This past week I had the opportunity to take a group of high school students to a conference in Orange Beach, Alabama. During one of the conference talks, the speaker made an interesting analogy comparing the Christian walk to cheesecake. He went on to explain why this was true for him growing up, but it got me thinking about the way we develop our relationship with Christ, and I’ve decided that the Christian faith is more easily compared to coffee. Don’t get me wrong, I love cheesecake, but I love and need coffee more (sorry, I’m a millennial), so here’s why I think coffee and a relationship with Christ can be compared:
A Drink for “Grown Ups”.
This was the point that our speaker was trying to make, that he viewed cheesecake as a “grown up” desert, and so he didn’t try it. Being someone that has loved cheesecake since the moment I first saw it, I don’t really connect with that analogy, but I think that coffee fits this really well. When I was a kid, I refused to even try coffee. I thought it smelt good, so I didn’t mind being around those who were drinking it, but it was, for all intensive purposes, an adult beverage.
For kids growing up in the church, this is the struggle. At what point does this stop being your parent’s faith and become your own? I think this is why we see so many people walk away from Christianity and the church when they get out of their parent’s house. They grew up going to church, singing songs, and hanging out with their church friends, but it was never truly a faith in Jesus driving it, it was just what they did. Maybe this describes you. I know it describes me in high school. I went to church as a kid and teenager because that is where my friends were, and I knew that if I didn’t go my friends and parents would think badly of me. Sure, I believed what they were teaching, but I wasn’t letting it truly affect my life. I got good grades and “acted like a Christian” because I desperately desired people’s approval, not because I loved Jesus.
Working in youth ministry, my greatest desire is that students in the church would stop seeing Christianity as a “grown up drink” that they can put off committing themselves to until they are older. No matter what your age is, Jesus has the power to redeem you from your sin and give you the gift of grace.
An Acquired Taste
As I am writing this, I am drinking a black coffee. When I started drinking coffee, though, I thought that black coffee tasted like hot, bitter dirt-water. Coffee is an acquired taste. I had to start with the sugary drinks, the chocolate-chip frappuccinos and mochas, before I really started enjoying coffee for the sake of coffee. Now I can’t stand those drinks. They are so sweet that you can’t taste the coffee. This is so similar to what I’ve seen in the Christian faith.
Often times in Christianity, people will be attracted to it not because they want God, but because Christianity offers them something else they want. They see community when they are lonely, acceptance when they feel rejected, love in a broken world, morality in a morally corrupt culture, and go to it because it feels right. When they begin to interact with the covenant community of the church, though, they start to see something else. They have an encounter with the Holy Spirit. They start to love Jesus for His words and deeds. They see the baffling love exhibited at the cross, and find that Christianity is not about what they thought it was about. They see the radical grace offered by the gospel and realize that it was never about living a good life, or being accepted by a group of people, but it is about loving Jesus and giving themselves to Him because he has loved us and given Himself for us. Suddenly their taste is no longer for Christianity, but for Christ. I drink coffee because I love coffee, and in the same way I live the Christian life because I love Jesus.
A Wake Up Call
One of the multitude of reasons that coffee is so great is that it gives that boost of caffeine that wake you up when you need it. Even the smell of it can make you more alert, and when that first steaming sip hits your tongue, the sensation of warmth and wakefulness that springs through your body tells you that you’re going to make it through the morning. Walking with Christ is a wake up call to a fuller, more satisfying, abundant life.
Let me start by saying that this is not the prosperity gospel that says if you live your best life now, then God will bless you and give you whatever you want. That is not what scripture teaches, and honestly that belief is not coherent with real life. Hardships come, Jesus Himself told his disciples to expect persecution for following Him. What Jesus does say though, is that He offers abundant life (John 10:10). Scripture tells us that in Him we find fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). We are told that even in the middle of trials and suffering, we can rejoice because what we are promised in Christ is so much better than the worst suffering compare to (2 Cor. 4:17). Like coffee wakes us up to our day, Jesus wakes us up to true and lasting joy.
