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Bible verses about Spiritual Diet
(From Forerunner Commentary)

The experiences of Isaac's sons lead directly into a vitally important principle derived from eating: the assimilation of knowledge into the mind, especially the knowledge of God by which we grow. Everybody knows the truism, "We are what we eat." Our body can work only with the food it is given. Aware of it or not, junk-food junkies run a constant risk of destroying their physical health. They abuse their bodies by not giving themselves the materials they need to function well over a long period. What tastes good on the tongue may not support good health.

The Bible expands upon this, teaching us that feeding the mind runs parallel to this truism. The mind can work only within the quality and quantity of what we provide it in the way of genetics, formal instruction, examples of other's lives, and personal experiences digested and assimilated through thoughtful meditation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Three)


 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

This is one of the earliest references to the parallel between physical and spiritual eating. It is not directly stated but implied. God intended Israel's experiences in the wilderness to instruct the Israelites that all of life, both physical and spiritual aspects, depends upon God's providence. These verses also confirm that leading a good life, an abundant life, is dependent upon one's spiritual, mental, and emotional base. These elements of the mind determine one's outlook, goals, and reactions to the myriad vicissitudes of life. These verses confirm that God directly leads us into many of them, as a means of instructing us, producing dual results: first, to experience them and develop certain characteristics; second, to test us so both He and we can see where we stand and how we cope.

A major problem is that human nature compels us to focus almost totally upon the physical. God provides us "wilderness experiences" to let us know that there is a spiritual aspect to life that requires feeding and maintenance just as surely as the physical. Prayer, study, meditation, and obedience are the assimilation process in this parallel. Within this feeding/assimilation process, our relationship with God, worship, and religion should be enhanced to play an effective, positive role in life. Worship is more than adoration and reverence; it is the response of the whole person to the entirety of God's will in all aspects of life. In the church, at home, on the job, and in the community, our direction must always be whatever God wills.

Starvation of the spirit is less obvious on the outside than physical hunger because the spirit starves much more slowly and it resides within. Spiritual malnutrition may go unrecognized for long periods because the body and life goes right on. Yet just as surely as one's body gives signs that it needs nourishment, so does the spirit, and it, too, will eventually be recognized on the outside by its symptoms.

When the body cries out for food, one feels emptiness in the stomach, weakness in the muscles, and even sleepiness. If it goes on long enough, a faintness and headache may arise. But when the spirit is malnourished either from deprivation or a harmful diet, the gradual reaction in life is different.

Spiritual weakness appears, as does sin. With sin comes anger, irritability, exasperation, depression, discouragement, melancholy, despondency, gloominess, bitterness, hatred, resentment, self-pity, hopelessness, despair, paranoia, envy, jealousy, family conflict, arguing, divorce, drunkenness or other addictions, and competitiveness as self-centeredness deepens.

A purpose of Deuteronomy 8:2-3 is to emphasize to Israel and now to us that the source of spiritual nourishment is more important than the nourishment itself. If we have the right source, the nourishment will be good. Otherwise, the situation is hopeless. Our source of nourishment must, of course, be God.

When tempted by Satan, Jesus quotes this verse (Matthew 4:4). He suggests in His answer that, unlike Esau, He received a vitality that sustained Him even though He had not physically eaten. Therefore, He had no need to succumb to Satan's temptation. Israel also demanded bread in the wilderness. They ate and proceeded to die there. Jesus denied Himself bread, instead trusting God in submission to Him, retained His righteousness, and lived.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Three)


 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

God's Word is just as essential to spiritual life as food is to physical life. Just as one must discipline himself to provide and eat physical food, so must one exercise discipline to seek and ingest spiritual food. If one will not do this, then, just as physical health will decline without adequate food, a person's inadequate spiritual diet will lead to spiritual disease. At the very least, one's quality of life will be severely compromised.

In Deuteronomy 8, God merely states that life has psychological aspects and does not indicate whether bread or God's Word is more important. It only states that God's Word is needed for life. By drawing attention to everlasting life in John 6:26-27, Jesus clarifies that what goes into the mind for processing and assimilation is far more important than what goes into the stomach.

