Did you know that Christians are supposed to eat a distinctive diet? Tell me what did you eat this week? … What did I have to eat this week? Let me remember… Fresh peaches with ice cream. Sea Salt Chips. Strawberry Pancakes with whipped cream and chocolate chips. I usually remember the sweets and junk food – and rarely do I remember the good foods. But you know what, our bodies get sick when we eat a lot of junk food.
Our bodies need the nourishment we get from meats, fruits, vegetables, and even breads to stay healthy. Let’s see. I think I ate some healthy food this week too. Oh, yea, I roasted fresh veggies – potatoes, pea pods, carrots, onion, and garlic. I cooked fresh green beans and made pea salad. I snacked on fresh peaches and mushmellon. I enjoyed baked chicken, turkey, and pork ribs. And, I made fresh homemade bread and ate it with the local honey.
We know better than to feed our bodies a steady diet of junk food. And yet, often times we make decisions that are not good for us. We may feed ourselves with TV, NetFlicks, movies, books, magazines, social media, and other sorts of entertaining media that really don’t lend strengthen our walk with God. We may not be giving our minds the real nourishment that it needs to be strong and healthy. We may choose not to feed on God’s Word. The Bible says that our strength comes from the Lord, and that comes to us through our relationship with Jesus and his Holy Spirit.
Do you remember being a kid and digging in the refrigerator for scraps of food for playing with outside – particularly for making a snowman? I remember when the kids were a bit younger with every big snow we would dig into the food baskets and came up with some interesting items – broccoli for hair, cashews for eyebrows, raisins for eyes, and a carrot nose. At one time we even tried cherries for making rosey cheeks and licorice for a smiling mouth – now it had to be red licorice for the smile! Scraps of food make great resources for snowmen but spiritual scraps aren’t much help in times of crisis.
Did you know snowmen have a lot in common with us human beings. Did you know that snowmen fall apart in summer when the heat is on? Well, so do human beings. Most of us fall apart or “melt” at various times of trouble in our lives. But the amazing thing happens to us when we have Jesus in our hearts, Jesus can put us back together. All we have to do is simply ask. Asking is called prayer.
One of the biggest challenges human beings have is in the asking. We forget to ask God for help – or we don’t read the Bible much! We often talk about our problems with each other. We even ask others to pray for us but we never get down to the business of prayer or Bible Study. You know talking with God. Instead we – you and I – may even walk around broken and shattered when we don’t have to stay that way.
Why, pastor, your talking crazy now! How can I just put myself back together after I’ve experienced “grief beyond measure” or “pain beyond the ability to handle it” or a loved one who has strayed from God? But I say to you, to be sure the answer to this ago old question lies between the covers of the Bible. Many people wrestle with the question “why do bad things happen to good people.” And, you and I have the answer right here!
Even in our presidential candidates we can read about their wrestling with medical problems – life and death – and even the existence of God. I recently read a few articles on the faith and religion of our 2016 presidential candidates. Many have wrestled with God, fallen away from their faith, struggled to make sense of medical issues and untimely deaths, and even disregarded their faith as having no relevance on their contemporary lives. Yet, many of those same candidates attend church with their families. In some ways these folks have a lot in common with the snowman. They have discovered the spiritual principles of how to be a snowman in summer.
If you’ve been watching the presidential campaign and debates this week you would have heard a number of the candidates talk about wrestling with their faith choices and how they have personally come to an experiential faith that impacts their everyday lives and how they think about life. It seems they really had to wrestle with themselves and their belief in God – even right from wrong.
You know when we – you and I – think about right and wrong, can you say where your views of right and wrong come from? How do you know what’s right and what’s wrong? Have culture and government become the authority for right living? Seems to me that our laws used to be based on our Christian values that came from the Bible. But today many people lean on medical science, education, research, other religions, and popular culture much more to determine how life is practiced.
But for you and I our pathway is toward heaven, and our goal is conformity to Christ Jesus, the Lover of our Soul. To attain this lofty goal our faith must be based on what Mr. John Wesley once said,
I want to know one thing, — the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way: For this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be “homo unius libri.” [A man of one book.] Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone: Only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his book; for this end, to find the way to heaven. Is there a doubt concerning the meaning of what I read? Does anything appear dark or intricate? I lift up my heart to the Father of Lights: — “Lord, is it not thy word, ‘If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God?’ Thou ‘givest liberally, and upbraidest not.’ Thou hast said, ‘If any be willing to do thy will, he shall know.’ I am willing to do, let me know, thy will.” I then search after and consider parallel passages of Scripture, “comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” I meditate thereon with all the attention and earnestness of which my mind is capable. If any doubt still remains, I consult those who are experienced in the things of God; and then the writings whereby, being dead, they yet speak. And what I thus learn, that I teach.” – John Wesley, Preface from Sermons on Several Occasions
Putting it another way, Country musician Aaron Tippin sang about this kind of conformity to Christ Jesus in his song “You’ve Got to Stand for Something (or you’ll fall for anything).” In his video he points to the fact that his dad made the right kind of choices in his life – eating dinner as a family, standing up for his friend, serving his country, and honoring his God.
