BODY FOR GOD
February 3, 2002
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” John 4:34
“Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.” 1 Timothy 4:7b-8 (NLT)
You know I have been in a series called Body for God. We have learned a lot in this series. We have discovered that the kind of fuel we put into these engineering marvels and the kind of exercise we do with our bodies matters to God. It can be an act of worship.
Today, I am going to kind of switch gears and talk to you about diet and exercise from a whole other perspective, a whole other realm. In fact, if you don’t understand and apply what we are going to talk about today, then everything else I have said doesn’t mean a hill of refried beans.
HOW IS YOUR DIET?
I am going to start by asking you a question, just right in your face: How is your diet? It’s kind of interesting. Hunger drives us to eat. It is this gnawing sensation in the pits of our stomachs that causes us to sit down and scarf down about three meals a day. Hunger shows that I am alive and that everything is okay.
The Bible is Your Meal Plan
It’s also true in the Christian realm, in the spiritual arena. The Bible says if I have a hunger for the things of God, it shows that I am alive, that my spiritual heart is beating. I want to tell you something that might surprise you. Against the backdrop of diet, the Bible, that’s right, the Scripture, is your meal plan. Isn’t that exciting? This book is our food.
Here is what the Bible says. It records in John 6:35 the following words of Jesus, “I am the bread of life.”
Back in ancient days, bread was a staple of every meal. If you ate, you had bread. Today it is very hip, very vogue, to get into the protein and say no to the complex carbohydrates. Many times, we have an option whether to have carbs or not, and most of us who are watching our weight say, “No, I don’t want any carbs because, if I eat too many carbs, it will turn to fat.”
In the ancient days, bread was there. Just like in today’s culture, if we sit down to a meal and we are offered bread, we have an option to receive the bread, to eat the bread, or not.
Jesus says, if you feed on my bread, if you feed on me, the text goes on to say, you will never, ever go hungry. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry.”
Our hunger will always be satisfied. That is why so many people are searching for the meaning of life. They are searching, they are trying this, they are sampling that, and they are saying, “Something doesn’t work, because I am still hungry.”
You can be satisfied, if you eat the bread of life, this cosmic carbohydrate. The Bible is our meal plan. It shows us how to eat, when to eat. We should eat carbs, but it doesn’t leave us hanging just with the carbs. It also talks about some powerful protein. Because you have got to combine the protein with the carbs.
Here is what Hebrews 5:14 says, “Solid food, (in other words, meat) is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
Lisa and I have been eating properly for about 20 years. We eat healthy most of the time. We have about one day a week when we cheat on our diets. That occurred for me this Friday night. Our Home Team, our small group, had a party and there on the table was this giant colossal bowl of caramel corn with all the peanuts and stuff.
This caramel corn was saying, “Ed, eat me. Eat me, Ed. You’ll love it, Ed.”
So I saw it, circled it like a shark in a feeding frenzy, grabbed a handful, and put it in my mouth. Popcorn was kind of growing out of the sides of my mouth. My eyes rolled back in my head and it was incredible.
After my tenth handful, I could feel my system saying to me, my stomach saying, “Ed what are you doing, man? This ain’t right.”
Why did my stomach say that? Because when I eat junk food it just doesn’t settle well with me because, most of the time, I eat healthy. If I am going to be a mature believer, I have got to feed on the word of God. As I feed on the word of God, as I take the cosmic carbohydrates, as I take that powerful protein, then when I do encounter some junk food, my stomach will say, “This ain’t right. Something is messed up. Something is skewed. Something doesn’t square with the meal plan, the Bible. The Bible is our meal plan.
The Holy Spirit is Our Private Chef
So, if the Bible is our meal plan, and we eat this balanced diet with carbs and protein, there is something else we need to understand. The Holy Spirit of God is our private chef. Isn’t that great? We have a private chef. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could have Emeril to be our private chef? Emeril is that guy on television who says, “Bam!” all the time. The Holy Spirit is your private chef and mine. He prepares the food. He serves the food to us.
Jesus, in John, Chapter 14, talks about what he does, “But the counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (14:26) That’s a pretty sweet deal.
As I read the Bible, as I go to church, as I sit under teaching, I trust the Holy Spirit to plant things in my mind. He will plant a truth in my mind. He will bring to mind maybe an area where I am straying. He will tell me, “That’s God’s will, Ed. That’s not God’s will. That’s the path you should take. That’s not the path you should take.” That’s what God does.
Have you ever been in church before, and you were listening to a song, and you said, “Man, that speaks to me. That song reads my mail. That is exactly what I am dealing with.”
