Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 28, 2003
Holy & Free, Part 15 – Holy Bodies
Today we come to the 15th part in our series on being Holy and Free. As those who have been redeemed from our sin through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, we want to honor our Lord by pursing holiness in our lives. As those made free from the curse of righteousness by works of the law, we do not want to go back into legalism. We want to live in the freedom Jesus Christ gives us while daily becoming more like Him.
This morning we come to the topic of your body. What are you supposed to do with it and how are you supposed to treat it? The foundational question here is what makes you who you are.
What are You?
While this question may seem philosophical and irrelevant to daily life, your answer to it, whether you are cognitive of it or not, affects what you do every day. There are many philosophies that influence what a person thinks about themselves. Ideas range from completely materialistic to completely mystical. While there are not that many that hold to the extremes, those views do affect us in daily life.
For example, evolutionary thought has had a huge impact on the thinking in the western world. Most people reject the extreme aspects of this materialistic worldview for, as Romans 1 describes, God has made Himself evident to man, and it takes effort to try and shut out the innate knowledge that there is a spiritual realm which we cannot physically sensed. Yet, the materialism of this philosophy affects a large portion of our society. This philosophy is the basis for both private and government programs that treat people as simply complex animals. Some consider man to be a product of environment, instinct and learned behaviors, therefore they pass out condoms at the high school because they do not believe the kids are capable of self control. Others view man as simply a string of complex chemical reactions. Any improper behavior is due to improper chemical reactions and sequences, so the solution is drug therapy of some kind.
Other philosophies agree that there is an immaterial aspect to man, but they go astray because they are not rooted in God’s revelation of what that spiritual nature is like. One extreme emphasizes man’s spiritual aspect so much that what the body does or how it is treated is not considered to be important. Another philosophy holds that the physical part of man is bad while the spiritual part is good. These are old ideas that were even battled by the Apostle John. The results of them range from hedonism of letting the body do anything it wants because it does not matter, to extreme asceticism with masochistic elements as the spiritual nature seeks to subdue the physical nature.
What does the Bible say about what you are? What are the parts that make you, you? While that question could get us into a long and detailed discussion about constitution of man including dichotomy and trichotomy, we will not do so. That discussion is for advanced theology students and not of great relevance to our discussion this morning which is centered in the practical aspects of living for God. All you need to understand this morning is that there is a both a material and an immaterial aspect to man, for a basic Biblical understanding of the relationship between the two will go a long way in helping us live in a manner pleasing to God.
What are some of the relevant scriptures?
First, there is Genesis 1:26-27 and 2:7 which records the creation of man. “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (1:26,27). “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (2:7).
These two passages separate man from all other created beings. Man shares similarities with animals in his physical makeup, but he is radically different in his immaterial makeup. Man is made in the image of God from Whom he received the breath of life and became a living soul (nephesh). Animals have breath (neshamah) and spirit (ruach) (Gen. 7:22), but they are not made in the image of God nor do they have a living soul. Materialistic philosophies deny this. They see the resemblance of man’s physical characteristics with animals and conclude that man is ultimately nothing more than an animal.
While theologians have debated for thousands of years about all that is meant by the idea that God made man in His image, this much is clear. God made man with three fundamental characteristics that reflect Himself: reason, emotion and volition. Man can think both concretely and abstractly. He can feel, and he can make decisions based on reason, emotion or both. Being made in the image of God, man is also to be a reflection of God’s communicable attributes such as love, goodness, grace, mercy, truth, longsuffering, patience, justice, righteousness and holiness. The ability to be these things was damaged by the fall of man into sin, and only through Jesus Christ can they be developed as God intended, but even in our sinful state man strives for these characteristics.
Animals do not reflect the image of God. People try to set up tests to try and show that they do, but they don’t. The January 2004 National Geographic article reports on a test on animal self-awareness. The results are ambiguous at best, but as the article states, “The stakes are high: At issue is the degree to which humans are different from other creatures. Are we special, or just . . . conceited?” The answer is, of course, that humans are special because they are made in God’s image. Darwinian philosophy wants to remove that.
