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Typically, after a long holiday season and the approach of another new year, the fitness centers in your community fill up as people take the plunge and make a pledge to fight the battle of the bulge. The reason this resolution is so typical is that many people have a problem with their weight. Losing weight and taking better care of your body is an excellent idea, as well as a biblical one, so let me go ahead and get these verses out-of-the-way since you’re anticipating them anyway.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
These are great verses, and I am sure they are not new to you. Perhaps you have read them, but you are still battling the bulge. May I be honest? Sometimes the Word of God comes across as a book of black letters on white pages—especially if you do not approach the Bible biblically.
The words in the Bible are not magic words. There is power, but that power does not work passively, randomly, or arbitrarily. The power of the Word works in proportion to your proper engagement with those Words while actively praying, authentically seeking, humbly expecting, practically applying, and transparently living in the context of community.
If you think wrongly about the change process, you can become disappointed when circumstances like your weight do not change. The issue is not so much over-relying on the Word of God as it is a lack of understanding of what the process of change requires. It is like giving a child instruction to do right, but he does not follow through with your guidance because he does not know how to do that. The words appear to fall on deaf ears. God’s Word can fall on deaf ears, too (Hebrews 5:11-14). Therefore, you must,
As you do these things, there is a good chance you can change. With these ideas in mind, take a look at how you can bring the Word of God to bear on being overweight. Let’s begin with two fundamental questions:
I love those questions because it is imperative to make gospel connections to your life. The gospel is the starting point and the sustaining power for your sanctification. To lose weight makes the gospel question an important one. Therefore, you ask, “What does the gospel have to do with overeating?” There are two ways to think about and apply the gospel to the problem of overeating:
One of Christian discipleship’s advantages over secular self-help is how the Christian discipler is not satisfied with behavioral modification. While you want to change your behaviors—eating poorly or too much—you understand the necessity of resolving your problem at the source of the problem. As Jesus said,
Out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).
Jesus tied the tongue—the words you use (symptom) to the heart—who you are (core problem). You find a connection between the words you use and your heart. Similarly, being overweight is not an external problem that has no relationship to your inner self—who you are at the core of your being. You are not biblically allowed to say, “I’m fat,” and act as though your external condition disconnects from the internal state of your heart. For example, here is a shortlist of potential heart problems a Christian discipler wants to explore with a person who is overweight:
Are any of these characteristics part of who you are? If so, there is a more significant issue in play, which is in addition to overeating or making poor food choices. Though there are a few people where obesity can be an organic problem only, it would be unwise to neglect a fuller exploration of the whole person before settling on organic exclusivity. In the majority of cases with overweight people, it is a soul problem too.
From the list above, you can see how your deeper issues can feed your temptations to overeat. The real news is how the gospel can speak specifically to a person struggling with those core, underlying issues. The gospel brings hope and help to the craving heart, and with that kind of internal support, the overweight person eventually experiences change on the outside.
The gospel teaches how the Lord executed His Son (Isaiah 53:10) on the cross to redeem helpless and hopeless people (Ephesians 2:8-9). Your soul was the most expensive purchase ever made. But the gospel goes beyond redemption. After the good Lord regenerated you, He began to abide in you and you in Him (John 15:4). Thus, you make these four admissions:
Because of the gospel, you want to make His name great in your community. You want to manifest the transformative power of the gospel to all those who are desperate for the hope it offers. It is essential that you provide your body as a sacrifice to your Lord (Romans 12:1-2), as a vessel that shows off the wonder-working power of the gospel in your life.
If you are not rightly and practically affected by the truths of the gospel, you are not in line with the gospel (Galatians 2:14). The more sobering fact you must deal with is the potential of suppressing the gospel because of the way you live (Romans 1:18). Altering the truth is more than being an overweight issue. I am talking about your affection for Christ.
You do not want your life to be in vain (1 Corinthians 9:27). If the power of the gospel bought all of you, body and soul, you need to figure out how to practically live out all of the inheritance your Father provides for you (1 Peter 1:4).
If your mind (heart) is more affected by Christ than by food, you are in the perfect position to deal with the real problem of overeating. Thus, you must come to terms with a comprehensive understanding of how sin operates in your life. I will do this by choosing one of the core heart issues listed above—a lack of self-control.
In this instance, part of the person’s problem is a lack of self-control. This vital aspect of the Spirit’s fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) is not actively and practically working in her life. Let’s examine self-control. Let’s examine self-control. A person who has little self-control in one area of her life will have self-control issues in other spheres too. For example, a lady who has trouble controlling her eating habits is overweight.
Minimally, she lacks self-control in this one area of her life, but as you talk to her, you will realize she lacks self-control in several other sectors, like worry, anxiousness, fear, and anger. Sin does not discriminate. Sin seeks to destroy your entire soul, not just part of it. It will explore every possible area of your life, with the hope of spreading its poison. Rarely will you find a person who struggles with self-control fighting only in one area like overeating.
Here is a possible sin list regarding an overweight person who has a lack of self-control. Notice how a lack of self-control snakes its way into many other areas of her life:
When she first perceives a lack of self-control in all these areas, it can be overwhelming and discouraging. It is like finding the first termite in your home, but you realize the infestation of the destructive bugs is in the entire house upon further investigation.
People typically think the best approach for combating a permeating and pervasive sin like a lack of self-control is to bring every area of their lives back into control at the same time. This approach usually ends with frustration while convincing the overwhelmed person that further attempts to gain control are futile. The temptation to despair begs the question: Is it wise to attack every area simultaneously? I do not think so. At least not always.
Key Idea: One of the best ways to learn and practice the habit of self-control is to tackle one area of your life that is out of control rather than every area. As you attack this single area, you will begin to learn how to eventually attack all the other areas of your life that are out-of-control. Here is a list of a few things you will experience as you gain victory in one area:
In time, you attack other problem areas in your life because you have learned how to mature in this one area. You can take any problem, e.g., poor sleep habits, gossiping, addictions, working too much, shopping too often, and apply these ideas to them and gain victory throughout your life.
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