FATAL DISTRACTIONS – THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS
March 9, 1997
You know, every now and then in this world things just kind of come together in the right way, at the right time, for the right reasons. Then we experience something that is plainly and simply just right. The summer before my junior year in college, I got to experience a moment like this. I was visiting with a friend in Houston, where I was working during the summer. I said that I needed to go to Austin to find a roommate and a place to live for the coming semester. Over the course of the conversation, I learned that she had friends in Austin who had a home situated outside the city that they were trying to sell. Since they had moved back into town, they wanted someone to live in their other home, to keep it clean and prepared for the realtors who would be showing it. I thought that might work out, no rent. But then it could be really inconvenient with people dropping by unannounced to look at the home. However, I investigated a little further and found out that this was a $500,000 home situated on the banks of Lake Austin.
Now I didn’t graduate first in my class, but I saw a real opportunity to serve here. So I called the couple and told them that because of the love Jesus has for me and I have for them, I would be there for you. And sure enough, I moved into this house rent-free. If it gets any sweeter than that, I don’t want to know about it. And when I moved in, I did it all. I cleaned cobwebs out of corners. I swept porches. I mopped floors. I cleaned toilets. The place was both spic and span. It was spotless.
But after about six or eight weeks into the semester I realized that no one was coming by to look at the house. I had seen a realtor once or twice. One person had left a business card tacked to the doorframe when I wasn’t there. But no one was looking at the house. This was Austin in the mid 80s and $500,000 lake homes were not exactly flying off the shelves. So as midterms rolled around and then Thanksgiving came, I started to get busy. I got a little distracted from the maintenance and upkeep of the house. It was still very presentable, but it was neither spic nor span as it had been earlier in the semester.
One day, during the middle of finals, the owner and his wife showed up at the door unannounced. At first blush, I thought that they had some nerve, that they could have called first. But then I remembered it was their house. They kind of began to inspect the house. The husband told me he appreciated what I was doing in the house and yard. He asked, however, if I could take care of one corner, straighten up a room or two and organize some other items. Then they left.
Several days later I got a call from him. He told me that they were not sure what they were going to do with the house. They were giving consideration to moving back into it. Maybe they would take it off the market, but at any rate, they would be spending more time in the house. So he asked me to find another place to live. I told him it would be no problem, that I had some friends who were looking for a roommate and that I could move in with them. I did put two and two together and it struck me that I had blown an incredible opportunity. You see, when he came by and checked out the house, he had been disappointed at the state in which he found it. So I had to move out of a free lake house because I hadn’t taken care of it.
This morning, as we take up the issue of gluttony, as we continue this series on the seven deadly sins, that house stands as a perfect representation of my body and your body in God’s economy. You see, our bodies are given to us free and clear of charge. It is not like we are born into this world and then at age 18 we receive an invoice. God says that your body is a gift and that all it will cost you is the upkeep and the maintenance.
This morning we are going to deal with the issue of gluttony, the sin of gluttony. Now before we take one step further, I know that there are some of you here this morning who are sitting here very smug. Your jean size is 32 inches at the waist. Your dress size is 4. And you are thinking to yourself that you should be in prayer for those who are here this morning struggling with gluttony, that you have a real heart for them and will lift them up to the Lord.
Before you get too cocky, let me share with you what the ancient church fathers decided following their research into the word “gluttony.” It is the sin of excess, specifically as it relates to food. But anything that is too much, too expensive, too early, too eagerly eaten is gluttony. In other words, it is any faulty focus on food. So whether you weigh 110 pounds or 410 pounds does not necessarily indict nor no-bill you for the sin of gluttony. Rather, gluttony is not an issue of fit versus fat. It is a hint regarding the state of the heart.
Gluttony is something that goes to the core of who we are as people in God’s economy in relationship to a holy, blameless, transcendent God who has given us this body to take care of while we live here on this earth. It is imperative that we understand that before we take another step.
So if you are sitting there this morning and you feel convicted or guilty before we even begin because you are a little over your prescribed weigh, trust me about something. The person sitting next to you, who could be an incredible physical specimen, could be just as guilty of this sin. As Stan said earlier, this is something that affects all of us from A to Z. We all understand the friendship that we can have with food.
Now, I want to continue the image of the house that I began with. We are going to identify four facets of housekeeping. To do this we are gong to start with two foundational truths that God gives us in His word. 1 Corinthians 6:12: “Everything is permissible for me but not everything is beneficial.” Paul is saying that anything is permissible for him but that he won’t be mastered by anything. Foundational truth number one is that food needs to be healthful. He is saying that this is an issue of freedom. Right off the bat we need to understand that this is not about chicken fried steak versus tofu. This is about helping our bodies be everything that God wants them to be.
1 Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God?” Foundational truth number two is that, for you and I in the context of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, our bodies are the houses of the Holy Spirit.
Now given that, let’s attack these four facets. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “You are not your own. You were bought by a price.” The first facet is that you and I have to identify the ownership of the house. What that means is that we have to come clean before a holy, transcendent God and say that we do not belong to ourselves. I recognize that I am not in control and I relinquish ownership to you. You are the one who gave me this body. You are the one who created me with a purpose and therefore I give everything that I am and everything that I ever will be over to You. It is the issue of control.