But even if certain human qualities are demonstrated in animals, the difference between man and animals is still insurmountable because man is a living soul and an animal is not. Man also reflects God for he has a being that will continue through eternity. The physical death of a human is not the end of that human. His soul will continue to exist whereas when an animal dies, that is the end of it.
Man has two fundamental aspects to his nature. A material, physical part made from the earth, and an immaterial, spiritual part breathed in by God. We are all aware of our physical parts – arms, legs, fingers, toes, head, torso, organs, hormones, blood, etc., and seek to take good care of them. We want to not only be physically healthy, but we want all our body parts to be satisfied and comfortable too. That at times will get us in trouble because, as 1 John 2:15 warns, there are things the flesh lusts for that are not proper or that we strive to satisfy in an improper way. Holiness in body is not denial of the flesh, but it is allowing the flesh to be satisfied only in the ways that are proper before God.
We are also aware of our immaterial parts, at least to a limited degree. We are aware of having consciousness, mind, heart, soul and a spirit of life. Scripture speaks of each of these components of our immaterial being (Matt. 6:21; 16:23; 22:37; 1 Samuel 24:5; Acts 24:16; etc.). Heart, in Biblical figurative usage, refers to the innermost part of man and seems to be the center of volition (ability to choose) and so encompasses thought and will. The hearts of the unsaved are far from God (Mark 7:6) while the hearts of the saved are being cleansed by faith (Acts 15:9). Mind, in Biblical usage, is where reality comes together by means of the rational cognitive abilities of man, and so appears to be the seat of reasoning and logic. The minds of the unsaved are futile and darkened (Eph. 4:17,18), blinded by the devil (2 Cor. 4:4), defiled (Titus 1:15) and can become depraved (Rom. 1:28). The mind of the saved is being renewed (Rom. 12:2). The conscience is more than just self-awareness but also includes moral judgement (Rom. 2:15), and as such serves as a moral guide. While there is an aspect of the conscience that is innate and bears witness of God (Romans 1:18-21; 2:14,15), the conscience can also be trained (1 Tim. 1:5) or wounded (1 Cor. 8:12), defiled (1 Cor. 8:7), and seared (1 Tim. 4:2). There is a lot of debate about exactly what is meant by spirit and soul, since the words are often interchanged with each other, especially in reference to that part of man that lives on after physical death. Soul seems to be more of a reference to the inner life of man and therefore the seat of his will, emotion, affections, passions and appetites while spirit seems to be more of a reference to the principle of life in action in him which controls the body.
We also try to take care of these immaterial parts of us by keeping our minds active and our emotions feeling good. Again, 1 John 2:15 warns us that our efforts to satisfy them could become worldly if we let our “lusts of the eyes and boastful pride of life” take over. To be holy, we must make sure our minds and emotions are satisfied only in ways that are proper before God.
While we know the material and immaterial aspects that make us human are distinct from each other, since the material part will decay while the immaterial part will continue past physical death, we also know that both of these interact in some way that remains a mystery. For example, our thoughts are themselves immaterial, yet they are also a product of the working of our physical brain. Our emotions are also immaterial, yet they can be so strong that they affect us physically. The opposite is also true, because when we are physically sick, it can affect both our emotions and our ability to think clearly.
This is an important point, because there are times when we may feel bad physically, but the problem is actually a spiritual one or just the opposite. In addition, there are times when we may even know we have a spiritual problem, but we will try to solve it through a physical means anyway, or vica versa. This principle will be important to us when we examine some of the particulars about striving to be holy in body in a few minutes.
One final point concerning our physical and spiritual make up is the relative importance of each. While our tendency is to give more care to the physical body in the here and now, Jesus makes it clear that preparing for eternity is more important.
In Matthew 5:29,30 Jesus used hyperbole to emphasize the importance of battling sin and not yielding to temptation. He said, “And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 “And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.” Obviously Jesus did not mean that a person could control their sinful urges by such drastic action, because a man who yields his right eye or hand to sin will sin with the left ones if the right ones are not available. The point here is that the soul is so much more important than the physical body that it is better to have parts of your body perish if it means salvation for your soul.
