Perhaps no passage in the Word of God sets forth more precisely the calling of a child of God than the one which we find in Romans 12:1 and 2. We read: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
We have the urgent and constant duty to respond to the mercies of God shown to us by presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice unto God. And from that posture of sacrifice we are, on the one hand, to refuse the molding influence of this world. Be not conformed to this world. And, on the other hand, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind unto this end, that in our daily life and walk we might actually do the revealed will of God.
Now in no area of our life is the conforming influence of the world so strong, so persistent, and so felt as in the area of money and things. Satan seeks to drown men and women, boys and girls, in hell by getting them to drown first of all in the sea of materialism, in the sea of things and money and covetousness. This was the way it was in the days of Noah just before the Flood. Jesus reminds us that in the days of Noah men were marrying and giving in marriage. They were eating and drinking. They were going on as if the only things that mattered were the things of this present life-until the Flood came and caught them all in death.
The molding influence of our society is upon us to a far greater and more successful degree than we care to admit. And it has disastrous effects even upon Christian children.
Especially that conforming influence, then, in the whole realm of materialism and things. Then I visualize Jesus’ words: Remember Lot’s wife. Here Jesus said ( Luke 17) that, with all the stuff you may have in the house in the day in which He will return, do not think that you can take it away, do not pack it by the back door thinking that you are going to walk away with it. But we must live ready to walk away from it all. I begin to shudder because I see that Satan has more and more nailed the feet of Christians to this world with the nails of materialism and greed.
The signs of the molding influence of this world and the signs of the world’s materialism upon us and upon our children and young people are many. There is first of all the sign of stealing-the whole mentality that whatever a person is able to acquire by whatever means is his and he may do with it as he pleases. Whatever I get, no matter by what means, it is mine. If it is not nailed down or locked up, it is in the public domain. The candy machine is broken in the school. Or the pop machine is broken. And the word gets out: Help yourself. Grab. You don’t have to pay. Do you?
We live in a world which no longer understands, it seems, the eighth commandment: Thou shalt not steal. They see no problem in taking for themselves. And society even justifies it. They say, when there is looting or a riot, that, after all, people riot and loot and take these things for themselves because of the way that they were raised. They are helpless. Their past justifies their actions. They have been so long deprived of these things, so we really can’t expect them not just to help themselves.
And that rubs off on us.
There is also the insatiable appetite for things, covetousness. Brand-name jeans. Not just any pair of pants, but brand-name jeans. The latest fad-beanie babies or virtual pets. Girls tee-shirts exposing the midriffs; coming to our parents and saying, “I gotta have!” And, in the world, people are murdered for their clothes, for their shoes.
Then there is the lack of contentment. More and more, people are unsatisfied. There is no understanding of the value of the thing. People become tired of what they have, they need something new. So we go to our closet on Sunday morning and the closet is arrayed with a display of colors and dresses, suits and shirts; and we say: “I have nothing to wear today.”
And over it all rings the words of God: Beware of covetousness. For a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesses. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal. Children, how hard it is for a rich man to enter into the kingdom. Our Lord Jesus Christ in His Word told us in parables and in precept that there is no true godliness unless the will of God transforms us in our attitude towards money and things in a very profound way. Our Lord tells us that a person’s character with respect to eternal things is seen in his attitude toward earthly things. Luke 16: He that is faithful in little is faithful also in much. But if you have not been faithful in the earthly mammon, who will commit to your hands the heavenly riches?
Jesus spoke of this very powerfully in John 6:27, where He said these words: “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” In the context of John 6, the people who had eaten the multiplied bread saw that Jesus was not to be found in that area, and they had left, diligently seeking for Him. On the day before, Jesus had performed the great miracle of the feeding of the multitude with five loaves and two fishes. But now He is gone, and they come diligently seeking for Him. They are more than just a little curious as to how the Lord had gotten back across the sea, unobserved by them, and into the town of Capernaum. They say that they had seen the disciples enter into a ship. But the Lord had not. We read in verse 25, “And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? How did you get over here?”
But Jesus will not satisfy their curiosity. He denounces them for the motive that they have in seeking Him. Jesus answered them and said in verse 26, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” Your interest in Me today, says Jesus, is carnally motivated. It is not genuine. You did not see the miracles-that is, you did not see the significance of My miracles pointing to Myself as the savior of the soul, as the bread of eternal life. That point sailed right over your heads. You saw only the remarkable power which I have to give earthly bread. You see Me only as someone who can benefit your belly, and now you are driven to seek Me, not by spiritual impulses, but by the impulses of your belly. You do not see the miracles as pointing to a spiritual Messiah, but you see these miracles as being of great benefit to your physical status.
And now the principle which drives you in seeking Me, says Jesus, has its roots in your own carnal appetite. Your bellies were filled. Ye seek me because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled. You are driven in life by your stomach, by your senses, by your pleasures, by the gratification of your desires. You are not driven by your heart. You were filled. And that word that the Lord uses there refers to the kind of eating which is done by animals. When they are fed and then they lie down to chew their cud. The Lord is saying to them, Your affection for Me differs not at all essentially from the affection a horse has for the stable boy who brings its oats. You have come today seeking Me as a cow would come running across the field when she sees the farmer approach with fresh hay. Your religion finds its source and its seat in the stomach, in the senses, in the gratification of this present life. You believe in a Jesus who will make you successful, give you a new sports car, drive away all illness and cancer. This is the Jesus you follow. You are as dumb as a cow when it comes to spiritual things.