Psychiatrists tell us that control is actually at the root of the vast majority of all eating disorders. It is not so much about what our bodies look like visually. But it is a person’s desperate attempt to assert control over a life when he or she feels out of control.
I want to read some questions to you real quickly. Please do not answer yes or no, raise your hand or shout, “Amen!” Do you look forward to events primarily because of the food that will be there? Do you constantly think about food? Do you eat when you are mad, bored, or stressed? Do you eat to comfort yourself during times of crisis and tension? Do you lie to others about how much or when you eat? Do you stash away food for yourself? Are you ever ashamed about how much or what you have eaten? Are you embarrassed by your physical appearance? Have important people in your life expressed concern about your eating habits? Do you sometimes think your eating is out of control?
Now I am not a clinical psychiatrist, but I have done enough research to tell you that if you answered yes to four or more of these questions, you are a prime candidate as someone who has a serious control issue in the area of food that you need to deal with.
Thursday of last week the U.S. government released some alarming statistics. One out of three American adults is overweight. One out of eight American children and teenagers are overweight. Ninety to ninety-five percent of all eating disorder victims are female and a vast majority of them are overachievers. Between the years 1980 and 1994, the percentage of children that were overweight or obese rose 6%. In that same time period, the percentage of adults rose 9%.
Despite the advent of Fit TV, Jenny Craig, and a fitness industry that rakes in over 10 billion dollars a year in this country alone, we are still making desperate attempts at control in our lives. Folks, we can’t do it. I can’t do it. You can’t do it. We must relinquish ownership of this house, our bodies, to the God who created us. The issue of control.
Once that issue is dealt with, we are ready to move on to the second. We have to identify the purposes of the house. Now every house is built uniquely and differently. Some homes are built to be show places. Others are merely shacks of shelter. But most fall somewhere in between. To illustrate this I want to do something a little bit out of the norm. Lisa, would you come here for just a minute. Lisa, tell us how much you weigh. I’m just kidding. Okay, Lisa, how tall are you? Five foot two. Stan, would you please come here for a moment? Now, some homes are show places and others are shacks for shelter, but you can tell honestly by looking at these two people that every body is built differently. God gave Lisa a body that was intended for different purposes than the one He gave Stan.
Stan is a minister of music that defies logic. Stan has got athletic abilities that most ministers of music don’t even care about. Stan cares deeply. But everybody is unique which you can see by this visual illustration. I was not created to carry the mass of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ladies, most of you were not built and created to carry the figure of a Kathy Ireland or a Rebecca Romaine. It is not going to happen. You have to identify the purposes for which a holy and all-knowing God built your body.
This is what Paul says about the purposes for our bodies. Remember, we have established the fact that we are not our own but bought with a price. 1 Corinthians 6:20, “Therefore, honor God with your body.” Whether God intended you to be a minister of music and media, an accountant, an attorney, a physician, a teacher, a ditch digger, whatever God’s call is on your life, honor God with your body. That is your purpose.
Now, as we continue in this message, I begin to wade in some barracuda waters. This is where I start to create enemies. Some of you in the crowd will start crossing my wife, Julie, and me off your invite to dinner lists. But remember, our goal this morning is a faith-driven focus on food. Our God is a God of balance. It is not our desire that you walk out of here this morning freaked out and hepped up on seaweed and unsalted sunflower seeds. God wants you to have a balanced perspective on your body and how to treat it. In order to do that, we need to take the next step in this process. We need to identify the condition of the house.
This is tough work, folks. It requires honesty, brutal honesty, many times. And to do this, we are not talking about just the aesthetic, 10 pounds overweight, a little under weight, need more muscle. I am not talking about only the aesthetic. We have to identify not only the appearance, but more importantly, the structure underneath the appearance. Why am I in the shape that I am in? Why are you in the shape that you are in? You see, this is not about aesthetics solely. Paul understood that in Verse 12 when he said that he would be mastered by nothing. He understood that this is a spiritual issue, an issue of freedom.
Many of you here this morning are fettered to a fitness routine. You are chained up and if you miss a day working out, you have severe self-image problems. God doesn’t want that for you. Others of you here this morning are chained to your refrigerator and that is your best friend in the world. God doesn’t want that for you either. We have got to step back and identify the condition of our house. To do that I want to mention to you three contributing factors to the condition of your house and mine.
Number one is a chemical imbalance. That is a very real situation for many people in this world who suffer from obesity or being overweight or even being underweight. Researchers tell us that roughly 10% of those persons have a chemical imbalance of one kind or another. The second contributing factor is childhood bad habits. How many of you grew up members of the clean plate club? If you didn’t clean you plate, you didn’t get up from the table. Parents, let me urge you as I urge myself, understand the leadership responsibility you have in your home to establish positive, Christ-centered patterns for food in the lives of your children.