In Matthew 10:28 Jesus warned His disciples, “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The point of the passage is that we should not fear men who at their worst can only kill the body, but rather we should fear God who is capable of destroying both body and soul in hell. But notice again the greater importance of the soul as compared to the body.
Matthew 4:4 also makes this point. Jesus responded to the devil’s temptation to turn rocks into bread in order to feed Himself by quoting from Deut. 8:3 that “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” The devil wanted Jesus to put supreme importance on the hunger of his physical body, but Jesus put supreme importance on the spiritual aspect of the conflict which was to trust God to provide in His timing.
We must apply these same truths to our own lives as we seek to honor God with the care and usage of our physical bodies. The spiritual is more important than the physical for the eternal is more important than the temporal. Humans are complex beings with the material and immaterial aspects affecting one another.
Diet is our first practical area, and its first issue is what can you eat? How do you respond to those who advocate Old Testament dietary laws or make up their own as a means of either improving their health, spirituality or both? First, understand that the Old Testament dietary laws were a means by which the Israelites set themselves apart from other people. Acts 10 tells us that those laws were set aside after the resurrection of Jesus. The Lord told Peter in a vision that he was to “kill and eat” including things that were against the Mosaic law. The Lord responded to Peter’s objections saying, What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”
Paul sets out the principle of spirituality and diet in Romans 14:17 stating, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” What you eat or don’t eat has nothing to do with being spiritual. Paul made the point in verse 6 that “he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.” You are free in Christ to eat or not eat as you decide is best before God because not everyone has faith to take full advantage of their freedom (Rom. 14:14,23).
Paul is even stronger about dietary restrictions in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 because they are the doctrine of demons. He says, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”
Some place restrictions on their diets for health reasons. That is fine. I avoid certain foods because my body reacts to them, and I get sick. At the same time, I know I can eat things that make other people sick. While I am free to tell others what has been helpful to me, I cannot tell other people that they must do the same thing. It may or may not be good for them, for their body is different from mine. What constitutes a healthy diet for you is probably best determined by a nutritionist in consultation with your doctor along with your own research and experience. It will vary from person to person.
There are those that advocate Old Testament dietary restrictions for health reasons. They make their case by pointing out examples such as avoiding pork also avoids trichinosis. That is true, but poor theology, because you also avoid trichinosis by properly cooking the pork. Some advocate going back to the vegetarian diet of Adam and Eve. Perhaps that would be fine if we knew all the foods available to them and our soils were as rich as those in the Garden of Eden so that the fruit would be as nutritious, but we don’t and they are not. God added meat to the man’s diet after the flood (Gen. 9:3) for a reason. There is no health benefit, either theologically or practically, to keeping an Old Testament diet.
What about weight? We are just finishing up the period of holiday feasting, and many of us will be going on weight loss diets next week in order to shed the extra pounds gained. That is all well and good, but we need to understand that the Bible does not make being fat an issue. In fact, we find that being fat was often considered to be good and even a sign of God’s blessing (Neh. 9:25; Prov. 13:4). That does not mean that you should be fat, because it could be a health concern, a restriction on your ability to serve the Lord, or even just selfishness that does not consider the thoughts and feelings of those that love you.
What the Bible does speak against is gluttony (Deut. 21:20; Proverbs 23:20; 23:21; 28:7; Titus 1:12). The problem with gluttony is the attitude, not the food. A person could be thin and still be a glutton. The bulimic is. Instead of God being the center of life, food becomes the focus. When and what will we eat? It varies among different people, but food substitutes for God in bringing satisfaction, or comfort, or even security. An ice cream cone becomes the adult pacifier. There is also the inherent greed of consuming, literally, what could be given to those who are in need (Eph. 4:28) or spent in furthering the ministry of the Kingdom of Christ. The anorexic has the same basic problem except the preoccupation is with avoiding food in order to stay thin. They view themselves in terms other than who they are to be in Jesus Christ. The focus is self instead of God.