The quality of what enters the mind will be the major factor that determines the quality of life. Jesus first emphasizes, using the imperative tense, that we should strive for the food that endures, that is, satisfies forever. He wants us to recognize its potential. Merely reading God's Word and putting it into the mind is just the beginning of its usefulness. We must combine further actions to our reading because the Word's ultimate effect does not magically happen. Principally, we must also believe it and put it into action.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Four)


 

Isaiah 55:1-3

Isaiah 55:1-3 contains an appeal, continuing the theme that there is a spiritual food that nourishes the inner man and fills one's life in a way and with abundance that all of a person's material things cannot. That God is speaking about His Word is seen in the word "listen," which is directly connected to the phrase "eat what is good." This food is, of course, spiritual, and its source is God. Interestingly, He says to come and buy, but not with money. This food cannot be purchased with material wealth. All the money in the world cannot purchase it, but it still must be bought. Recall that the foolish virgins in Matthew 25 are advised to go out and buy oil from those who sell in preparation for the coming of the Bridegroom.

The "food" in Isaiah 55 and the "oil" in Matthew 25 can be bought only by means of the dedication and commitment of one's life in submission to Christ. By being a living sacrifice in prayer, study, meditation, and obedience, one becomes energized by the food of God's Word. In addition, one can "purchase" it only from those appointed by God to "sell" it. It can only be bought from those already converted and provided by God with the gifts to teach it to others. In most cases, this is the ministry of the true church.

Jeremiah 3:15 provides us with clear Old Testament evidence that the principle of feeding the mind with the correct instruction leads to good spiritual health: "And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding." God clearly states that a mind fed with the right things can produce wisdom, holiness, and happiness. In other words, He promises that those who hear Him will be fed the elements of an abundant life through shepherds who exhibit godly character. God's Word, if it is believed and practiced, produces a unique perspective of life and a balance that cannot be found through any other means. Nothing that man has produced through philosophy or religion can even come close. These elements of human society have played major roles in producing restless, anxious, violent cultures.

We must choose to secure the best diet for the mind to utilize and assimilate into one's moral and spiritual character, as well as other expressions of personality. The world produces an almost overwhelming amount of spiritual junk food and outright spiritual garbage, and it is within easy reach of any mind anywhere no matter where one lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Three)


 

Isaiah 55:1-3

Remember who is saying this and to whom. Jesus Christ, the God of the Old Testament and our Savior is speaking, not to the world in general as some may think, but to all those who have made the covenant with God.

Under the Old Covenant, this includes Israel and Judah, and under the New Covenant, the church. Verse 1 essentially invites us to come and eat freely, that is, without restriction, because all that He offers is good to eat. However, the English translation hides a tone of pity. In Hebrew, it pleads for us to take advantage of what God has made readily available. It bears a pleading tone because suffering and discouraged people seem to be doing all but the right things to help them overcome their difficulties. These people are "spinning their wheels" in their preoccupation with Babylon, a type of the world.

By contrast, the tone of verse 2 is mildly chiding as well as urgently warning. It admonishes against spiritual foods that indeed may make one feel "full" but really do not nourish the spiritual life's genuine needs. Eventually, one feels that something is missing. Our Savior does not argue but asks, "Does all this really satisfy you? Is this the end to which you are called? Is this what life is all about?" He implies that those He has invited will have to choose to change their spiritual diet. Then He urges us to listen carefully. It is almost as if He says, "Listen! Listen!"

He then exhorts us to eat what is good, that is, what He has specifically made for this purpose. In verse 3, His admonishment becomes abundantly clear when He says, "Come to Me [and] hear." What comes from Christ truly nourishes, satisfies, and produces spiritual strength and richness, fortifying the spiritual wall that protects us from falling away.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Seven)


 

Amos 8:11-14

The first victims of this famine are the young. They are more susceptible because their parents failed to provide a solid foundation of truth. The young only know what the older generation has taught them. With anything remotely Christian being banished from public schools and colleges and ridiculed in the media, and with churches increasingly neglecting the Word of God, the youth are being supplied with a very weak or non-existent diet of truth.

God created mankind with a spiritual capacity, and our minds naturally crave something to excite us, fill us, and give us answers. If God's words are not sustaining the youth of the nation, something else will. Thus, the rap culture has become a religion—a belief system, a way of life—for some. The philosophy of materialism is firmly entrenched in these fertile minds, which are being fed all day yet starved of truth. Eco-religions and nature worship are drawing others off course. Witchcraft and other elements of the occult fill the minds of others. Eastern and New Age beliefs are becoming more mainstream, and we even have the cult of Oprah!

