September 29, 2020

“It Was There, So I Ate It”

Philippians 3:17 Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. 18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite (belly), they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. 20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

Let me describe the essence of Christmas holidays in our house:

“It was there, so I ate it.” (Or in the case of egg nog, “It was there, so I drank it….and bought more….and drank it.”)

Anyone else feelin’ me on this one?

You’re standing in the kitchen eating a cookie. You aren’t hungry. You don’t need it. You really don’t even want it. You don’t like the taste of the cookie for cryin’ out loud!

But it was there, so you ate it.

Make fun of Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven” thing all you want, but at least the idea is to have a purpose, as opposed to being ruled over by boredom and the need to chew on something.

Paul may be a deep theologian, but he could use some vivid descriptions when he wanted to. Like “Their God is their belly.”

(Anyone else hearing that line in a Scottish accent? Sorta rhyming with “babies?”)

Here’s your choice: The Trinitarian God of the Bible or your belly. Father, Son and Holy Spirit in eternal, dynamic, loving relationship with one another and the world….or your stomach. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of Scripture, the God of Isaiah and Revelation and Daniel….or your appetites.

But you see…it was there, so I ate it.

What’s “there?” “There” is “available to the senses.” “There” is “present now to satisfy me now.” “There” is real, not imaginary.

It was “There,” so I ate it. It didn’t even take a snake to talk me into it.

Actually, to tell the truth, a lot of us spend our lives looking for whatever is “there” so we can “eat it.” It’s so much easier than the risks of walking a different path. It’s so much more familiar and predictable and secure than the risks of faith. It’s safe, and the “belly” says “This is what you want. Trust me on that one.”

We’re a collection of appetites, and none of them- not security, food, sex, significance, glory, safety, money, pleasure, amusement- are God. None of them are reliable guides to the way of a disciple of Jesus.

Paul says to the Philippians, follow my example. Not your appetite.

Follow the way that I have pointed out to you over and over again with tears.

Look at the way you are living, and measure it against those who place no value on Christ, have no time for Christ and are walking away from Christ and his Kingdom. Aside from your rhetoric and the more obvious, easier choices….is there that much of a difference?

Look at where you appetites are taking you. Look at what they are telling you. Look at what thy are doing to you.

Instead of living like the citizen of the Kingdom of God; instead of living a life that is a sign and foretaste of the resurrection, you are living in such a small, appetite dominated circle that “It was there, so I ate it” can describe vast tracts of your life.

Of course, we swim in the waters of a culture that says follow your appetites; make them your gods. What better to trust than all your own “want tos.”

I’m not talking about “wretched urgency” here. I’m talking about vast tracts of life spent in front of a game, or porn, or food, or doing nothing. Just lots of nothing.

I’m not suggesting Paul was enemy of a nap, a game or a cookie. I am suggesting that when a nap or a cookie or another hour of video games or another movie are taking on unquestioned authority for how you spend large portions of your life, then we should hear Paul again:

Your appetite is not God.

“It was there, so I ate it” is not the life Jesus has given me to live.

It’s another life entirely. A sad, small life that trades the glory of Christ for a bowl of soup….or a cookie.

Comments

  1. Someone else commented in an earlier post (my apologies for not finding and siting it) that stimulation can be mistaken for progress. I think there is a lot of truth to that, whether the stimulus is food, drugs, sex, esoteric experiences, etc. We are convinced that spiritual growth is supposed to feel good, and so often it is just day-to-day stuff: love your spouse, care for your kids, be a reliable employee. So often the results are not stimulating: spouse has a headache; the kids are in the rebellious teen years; all the reliability in the world doesn’t keep you from getting laid off. Borrowing again from another commenter (apologies again), it is Joseph in Egypt.

    I think the answer is found at the end of Paul’s Philippian letter, i.e. the difference between self-earned or applied stimulus and God-dependent joy found in hope.

  2. I’m glad I don’t have any controlling appetites that distract me from God’s ideal!

    (Honey…no, I can’t talk right now. I’m reading my blogs. How long will I be? I’ll probably be done early tonight…maybe 1 or 1:30 am. No, I can’t stop and sit with you. I need to read these. They’re Christian blogs!)

