Thursday, 7 July 2011

Bread & Discipleship

wheat and wheat productsOf all the glorious things to which our Lord could have compared Himself, among other things He identified Himself with "bread". In fact, Jesus spoke of bread quite often. He said we should ask God for it daily. He said children should expect it from their fathers. And on that night when eternity intersected with time, He took bread and broke it, and said, "This is my body."

Bread is derived from wheat and in Biblical times, barley. The wheat is sown in the ground and "dies" so that it can germanate. Jesus said that this is what He was doing. He had come down from heaven and like a grain of wheat would die and be put in the ground. When the wheat grows it develops a grain head. Unlike its imitator, tares, which closely resembles wheat, when its grain head is fully developed it bends over (the grain head on tares stands upright). This is a picture of the difference between the one who is planted by God ("wheat") and the one who sown by the enemy ("tares"). As the wheat matures, it bows in submission to its Lord. Toward the end of Christ's life on earth, we find Him continually on His knees, alone, in anguished submission, bowing before His Lord. If we are to follow the Bread of Life, we too must defer to the lowly position- willingly bowing to our Lord by promoting others, not isolating ourselves, being ever thankful, not taking offence.

When the wheat is harvested, its grain is sifted to separate the wheat from the chaff. This is done with wind and fire where the lighter chaff would be blown by the wind into the nearby fire as the prized wheat would fall back onto the cloth. Sometimes we find the winds and fires of life confusing, but our Lord has a good goal in mind for us.

The sifted wheat would then have to be ground (crushed). We see that Christ journeyed through His life and ministry all the time being increasing ground. This grounding almost seems to have reached its climax in Gethsemane where our Lord is showing the signs of being crushed. Yet the Cross, the ultimate crush, still awaits. In our lives too, it is not the times of pleasantness and ease which tend to make us who our Lord wants us to be. While Christ thoroughly enjoyed the times of pleasantness and ease, as we should, He knew what we can only imagine - Heaven, with all its ecstasy and bliss, is only the fragrance of the One it encompasses, and in Him the LORD, is infinite ease and pleasantness, not for a moment, not until interrupted, but for eternity. By enduring and submitting to the grounding process here on earth, an eternal reward of infinite delight would be assured. We too must be ground by our Lord if we are to grow to the fullness of who God wants us to be.

The resultant flour must then be mixed with oil. The anointing of the Holy Spirit is described in Scripture as being like "oil" poured over a person. As Christ entered Gethsemane, I suspect the anointing of the Holy Spirit "increased" upon Him. But this is not when He initially experienced the Holy Spirit. Clearly the Spirit was in Him from His conception in much the same way that we who are born again receive the indwelling Spirit of Life. But it was at Christ's baptism that the Spirit came upon Him. In a similar way we are saved when the Holy Spirit comes into us, but we are empowered by the Holy Spirit when He comes upon us. This is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. For the flour to become bread, it has to have some oil poured over it then mixed into it. We too must have the Holy Spirit infuse every part of us. He renews our minds, cleanses our hearts, opens our ears, enlightens our eyes, fills our mouths. It is the Holy Spirit who causes us to bear fruit (Galatians 5) and enables us share our Lord's Word with the world.

As the flour is turned into "meal" (dough), it is also introduced to other flour and slightly salted. Christ didn't live for Himself. Christ gave Himself for all people. When we walk with our Master down the path of discipleship growth, as flour is turned into dough, we are mixed in with others. It is no longer about "me". It becomes about "one another" (Mark 9:50).
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.John 13:34
What was once a single grain of wheat is now fused with inumerous other former grains into a new identity. In a similar way, the believer can not remain just a solo believer. He must be kneeded into the dough to become a part of a local body of believers which is ultimately kneeded into Christ Himself. Of course this kneeding process rubs us the 'wrong way'. We struggle to get along with people. We take offence. We experience pain from others. We all too easily yield to the temptation to withdraw and do Christianity on our own. But the wheat must be harvested, sifted (with its chaff burned), ground to flour, mixed with oil, salted, and kneeded together, to be transformed into what our Lord desires.

The dough also has water mixed with it to appropriately moisten it. We too have the refreshing water of God's Word flow into our lives as open up His Word in solititude and particularly as we gather to give attention to it in House of the Lord each Lord's Day.

The prepared dough must then be cooked in the oven. There comes a time when we must pass through fires to be transformed. In this furnace of God's oven, our lives are transformed from indelectable dough to savouring fresh bread. The pain of planting, harvesting, sifting, salting, kneeding, and watering, are all forgotten as the miraculous transformation takes place. Along with the more painful parts of the process, the oven also deals with our sorrows, regrets, and hurts.

The bread must now sit for a time. The maturing believer discovers that what he mistakenly thought was idleness is actually restThere is a good deal of difference between being still and doing nothing, the Sensai told the Karate Kid. It is from the position of rest that the believer is now of use. He is now able to nourish. He is now able to refresh. He is now able to strengthen others.

The next time you hear the words declared over the Table of the Lord, "and He took bread", pause to consider the impact of what our Lord is telling us. In this moment, consider that He, The Bread of Life, The Bread That Came Down From Heaven, calls us to be bread as well. This is one of the reasons why we take the time and especially why we take our time, to celebrate the Table of the Lord each week. For us this reminder is also an act of worship. It is not just a reminder of what Christ has done for us, but it is a reminder of what He is doing in us. As He declares to us, "take eat", He is transforming us into His bread and He is calling a hungry world to His table to "take eat".
This Lord's Day as we have "guests arrive at midnight" we once again call upon the Lord to give us as bread to a desperately hungry world. "Lord, lend us three loaves" we cry. Not once, not twice, but repeatedly until our Lord answers.
 And he said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves"
Luke 11:5
Father, help us to be the bread You have called us to be. May we go through the process of dying to self, sifting, grounding, kneeding, salting, watering, baking, with delight, so that we can be a source of nourishment to our spiritually starving world. Make us the bread that makes the world want more. In Jesus Name', Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

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