Sermon Podcast Audio
Whole and Holy in the New Year
I love New Year’s celebrations, not for the drunken debauchery or for trying and failing to stay up until midnight, but because it gives me the opportunity to consider what I want to change going into the new year. That and New Year’s Eve is my anniversary, so that’s special too!
I’m sure I’m not the only one who uses the new year to make at least one new year’s resolution. Statistically, I know I’m not the only one because a recent poll showed that 79% of people, essentially 4 out of 5, have made a new year’s resolution at least once in his or her life. This is a very natural time for some introspection about what has gone well or not so well and what you can do to make the next year better.
But what does better look like? That’s what our new sermon series for the next 6 weeks intends to answer. As we have been promoting this series for several weeks, we have been saying, “Being Whole and Holy in the New Year.” And I love that phrase — Whole and Holy.
That was a phrase used at my seminary to point us toward becoming the men and women God wanted us to be.
- First we are to be whole — or complete. That means that every aspect of our lives is functioning well. If you’re in great physical shape with great relationships, but your finances are a mess — You’re not whole. You’re struggling.
- Second, we are to be holy — our lives are to be pure and honor God.
- Whole and holy, put together — this means our lives are to be complete, with every aspect honoring God, working the way he designed for us.
And who wouldn’t want that for their life? Unfortunately, most of us can name at least one area of our life where we don’t feel very whole, much less holy. Most of you, given just the few short minutes of this introduction, can already name areas in your life where you would like to grow and see improvement.
I’ve already gone through this exercise twice in the past week. And no — I didn’t just do this for today’s message; I have done this for the past several years.
- I spent an hour with my discipleship partner talking about where we each had our greatest successes and failures, where we want to grow spiritually, and how we can be better parents and husbands.
- Then I had a coffee date with my wife to talk about how we are doing as a couple and as individuals. We talked about fitness goals and what we needed to do to achieve those goals. We discussed our finances and where we wanted to be at the end of the year. We talked about how we can alleviate stress and become more mentally and emotionally healthy.
- I did this so that I know what to work on in the coming year, and what steps I need to take to move forward in growth.
And this is the process we hope this series takes you through over the next 6 weeks as we look at being BodyFit, RelationFit, MentalFit, EmotionFit, SpiritFit, and MoneyFit.
Today we begin our series on the topic we’re calling BodyFit because, well, goals pertaining to physical fitness and health are the most commonly made new year’s resolutions. Over half of America has made a physical wellness goal before — so I know this is something you can all relate to. Maybe you never have, but that just means your spouse DEFINITELY has! (That’s how statistics work!)
The problem with this message, however, is that neither Brent, Amy, or I felt qualified to teach this message. None of us have 6-packs, are running 5Ks, or eat salad each night. So, I’m up here because I was last to do nose goes. Fortunately, as I studied what it means to be BodyFit and what God wants for us, I realized there is so much more to talk about than giving you diet tips.
Paul’s Teaching on Use of Our Bodies
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about the importance of how they use their physical bodies.
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. —1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Let’s quickly break down this passage.
- The first thing we learn about our bodies is that they are temples of the Holy Spirit. Essentially they are vessels for God’s presence in this world. How does God act in this world? Most often through us, by the leading of the Holy Spirit. And our bodies act as vessels for the Holy Spirit. The presence of God operates in this world through us — through our physical bodies.
- The second thing we learn about our bodies is that they are not our own, but were bought for us. They are a gift paid for by God. We didn’t earn our bodies or form our bodies. God gave them to us. We see in Psalm 139 how God knit us together in our mother’s wombs. It says there that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
- Paul concludes this thought by saying that if our bodies are a vessel for God and are a gift from God, then our response should be to Honor God with our bodies.
While this text seems very clear and to the point, it’s amazing how different people use this same text to draw vastly different conclusions.
This is the text I was taught as a child meant that it was a sin to smoke or drink or get any tattoos. “You can’t deface the temple of the Holy Spirit,” my mom would tell me.
But the funny thing is, this section of scripture actually begins by talking about freedom.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. —1 Corinthians 6:12
This is the paradox of Christianity, we ARE free from long lists of legal standards but moral absolutes still remain. While we have freedom in the Spirit, we also must realize that not everything we do is beneficial and that we should never be mastered by habits and addictions we cannot quit.
While Paul does not tell us exactly what it means to honor God with our bodies (though he does specifically tell us that we should not be with prostitutes), he does point us to the idea that caring for our physical body is important. Why? Because in the next verse he tells us that our bodies are “For the Lord.” Let’s take a look.
You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. —1 Corinthians 6:13
You see, the Corinthians were trying to justify their sexual immorality as saying, “But Paul, we have freedom. We can do what we want with our bodies. God made our bodies for sex, so we should enjoy it all we can.” And Paul says, “Nope. Your body wasn’t created for sex. It was created for the Lord. It was formed by God’s hand for a greater purpose, so stop feeling like you have freedom to use and abuse it however you want!”
So, what Paul teaches us about our body is:
- it is for the Lord
- it is a vessel of God’s presence
- it is a gift
- it is meant to be used to honor God
From those points, I want to draw a few conclusions about God’s desire for our bodies.
