Friday, January 29, 2010
The Nectar of Heaven
2 Family Size Tea Bags
1 Gallon Water
2 Cups White Sugar
Place the tea bags in a small simmering pan containing about two cups of water. Bring to a boil.
Steep for ten minutes then pour tea concentrate into gallon pitcher.
While liquid is still very hot, add two cups of sugar. Stir.
Fill gallon pitcher with water and stir.
Serve over ice.
On behalf of everybody who grew up in the southern United States, I proudly present to you the recipe for Sweet Tea. I have found as I travel that in many parts of the United States and especially abroad, people have been culturally deprived of this delight all of their lives. Try asking a waitress in Pittsburgh for sweet tea. She points at the sugar on the table and then looks at you like you must be blind or something. It’s sad, she just doesn’t get it. As I write these words, I am in Canada. In the spirit of good international relations, we won’t even talk about the tea in restaurants here. Have you ever watched a person drink Earl Grey tea over a few pieces of ice with no sugar? It’s not a pretty sight. And Mexico? The tea there brings to mind the age old question, “How can a loving God allow such suffering?” Since this is the beverage that will probably be served at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, we would all be well advised to learn to enjoy it now! In Georgia, we think of it as the nectar of heaven.
Seriously, why have I shared the recipe for sweet tea with you? Well, putting aside the obvious culinary mission of mercy, it actually illustrates very clearly some truths about what happens in a person’s life when grace rules. God’s recipe for transforming us by His grace given in Christ has some striking similarities to the recipe at the top of this page.
The first step in making sweet tea is to turn up the heat so that the water will boil. The sugar and tea won’t permeate the water unless it is very hot. This is the same way that God works in a person when He is preparing to make something wonderful of his life. Have you ever noticed how much more receptive you are to God when the heat is turned up high in your life? When we are in hot water, we usually get in the receiving mode fast! If you have ever asked God to use your life, don’t be surprised when trouble comes. God may turn up the heat in our circumstances to prepare us to experience His life. The glory of having Jesus expressing His life through us requires that we pass through the fire. It’s not pleasant while it is happening, but when the process is complete the finished product is quite a treat!
The Apostle Peter said:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share in the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
The fire may be hot, but don’t despair in your troubles. God often orchestrates the events of our lives to bring us to the end of confidence in our own ability so that He may readily complete His recipe for godliness within us. “The revelation of His glory” that Peter mentions is not a reference to heaven, but to the discovery of the sweet truth of our union with Christ. However, it is impossible to make sweet tea without hot water.
Unlike cold tea, hot tea and sugar are totally compatible with each other. In fact, the sugar quickly dissolves when stirred into the hot tea. Once the sugar has dissolved into the water, the very nature of the liquid is changed. The tea and sugar can never be separated again. Their distinct elements have merged together in such a way that they are now one new entity. This isn’t the case with iced tea. It is impossible to get sugar to dissolve into tea once it has been served over ice. No matter how much you stir it, the two just won’t mix.
When God prepares to manifest the sweet presence of His Life within us, He uses heat to cause us to be compatible with Him permeating our being. He will often stir things in our lives when He turns up the heat. Then we don’t resist like we would when we are spiritually cold. Once he places His Life into us, our very nature is changed. Just as the sugar and tea have become one, we have been united with Him and can never again be separated from Him. 1Corinthians 6:17 says, “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” There is no longer m life and Christ’s life. Jesus has come into us and changed our very nature so that one may say quite literally that Christ is my life.
I was teaching this truth in a Grace Walk Conference once and a man whose field of study was chemistry said, “It is a fact that tea has its own distinct chemical composition and sugar has its own unique chemical composition, but when you put the two together in the way you have described, a totally new chemical composition is created which is neither tea or sugar.” Do you know what it is called? Sweet tea!
The Bible says, “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we received Christ, we gained a brand new identity. When have you ever heard someone refer to tea as “water with tea and sugar in it”? It’s nature has been changed, therefore it is identified by its new identity — sweet tea.
Once the sugar has been placed into the tea, the pitcher must be filled with water, then the tea is ready to be shared with others. Water is a type of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. The Bible says that the treasure of the life of Jesus is contained in the earthen vessels of our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:7) Yet we must be filled with the Holy Spirit if people are going to be attracted to Christ within us. (Ephesians 5:18) To be filled with the Holy Spirit means nothing less than Jesus Christ consuming our total being and expressing His life through us.
It is the Holy Spirit who dwells within our spirit. That same Spirit is the very spirit of Jesus. Since He has come to us, our nature is changed. We now possess the nature of God. By the death and resurrection of Jesus, God works in this world to create a new race of people who possess His nature. 2 Peter 1:4 says that through the Spirit of Christ we have “become partakers of the divine nature.” Our new nature is a
I enjoy sweet tea, but I don’t like tea with sugar in it. Some may ask, “Isn’t it the same thing?” Not at all. When I’m traveling, I sometimes order iced tea and put sugar in it, but the tea never gets sweet enough for my taste. I sometimes have a glass of iced tea on the table with a half inch of sugar settled at the bottom of the glass. That is tea with sugar, but it’s not sweet tea. It is only when the sugar has dissolved in the tea that it receives a sweet nature.
Some Christians think in terms of Christ being in their life. However, when we were saved, Jesus didn’t simply come into our life. He has so filled our being that the Bible teaches that Christ is our life. The very essence of our being has been changed through this supernatural union with Him
If I held up a glass and declared it to be full of sweet tea, someone might argue that it isn’t the tea which is sweet, but it’s the sugar in the tea that is sweet. I would disagree. The sugar has so diffused its life into the tea that the nature of the tea has changed. Yes, the tea is sweet. And you are righteous!
(This article was an excerpt from my book, Grace Rules. Click the link for more information about the book.)