His-Story

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Gluttony and Spiritual Discipline, Part 1

This week during my sermon series I examined the final of the Seven Deadly Sins by venturing into the minefield of gluttony, which I define as the misuse of food. This is such a sensitive issue because we immediately associate it with body shape. But that is not the only indicator of gluttony. I see three misuses, and they are common to people who are overweight, underweight or just the right weight. We misuse food when we find ourselves addicted to certain types of foods, such as carbohydrates, sugars or food additives like NutraSweet. We need not be trapped in the very serious extreme of eating disorders (Anorexia, Bulimia or Binge Eating) to be classified as addicted to certain foods. We might crave carbs, or find ourselves eating carbs even when we are not hungry. The giveaway is that we will manipulate circumstances or overlook dangers just to satisfy our craving or, when we stop eating, we experience some form of withdrawal. We also misuse food by eating emotionally. We turn to food for comfort when things get tough, which is understandable because something that tastes good is a welcome relief from our pain. We also eat emotionally when we are bored. How many times do we simply stroll over to the fridge just to see if there is something there that catches our eye. There is nothing better to do, so we eat! Finally, we misuse food when our eating affects our health. First, pure and simply – we  overeat. We just put too much food in our bodies and our bodies are not designed to handle it. The result is high blood pressure, diabetes, and blood counts that are out of whack! And, if that is not enough, we eat the wrong foods – foods with high fat, high sugar, and calories with no nutrition. Our bodies are paying a toll!!!

The Word of God helps us with the misuse of food when it warns us of making food our idol.

For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  (Phi 3:18-19 ESV) (italics added)

It also reminds us that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that we should respect and honor it as such. (1 Cor 6:19-20)

So what is the key? We cannot simply stop eating! The answer is self-control. Notice how the Apostle Paul instructs us in this discipline.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.  (1Co 9:24-27 ESV)

The heart of this passage is Vs. 25. Just as an athlete learns self-control, so followers of Jesus Christ learn self-control. Applied to the misuse of food, there are two helps in this discipline. First – FOCUS ON CHRIST MORE THAN FOOD. The misuse of food is encouraged when we center our lives around things of this life. I am convinced that the best way to be free from any type of sinfulness is to focus on something else. Vs. 26 tells us to pursue an imperishable prize. I suggest that the way to control physical cravings is to nurture an appetite for higher cravings. Then, when the craving comes – we have a ready alternative. Notice some biblical word pictures.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psa 34:8 ESV)

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation– (1Pe 2:2 ESV)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (Joh 6:35 ESV)

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. (Isa 55:1-2 ESV)

Second, PRACTICE FASTING ON A REGULAR BASIS. Notice Vs. 27.

But I discipline my body and keep it under control

Fasting is more than an occasional or seasonal activity. I would suggest that fasting is a way to discipline our physical bodies. To tell it NO when it says “Feed me.” This way we learn the discipline of self-control. I want to commend many of you who have observed Lent by making a conscious decision to fast from something. This is a great way to practice self-control and a super way to establish a habit. My encouragement is that following Lent – maintain the discipline of fasting as we move forward in our discipline of self-control with food and we will begin to avoid the misuse of food.

But self-control is not a legalistic activity. It is not fraught with rules, regulations, minute formulae for what to eat and how much to eat. Self-control is freedom and not legalism. I will deal with that issue in my next post.

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