Labor not for the meat which perishes, Jesus says, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give you, for Him hath the Father sealed.
The Lord issues a severe warning: Labor, spend your energy (the word means energize, the conscious expense of time, effort, the giving up of ease to attain something viewed as valuable), not for things that perish. The Lord has His finger on materialism, on covetousness. He, of course, is not forbidding labor. He is not forbidding working for earthly things. But He is saying, Do not live for them. Do not think that they are the goal, the end-all, the satisfaction of life. Do not labor for them as if they have abiding value, as if they have any power to give you self-worth, as if they have any power to satisfy you. Do not labor for them in excess, or in neglect of your soul. The things that you are seeking, says Jesus, are perishing things, literally, spoiling things.
He refers to meat which spoils, that is, things which have in them a principle of decay, of rottenness. There is nothing that stinks as much as rotten meat. Who would work for putrid, rotten meat? If I had the carcass of a pig, half of a pig left hanging in the sun for a week so that it was covered with gnats and emitted a strong, rancid smell, how could I convince you to summon energy to possess it and embrace it? You would have to be a fool to labor for rotten meat.
Well, the Lord says, in a sense that is true of earthly things. God has stamped them “spoiled, perishing.” Whether that is your car, or your CDs and mutual funds, or your farm, your possessions, your dining-room table. There is an element of decay in them. You can polish them, you can take care of them, but they are always slipping away from you. The Lord says, in Matthew 6, “Thieves break through and steal.” They take them away! And, eventually, all of your hard work is taken away and you die and you cannot take it with you. Still more, they cannot satisfy. They are unsatisfying, and we even lose interest in them. The new car which we simply had to have-now we cannot get out on a Saturday to wash the thing because it is three years old. Fashions change. We had to have this particular style of dress. But now we say, we wouldn’t be caught dead in it-it’s not in style. What we were so hot to have, lies discarded. They are perishing things.
Why would you labor as if the end-all is to have spoiled things?
The Lord issues an urgent command: Labor for the meat which endureth to everlasting life, which the Son of man will give you. He will give it to you! Labor, that is, spend energy, have an intense desire, forfeit your rest and ease, strive after, press unto the meat which endures to everlasting life. What is that meat? It is the meat which has no principle of corruption, which can never be spoiled. That is Jesus Christ. It is the meat that the Son of man gives. And in John 6 (you read that today), He goes on to teach about that meat which will never perish. He says it is a crucified Savior. It is to be found in the payment of sin through a perfect sacrifice. It is to be found in being drawn into the fellowship of God. It has to do with having your conscience cleared before God in the forgiveness of sins. It has to do with the blessings, the riches, the treasure of everlasting peace with God. That is the meat that will feed your soul. It does not tarnish, it does not lose its luster. It endureth, it is invaluable. It is kept in a place which is impregnable. And it is absolutely satisfying. You will find contentment and joy and pleasure in it. Labor for that.
You say, how do I labor for that? The Son of man must give it to you. It is a gift of grace alone. He gives it to you. But the Son of man is pleased to use means (we call them “means of grace”) whereby He bestows them on you. Read your Bible like a man who digs for treasure. Wrestle in prayer, hear the Word of God preached, join and stick to the people of God in the church where the truth of God’s Word is confessed.
This is uncommon labor. The natural man is going to say, and think, that you spend too much time on your religion. Much more likely is it the case that we spend too much time on the world. Throw your whole heart into it. Labor for this meat which the Son of man gives you; for Him hath God the Father sealed.
Yes, the Son of man gives it. It is entirely gracious. And it is entirely sufficient. All you need for the relief of your hungering soul is to be found in Jesus Christ.
For the Father, said Jesus, hath sealed Him, that is, certified Him. The Father hath declared that this Jesus Christ is the one, the true meat of life eternal. He is the bread of life. He is the water of life. The Father hath certified that this Jesus Christ, who has suffered upon the cross and is risen, is indeed the food unto everlasting life of which, when we eat, we shall never hunger again.
The Father certified Him in His miracles. Those miracles that Jesus performed were His certification that He was indeed the bread sent down from heaven. The Spirit certified Him on His baptizing day when the Spirit fell upon Him and the voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son.” John the Baptist pointed Him out as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This is the One who gives out the meat of life eternal.
He is the great householder, He is the so-much greater Joseph, He is the master of stores, He is entrusted with administration in the kingdom of God.
Hear the Word of God. For what do you labor? For what do you spend your energy? What are you all wound up over to get? What do you need to have? Why do you get up in the morning? What drives you in your life?
Do you labor for that which is spoiled, rotten, which you can never keep, which cannot satisfy? Or, by the grace of God, do you labor for the enduring meat which is found in Jesus Christ? Do not give rest to your eyes until you have answered that question before God today.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. And we pray that it may be as a light shining into our heart and that we may be not conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds and that we may seek and labor for the meat that Christ gives, Amen.