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I am the bread of life

Dr. Jim Denison is the CEO of Denison Forum.
His Daily Article and podcast globally reach over 160,000 subscribers. Dr. Denison guides readers to discern today’s news—biblically. He is the author of multiple books and has taught on the philosophy of religion and apologetics at several seminaries. Prior to launching Denison Forum in 2009, he pastored churches in Texas and Georgia. He holds a Ph.D and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jim and his wife, Janet, live in Dallas, Texas. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

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Topic Scripture: John 6:35

The Masters concludes today. The tournament is played on one of the most beautiful and historic golf courses in the world. However, the tournament was cancelled from 1943 to 1945 due to World War II. To assist the war effort, cattle and turkeys were raised on the grounds.

Here are some other surprising facts I discovered this week:

  • Vending machines kill more people than sharks.
  • Cockroaches can live for weeks without their heads until they die of hunger.
  • Humans share 50 percent of our DNA with bananas.
  • Under extreme pressure, diamonds can be made from peanut butter.

I was doubtful about each of these “facts” until I researched them and became convinced by what I read. Of course, the documentation I studied could have been wrong. Or I could have misinterpreted it. Or I could have communicated it incorrectly to you today.

One certainty in life is the reality of doubt.

The renowned historian Will Durant mailed questionnaires about the meaning of life to a number of famous people. After reading their answers, he published them in a chapter he titled, “An Anthology of Doubt” (On the Meaning of Life). Who hasn’t contributed to that topic?

This week we’ll begin a series on faith questions. We begin with questions about our faith itself. What do we do when we doubt our salvation or our relationship with the Lord? How can we help someone else with their doubts?

How to eat the “bread of life”

Our text is built on one of the most famous scenes in Scripture. Moses is a shepherd in the desert when he encounters a bush that is on fire but not being consumed. Here he meets the God of the universe and is told that he will lead the people of Israel out of Egyptian slavery.

Moses anticipates the Israelites asking Moses the name of this God he met in the desert. The Lord answers, “I AM WHO I AM.” Then he says, “Say this to the people of Israel: “I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14).

“I AM” translates the Hebrew YHWH, sometimes transliterated in English as “Yahweh.” It is God’s personal name for himself. The Hebrew can be translated “the One who was, is, and ever shall be” or “the ever-present God.”

Fast forward to the time of Jesus. This Galilean carpenter has fed the crowd of five thousand (John 6:1–14) and walked on the Sea of Galilee (vv. 16–21). When the crowds gather around him again, he makes this staggering statement: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Note his first two words: “I am.” This rabbi is laying claim to the personal name of God himself. He is identifying himself as God. And he is using God’s name to explain his essence and ministry.

He does this seven times in John’s Gospel. He calls himself the “bread of life (John 6:35),” the “light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5), the “door of the sheep” (John 10:7, 9), the “good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14), the “resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and the “true vine” (John 15:1). We will study each of these in the following weeks.

Jesus’ first “I am” identifies him as the “bread of life,” literally “the bread that gives and sustains life” (Word Biblical Commentary). Clearly, he means spiritual rather than physical life, since he claims that “whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” He explained further: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51).

How do we eat of this “bread”? Billy Graham explained: “This bread satisfies the inner longings and hungers of the human heart. Have you taken of that bread? You must repent of your sins, change your mind, turn your back on sin and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.”

When we do this, we will never hunger or thirst for salvation again. Once we have eaten this bread, we never need to eat it again.

Here we find the doctrine of “eternal security,” the theological assertion that those who become Christians cannot lose their salvation. We believe this, not because we can be trusted to hold onto Jesus, but because he holds onto us: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

Nothing in life can separate us from our Savior: “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39). Scripture is clear: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Questions about the “bread of life”

Once we have experienced salvation, there is nothing we can do to lose it. But many of us have doubts about such certainty.

What if I don’t feel close to God?

Jesus didn’t tell us how it feels to eat the “bread of life.” Nowhere does the Bible say how it feels to become a Christian. That’s because our feelings are such unreliable indicators of reality. They can be affected by the weather outside or the latest headlines or the pizza we had for supper.