In living a holy life, food is fine and you are free to enjoy whatever food you desire as you give thanks to God. The many Biblical feasts certainly indicate that. However, when food gets more of your attention than the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are in err and have strayed from holiness. In 1 Corinthians 6:13 Paul quotes a Greek axiom and then corrects it. Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food; but God will do away with both of them. You are more than a physical being. Live for Christ, not what you feed your body.
There are two extremes to exercise. Those that make it a major part of their life and those that completely neglect it. There are no definitive passages on how much physical exercise a person should get, other than the balance suggested by Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:5-7. In this passage Paul speaks of the self-discipline in physical training that athletes must have in order to win the race. Paul uses that as an analogy to the self-discipline of his own body in order that he might live according to what he has preached. While you are certainly free to exercise or not excise as you believe would be honoring to the Lord, the key is honoring the Lord. It is not honoring to God to spend so much time in physical exercise that you neglect spiritual exercises of spending time worshiping the Lord and serving Him. At the same time, it is not honoring to the Lord to neglect physical exercise to the point where you are so out of shape that you are physically hindered from serving the Lord with your gifts. Our focus is to be the Lord, not our bodies. Any physical exercise should be done so that we can be healthy and physically able to serve the Lord. Those who work out because they want their bodies to have a certain shape are narcissistic with its sin of selfishness and pride.
Health is also an issue in having a holy body. Certainly we should strive to be as healthy as reasonably possible because it is easier to serve the Lord while healthy than when sick. Even Jesus understood the limitations of the physical body and sought to care for its need for rest and food (Mark 6:31f). But we need to keep the proper balance here, for God can also use us when we are sick. Some people are so focused on staying healthy and avoiding pain, physical or emotional, that they are hindered in their service to the Lord. We live in a sin fallen world and sickness and pain are part of it. While we reasonably avoid what we can, we do not let fear keep us from doing what is right and in serving the Lord. It did not stop Paul (2 Cor. 11) and it should not stop us.
We should also remember that while sickness and pain may hinder us in serving the Lord, they are not an excuse that should stop us or hinder our relationship with God. God often uses sickness and pain to draw us closer to Himself. In addition, the comfort we receive from the Lord when we are suffering is the comfort we will share with others with they are afflicted (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
As a side note, I want to briefly tackle 1 Corinthians 6:19 that your body is the temple of God which is often brought up by people as the reason you should not practice some habit they think is unhealthy, for example, smoking. Your body as the temple of God has nothing to do with trying to keep it healthy. If that were true you would have to refrain from every unhealthy practice and do every healthy practice according to current knowledge, which tends to change frequently anyway. Were you aware that in the 1800’s, smoking was considered to be a healthy practice? Do we still have to eat oatmeal? What is the cholesterol count in that cheese cake and a thousand other foods? And what about the 8 oz of wine per day that has shown to be beneficial to the heart? And considering all the additives in our foods, are we to cut out most restaurants and prepared foods and everyone go back to cooking from scratch?
In our example of smoking, I am certainly not an advocate of putting weeds in your mouth and lighting them on fire, but personal health may or may not be an issue, and if so, it is not because your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, but rather because it hinders you from serving the Lord to the best of your ability. More important issues to keep you from smoking or to get you to stop could be the health of other people or the economics involved. Is it wise stewardship? If health was the issue, then a Christian could not work or even go into a place where people were smoking
The issue in the passage is treating your body as something that is holy. Holiness and health may often go together, but not necessarily. Daniel and his friends refused the king’s meat because they considered it unholy, not because they were vegetarians and considered it unhealthy (Daniel 1). Treating the body as a holy vessel is very important in the next issue – sensuality.
We live in a society that can be very hedonistic, so it is easy to get caught in the trap of striving to make ourselves feel good and physically comfortable in all situations. There is nothing inherently wrong about being comfortable or in doing something that you enjoy. The ascetics are wrong in their belief that they are more holy if they suffer more discomfort and pain. Reading the Bible on your knees on a bare concrete floor is not more holy than reading it sitting in an overstuffed chair, (unless you keep falling asleep sitting in the chair). The problem comes when your pursuit of comfort or pleasure interferes with your pursuit of godliness.