Most parents would be appalled, shocked, angry and upset to hear profanity spewing out of their children’s mouths. Yet when they sit in front of Nintendo for hour after hour popping Coke after Coke, candy after candy, you think, “Isn’t that cute? He just likes candy.” Well, the reality is, it is not cute. You are helping them to set patterns that will affect them and scar them for years after you are dead and gone. You owe it to your children to take a leadership role in establishing positive patterns for food in your home. You don’t have to be freaked out about it and post the number of calories that your child consumed on the refrigerator. Just set a godly, balanced pattern for them.
But the third contributing factor is the one that hits most of us very close to home. It is that emotional lift that we get from food. It is the sensation of suddenly and instantaneously feeling better. You can have a disagreement with your spouse. You can have a stress filled day at the office. You can experience the breakup of a dating relationship. But you can always, always show a half gallon of ice cream who is boss. The refrigerator doesn’t yell back at you. The refrigerator is always there for you, ready to be opened or closed. When that little light comes on, it is very reassuring for most of us.
There is an emotional lift that we get from food and many, many of us turn food into an emotional Band-Aid to cover over a gaping wound that we have suffered at the hands of another person, maybe a parent, maybe a spouse, maybe someone at work. At that time, food becomes our god. At that point, we try to let food soothe our wounds. But Jesus Christ comes to you as He comes to me and says, “I want to be the One to heal your hurt. I want to be the one to fill that hole in your life. I want to be the one who covers up that void. This food is a quick fix, a substitute, a counterfeit for My love, My grace, and My forgiveness.”
We have laughed a bit this morning, but this is a very serious subject. Some of you know exactly what I am talking about. You may not even have the emotional hurt pinpointed in your life. My plea to you this morning is to do something about it and get help. There is not a single one of us in this room this morning that if you walked out on MacArthur Boulevard and got hit by a car breaking your leg would jump up and decide that you should run it off. You wouldn’t do that. You would lie in the street wailing until someone picked you up and carted you to the hospital so your bone could be set to heal properly.
Folks, our emotions are not so different from our bones. When you are hurt and scared and broken emotionally, many, many times it takes help to get healing. And when I am talking about help, I am not talking about the latest self-help guru or the late night infomercial. I am not talking about a comfort group. I am talking about Christ-centered counseling from somebody who understands how the human psyche and emotions work, but who also understands the truth of God’s scripture and can integrate the two to help you heal.
Now, this process of identifying the condition of the house is without a doubt the most difficult. For many of you it will be the most painful part of this process. But once that is accomplished, the next step that had seemed so impossible suddenly seems quite doable. It is this step in which we address the needs of the house. You do something about the condition that you found yourself in. For some of us it is just simple maintenance, a little upkeep. For others of us, we need to start from scratch. But the first step in this process is to hire a new groundskeeper.
Remember the story that I related to you at the beginning of this message? I was relieved of my duties as the groundskeeper of the lake home. Many of you need to relieve yourselves of the duty as groundskeeper of your own house. Allow God’s Holy Spirit to come on board full time in your life, to water and fertilize your self-discipline, to trim the weeds of rationalization or legalism. But you need to hire that new groundskeeper and allow God to do the work in your life concerning your body.
Secondly, you need to recruit a support team. Put people around you who can help you, who can give you feedback. They need to be people you trust, people who love you and with whom you can pray. And just as a brief aside, unless you have got a unique, through-the-roof marriage, it probably doesn’t need to include your spouse. This is a very sensitive issue and many times spouses end up doing more damage than good.
Now the next two steps are board-brush general steps that most of us can apply and benefit from. I do encourage checking with a nutritionist since each one of us has unique nutritional needs. Eat healthy. Now, for some of you I realize that I just used profanity in your presence. But eating healthy is an acquired taste. How many of you loved coffee the very first time you tried it? Yet most of us here this morning had a cup before church. Structure your time and discipline yourself to eat that healthy food for a period of time at least until you acquire a taste or at least a tolerance for it.
And the fourth, practice occasional fasting. Again, check with a physician before you do this. But when we fast, that proves to us and to God that we are not bound by food. If you don’t eat for 24 hours, just drink water and a little bit of juice, the sun will still come up the next day in the east. I promise. Fast a little bit. It is an amazing discipline that will also enhance your prayer life. Every time you feel a pang of hunger, pray. Pray for that need that is on your heart. Pray for that area of your life that you are allowing God’s Holy Spirit to work in. But address the needs of the house.
We have talked a lot about houses this morning. I want to leave you with one thought. As I drive around the Metroplex, it is not difficult to encounter houses that cost hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars. They have beautiful, meticulously manicured lawns and are expensively decorated. They are incredible houses. But I am continually struck by the thought of how many of those houses are actually homes founded on Jesus Christ, structured with His love, powered by His Holy Spirit. How many of them are actually homes?
You see, God is definitely concerned with my body and with your body; but He is so much more intimately and vitally concerned with whether or not we create a home for His Holy Spirit. He wants His Holy Spirit to live and breathe and work in our lives and ultimately work through our lives. Most of us will never bear the title Mr. or Ms. Universe. It is not going to happen. But every single one of us has the potential to carry a much more significant title: Home for a Holy God.