That’s your private chef. That’s the Holy Spirit going, “Bam!” That’s you.
Have you ever been watching a drama and you said to yourself, “That’s exactly what I have been going through in my marriage. How did they know?”
Bam! That’s the Holy Spirit of God.
Have you ever heard me, or someone else, teaching and you say to yourself, “That is spooky. I needed to hear that. That is so convicting! This is getting freaky. Are these people following me around? Do they have a private investigator on me?”
No, that’s the Holy Spirit, “Bam,” convicting, teaching, and prompting you and me. The Bible is our meal plan and the Holy Spirit is our private chef.
You won’t believe this next thing. Remember during the series, I have been talking about eating disorders. I talked about eating disorders being rampant across our culture. Sixty percent of adults are obese. Thirteen percent of children are overweight. Do you realize that we have a lot of obesity in the Christian life? We have eating disorders in the spiritual world. Some of us are obese. Some of us just gorge ourselves 24/7.
We are so big, it’s like we are, “Hey, hey, hey, I’m fat Christian Albert. I’m gonna sing a song for you.” Remember that? That was a long, long time ago. If you are not laughing, you are missing one of the greatest cartoons ever, Fat Albert.
That’s what can happen to us. I talked to a guy several months ago who told me, “Ed, I am listening to five different Bible teachers, and I need some more study.”
I looked at him and said, “You don’t need any more study. You need to push away from the table and run off this blubber around your belly.”
That’s what happens to us. We can feed so much on the things of God, that we miss doing the stuff, that we miss working out. I see a lot of Christian’s across the country who have these giant potbellies, and they are so big that all they can do is navel gaze. They have lint in their navel and their belly has eclipsed their feet, so they can’t push away. They can’t work out, spiritually speaking. And they just spend the rest of their lives singing, “Kum Ba Ya, my Lord, Kum Ba Ya. Give me another Bible teacher, Lord, Kum Ba Ya. I want to be hey, hey, hey, Fat Albert, Lord, Kum Ba Ya.”
That’s not what God says. We have got to know the stuff. We have got to feed but, also, we have got to work out.
Some of us are obese in another realm. Some of us don’t just gorge ourselves on the Bible and overeat there, we put junk food into our bodies. The entertainment choices that a lot of us make junk our bodies out. Some of us log on this website, watch this video, read this book, read this magazine. Some of us turn to worldly wisdom instead of God’s wisdom for the answers to life’s predicaments and questions. That’s like stuffing yourselves with junk food and soft drinks 24/7. You are fat. You are blubbery. You are overweight and it is a sin before God.
Some of us suffer with bulimia, spiritual bulimia. We come to church and we binge. Then right when we walk out of the doors, we purge. We throw it all up and live for the world six days, but for Jesus only one day. We have learned this stuff, we say we have applied this stuff, and then we just throw it up and live contrary to the will of God.
Others here have spiritual anorexia. Anorexia is an epidemic in our world. People who have anorexia have a skewed view, a warped view, of who they are. They look at themselves in the mirror and even though they are skin and bones, they say, “I’m fat. I need to lose weight.”
All of their friends around them are going, “Man, you are skin and bones. You are dying here.”
“No, but I’m fat.”
I know people who think, “I’m a sold-out believer. I really love the Lord.”
But they are not involved in the church. They are not feeding on his word regularly. They are not doing the stuff and working out.
All of their friends around them are going, “You are starving, woman, or man. You are an anorexic.”
The problem is that you are looking into the wrong mirror. You are looking at the mirror of other people instead of looking at the word of God. That’s the true mirror. Don’t get involved in an eating disorder. Allow the Bible to feed. Allow the Holy Spirit to point out what you should eat and what you should not eat.
HOW IS YOUR WORKOUT?
Philippians 2:12-13, “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
Check this out now. We have got to work out what God with his grace has worked in. Once we take the bread of life, apply it, eat it and digest it, then we work out what has been worked in. We utilize its energy. We burn the calories as we live the life.
Now I have got to stop and ask you another question. This is right in your face. How is your workout going? Get serious now. How is your workout going? We are to work out what God has worked in. If we are feeding on the word of God, if we believe that this is our meal plan, and the Holy Spirit is our private chef, then we have got to work out.
The Church is Your Gym
So if we are working out, then we have got to find a place to work out. Where do we work out? Well, you had better join a club. Check this out. The church, the body of Christ, is your gym. That’s your gym.