A Necessity for Daily Life
At this point I cannot get through my day without some form of caffeine. It has become part of my daily routine, and something that is very difficult for me to go without because I know what my day is like both with and without coffee, and I prefer my day with it. The Christian walk is like this. As I grow more and more in faith, and develop my disciplines of spending daily time in God’s word and prayer, I find that days that I spend with Jesus are so much better than days without. By centering my day on the truths of scripture and the hope of the gospel, I find that I can face my day with joy and confidence. By spending time giving my worship and cares to my heavenly father, I don’t have to live in stress or anxiety because I have a perfect, sovereign, trustworthy God who is working for my good (Romans 8:28). Like coffee gets me through my day, time with God is a necessity for living my daily life.
A Refined Taste, Deepened by Knowledge
When I started drinking coffee, it all tasted the same to me. As I have continued to drink it and acquire a taste for it, I have learned that this is not the case. Coffee is complex, different roasts from different places have different flavors. There are subtleties of taste that are affected by each stage of the production process, and different methods of extracting the drink produce different results. There are still so many things I don’t know about different coffees, and I’m at a point where I can tell what’s good coffee and what’s bad coffee, but I don’t pick up on a lot of the more subtle differences in good coffee. I still have a lot to learn, in fact I even bought a book on the topic to try to learn more about it.
Like coffee, Christianity is something that deepens as you continue to learn. There are mysteries and complexities to the Christian faith that you don’t necessarily grasp as you start. If a Christian is someone who follows Jesus, but your Christianity stops at just accepting Him without letting that affect your life, then are you really a follower of Him? The Christian walk is one of continued learning, continued submission of more and more aspects of life to Christ, and of continued application of the gospel to every part of life. The more we walk with Jesus, the more he refines us, sanctifies us in His ways and draws us to more of Him. Like we refine our tastes for coffee, our walk with Christ leads us to better understanding of Him and how His gospel affects our lives.
A Love and Addiction
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love coffee. In the time I have been writing this post I’ve gone through two cups and am considering going in for a third. This is not where I started, but as I have continued to drink coffee and refine my tastes for it over the years, I have developed what I can only call a love for it and an addiction to it. I drink coffee because I enjoy drinking coffee, and caffeine has become part of my life that I admittedly can’t live without. When it comes down to it, these same qualities are at the heart of the Christian faith.
When we pursue the Christian faith, if it is not characterized by an increasing love for and need for God, then we will not last. If we are trying to live a Christian life as if it is a checklist to be a moral and “good” person, we will either fail or burn out. To live a life characterized by faith is a matter of affections for Him we have faith in. As we grow a love for Jesus, it becomes love that drives our actions for Him. It is no longer a burden to live in line with a set of rules, but a love that draws us to want to please Him. When you understand the gospel of grace, and see that it is not our works the define our faith but our faith that defines our works, then the Christian life becomes not a burden but a desire. God loved us enough to dies for us, even when we were enemies of Him living in sin (Romans 5:8), so we know that it is not our works that define our relationship with Him, but this love draws us into love for Him and good works as a result of that (Eph. 2:8-10).
On the flip side of this picture, we are in desperate need for God. It is God that calls us out of sin and death to life in the gospel, we do not rescue ourselves (Eph. 2:1-10). God is sovereign in His control, and it is God who sustains us in our walk with Him (1 Peter 3-5). When we realize that it is God who is our strength and portion (Psalm 73:26), and that it is His Spirit that produces life and faith and all the “fruits” that we strive for in the Christian walk (Gal. 5:22-23), we will turn to Him in our need and ask Him for what only He can give. Like we grow an affection and need for coffee, it should be the desire of our hearts to grow in affection for God as we increasingly see our need for Him.
There you go, my confessions of a Christian coffee addict. Hope this post draws you towards the greater of these two goods (Jesus). Share if you enjoyed it, follow the blog if you would like to get weekly ramblings and encouragements, and follow me on social media if you’re bored @chasethehansen.