    Sorry…what was I saying before I was interrupted. Oh, yeah. I’m glad I’m not addicted to anything. I’m focused on what God wants.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go. I just got another blog feed that I have to go read…because it’s there.

  3. My mother in-law gave me Piper’s book Hunger for God for Christmas (it was on my Amazon wishlist). Let me tell you, I nearly wept in the introduction. As much as I disagree with Piper theologically, there was a huge amount of grace in what he wrote. Anyone who has seen me knows that my god is my belly, but God has been graciously working to help me see differently.

  4. Well said Jon.

  5. Excellent post. A good reminder. I’m not Platonist or even Aristotelean on the whole reason-passion thing … but, appetite can certainly be a demonic god.

  6. Might we call this the “dictatorship of the bellytariat”? (Sorry. As good as I could do at the moment).

    One evening in early 2001, God made His presence known in a way where the only reasonable response was to fall on my face and hope to survive the ordeal. Something long shut up and paved over inside me was torn open. I cried like a baby till the early morning hours. Over and over, all the night long, three prayers poured out of my mouth. One was that I would stop thinking about God all the time and become a simple follower of Christ. The second was that I would stop being a child, and finally (at 50) become a man. The third will be unmentioned as it does not pertain to the discussion.

    For the first time in my 22 years as a Christian, Christ became real, alive, and present. Prior to this, and in comparison to what followed, He was rather far off, other; something more akin to a construct of intellect and reason than a living person. Now He became real and known.

    The prayer that I would cease to be a child and finally become a man connects to your comments on the belly ruling over us. An adult is one who has learned to distance themselves from the demands of the belly. While capable of enjoying the good things of creation, they are not slaves to them. They are able to direct their life according to goals and purposes of a higher order than the demands of the senses.

    You wrote that “Your appetite is not God.” Denying Me-ness is emancipation from the God of self and its demanding appetite. It is the opening toward a life freely lived for Christ and others. When I finally say to Me, “You are not my god. I will no longer obey you!”, the training wheels are removed from the tricycle. Hope for an adult life that will be lived out alongside of and with Christ comes nearer.

    Christ in us, the hope of glory…..or a cookie and a bowl of soup? Hmmmmhh?

  7. One of the great gifts of our Lord’s Incarnation as that He comes to be our Food and Drink (John 6). All other gods consume their communicants; the true God Incarnate feeds His communicants with Himself.

  8. I get so tired making tents all day, I use that sugar and caffeine to keep going doing sermon prep and studies. All the members of my local “Pastor posse” look like beer barrels.[ M.S., sorry for the reference, as you were raised SBC, Beer barrels are round.] Ever see a picture of Spurgeon?
    Ecc. “And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books [there is] no end; and much study [is] a weariness of the flesh.”
    Maybe if I put this internetmonk post on the door of the fridge……
    Seriously at least naps are not caloric.

  9. Very good Jon. Even things that are “Christian” can be given the wrong position in our lives. Blogs… or for me, Bible shopping. =) “But honey, it’s CALFSKIN leather!!!”

  10. If you saw my belly, you’d be tempted to worship it.

    Seriously, a very challeging post.

  11. I think it’s called idolatry. If my recall is correct, I’m pretty sure God is not in favor of it. Something or other he said about “.. You will have no other gods before me.”

    Yeah….I don’t think he likes it at all.

  12. That Other Jean says

    Ouch! Thanks for the reminder.

  13. A move from stimulus response to intention is life-changing. Paul would have been great if he stopped there. But he moves on. The move to a greater intention is often not pleasant, and rarely easy. Perhaps Paul’s writing should have come with a warning: “Do not give your life to God through Christ if you only want to be happy, or comfortable, or amused…” It is difficult enough to embrace intention. I imagine it is even more difficult to convince others to do so as well. This is what makes Paul great.

  14. 1 john 3:7 ‘Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the WORKS of the devil. 9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: WHOSOEVER DOETH NOT RIGHTEOUSNESS IS NOT OF GOD, neither is he that loveth not his brother.”