I am a member of a health club in the area. When I joined this health club, I had to pay money to join. I paid dues to be a part of this club. If I decide to stop paying dues, the workers in this club will say, “Ed, I’m sorry, you can’t work out anymore because you have not paid your dues.”
What if we did that at Fellowship Church? The Bible says we should pay our dues, pay our tithes. What if we said, “You know what? You haven’t paid your tithes in the last couple of months, so you can’t show up anymore?”
I’m just kidding. We wouldn’t do that. It’s just a joke. It’s so funny to make a joke about money. People have that nervous laugh.
“Was he serious? What did he say?”
I’m just kidding. Chill.
To be part of a club, you have to join the club. You have got to place your membership there. That’s why we are into membership here at Fellowship Church. I’ll say it to you as plain as I can. You cannot be a growing, well fed, Christ-follower, unless you are a part of a local church, unless you are hooked in and involved there. It’s a pipe dream to think you can. You have to be a part of the church to be the kind of Christian that God wants you to be.
We are partial about Fellowship Church. Now, if you are looking for the perfect church, don’t join it, because you will mess it up. Always remember that. You are going to mess it up. You ain’t going to find the perfect church, all right? But if this church is not for you, that’s cool. It’s not for everybody. Go find one that you connect with and join that church. Join that gym. Place membership there and pay your dues. They are not really your dues; they are God’s anyway. But that is a whole other subject and whole other story.
Now, if you think about a gym, a gym has got some aerobic equipment. It’s got the treadmills, the stairmasters, all this stuff. Our gym, the local church, is the same way. We want to teach you endurance. We want to teach you how to have real discipline as you face the trials and tribulations of life. You need some real cardio work to do the stuff, and that’s the training here.
Also, a good gym has some iron. You have got to pump the iron. It has machines and resistance training. We want to teach you how to strengthen your life only through the grace and the power of God. So, when you are facing these difficulties, when you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, we will show you how to lift and how to handle that weight. That’s part of the Body of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
One of the great things about being a part of a gym is the whole motivational principle. When I go to my gym, I see a lot of people, men and women, lifting weights and working out, and it motivates me. The local church is the same. Christianity is not a solo sport. It’s not a Gilligan’s Island thing. It’s a team thing. This 1 Thessalonians 5:11 text talks about one another, each other, one another, each other.
How many people, men and women, in here, pump the iron? How many of you lift weights? If you are going to get a great workout, you have got to have someone to assist you. This person is called your what? Your spotter. A lot of people are wondering what a spotter is. I’ll tell you what a spotter is. A spotter helps you with your weight lifting. For example, if you are bench pressing, and you have trouble with rep seven and eight and nine, the spotter will assist you with the weight. If you can’t lift the weight anymore, the spotter will actually lift it for you and put it on the rack. You always work out better when you have got a spotter. If you want to really see some results, have a spotter.
What does 1 Thessalonians 5:11 say? We need some spiritual spotters. We need people to come along side of us and help us, encourage us, motivate us and spot us. Because there are going to be times in your life and mine where we can’t lift the weight. People can help us and say, “I’ve been there before. I’ll help you with the weights.”
One of the things that just whips me as a pastor is talking to people about relationships. I’ll just vent for a second. I sit down and talk to people, and they will talk and talk and I’ll say, “Wait a minute man. Wait a minute. Change your friendships. Don’t you get it? They are tearing you apart.”
“Well, you know, dude, I can hang with the guy. He’s not pulling me down. He’s not messing me up.”
Have you lost your mind?
I talked to a woman, “Well, you know, I don’t want to hurt their feelings and they are my friends. Yes, even though they mess around and drag me down, I can help them.”
Have you lost your mind? I’m not saying to dis your friends or to turn you back, but the Bible will tell you and me that we have to turn from people who are dragging us down and hook up with people who will lift us up. It’s not like we don’t have a zillion opportunities to build great relationships here at Fellowship Church. It does not take a rocket scientist to say, “I think those people have great commitments. I think they love the Lord. I think I had better go there and develop friendships there.”
Are you going to do that or wallow with the same people who mess you up and drop the weights on you? Come on, we have got to wake up here.
Let me tell you something that really encourages me. Let me tell you something that really caffeinates me. It is when I see people make these changes, when I see people, and I am talking about students, single adults and married couples, change and move away from their old friendships, who are dragging them down and tripping them up, and gravitate toward new encouraging friendships.