God’s Desire for our Bodies
1) Stewardship is important to God
It’s tempting to think the only reason we are even talking about taking care of our bodies is because it’s the first Sunday in January, but don’t fall for it.
Think for a moment what would have happened to Christianity if Paul had been so unhealthy he couldn’t have traveled by foot. Or what if Billy Graham was always sick in bed because his diet caused him health issues?
We can only do great things for God if we have bodies that are capable of doing those things! So let’s maintain these bodies as long as God gives us. While they may not be perfect and may not be what we might have picked for ourselves, they are the gift God gave us to use for his glory.
2) Use it to please God, not flesh
But let’s also remember these bodies are to be used for HIS glory and not our own. Some people take great care of their bodies. They don’t need to hear about how to be healthier because they’re already the picture of health. They have a thin waist, defined muscles, and incredible speed and stamina because they focus so intently on how they look and how they perform.
But they have twisted the good gift God has given them and turned their bodies into an idol they worship — putting all their time and attention into making their body better rather than using their healthy body to honor God. And that’s not right either. Pursue a healthy body for God’s glory and not your own.
On the flip side, some people use their bodies to satisfy all their own carnal cravings. When you are sad or stressed, do you turn to comfort foods to help you feel better? Or do you ever say no to a piece of dessert, even when you already feel stuffed? For some of us, our lack of self-control leads us to pursue our own tiny slice of pleasure in ways that don’t bring pleasure or honor to God and that’s not right. Now I’m not saying that having a divine piece of chocolate cake is a sin. But if you’re turning to that cake to cope with heartache rather than turning to God, then perhaps it is.
3) Avoid activities that destroy
I think it’s fairly common-sense to avoid the things that destroy the gift God gave to you, but sometimes a lack of self-control, or a habit or addiction makes it harder to avoid than you might think. Fortunately, tons of resources exist to help you kick any habit that is destroying your body like smoking, drugs, or excessive drinking.
Sometimes, the reason you fail to avoid an activity that is destroying your body is because you aren’t aware it’s causing any damage. Some of you may not realize that your poor diet, sexual immorality, or your workaholic tendencies are damaging your body every single day and reducing your future ability to honor God with a healthy body. So, take a moment to consider what you might be doing that is damaging the vessel God wants to work through.
4) Do activities that promote health
Last, we need to do the right things that promote health. But first, I think we need to define physical health. Health isn’t a number on a scale. It isn’t miles jogged or trips to a gym or a waist size. A huge problem in America is tying the ideas of health to being thin. That’s an inaccurate correlation.
- We need to understand that you can be thin and still be totally unhealthy. Many young women are anorexic or bulimic and so they are very thin – but not healthy. Additionally, not all heavy people are unhealthy gluttons. Some heavy people have bad genes, hormonal issues, or a past injury preventing them from exercising. Meanwhile, their skinny counterparts might have no self-control at the buffet, but think that doesn’t count as gluttony because the scale doesn’t say so.
- My point is that we need to stop assuming that thin means healthy and healthy means thin. It’s not that simple.
But enough about what it means to be healthy — I know you want to know what I have to say about what are the specific things you should be doing to promote physical health. It’s actually a lot more than pumping iron at the gym and eating rabbit food.
- Eating Healthy — how much you eat is as important as what you eat. Remember: everything in moderation. A little bit of chocolate is okay. Two tablespoons of salt on your carrot sticks — while it won’t make you gain weight — is NOT okay.
- Exercise you Enjoy – Let’s face it, most of us have sedentary jobs or lifestyles and we really don’t want to work out just to work out. But then you should find a physical activity you enjoy and spend time doing it. I don’t enjoy running or biking or long walks with my dogs. But I enjoy playing basketball — so that’s what I do twice a week. And I’m less likely to make an excuse to skip it because it’s something I actually enjoy.
- Proper Sleep — Your body needs rest. Numerous studies show that lack of sleep puts you are greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and anxiety. Plus, it causes weight gain, ages your skin, makes you more forgetful and more accident prone, and reduces your decision-making ability. And who doesn’t wish they could get more sleep? The question is, will you do something to re-order your life so you can get to bed earlier or sleep in later? Your health depends on it. Or you might say, sleeping more honors God!
- Sex in Marriage — I think I’ve said enough about that. Discuss over lunch.
- Life / Work Balance – For some of you, your lack of physical health stems from too many hours at work or bussing kids around and too few hours for yourself. You don’t have any time to spend making a healthy meal or doing an activity because you are constantly on the go. Being healthy takes time. But it’s time spent you won’t ever resent.
My challenge for you today is to pursue physical health. Skinny isn’t the goal. Being whole and holy is. Maintaining a healthy physical body for as many years as God gives you is the goal. And then using your body in a holy way to honor God — that’s the goal.
My hope is that somewhere in this message, you heard an idea that sparked for you a change you need to make to increase your physical health. I wish I could give you a more comprehensive list of things to do, but health is a continuum and each of us has a different next step. Fortunately, tons of resources exist online to point you forward.
As you leave here today, be courageous enough to take a next step. Tell somebody what change you want to make and allow them to ask you how it’s going. While we may not be making this a church-wide campaign to lose 1000 lbs (praise God, we’re not doing weigh-ins), let’s support one another in becoming physically healthier in 2016.
Your body is a vessel for God and a gift from God — Use it to glorify Him this year!