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Manna from Heaven vs. the devil (dog)

My church recently preached a series of messages about the fruit of the Spirit. Each week was on a different fruit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23). Last Sunday was on the topic of self control. My pastor mentioned his own struggles with food, and it reminded me of mine.

When I first got saved through reading the Bible over two years ago,  I finally had self control with my addiction to junk food. Rather than eating the devil dog, I would literally smell the devil dog and say “Nope.” It was absolutely invigorating. Whereas before I would spend my nights surfing the internet or watching trash tv shows when the kids were in bed, gorging on chocolate desserts, candy, and potato chips (sometimes all together), I now spent my nights reading Scripture. I would read for hours and hours. When I felt tempted to grab a snack I would think, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

By just this simple exchange of junk food for God’s word, I lost about 15 lbs. As a woman I could appreciate this extra perk.  I was becoming stronger in my knowledge of God and in my faith, AND I could actually button my jeans without sucking it in for the first time since having children? Yes, please! Life was good.

Then something changed. I finished my first read through of the Bible, and started my second. Sadly, the more I read, the more I knew “what came next”, and my desire for the word started to diminish after years of reading daily. Don’t get me wrong, I still happily read almost every day and I still love God. I am still amazed at what Jesus has done for me. But that hunger for the word started to take a backseat to my hunger for that junk food I knew wasn’t good for me. I stopped smelling the devil dog and started taking a bite. Before I knew it, I “found” all 15 lbs I had lost, plus a couple more. I’ve spent the past year wondering what in the world happened; where did I go so terribly wrong? I am enslaved again to the very things I had found freedom from. The snacks in themselves are not wrong, but my unhealthy addiction to them is. Why am I no longer free?

Then today as I was doing the exciting task of folding laundry, I had an incredible thought. I thought about manna. Strange, right? But suddenly it all makes sense. Like the Israelites, I was a slave before coming to Christ for my salvation through repentance and faith. I wasn’t a slave of Egypt, but I was a slave to all sorts of sins. I was powerless to not obey. I was powerless to choose what was good; all I could do was take orders from my cruel masters, the idols of my heart. Then one day God saved me. He released me from the cage I was in and made me free to serve Him instead.

As I began to serve, I was starving for His word. Like the Israelites in the desert desperate for food, I was desperate for Him. Like God provided manna from Heaven for the Israelites, He provided the word of God for me. I praised Him for that provision. I was thankful for that spiritual food. But then something went wrong.

As the initial thrill of becoming a Christian started to wear off, I started to realize what I had signed up for. Yes, my hope was in Christ, but I potentially had a long time before I was going to see him face to face. I had this life to live, and it wasn’t going to be as easy as before. I was suddenly fighting battles I didn’t even know existed, I was in tears over the lostness of the world, I felt the weight of my own sin still in my life, I was suddenly a sojourner in a land that was not my own. I felt alone. I felt like no one understood.

Instead of turning to God with my struggles, I now see I gave the devil ground. I became like the Israelites, grumbling about how I didn’t want the manna anymore, I wanted what I used to eat and enjoy even though I did that as a slave. When I stopped being thankful for the manna, I started resenting it. The manna began to taste bland.

Jesus says in John 6:32-34: “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” The true manna is Jesus Christ himself. He is the Word of God. I was right to trade my idol of food for the Bread of Life, but I was wrong to ever get so familiar with it that I would wistfully remember the “good ol’ days” in captivity.

Just take a minute and really visualize what the Israelites were doing when they rejected what God had given them. Imagine a man decided to sneak back into the Egyptian city in the middle of the night, just to get a piece of meat or some seasonings. In his mind he imagines he can just take a few bites and then run back to his freedom. But what really happens? He stealthily grabs the piece of meat but then is suddenly spotted by an Egyptian guard. Once again he finds himself in chains. For what?

On this side of the Red Sea we may not find our situation as dramatic, but the concept is the same. Any time we trade Jesus for something we know wants to master us, we willingly disobey God. We are no better than the Israelites in the wilderness. I am reminded of what I recently read in the book of Hebrews 3:7-12:

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as you did in the rebellion, in the time of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ Take care brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.”

Do I believe that my succumbing to the devil dog once in a while will cause me to lose my salvation? No, I firmly believe the biblical truth that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. But I do believe there are many, many stern warnings in the Bible to not trade in the manna of Christ for the ultimately destructive manna this world has to offer. There are many warnings to not allow yourself to be mastered by any Master but Christ.

So what is my take away from rapidly “scribbling” down my thoughts I had this morning here in this blog post? I need to repent from ever thinking that Jesus wasn’t enough. I repent of looking for other things, like food, to satisfy me like only the bread of life can. I confess my lack of interest in what I once loved, and will be humbly asking God to reveal the next layer of scripture to me and not allow me to look elsewhere for answers only His word provides.

Won’t you take a minute, and just think about what area in your life God would want you to submit to Him more? What desires are mastering you? What you just can’t say no to?

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