Walking The Roman Road – Lenten Season 2019
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (I Corinthians 6:19,20 NIV).
“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (I Timothy 4:8 NIV).
Walking with Purpose
I am a diabetic. I was diagnosed with diabetes almost ten years ago but I did nothing about it. I tried to diet once or twice and did a bit of exercise but nothing too serious. If twenty pounds over your ideal weight makes you obese, then I was that too. Not that anyone really noticed since I am tall and can hide my weight pretty well. Besides a lot of people my age have a pot belly. I had all the excuses ready at hand, as you can imagine.
The problem with diabetes is that it is a silent killer. All seems fine until one day…. Most diabetics die of a heart attack and, apparently, that was my likely future as well. But I didn’t take it seriously enough to really do anything about it.
Two years ago, my Pastor mentioned the ketogenic diet to me. He was on the Banting diet version from South Africa and it was going well. I decided to look into it and discovered Dr. Atkins and his book and all of the material on the ketogenic diet. I started to educate myself, organize myself and to get started on this new diet. It was hit and miss for the first year, which is pretty normal. I was just getting my feet under me. But one thing was clear. This diet worked and this lifestyle of dieting, exercising and eating supplements was good for me.
Still I had one problem. Motivation and discipline. Sure the diet isn’t really a diet. It is more of a lifestyle change. It doesn’t have an end date. It is simply eating healthy for the rest of my life. Reducing carbs and “eating like a farmer” is just good sense. The modern diet with all the junk food, sugars and unhealthy carbs has to go and healthy meals need to be the norm.
But that’s just it. I realized that I was addicted to sugar (and unhealthy carbs). I was a junk food addict. I had bad habits. I was lazy. I didn’t take it seriously. When I tried to make a change, my body fought me at every turn.
In my mind, I wanted to do the right things, but my body didn’t want to play ball. I would fall to temptation quickly. I would abandon my goals as soon as I made them. I would do what I did not want to do and not do what I wanted to do. What a wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Yes, the process is the same. We live our lives thoughtlessly not realizing that the wages of our “diet” sin is death. Since we are eating what we want and when we want, we don’t think of it as an addiction until someone comes along and tells us that there is a better way, a healthier way to live. With that new information, hope is born in us and we start to ask questions and do our homework. So far so good. But what we don’t realize is that we have entered into a struggle.
There is now dissonance in our lives. There is a new standard, a new expectation, a new hope for a better future. We now look at our lives and recognize the sin addiction that is there (in this case in the form of a bad lifestyle and diet) and we no longer want to live that way. We want to change. We want to be transformed. It starts in our mind with new information, new goals, new expectations. But now, we must deal with the body, with the addiction, with the temptation. We have entered into the struggle. And the struggle is not fun, but it is necessary.
Of course you have reasons why you want to accomplish this goal. You want to live longer to see your children grow up and get married and have children of their own. You want to make sure that they are financially and spiritually taken care of when you are gone. You want to be there in your retirement years with your wife (or husband) enjoying each other and helping each other through the aches and pains of your later years. You may have projects that you want to do yet. Maybe a ministry you want to develop, books you want to write, even movies you would like to see made. This is not a good time for a heart attack or a debilitating disease.
So because you have goals, and because you have hope that this direction will get you to your goals, you embark on the journey, taking the struggle, the storms, the failures in stride and moving forward one way or the other every day. You get yourself organized. You make a pact with your family to support you. You get rid of the bad food from your cupboards and start to educate the entire family on healthy eating and lifestyle. Sometimes they are helpful and sometimes they are not (often depending on whether or not they also have a sugar addiction and whether they have hope to overcome it). In either case, you are moving in this direction come hell or high water. You have made a decision.
I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I believe in New Directions for the New Year. In the real world things don’t always go as planned and I expect setbacks and failures. I will fall to temptation on occassion. I will not be motivated sometimes. There are birthdays to think about, and special occassions at church, and our anniversary dinner in a nice restaurant. There is the issue of my favorite food, my comfort food, my daily food. I need to get organized. Life will happen. But I am determined to go in this direction and to enter into the struggle and work my way through it. Without condemnation. Without guilt. Without perfectionism.
In Argentina there is very little help when it comes to the ketogenic diet. My doctor, who is a specialist in diabetes, never heard of it. There are no low carb foods (other than natural foods). There are no Atkins bars. There is no alternative flour to make pizzas or breads or cookies. I can walk into an organic or natural foods store and come out with nothing to buy. They understand the need for “sugar free” products but not “low carb” products.
It was amazing for me to find out that all of the things that are not good for us, can be made with other ingredients that make them good for us. What a world we live in. What levels of sin and disobedience there is in the very structures of our society where we are happy to make products that people want to buy even though they are bad for them. There are enough good sugar substitutes that everything from chocolate bars to pizza to donuts can be made (and taste just as good) and be healthy for people rather than slowly killing them with sugar and carbs.