There are all sorts of different things that bring people pleasure or make them more comfortable. There are myriads of hobbies, and millions of gadgets to make your life more comfortable. Two questions that need to be asked concerning them are: 1) Is this pleasurable thing or activity good, evil or neutral? Obviously evil things should be eliminated. If the thing or activity does not fit the grid of Philippians 4:8, (whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praise worthy), then eliminate it from your life. The second question: Does this thing or activity hinder my pursuit of God and serving Him? For example, watching football, like many hobbies, is a neutral activity, but if it becomes more important to you than the priorities God has set for you – your devotional life, your worship of Him, fulfilling your role in your family, etc. Then it is a hindrance and should be curtailed or eliminated.
A Christian that is pursuing sanctification will find their greatest pleasure in pleasing Christ. Nothing else can compare to it. Col. 1:10 tells us that we should walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please [Him] in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. You cannot please the Lord if your fleshly desires are more important to you than the Lord (Rom. 8:8). Paul even warns that the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God and brings death (Romans 8:6,7). He makes it clear in Galatians 5:16 that you cannot walk in the Spirit and the flesh at the same time. One or the other will manifest itself. The deeds of the flesh are seen in “immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.” At the same time, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:19-23).
Earlier I quoted 1 Corinthians 6:13, but the passage actually deals immorality. The rest of the verse says, Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. The Greek axiom, food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food, reflected their philosophy that sexuality was the same as eating food. Paul made it clear that neither is true. Your body is for the Lord. Paul corrects them on their practice and concludes in verses 18-20 saying, Flee immorality. Every [other] sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
There is a proper sensuality and physical pleasure that is to exist within marriage. Passages such as Song of Solomon and Proverbs 5:15-19 make this clear. The Scriptures are also definite that such pursuit outside of marriage is flagrant sin, for adultery, fornication and perversions are all listed over and over again as sin (Exod. 20:14; Lev. 18; Matt. 5:28; Heb. 13:4). Why? Not because God is a cosmic killjoy, but because His plan for a man and woman is marriage. When a husband and wife are pursing godliness they sacrificially give of themselves for the other’s benefit. In such a marriage each partner pleases the other and the sensual pleasures of marriage deepen the unity of the relationship. When people are not married those same pursuits eat away at the relationship because of the inherent selfishness of men and women to please themselves. They seek to get instead of give. Surveys have consistently shown that it is married people that are the most satisfied.
But even in a godly marriage, sensuality is a side issue. Eph. 5:31,32 makes it clear that the purpose of marriage is to bring glory to God. 1 Cor. 7:5 shows that there are times to set aside sensuality for the purpose of focused prayer before coming back together.
The issue here is that your body is not for yourself, but for the Lord’s glory. If you are married, your body does not belong to you, but to your spouse (1 Cor. 7:4). If you are not married, your body belongs to your future spouse. In either case, if you are a Christian, you belong to the Lord. You are not the issue. The Lord is the issue. Is your manner in which you use and treat your body glorifying Him?
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the word “body” is said. Talk with your parents about how you should be treating your body.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What do you think makes up what you are? How much have you been affected by non-Biblical philosophies? In what ways are you like an animal? In what ways are you different? What does it mean to be made in the image of God? What part of you, material or immaterial, is more important? Why? What is the Christian allowed to eat? Why? What restrictions are there? What does the Bible say about being fat? What is gluttony? What is its root? How much do you think about food? What should be the purpose of physical exercise? How important should keeping healthy to the Christian? How does the Lord use sickness and pain in a Christian’s life? What does it mean that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19)? What ramifications, if any, does this have on staying healthy? Consider your hobbies and the things you do to be comfortable and ask these questions concerning them: A) Is this pleasurable thing or activity good, evil or neutral? B)Does this thing or activity hinder my pursuit of God and serving Him? Make a plan to change what needs to be changed. What is God’s view of human sexuality?
Sermon Notes – December 28, 2003
Holy & Free, Part 15 – Holy Bodies
What are You?
Relative Importance: Matthew 5:29,30; 10:28; 4:4f
What can you eat?
What about weight?
Spirit vs. Flesh
Sexuality – 1 Corinthians 6:13-20
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