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  • Writer's pictureKent Chevalier

Spiritual Buffet

I love a good buffet! I get to choose what I want from all sorts of food. Whatever I desire, I dine on. Whatever I fancy, I feast on. If I know it pleases my palate, I put it on my plate. If I know it won’t, I keep walking.

Another great thing about a buffet line is that I can try all kinds of food! I am paying for an all-you-can-eat experience, so it doesn’t hurt to put something I might not like on my plate to try it. If I don’t like it, I can just push it to the side. If I do like it, then I can go back for more.

From what I see in our culture today, many people approach spirituality like a buffet. A little Jesus. A bit of Buddha. A taste of Luther. One scoop of their favorite Instagram preacher. Throw on a zodiac sign, one horoscope with a side of crystals. Then season it all with a little donkey or elephant.

As we walk through the spiritual buffet line, many of us fill our plates with what we prefer and leave off what we don’t like. But there’s a big problem with this when it comes to Jesus and Christianity.

Jesus doesn’t serve buffets. He’s not in the buffet business. The Jesus of the Bible is more of a “this is what we’re having for dinner” kind of chef than he is a made-to-order cook.

When you read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), time and time again you’ll see Jesus serving up some proteins and vegetable-like teaching, and people are left with a choice of whether they’re going to eat what he presented or walk down their own buffet line.

Three of the four Gospels record a fascinating conversation that Jesus had with a Rich Young Man. We don’t know his name, but we know that he was very spiritual and even religious. Mark 10 records…

The Rich Young Man

  17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
  18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’”
  20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
  21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
  22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. 
- Mark 10:17-22 NLT

This young guy walked away from the dinner table sad. Apparently, he wanted dessert, but he got vegetables instead. What Jesus served to this rich young man was not palatable for his lifestyle. Even though he’d been eating much of what Jesus was teaching his whole life, he didn’t want to eat this last bite because it didn’t fit with what he wanted in his spiritual lifestyle.

Jesus knew that this guy’s wealth and stuff had become an idol in his life. His possessions were the barrier to having a relationship with the One who could give him eternal life. Jesus served up the meal of a lifetime to this guy to follow Him, but this young man wanted it his way. The plate was served to have an eternal relationship with Jesus, but the young man didn’t want to give up what he preferred on his plate to follow Him.

The rich young man walked away sad, and Jesus didn’t chase after him.

I really want us to see something here. Jesus set the standard with his invitation to follow Him. When the young man walked away, Jesus didn’t lower the bar on his teaching about how to receive eternal life. Jesus set the table, and he genuinely wanted this young man to eat with Him by following Him, but He wasn’t about to let His truth be watered down by less commitment than the sacrificial standard.

Following Jesus is the standard. This assumes that you and I are not the ones leading. We are not the ones choosing what we put on our plates.

Jesus is Head Chef. He’s the leader. Not you. Not me.

Pastor Andy Stanley said, “We get to choose whether or not we follow Jesus. We do not get to choose what following Jesus looks like, acts like, and reacts like.”

What Jesus is teaching this young man (and us) is that our religious preferences and lifestyle choices must be sacrificed in order to follow Him alone into eternal life here and beyond the grave. Nothing more can be added. It’s only His way. Period.

Remember, Jesus doesn’t serve buffets.

Jesus’ Lordship Lenses

Over the last few years of working with young adults, I’ve seen a rise in Christians who don’t put on Jesus’ Lordship Lenses when encountering cultural realities and spiritual curiosity. Many are seeing their Christian commitment through the lenses of culture and spiritual popularity rather than looking at the culture through Jesus’ teachings and biblical doctrine.

While I am encouraged by spiritual curiosity, I am disturbed by the lack of Jesus’ Lordship. We have men and women who are following Jesus but are praying with crystals. I’m watching as young men and women, who I’ve baptized, look to horoscopes as their daily guide. And they’re thinking nothing of it. It’s no big deal.

Sound the alarm! We have to see that this is a strategy of Satan.

The enemy of our souls wants nothing more than to convince us that we don’t need Jesus alone to guide us. He deceives us into thinking we can do this life on our own. He wants us to think it’s no big deal to pile all kinds of spirituality on our plates, knowing full well the dangers of opening ourselves up to unknown spiritual influences.

