Posts Tagged the Gospel
Lately I have been thinking a lot about physical fitness, namely, because many of my friends have been talking about it. On the positive side, it has greatly encouraged me to once again take up the mantle of working out on a semi-regular basis and try to live a healthier life. Some of my friends have been doing this through supplements, and it seems to have worked for them. I have been trying them as well, but to me, it didn’t feel quite right. It was then that God hit my mind with a thought.
How does the gospel relate to physical fitness and health? I believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ relates to every area of our lives, not just whether or not we go to heaven. If that is true, then naturally, it must in some way relate to our health. Is physical fitness important to God? If so, how important is it, and why?
1. Our bodies belong to God
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Cor. 6:19-20
When a man becomes a Christian, he has effectively given his body over to Christ for His use in His Kingdom. It is only logical then that God can do whatever He wants with our bodies. Often, what He does is He reverses the sinful actions that we once did with our bodies, and returns them to His glorious purpose. This is why Paul says a few verses before this passage that we used to be idolatrous, lustful, thieving, murderous people (v. 11); but we are no more by the grace of God and the blood of Christ. Eyes that once looked upon women with sinful pleasure now see the needs of the broken world; hands that once stole or balled up into fists to fight now give out their strength and ability; hearts that once were exalted towards low, base, and vile things are now lifted up towards heaven.
So then, how does this relate to fitness and health? It is not uncommon knowledge that the citizens of the United States have something of a health problem. Where does this problem stem from? I believe it stems from the fact that…
2. Our bellies are our gods.
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. Php. 3:18-19
I remember stumbling across this phrase, and it stood out to me. I will say that this phrase does refer to every kind of desire and appetite, such as our sexual appetite, but that does include our appetite for food. Perhaps it is because we are used to such good food. For whatever reason, we find it so easy to eat whatever pleases our bellies, even if it isn’t the best thing for our bodies. I understand that there are genuine health issues that prevent someone from losing weight, and these need to be combated on their own. However, for the average person, their problem is not that they are unable to lose weight; they are simply unwilling. I include myself in this. Far too often, I stuff myself to the brim, far beyond what I actually need. There are times when feasting may be appropriate, but there are also times for fasting. Our problem with food is then primarily a sin problem, and for any sin problem…
3. The Gospel is the solution
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Rom. 6:6
Let us call our sin what it is: sin. Or you may call it by its proper name, gluttony. If you struggle with a desire for eating food, not to nourish your body (though of course this isn’t the only reason for eating; but that is for another post), but that you may satisfy an urge to excite your taste buds, then that is a sinful desire. There is nothing wrong with eating tasty food, let me make that clear. But just as God made sexual desire to be fulfilled in a proper context, so He created our appetite to be fulfilled in a proper context and a proper way. Too often we are addicted to our food. We need a Savior.
To put it simply: you need nothing but Jesus to become healthy. You do not need anything else, supplements of any sort. They may help and be a catalyst towards greater health, but your primary need is Jesus Christ. Through Christ, I have been set free from my need to fulfill my craving for food! I remind myself about this on an almost daily basis, but that does not lessen the power of the fact. Just as I have been set free from the need to lust after women, I have been set free from my need to lust after food.
Not only that, but Christ has kicked (and is kicking – sanctification) my laziness and slothfulness with the boot of grace. Is exercising for me painful? Yes, just like any mortal man; but unlike every mortal man, I have the grace of God behind me, to help me deny myself, and improve my body.
All this leads to a question: why do I exercise and improve my body?
4. For the Glory of God
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Cor. 10:31
And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you… But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. 1 Cor. 9:23, 27
For me, my main reason for working out is so that wherever God calls me to be, I will be ready to go. I have a desire to live in a third-world country in those conditions. In order to do so, my body must be ready for that if God calls me to do so. I have heard that one of the greatest causes of death among missionaries today is cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest typically happens only to those whose bodies are not ready to endure physical hardship. Therefore, I run to the glory of God, that, were He to call me far away, I would be ready. I repeat Paul in saying, “This I do for the gospel’s sake.” I want to be ready to spread the gospel.