In our small group, we had a Home Team party, like I told you, because a couple in our small group is moving to another state. We have watched this couple commit their lives to Christ here at Fellowship Church. We have watched this couple move from friendships that were dragging them down to whole new friendships that are building them up. We have seen them grow and mature in Christ and do the Hebrews, Chapter 5, thing.
In the middle of the party, this guy put his arm around me and said, “Ed, I want to thank you and I want to thank everybody here for introducing me to Christ, because, if it was not for Christ, I wouldn’t be here with you guys. I would not have met all these incredible and wonderful people who are my best friends.”
It’s not a solo sport. We have got to do a serious relational check in our world because, if our relationships don’t reflect Christ, then they are going to tear us down. They are not going to build us up.
Christ is Your Personal Trainer
Okay. How is your work out? The church is your gym. Here is something else. If the church is your gym and you are working out, I have got some really good news for you. You have got a personal trainer, and he has already paid the dues for you. He has paid the price. His name is Jesus.
I’ve had a personal trainer for three years. This guy is in my small group as well. He trains me three times a week. He trains me harder now than when I played basketball at Florida State and lifted weights on their whole program down there in Tallahassee. I am working out harder now than I did down there. It’s incredible. I know Henry is waiting at the gym three times a week, and he is prompt, he is on time. And many times, he kicks my rear around the weight room. He gets in my face.
He says, “Ed, you are not working, man. You have got to kick it. You have got to get after it.”
He does this for me. Jesus is your trainer and mine. He is waiting. Everyday, he wants to meet with me and you.
“Oh, surely Ed will show up. Ed don’t drive by. Stop by the gym. You need me today, man. You don’t know what you are missing.”
Christ is waiting for you, too, “Hey, stop, you. Yes, you. I’m waiting for you. I’ve got something great. You need to confess some stuff. I need to tell you some stuff for you to do. You can’t face that business deal without me.”
Yet, so many of us just drive by, don’t we? Christ is waiting there. It is free of charge. We don’t meet with him. We don’t talk with him. We don’t eat on his diet plan. It’s messing us up. Christ will motivate us. He will encourage us. He will help us, because he has great stuff to do in our lives every single day.
When you work out, here is what happens to you. Your muscles are torn down. Your muscles are trashed. When you rest, they get built back up and you get stronger.
Often times, Christ will tear down your pride, your ego, or an area that is not honoring him. When he is doing it, as you allow him to do it, as you allow him to train you, you will come back stronger, more buff and beautiful in the spiritual world. It’s in his economy, and it’s the only way to do it.
So, are you meeting with him regularly? He can’t force it. He is not going to force it. It’s your option.
THE BENEFITS OF WORKING IT OUT
We talked about diet. We talked about exercise. Now, let’s talk about some benefits of this whole thing. You see these infomercials and they always give you these motivations. If you start doing this ab workout, if you start buying this product and eating this pill, you will look like this and have this endurance.
The Cardio Principle
Well, I want to give you some motivations of living the Christian life. Here is the first motivational principle for spiritual fitness, the Cardio Principle. That is a desire to please God. Remember, I am not going to be the Fat Albert believer. I am to push away and to obey the commands of Christ as I live the life. I have to do the stuff, to apply the word.
The Evian Principle
The second one is the Evian Principle, or the bottled water principle. That is a desire to keep a clear conscience. 2 Corinthians, Chapter 1:12, says, “Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God.” I must keep short accounts with God. When I have sinned, I must confess it. Nutritionists tell us to drink six to eight glasses of water a day to cleanse the system. It’s good for you.
The Endurance Principle
The third motivational principle for spiritual fitness is the Endurance Principle. I talked about endurance a second ago. It is the desire to be effective. 2 Timothy 2:10 (NLT) says, “I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those whom God has chosen.”
Endurance is a collapsible commodity. Most of the time, though, we stop before the breakthrough. Did you hear that? Most of the time, we say, “Okay, I am going to start dieting and working out, meeting with my trainer and start this and that.”
Then we say, “I’m kind of tired. I’ll go ahead and just stop and press the pause button.” We stop right before we see great results.
The Observation Principle
The Observation Principle is another one, the fourth motivation. That’s a desire to motivate. Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds.”
I sing this song all the time. I learned it as a kid: “This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.”
Verse two. “Hide it under a bushel, no! I’m gonna let it shine.”
I love that. That is what Jesus was saying. We have got to let our light shine.
I talked to a guy a couple of years ago, who said, “Ed, I am a believer, but I just don’t want to tell others about it. I don’t want to go public.”
I said, “But you are a public figure.”
He said, “Yes, but if I go public, I might mess up.”