An entire generation is falling for the line that there is no absolute truth, that everyone's opinion is valid (unless that opinion is biblical), and that the only modern sin is to judge. All of these forms of idolatry are flourishing because God's words are not being heard, and something else has taken their place.

Amos 8:14 describes those who are so adamantly committed to their idolatry, who are so spiritually sick from malnourishment, that they will "fall and never rise again."

David C. Grabbe
A Subtle Yet Devastating Curse


 

John 6:32-35

In verses 32-33, Jesus makes His first obvious move to reveal that we are to eat of Him. Put into modern English, Jesus says, "Moses was merely God's agent who gave directions to the people on how to collect the manna. My Father in heaven is the real Giver. Even if you consider Moses to be the giver, he did not give the real heavenly bread. The Father is right now giving the real bread from heaven. I am that real bread of life." Jesus is the One we are to ingest and assimilate into our lives.

Jesus does not mean that manna had no physical value but that it was not a means of sustaining spiritual life. Nothing physical can do this. Physical things may please us, even exhilarate us, but they can give no lasting sense of well-being.

Clearly, Jesus intends that we understand all of this spiritually, including the word "life." Life, as Jesus means it, is the way God has lived from eternity. In and through Christ, we can share in it if we will "eat" Him, the "bread" of that life. In verse 34, the people reply, "Lord, give us this bread always," showing that they now understand enough to desire the bread but not its spiritual application. In verse 35, then, He responds by identifying Himself undeniably as the bread of life, adding, "He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." He declares that He is the only permanent satisfaction for the human desire for life and that attaining this satisfaction hinges on belief, a commitment to Him based on trust.

When we connect this final thought with verses 26-29, it becomes clear that faith, which enables the establishment of an intimate fellowship and union with Him, makes it possible to ingest and assimilate Him spiritually. By assimilating Him spiritually, as we assimilate bread physically, man can attain everlasting life.

The faith or belief Christ means is a deep-seated commitment exercised by humbly coming to Him as one who knows that he has nothing and needs everything to have the kind of life God lives. Much as a plant turns towards the sun, one with a commitment like this will turn to Him for everything, knowing that without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Four)


 

Romans 10:17

First, in the spiritual sense, "eating" occurs primarily when one hears and reads. A person ingests messages and concepts into the mind through words, which establish and nourish his pattern of life. Those words, if one permits it, create a faith upon which one bases the way he lives. This faith is almost entirely dependent upon the quality of what is heard and whether a person believes it enough to follow it. These verses reveal only the words of God or Christ, His gospel, His truths, will form the faith that leads to salvation because they will form the correct beliefs and thus the correct way of life. This is the faith of Christ; the person who has it believes what Christ believes. This is a simple, understandable, true formula.

Zephaniah 3:1-2 shows what happens when a person rejects or disbelieves His words: "Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city! She has not obeyed His voice, she has not received correction; she has not trusted in the LORD; she has not drawn near to her God." That person comes to great dismay. This does not mean we cannot have words other than God's in our mind, but the children of God must filter everything through God's words to test their validity before they allow themselves to believe them firmly enough to make them part of their belief system.

Put another way, there is faith and then there is the faith, the faith that brings salvation. This faith arises from believing God's words. What we believe will determine our conduct and attitudes whether or not we stop to think about those beliefs because what is contained in the heart will come out (Matthew 12:34-35). Only God's words truly produce spiritual strength. In our recent past, "eating" and believing the wrong words set the church up for the scattering that has occurred. For quite a while, worldly things gradually corrupted the spiritual health of God's children, weakening them through spiritual malnourishment and changing their faith.

I Corinthians 1:10 provides a first-century account of a congregation suffering from this process of ingesting the wrong words: "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." Division troubled this congregation because the members held dissimilar views on beliefs that are basic to spiritual unity. I Corinthians shows disorder, confusion, argument, and offense as symptoms of spiritual weakness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Seven)


 

1 Corinthians 10:20-21

To use Paul's analogy, our spiritual diet must not be a mixture of true and false doctrines. In this area of life, a mixture produces nothing good (James 3:11-12). We must make every effort to separate the true food from the false if we are to grow and qualify for the Kingdom of God. This is a responsibility that falls on each of us—we cannot leave it to others! We must acknowledge the source of the false teaching—Satan, his demons, and his false ministers—to truly appreciate the seriousness of heresy.

