the Word, be instant in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.
All of these meals are necessary for your growth, which brings us to the topic of knowing what stage you are at in Christ so that you know what type of nourishment you need.
Still on the milk – “Babes in Christ”
Some types of newer believers are as follows – those who are: new to being born again and serving God (novices); still attached to the things of this world (carnally-minded); and lastly, those who are still lacking in the full understanding of Godly and Heavenly things (people who have been saved for years, but are still caught up in “signs and wonders” or who are still unable to grasp the “Mysteries of God and Christ”).
All three kinds of babes - novices, “worldly minded believers “(still sinning without feeling guilty), and those always looking for miracles - require “spiritual milk” just as a baby needs literal milk. Neither a spiritual baby nor a real baby can digest “solid food” (strong meat).
Paul calls all of these types of Christians “ babes in Christ” –
1Co 3:1 "And I, brothers, could not speak to you as to spiritual ones, but as to fleshly, as to babes in Christ.
1Co 3:2 I have fed you with milk and not with solid food, for you were not yet able to bear it; nor are you able even now.
Heb 5:13 For everyone partaking of milk is unskillful in the Word of Righteousness, for he is an infant.
1Pet. 2:2 Desire the sincere milk of the Word, as newborn babes, so that you may grow by it. "
Young Christians need simple spiritual food such spending time learning the Bible basics (Bible stories), becoming familiar with Old Testament concepts such as priestly and Levitical sacrificial rites, understanding who Christ truly is, and how salvation through Him changes their lives.
These fundamentals are extremely essential to Christian growth. Though we all grow at different rates, we all must start out learning the basics or “Christianity 101” as I call it. This building block sets the stage for more advanced learning and without the above mentioned fundamentals, no one can truly grow in Christ.
Eating Solid Food (strong meat)
Christians that are maturing in Christ are referred to as eating “solid food” or “strong meat”. This means that even as a child grows into adulthood, so you too are growing into Christ-like adulthood. There are two types of maturing believers – those who are adolescents and those that are approaching full adulthood. Both can eat the same type of meat; they just process the food different - slightly.
The adolescent uses the food for the further development of their “spiritual bones” as they continue to grow, while the adult uses the food for energy to keep them going in the faith. But the food is the same regardless.
This means all of the following: that you know and understand the Bible pretty well (have read it through at least once or twice) and are learning more about how it was compiled as well as how to apply its doctrines to your life, you fully understand and can explain God’s plan of salvation, you are attempting to live a holy or consecrated life in Christ (becoming more like Christ and less like the world), are able to identify and operate in your spiritual gifts, you are growing in the Fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23, Eph. 5:9, and 2 Pet. 1:5-8), you actively and consistently take part in a prayer-life and worship services, you have a sense of Godly wisdom, you strengthen/encourage fellow believers, and you can witness to others without being “over-zealous” (being overly enthusiastic).
Heb 5:13 For everyone partaking of milk is unskillful in the Word of Righteousness, for he is an infant.
Heb 5:14 But solid food (strong meat)belongs to those who are of full age, even those who because of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
These types of believers must eat solid food (advanced study of the Bible and its doctrines so that they will not regress spiritually). If you are maturing in Christ, you need to spend time with other maturing Christians. Remember that “Iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the face of his friend.” (Prov. 27:17)
Who's feeding you?
If you are going to grow spiritually, then you must be fed by a pastor or shepherd who is as dedicated to his/her own spiritual development as they are to your development. Your pastor should be growing in Christ at a faster rate (or equal rate) than/as you are.
If iron sharpens iron, then your pastor cannot have a “dull blade”. He/she must always be advancing in the knowledge of God or else they are of no use to you. Hard words, I know, but true none the less.
Paul wrote that he wanted those under his care to “grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ”. This should be the goal of every pastor –
1Cor. 1:5 “That in everything you are enriched by Him, in all speech and in all knowledge;
2Cor. 8:7 But even as you abound in everything, in faith, and in word, and in knowledge, and in all earnestness, and in your love to us; you should abound in this grace also.
Php 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in full knowledge and in all perception;
Php 1:10 that you may distinguish between things that differ, that you may be sincere and without offense until the day of Jesus Christ,
Php 1:11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
God intends for all of us to bear good fruit (abound) – “Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Mat 7:19). If a pastor cannot grow by feeding him/herself spiritually, what good can they do you?
Positive signs that your shepherd is growing spiritually
Ask yourself the following questions about your spiritual leader based upon what the Scripture dictates –
- Does my pastor show the Fruits of the Spirit? - Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control(Gal. 5:22-23), diligence, virtue (valor), knowledge, temperance (control),patience, and Godliness (2 Pet. 1:5-7). These are sure signs of growth. Your pastor may not have them all yet, but they should be striving for all of these.
- Does my pastor take time with me or other members of our church/congregation? –
Rom 1:9-10, 11 “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers…For I long to see you, so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, to you for the establishing of you.” Gal 4:11 I fear for you, lest somehow I have labored among you in vain.”