I once took a fitness class under a very godly man. He told us at the very outset, “If you want to work out so that you can look cute, or look good, or fit in such and such clothes, or get big muscles, then you should not be in this class.” While those may be fine goals for the world, we are not of the world. Our goals must be for Jesus and Jesus alone, not for any selfish gain. Because…
5. In the end, physical fitness is not that important.
For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 1 Tim. 4:8
Whereas there are many who struggle with gluttony and slothfulness, there are those that are addicted to the work out high and pride. Though God wants us to take care of the bodies He has given us, He does not want us to rely upon our own ability. That is the purpose of Paul’s exhortation. The profit, the gain, from physical fitness and health may in the now seem really great, and in some ways they really are; but in the end, it won’t matter how fit you were, if you missed the Center of the universe, Jesus Christ. Bodily exercise affects only our lives now; the pursuit of God affects today and all eternity. It’s simply a matter of far greater value.
It doesn’t matter if you are fit in this world if you are not “fit for the kingdom” (Luke 9:62). 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 tells us, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” Few are called, because few see their need. Just as a prostitute may see her need for Christ before a priest, a muscle warrior may be blinder to his need than a glutton.
God does not care how buff you are; He cares about what is inside you. Eliab, the oldest son of Jesse, was probably physically much more worthy of the role of the King of Israel; yet the Lord rejected Him and chose David, the scruffy youngest brother. 10,000 men would have been much better to fight the Syrians for Gideon; yet God sent so many away there were only 300 left. God delights in taking those things that are weak and making them strong. Our inability is His opportunity for His ability.
To sum up: We must fight our sins, whether they be gluttony, laziness, or pride, with the grace God gives us. He has already won the victory in Christ. Our greatest need, in this life and in the next, is Christ and Christ alone.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be doing an intensive study of the book of Ecclesiastes. My first post on the subject can be found here, and the next few weeks will probably revolve around the insight I gain from this study. A friend of mine is doing the book of Romans. Our goal is to read through our chosen book of the Bible once each day in order to gain a richer understanding of the text. I chose Ecclesiastes because I didn’t understand it and thought I would like a challenge; my friend chose Romans because it is the basis of many key Biblical doctrines, particularly the Gospel.
Often, especially if you live in the good ol’ South like I do, people say they love the Bible. But the question is, do we really? Do we treat the Bible the same way we treat other things we love – foods, movies, people, etc.? The reason many people are deceived or led astray today is simply because we don’t read the Bible anymore.
So before I give you some things that have helped me, I want to share some passages that have helped me to see the importance of personal devotion to the word of God.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” – Hosea 4:6
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” – Psalm 1:1-2
“Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.” – Psalm 119:148
These verses always convict me; I mean, when was the last time I stayed up late into the night just to read and think about God’s word?
This world around us is always moving, from here to there, but without any purpose. We need to learn how to just sit, be still, and know that He is God. Jonathan Parnell recently had an excellent post about that on the Desiring God website. I encourage you to take the time to read it: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/how-to-steady-yourself-in-the-age-of-compulsive-mobility
Perhaps you want to read through the whole Bible but don’t know how. Here’s a link to a plan suggested by John Piper. The great thing is, there are only 25 readings a month, so you get 4-6 free days to catch up or study other things. For me, getting behind in a plan was the most discouraging thing, so I would quickly stop. This helps balance that out. http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/bible-reading-plans
Perhaps you think you don’t have time. In such a case, I hope you enjoy this poignant and humorously convicting video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgMFXan9pjQ
Finally, you could join me and my friend in an intensive study of one book of the Bible. I would suggest Romans or, if you want something shorter and easier, the book of Ephesians. Whatever you choose, commit to reading it once a day for at least fifteen days. Try to notice patterns and similarities throughout. I can guarantee you’ll be blessed.