This is nothing new from Satan. This was his scheme with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). This was his strategy with the people of Israel and the infamous golden calf at Mount Sinai (Exodus 32). This was his tactic with King Saul when he went to visit a medium (1 Samuel 28). This strategy is a twisted spirituality that is rooted in deceit that eventually wreaks havoc on life itself.

Here’s my point: Jesus is either Lord of all, or He’s not Lord at all. Either the Bible and Jesus’ teachings are your source of Truth, or it’s not. If you follow Jesus, you cannot have it both his way and your way. This is why it’s so important to research and know what Jesus said and not just take other people’s word for it.

Regarding cultural spirituality, the Bible strongly warns against engaging in anything related to superstition and the occult. God declares the practice of the occult detestable (Deuteronomy 18:10–12), and witchcraft is named along with idolatry as ungodly behavior (Galatians 5:19–21). The use of crystals as charms, amulets, or healing stones is a type of occult practice, however benign it seems. Anything that seeks to manipulate the spirit world can be categorized as witchcraft. The cultural and superstitious use of crystals and stars is yet another example of fallen mankind taking what God has created and twisting it for an ungodly purpose. Crystals and stars are striking examples of God’s handiwork. There is nothing wrong with using crystals for home décor or wearing them as jewelry, but there is nothing magical about them. Using crystals for protection or healing is, at its root, an idolatrous practice. It is idolatry because it depends on spiritual forces other than God for healing and protection; in other words, it is the worship of something other than God.

Idolatry is repeatedly and strongly forbidden in the Bible (Deuteronomy 4:15–20; Jeremiah 44:1–4; 2 Corinthians 6:16–17; 1 Corinthians 10:14–20).

If you have chosen to follow Jesus, then please understand that Jesus doesn’t serve up spiritual buffets. He’s the Head Chef, and you have to eat what He serves. And it’s not because He’s a cosmic killjoy. It’s because He wants to lead you to eternal life both here and now and also protect you from the rotten death that is within that shiny cultural so-called fruit.

Vegetable Christianity

What I love about Jesus is that He loves us and wants the best for us. He wants to see us grow up strong and healthy into the eternal life that He alone can give. To do this, Jesus knows that we must put into practice what He preaches, but He will never force us to do so. He leaves that choice to us, but He knows the outcome. We see this after His most famous Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5-7.

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” ~ Matthew 7:24-27 ESV

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus served up vegetable teaching. He knew what He was teaching was hard to swallow, but He served it up anyway because He knew how good it is for us to live by. He never forces anyone to eat their vegetables, but He knows it’s the wise person who does what He says.

Jesus doesn’t want your house to come crashing down when the storms of life come. Jesus doesn’t want you to add to His truth because He knows that you’ll sink into the shifting and dangerous sand of cultural spirituality that will not hold up under the storm.

False Cultural Spirituality wants to convince you that dabbling in shifting spiritual buffet lines is more convenient and attractive, when in fact it will eventually cause you to go under.

The real Jesus of the Bible loves you and is good enough to tell you what is best for you and stick to it because He knows what will actually save your life. And if I were you, I’d listen to the One who has the authority and power to give eternal life.

Before you go…

To be honest with you, I have to force myself to eat vegetables. There are only a few vegetables I like (carrots, green beans and broccoli), but there are plenty of vegetables I do not like and have to discipline myself to eat (especially asparagus).

The same is true spiritually. There are a lot of Jesus’ teachings that are hard to swallow and live by. It’s a chore for me to practice them. There are some teachings that I wish didn’t exist, but because I know Jesus loves me and wants the best for me, I eat them anyway because I trust Him, and I’ve declared that He’s the Head Chef of my life, not me.

This is why I need other people in my life to guide me and remind me that Jesus’ teachings and ways are for my good. I’m grateful for the brotherhood that studies God’s word with me and holds me accountable to obeying it. And that’s when I see my life transformed.

If you don’t have this kind of community in your life, I encourage you to get connected to a local Bible-teaching church. If I can help you find one through networking, please don’t hesitate to reach out as we start this new year.


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