Like Peter, Paul warns about heresies within the church: "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (I Timothy 4:1). The Greek word planos, translated as "deceiving" (NKJV) or "seducing" (KJV), is the same word from which we derive the English word "planet." It conveys the idea of wandering. To the astronomers of ancient Greece, the planets appeared to wander in a heaven populated by other, relatively fixed lights. Thus, evil spirits induce people to wander from the true path of God's Word. These are the principalities and powers against which we wrestle (Ephesians 6:10-12).

Heresy is not always easily detected because Satan usually camouflages the lie with a large measure of truth. He is a master of deceit. Because the people of the world are so ignorant of God, Satan can tell them virtually anything, and they will believe it. But with us he generally does not directly challenge or obviously and blatantly misquote Scripture. His confrontation with Jesus, beginning in Matthew 4:1, is a classic example. He subtly twists the intent of a scripture to bend it into a wrong application or understanding. At other times, he will appeal to our vanity to get us to react to his suggestions without thinking.

The Bible gives only a few specific doctrines with which seducing spirits, heresy or false ministers are directly associated. However, do not be fooled that so few doctrines are directly mentioned with the word "heresy" attached. No doctrine is sacrosanct to demons. They will attack the people of God in any spiritual area. The Bible makes it very clear that demons are our major, major enemies, and deception that leads us into sin is their game!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

1 Timothy 6:3-5

Paul says, "Leave!" His concern is for those who will be confronted with false doctrines. He urges them to come "to wholesome words" (verse 3). Wholesome literally means "healthy," words that produce health. In the context of food one would say "health food." Paul says, "Eat the good food, not the junk!" The same applies spiritually: Mentally, a Christian needs to eat healthy words that will produce spiritual health.

Then he describes false teachers: They are conceited, have an unnatural craving for debate, and argue incessantly about words. They are theorists who waste time in futile academic disputes or exercises in semantics. God instructs that these characteristics are not a sign of good spiritual health. Out of this kind of thinking come envy, abusive speech, evil suspicions, constant friction, and a warped idea that godliness is a means of financial gain (verses 4-5).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Hebrews 2:1-3

It is necessary for us to seek recurrent nourishment from the Word of God, and it is available only through an enduring relationship with the Creator. This spiritual relationship, like any human relationship, is multifaceted. Yet, quite simply, we as individuals and as a body neglected our relationship with God, and the result was division and scattering.

The world's spiritual junk food gradually became the source of our spiritual nourishment. It invaded our attitudes and behaviors, systematically weakening us as it produced the spiritual disease we call Laodiceanism. It deceived us because we outwardly appeared to be in good health. We judged that we were spiritually rich and increased with goods and had need of nothing. However, the reality was that a spiritual cancer was eroding our spiritual health. He who looks on the heart saw that we were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. When the test came in the form of false doctrine, He found us lacking in spiritual strength and scattered us.

We can reduce this process to simple principles. Matthew 6:24 reminds us that it is impossible to serve two masters equally well. As time has shown, we were serving the self and the world rather than God. He revealed our spiritual weaknesses, and they have greatly diminished us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Seven)


 

Hebrews 5:12-14

In using milk as a metaphor in I Peter 2:2, Peter is in no way chiding people as Paul does in Hebrews 5:12-14. The former uses milk simply as a nourishing food because his emphasis is on desire, not depth. Paul uses milk as a metaphor for elementary because he wants to shock the Hebrews into comprehending how far they had slipped from their former state of conversion.

Paul also uses milk as a metaphor for weak or elementary in I Corinthians 3:1-2: "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able." Paul judges the Corinthians as weak based upon their behaviors and attitudes, which reflected no spiritual progress. So he "fed" these immature Christians elementary knowledge because things of greater depth would have gone unappreciated, misunderstood, and unused. These references directly tie spiritual diet to growth in understanding, behavior, and attitude.

Paul's milk metaphors are scathing put-downs! Undoubtedly, he seriously hurt the feelings of many in the congregation, yet he is free and clear before God of any charge of offense. He does not question their conversion, but he certainly rebukes their lack of growth. He rightly judges that they need to have their feelings hurt so they could salvage what remained of their conversion.