However you do it, I pray that you just read the Bible. Nothing is more important, because the Bible is what leads us to Jesus. It’s the only way we know who God is and what He desires of us.
A few weeks ago, I saw many of my friends on Facebook writing about and discussing the Invisible Children documentary Kony 2012. If you happen to be uninformed, it is a thirty minute film about Joseph Kony, a Ugandan warlord who kidnaps children, forcing them to fight in his army, known as the Lord’s Resistance Army. The movie is supposed to be a call to action, publicizing Kony’s crimes and causing the world to pursue and bring him to justice. Invisible Children also has an Action Kit, which is filled with T-shirts, bracelets, and posters; from what I understand these sold out within days of the release of the Kony 2012 film.
This post is not a critique of the film, because plenty of people are doing that, and I myself am among the few who have not seen it. I am not personally attacking anyone involved with Invisible Children’s work. This post is an appeal to those of my friends who have seen the film and would consider themselves a supporter.
Ironically, I have not heard a peep from anyone since a few weeks ago about Uganda or the atrocities that continue to happen there. What this has shown me is that we are primarily a sensational generation. By this, I mean that we move from one tragedy to the next, like bees flitting from one flower to another; our care for these issues is only momentary. The question is, how much have we really done?
Do you remember a year ago, when Japan was struck by an earthquake and tsunami, causing their nuclear power plants to fail and destroying many homes? Even after a year, there are still people there who are suffering, besides the fact that the Japanese people remain one of the most unevangelized people groups in the world. Or what about Haiti – for a moment, the lens was on them; yet despite large amounts of orphans and homeless still there, you don’t hear much about them. And they are still in need of the gospel.
Why does it take a tragedy or a documentary to open our eyes to the needs of the world around us? There are people starving physically and spiritually all over this earth, but unless they are struck by a tsunami or an earthquake, we turn a blind eye. And then our eyes are opened, but only for a brief moment; we blink in shock, cry out in horror, and turn our faces away. What have we really done?
1 John 3:18 tells us, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” It is very easy to update your Facebook status, proclaiming how shocked you are about some tragedy; it is very easy to wear a wristband you bought to support some cause. I can say I love someone, but words can only do so much. What is our attitude towards these things? Is it, “That’s awful!” or “What can I do to help?”
God has called us to more. It is easy to feel like we’ve done our duty, spreading the word about these tragedies; we can pat ourselves on the back and say, “Well done.” We say we love those far away, but do we really?
Not only that, but hear me on this, for I am guilty of this as well: what have you done lately for your family? Your neighbors? Your co-workers? Your friends? Your enemies? It is so easy to say we support some cause overseas, because we garner the applause from the world around us. You don’t get that from washing the dishes, cleaning the bathroom, or going the extra mile at work. Anyone who is without Christ around you is without hope in this earth (Eph. 2:12); they could be dying inside, and you may be unaware. Your Christian friends could be struggling with their faith or some tragedy in their own life; have you opened your eyes, ears and hearts to them?
Friends, I am not saying it is bad to spread the word about Joseph Kony or any tragedy in this earth. I am not saying that if you are the type to go to places like Haiti when there’s a tragedy to support them, that that act is wrong. I am simply asking you, what are you doing about the tragedies that occur around you daily? How are you praying for and loving on those closest to you? For if we do not love our actual neighbors, what makes us think we actually love our foreign “neighbors”?
Uganda doesn’t primarily need Kony to be stopped; its primary need is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the hope of Eternal Life, and the forgiveness of sins. Praise God if Kony is once and for all brought to justice; but Jesus said that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents” (Luke 15:10).
Let us bring the good news to all, starting with those sitting right next to us.
I would like to share two videos as well that helped me put my thoughts into words. The first is much less serious, titled “You Are Not an Activist”; much of what I said was inspired by this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4U5sPXSvFXY
The second video is quite different, and is a story from a Ugandan about the power of the gospel and forgiveness. I hope you are as blessed by this as I was: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pdNgQr-I6w