In our passage today Paul urges us to think through our life choices by honoring God with all our hearts, minds, soul, and strength – especially in how we think, how we talk in our conversations, and the way we live. Our conversations and actions will always, always, always follow our thoughts. Paul teaches us,
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10.
First, Paul tells us that non-believers base their lives on pointless thinking. He says they are in the dark about their reasoning. He points out that non-believers are disconnected from God, their hearts are closed, and they are unaware of their condition. Paul tells us that non-believers lack all sense of right and wrong turning themselves over to following their feelings – whatever feels good to them. Non-believers follow all sorts of corrupt thinking including greed – but they just are not self-aware.
Now, Paul is talking about Gentile non-believers. To be sure this same principle applies to believers in various areas of their thinking. Paul assures the hearer/reader that this sort of thinking does not come from Christ. When we listen to Christ, we hear the Truth in and through Jesus. This listening to Christ produces change in us. Change from how we used to think and subsequently how we used to live. We are changed from who we once were – we are no longer corrupted by our desires that deceive us.
Paul urges the believers to come to new thinking – not by the cultural norms and everyday living – but by the Spirit of God. Paul hopes that believers will allow the inward working of the Holy Spirit to lay hold of their minds. This new mind would be transformed into the mind of Christ within the true believer – transformed into God’s image of justice and true holiness.
We – you and I – can no longer stretch the truth. Paul demands that we get rid of all lying and tell our neighbor the truth. We are to pay attention to our tempers. Paul requires that we not sin in our angry attitudes, not even let the sun go down on our irritations toward others. This provides a foothold for the devil to lay hold of your mind. We are no longer to steal, but to be honest and a hard worker. Paul urges believers to work in order to care for your self – and for others. In our abundance we are to share with others. We are not to speak with foul words. Paul desires for believers to only say what is helpful.
We are not to make the Holy Spirit of God unhappy. Paul goes on to list a number of things that make the Holy Spirit unhappy – bitterness, losing your temper, being anger, shouting, slandering, along with some other unsavory characteristics that do not belong to the Holy Spirit. On the contrary Paul commands for believers to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other like Jesus.
The “meat and potatoes” for Paul is for believers to be imitators of God. Paul calls us to be sacrificial lovers of one another. The Apostle James would say that we are to lay our lives down for one another. And, when we give up ourselves for someone else God is pleased with us.
And, for Paul that means we are to not live in sexual immorality – and that means more than folks not getting married. We are not to be impure – and that means more than folks not going to Vegas. We are not to be greedy – and that means more that just not being like the Donald Trumps of our world. There should be no obscene language, no silly talk, or vulgar joking – and that may mean giving up some of those movies you like to watch. It’s easy to gloss over these descriptive terms thinking that they don’t apply to me, but God is a whole lot more interested in the details of your daily life than you might think.
The bottomline for Paul is when we – you and I – remain in our “old nature” with a lifestyle that we have not allowed God to re-form, then you and I won’t inherit the Kingdom of Christ and God. We just can’t ignore these details in our lives.
Wesley was much like Paul. If you were to sit down with John Wesley in a Wednesday night bible study meeting he would begin with a few questions. John Wesley would go around the room and ask each one of us…
What known sins have you committed since our last meeting? What temptations have you met with? How were you delivered? What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not? Have you nothing you desire to keep secret? (John Wesley’s Class Meetings: a Model for Making Disciples, by D. Michael Henderson, Evangel Publishing House, 1997, pp. 118-9.)
The question you and I have to ask ourselves: What must I do to live right with God this week? And, the answer is simple. Die to yourself. Die to your self-interests by putting others ahead of yourself. Honestly, there’s not a lot of sweet treats in Paul’s word for us today. He’s a real “meat and potatoes” kind of guy. So the challenge for us all is to leave this place changing the way we eat – spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I look forward to hearing about your new diet!
Lord, help us to remember that our bodies (minds, emotions, spirit, and physical) can’t survive on junk food. Help us to remember that our strength comes from you, and that to learn from you, we need to feed on your Word and listen to your Spirit guiding us into our new life in Christ Jesus everyday. Amen.