- Does my pastor truly believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ and teach us to trust in it as well? -Rom 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes,” (verse 12)“And this is to be comforted together with you by our mutual faith, both yours and mine.”
- Does my pastor hold him/herself accountable to God and to our church members? -
Mat 12: 35-36 “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings out good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings out evil things. But I say to you that every idle (useless) word, whatever men may speak, they shall give account of it in the Day of Judgment.” Rom 14:12 “So then each one of us will give account concerning himself to God.“(see also Mat. 25: 14-30, Luke 16:1-13, Heb. 13:17, and I Pet. 4:5)
- Does my pastor exemplify I Timothy 2:3-7? – blameless, with their first spouse (faithful), self-controlled, orderly (modest, good behavior), hospitable, didactic (knowledgeable/able to teach others), not greedy for “ill gotten loot”, gentle, rules their household well (their authority is respected by their family), mature in Christ (not a “novice” – new convert or *babe in Christ).and of good reputation amongst those in the world (a lot of pastors fail here).
Signs that your shepherd is “lagging behind” spiritually
Would you let someone feed you if you knew that their hands were dirty or unclean? Of course not!
Yet a number of Christians constantly allow themselves to be fed by pastors who have “dirty hands”. Please consider this when you are going to follow a spiritual shepherd – if he/she is out of sync with God and His word, where are they really leading you?
A leader cannot give you directions to somewhere that they’ve never been to.
Stop and read I Timothy chapter 3 before going on.
Ask yourself these questions about your spiritual leader based upon what the Scripture dictates –
- Does my pastor display any of the negative characteristics that Paul mentions – of a bad reputation with those outside of my church, unfaithful to his/her spouse, lack of self control, unreasonable, inhospitable, unable/unwilling to teach others,drunkenness, argumentative, “money seeking/money-hungry”, materialistic, or unable to control his/her own family?
- Does my pastor put him/herself before others? Is he/she like those that Paul warns about in II Timothy chapter 3 - self-lovers, money-lovers, boasters (egotistical), proud (arrogant or “puffed up”), blasphemers, unthankful, unholy, concerned more about pleasing people than pleasing God, or merely pretending to be saved while outwardly denying the authority of the Scriptures (having a form of Godliness, yet denying the Power), full of lusts (sexual, greed, etc.)? *Please note that if we see these “bad fruits” in people, that Paul urges “from such (people)turn away” – 2 Tim. 3:5.
- Which Fruits of the Spirit might they be lacking at this time? (Gal. 5:22-23, 2 Pet. 1:5-8)
All of these questions are necessary to assess whether or not your leader is really capable of feeding you spiritually. Along with the above questions, ask yourself if your pastor is always feeding you milk when you need meat (solid food) or if they feed you meat when you can only handle milk.
A good shepherd spreads a variety on the table so that each believer can get what they need. There should be plenty of spiritual food to go around as the Holy Spirit leads –
Joh 21:5 Then Jesus saith unto them, “Children, have ye any meat?” They answered him,” No”.
Joh 21:6 And he said unto them,“Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find”. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.
Jesus’ commission to Peter is in actuality a commission to every minister of the Gospel –
Joh 21:11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.
Joh 21:12 Jesus saith unto them, “Come and dine”…
Joh 21:15 Then when they broke fast [finished eating], Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You”. He said to him,“Feed My lambs.”
Joh 21:16 He said to him the second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You”. He said to him, “Feed My sheep.”
Joh 21:17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me? Peter was grieved because He said to him a third time, Do you love Me? And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things, You know that I love You”. Jesus said to him,“Feed My sheep.”
Now, I saw some spiritual principles here that may be helpful in our discussion of "spiritual food". Let's look at this conversation in another way.
If you examine this story, there may be something significant here.
Notice that Jesus waited until Peter had finished eating before He asked, “Simon, do you love Me? Feed My lambs.” Peter would not be capable of feeding the Church if he had not eaten first. By causing him to eat first, Jesus was preparing Peter to be in position to answer the questions and then the command to feed the sheep.
Whoever feeds you (the sheep), must have dined at the Holy Spirit’s table first so that they are now prepared to feed you. Remember I said earlier that a leader cannot direct you to a place that they haven’t been themselves.
Jesus tells Peter to feed the “lambs” or babes in Christ first, then feed the maturing sheep, and lastly, feed the older sheep who have been in the Lord for awhile.
Each of the 3 times Jesus asks “Simon, do you love Me?” signifies that Peter must commit to each of the 3 types of sheep (believers) separately. Only in these individual commitments can the entire Body of Christ be properly fed so that we can grow in Him.
Finally, Christ ends His sayings to Peter (and to all of us in actuality) with the resounding words that He utters twice to keep Peter’s heart focused on Him – “Follow Me”.