In I Corinthians 3, the embarrassing immaturity that required him to feed the people like babies also produced strife and factions in the congregation, proving that the people were far more carnal than converted. The Hebrews account is more complex: The people had once been more mature but had regressed. It is a situation vaguely similar to elderly people becoming afflicted with dementia, except that faith, love, character, conduct, and attitude were being lost rather than mental faculties. This resulted in the people drifting aimlessly.

An additional insight regarding an insufficient spiritual diet appears in the next chapter. Paul tells them that their problems are directly related to being lazy. Dull in the phrase "dull of hearing" in Hebrews 5:11 is more closely related to "sluggish" or "slothful." It is translated as such in Hebrews 6:12, ". . . that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises."

Paul charges them with being lazy listeners; they are not putting forth the effort to meditate and apply what is taught them. They are, at best, merely accepting. That they are not using what they hear is proof enough for Paul to understand that they are not thinking through the seriousness or the practical applications of the teachings. In other words, they are not assimilating what they hear, and the result is a lack of faith and a consequent faithlessness. His rebuke is far more serious than the one in I Corinthians 3 because these people are older in the faith. They have frittered away a large amount of time that would have been far better spent on spiritual growth.

Paul attempts to shame and shock them into realizing how far they had slipped by calling these grown people—some of them undoubtedly elderly—infants. He goes so far as to tell them that they are unacquainted with and unskilled in the teaching on righteousness. In other words, he attributes to them the one particular trait of infants: that they do not understand the difference between right and wrong, a characteristic that defines immaturity. A parent must instruct and chasten a child until it understands.

The Bible provides ample evidence that a poor spiritual diet results in a spiritually weak and diseased person, just as a poor physical diet works to erode and eventually destroy a person's physical vitality. Similarly, we can see that a person can be in good spiritual health but lose it through laziness or another form of neglect. Just as a mature adult needs good, solid nourishment to maintain his vitality and remain free of disease, the spiritual parallel follows. For one to grow to spiritual maturity and vitality, a mature Christian needs solid, spiritual nourishment, assimilated and actively applied, to continue growing and prevent regressing, as opposed to the Hebrews sluggish spiritual deterioration.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Eight): Conclusion (Part One)


 

1 Peter 1:22-25

Notice the implications for one's mental health in this passage. Today, health experts emphasize eating organic foods grown without harsh chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Non-organically grown foods are known to be deficient in nutrients and may also contaminate the body. Modern health practitioners also emphasize cleansing the body internally through certain regimens. Peter is saying a similar thing here in a spiritual, moral, and ethical context. God's pure Word can purify the mind, freeing it from the corruption of our pre-conversion experiences. This will happen, though, only if we consistently—daily—eat it and use it as we would eat and use good foods in feeding and caring for our physical bodies.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Three)


 

1 Peter 2:1-2

Following I Peter 2:1, in which he admonishes us to rid ourselves of the fruits of spiritual junk food, Peter lists evidence of a mind afflicted with a poor spiritual diet. Malice is ill will, the desire to inflict pain. Deceit is lying or crafty, seductive, and slanderous activity. Hypocrisy is pretending to be what one is not. Envy is the strong desire to possess what belongs to another. Evil speaking is using the tongue to gossip, deceive others, or destroy reputations.

Peter proceeds to encourage us to crave God's Word just as a baby craves milk. He is not encouraging us to desire elementary spiritual food but emphasizing the energy we should exert to get good spiritual food. Babies demand milk as if their very life hangs in the balance at each feeding.

The apostle calls God's Word pure, meaning uncontaminated, unpolluted by fraud or deceit. God's Word is truth (John 17:17). David says that God's Word is refined seven times (Psalm 12:6). Truly, Peter is teaching us that God's Word promotes spiritual growth and good health just as good food can do physically.

In using milk as a metaphor, Peter is in no way chiding people as Paul does in Hebrews 5:12-14. The former uses milk simply as a nourishing food because his emphasis is on desire, not depth. Paul uses milk as a metaphor for elementary because he wants to shock the Hebrews into comprehending how far they had slipped from their former state of conversion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Three)


 

1 Peter 2:1-2

Do babies earnestly let us know when they are hungry? They cry and become red in the face. They let us know without any doubt. They want us and something from us. A desire is created by their hunger.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Fervency


 

 




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