What if I’m not sure I trusted in Jesus?

If you chose to eat a piece of bread for breakfast today, you’d know it. You wouldn’t have to wonder, “Did I eat bread this morning?” It’s like getting married: I’ve met thousands of married couples over the years, but not one of them was unsure of their marital status. If you have ever asked Jesus Christ to forgive your sins and become your Lord, he answered your prayer and you ate the “bread of life.” If you’re not sure you have ever made this decision, the best advice is to be sure, today.

What about sins in my life?

Jesus didn’t promise, “Whoever comes to me shall not sin.” To the contrary, the Bible teaches, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). My sons became my sons when they were born as my sons. They may not want to be my sons, or act like my sons, but nothing they can do can change the fact that they are my sons.

Are there various ways to eat the “bread of life”?

To extend Jesus’ metaphor: there are many ways to eat bread. You can bake it, or fry it, or grill it. You can make it into a loaf, or a breadstick, or a muffin. So long as it contains the necessary ingredients to be bread, the way it is made and consumed is secondary.

So it is with trusting Christ as your Lord and Savior. Some people do this as a one-time response to a gospel sermon and invitation, such as at a Billy Graham event. Others do this through a confirmation process in their church. Some do it gradually, while others do it abruptly. The important thing is to know that you have eaten this “bread,” that you have asked Jesus to forgive your sins and become your Lord. If you have, you have eternal life.

Here’s the bottom line: once you’ve eaten a piece of bread, you cannot “uneat” it. You cannot go back and undo history. If you asked Jesus to become your Savior and Lord, he answered your prayer and gave you eternal life.

If you know you have made Christ your Lord but still face doubts about your salvation, try my favorite prayer in the Bible. After a father pleads with Jesus to heal his demon-possessed boy, Jesus says, “All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23). And the father exclaims, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (v. 24). You can pray that prayer today, and Jesus will hear you and help you.

Gratitude for the “bread of life”

If you have eaten of the “bread of life,” how should you respond today?

One: Share it with others.

My favorite definition of evangelism is “beggars telling beggars where they found bread.” We did nothing to earn or deserve what we have been given. But we can share with others what we have received.

Billy Graham: “A doctor in America said some time ago that more people die of loneliness and guilt and depression and insecurity and heart hunger than die of physical starvation. Bread in the Bible is the symbol of spiritual life. People all over the world are the same; they have an inborn hunger for something, and that something is Christ. People cannot be satisfied with anything less than Christ.”

When you share your faith with others, you are not imposing “your truth” on them. Rather, you are giving them what they need most, in this life and in eternity.

Two: Serve in gratitude for grace.

When I lead study tours to Israel, we usually visit an area known as the Upper Room. This is a Crusader-era building located in the vicinity of the home where Jesus took the Last Supper with his disciples.

One reason the Crusaders built their room here is that they found a very interesting sculpture in the area. It depicts a mother pelican with two baby pelicans, one on each side. The babies are eating the flesh of their mother. It was believed that in times of extreme drought and deprivation, a mother pelican would give her flesh and blood to her young. This became an early symbol of the Lord’s Supper.

What this sculpture depicts in metaphor, Jesus did in reality. He literally made his body our spiritual bread. How can we not serve him in gratitude for such grace?

Conclusion

Expect to face doubts about your salvation. The stronger your faith, the more likely you will be subjected to such attacks, intended by the enemy to paralyze and cripple your faith and prevent your service to God. The stronger your faith, the greater a threat you are to the enemy. Doubts sometimes come not because our faith is weak, but because it is strong.

No circumstances or events can guarantee our salvation. It takes as much faith to believe I am a Christian today as it did to become one four decades ago. I still haven’t seen God or proven my salvation in a test tube.

Either the Bible is true, or it is false. Either God keeps his word, or he does not. John 3:16 promises that whoever believes in Jesus “should not perish but have eternal life.” Present tense, right now.

You cannot lose your salvation, for you are already the immortal child of your Father in heaven. This is the assurance of God.

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