Here is this guy’s problem. He didn’t get it. He had one foot in the church and one foot in the world. When you are doing that, when you are straddling something, you can get injured. This guy is living a benign life, because he is straddling life and God doesn’t work that way. People are watching you and me.
I talked to a guy at my gym, a great Christian guy, and he looked at me and out of the blue, I don’t even know why he said it, but now I know, he said, “Ed, you know what? I am living my life like it’s on video, man.”
I said, “I like that.”
We are on video. People are watching you and me.
“Oh, they are not watching me.”
Yes, they are. Your children are watching you, your spouse, people you work out with, people around the neighborhood, people at the office, your coaches, your teammates, your cousins are watching you. They are watching you. You can have a part in them coming to know Christ, because people would rather see a sermon than hear one.
The Pay Off Principle
The Pay Off Principle is another one. That’s a desire for health. There is going to be a pay off on this side of the grave, the blessings of living right. But the big pay off is on the next side of the grave in heaven.
Philippians 3:14, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
The No-Brainer Principle
The last one is the No-Brainer Principle. That is the desire to do what is right. Psalm 40:8, “I desire to do your will, O my God”
The Christian life is the only way to live. If it was not the only way to live, I would not live it. It works. Talk to someone who has been walking with the Lord two, three or five decades. See their lives. See their blessings. See the pay-offs. See the endurance. It’s unbelievable.
I’m talking about discipline right now because discipline is the key to everything. Discipline is the key to working out, to understanding our body is by God, physically. It is also the key to understanding that our body is by God, spiritually, and that we must work out and eat right in the spiritual domain. It’s the “D” word, discipline.
How do you ramp up discipline? You can’t do it by yourself. I can’t do it by myself. It’s got to be a God thing. Here is how God can do it in your life and mine. Let’s check it out. Palm Pilots. A lot of people have Palm Pilots or you might have a Day Timer. I am going to talk to you about the practice of advanced planning. If you want discipline in your life, you have got to get involved in advanced planning. For example, if you want discipline in your diet, you don’t wait until you are at the restaurant and they wheel the dessert cart to your table and give you fourteen choices of cheesecake.
You don’t say, “Oh, I need discipline right now.”
That’s not it. In advance, you say, “I am going to eat to honor God, before I walk into this restaurant.”
For example, you want discipline in the moral life. You don’t say, “I’ll wait until I log on to this website or this channel.”
You don’t wait until then. You say in advance, “I’m not going there. I’m not going to do those things.”
Advanced planning. Here is what Jesus said before all these gurus came out talking about priorities and this and that, seven habits of whatever. Here is what Jesus said, in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
The problem with most of us is that we crater before the breakthrough. We start working out and dieting physically and spiritually and then we say, “Well, I don’t really see any changes.” Then we quit right before the breakthrough. Advanced planning.
Here’s the next word, sushi. I love sushi. It’s probably my favorite meal. Sushi is kind of risky, because you have parasites out there but, hey, you know, you have got to take the dietary risk. Sushi is great. You’ve got that raw fish. I’ve got a huge mouth and just one bite, it’s gone. It’s great and it’s good for you too, if you pick the right restaurant without parasites.
In Verse 34, Matthew 6, Jesus talked about the sushi thing, “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow.” Don’t say, “Tomorrow? I can’t be disciplined tomorrow. I can’t spend time with my trainer tomorrow. I can’t read the word. I don’t have enough time.”
“Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself,” Christ says. “Each day (that’s sushi-size chunks, each day, 1440 minutes) has enough trouble of its own.” So take your discipline in bite-sized, sushi-sized chunks.
Say iron man with me. This is another way to ramp up discipline. Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
I talked about the one another principle. I talked about being spiritual spotters. I want to talk to you about accountability. Accountability is one of the most misunderstood concepts in all Christianity and the world, for that matter.
Accountability is not you or me giving the public carte blanche access to everything we do and say. That is not accountability. That is stupidity. Accountability is relational, it’s not critical.
I meet a lot of people who think, I call them accountability assassins, who think the world should be accountable to them. They ask, “Who are you accountable to?” They are saying that you should be accountable to them. Accountability assassins. We don’t need that. Accountability occurs because you have a natural affinity with someone. You earn the right. You test the waters and then you can ask and answer the hard questions, then you can go with the relational flow in the way that God leads. You must have accountability. As iron sharpens iron, so one man or woman sharpens another. Very important.
So how is your diet? How is your workout? God wants it to be great, because God knows that, when it is great, your body will truly be by God himself.