Yes, I am a bit of an evangelist when it comes to these things. It’s important. I have learnt to live with discipline and focus and intention when it comes to what I eat and how I do my exercise and take my supplements. I know a lot about it and people ask me questions all the time.
In the last three months, I have lost twenty five kilos (almost 60 lbs) and everyone has noticed. The questions come from all sides and I tell them about the benefits of the ketogenic diet. I have studied it in depth and I know what I am talking about. Some people may not agree but my body transformation is proof that it works. But that wasn’t automatic. It was a lifestyle change based on new information that showed me a better way to live. I am still losing weight and have about ten kilos to go to get to my ideal weight range. But this diet will never stop. It is a lifestyle of eating healthy, exercising and taking supplements.
Can you feel the passion?
Do you see the correlation with our walk with God?
Where is God in all of this talk about dieting and lifestyle change? First of all, let me point out that people who are not Christians can also make these changes and reap the benefits of a lifestyle change. You don’t necessarily need Jesus in your life to accomplish these goals.
Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:8, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
Even Paul recognizes the value of physical training but it doesn’t compare with the benefits and value of spiritual training which has benefits for both this life and the life to come. The implication is that there is some correlation between the process of physical training and spiritual training (which produces godliness).
We have been talking about all of these elements throughout our fifty days together Walking the Roman Road. First comes a new relationship with God and the gift of faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit. That is essential when dealing with sin addiction (which is a relational disease). Then comes the process of sanctification. Without condemnation. Without guilt. Without perfectionism. But also with discipline, with effort, with self-denial, with a process of putting to death the sinful nature through confession, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.
On the one hand, I make my physical well-being a part of my sanctification which I am responsible to God for. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 6:19, 20 NIV, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.“ Paul was talking about sexual immorality but most people believe that this verse also refers to any kind of sin against your own body. For me, that includes my diet, exercise and supplements. It is part of my walk with God and therefore I can access all of the power of the Holy Spirit within, by faith, to do the will of God. It is God’s will that I treat my body with respect. It is God’s will that I overcome the temptation to eat junk food. It is God’s will that I win the battle against my diabetes. Whether I live longer or not is up to Him, but so long as I live, I will live well, and promote healthy habits in my life and in the life of my family.
But the process is the same for our spiritual walk with God. That is the “other hand” that I want to point out. Non-Christians can go on a diet, obviously, and they can even be religious (and do all of the same things that Christians do for the most part). But they cannot overcome sin addiction. They don’t even want to. Sin addiction is a very particular, relational problem that is at the core of our psyche and needs to be dealt with by the Holy Spirit, through faith, in a lifestyle of discipline, self-denial and putting to death the “old man/woman” which is our sinful nature. Jonathan Edwards, the great 17th century pastor and theologian, said that the only thing that the Devil cannot counterfeit is the true humility that comes from confession, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. That is precisely how we put to death the old man/woman and deal with our sin addiction. That is not possible unless we are true Christians walking in the Spirit by faith.
You get the point.
But do you?
Most of us live life from one day to the next, thoughtless of the implications of our actions, heedless of the consequences of a passive, go-with-the-flow mentality that so characterizes Christians (especially in the West). Affluence has made us soft. Discipline is a dirty word. We have lost our horizon, our hope, our motivation. Most of us are not even in the struggle. We are not even at the level of the demons who believe in God and tremble (because they know they are in trouble). Most of us take our walk with God for granted. Most of us don’t even accept that our mission in life is Kingdom Evangelism (although the Bible is abundantly clear about it). Most of us don’t “make every effort” to live a Kingdom lifestyle of stewardship, evangelism and discipleship. We poke a stick at it sometimes to see if it is still alive, but discipline, self-denial, and putting to death our old way of life? Very few. A remnant.
That should worry us. Deeply.
Of course, if it does worry us then we are probably true Christians who are about to embark on a transformed way of life in the power of the Holy Spirit by faith. So I hope you are worried, and stirred by this discussion. But now it is time to get to work. Without condemnation. Without guilt. Without perfectionism. Think in terms of continuous improvement. Real life will get in the way. But you are not your own. You have been bought with a price. Therefore, spiritual discipline, new habits, new intentions and expectations are normal. Learning how to live this way is called discipleship. Now that you know the truth, blessed is he who walks in it.
The Desert Warrior
P.S. Let’s talk to God….
Lord, I want to be a true disciple. Discipline scares me a little bit and self-denial and putting to death my old man is just downright terrifying. I don’t think I can do it alone. And I know I don’t have to. I believe in your promise to give me strength to do you will, Lord. And I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this is your will. I want to overcome my old man and walk in newness of life. I want to count myself dead to sin and alive to you. Because that is the truth. Help me to walk this roman road with purpose, with intention, with hope. In your name I pray. Amen.