    I didn’t say it….God did. Any belly worshippers want to contradict Him? I know what lust for candy bars is…and I have the extra pounds to prove it. Serving the flesh is contrary to the will of God.

  15. I spent 6 years working with an online ministry helping people deal with various sin-bondages (http://www.settingcaptivesfree.com). I came there through struggles with porn, but I really found my niche working with the ministry for gluttony. It’s easy in some circles to look askance at some sins like excessive drinking or porn use, but to wink at gluttony.

    This post pretty much summarizes the message we tried to convey to people. God is ultimately more satisfying than anything in this world. I really appreciate this post. In fact, as I was reading it I thought I was reading an edgier version of John Piper. This pretty much also sums up his ministry.

  16. Gluttony…the sin that dares not speak its name. Notice how many more of us would rather debate theology?

  17. This all circles back to your earlier posting on Bonhoeffer’s “Making the best use of everything”.

    If the love of Christ were flowing through my veins, were it to become a hormone bathing the neurons of my brain, if it were to have a greater stimulus-response affect upon me than those provided through my eyes and other senses, what would the hours, days, months, years…….; what would a life lived be?

    How do we become the sort of person that lives as if every moment belongs to Christ?

    I attended a small group conference held at Willow Creek three or four years ago. A Lord’s Supper was given. A half an hour or more was provided for quiet reflection and prayer. We were given invisible ink pens and a piece of paper to write sins we wished to relinquish upon. We took those little pieces of paper and nailed them to chunks of timber as if nailing them to the cross of Christ.

    While taking the bread and wine I prayed, “I don’t know what this is I eat and drink; is it body or bread, blood or wine? Whatever it is Lord, please cause it to become your blood and body to me. Let your DNA come into me and overtake mine. Overtake the cells of my body and change them into yours. Lord, I pray that the only thing left of me is you.

    Unfortunately, I have this dilemma. I’m not sure if it’s due to an accident. Maybe it’s a condition. It’s a little embarrassing to talk about. It turns out that somehow my head became jammed into a dark place in my back regions, and I can’t figure out how to get it out.

  18. Of course this wouldn’t apply to other “gods,” such as parts of the anatomy south of the belly? No, I’m sure that it doesn’t. 🙂

    I exercise a lot for one my age, and much of the reason lies in the fact that I eat too much. “Lord, have mercy on us all.”

  19. Bob Sacamento says

    I’m talking about vast tracts of life spent in front of a game, or porn, or food, or doing nothing. Just lots of nothing.

    I wish I could have my twenties back.

  20. I remember some years ago asking my pastor when was the last time he’s ever heard a sermon on gluttony, and he said, “Are you out of your mind? Nobody preaches on that. Have you seen the pastors around here?” And indeed, most of them were well-known for being really big eaters. I once went to a church where every business meeting was done over a meal.

    I regularly talk about “the great god Stomach,” and how its worship tends to begin at about 12:30, right after all the Christians get out of the service. In fact, you can already see plans for its worship taking place in the parking lot: “Where are we going to lunch?” … “You picked the place last week.” … “Does anybody like Korean food?” … “Mexican food?” … “Barbecue?”

    I like food as much as the next American, but why do we—and especially the pagans—so often demand moderation in Christianity, yet none in our eating and drinking?

  21. I think much of this could be dealt with by a healthy rhythm of fasting and feasting. Those who do not fast know not how to feast. Luther once said that the belly god must be taught that it will not be fed every time it growls. This is one reason he called fasting a “fine, outward discipline.” Advent fasting gives way to Christmas feasting with a renewed sense of gift and gratitude to the Giver. Post-Christmas guilt is hardly the way of free men in Christ.

    One caution here is the opposite ditch, namely a dour pietism that denies the joy of food and drink. Against the early gnostic ascetics, the apostle Paul wrote: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” 1Tim. 4:4-5.

  22. Wow, does this post ever hit home…

    What really sux is that, if you indulge this little god for a lifetime, suddenly it rears up its ugly little head and bites you right in the pancreas! So now, I can’t feast anytime, and I can’t fast either, lest my glucose go to one extreme or the other.

    Where do I go, so often, when stress hits? To food. Where should I go? To God. With the capital “g”, that is.

    As MDS said, it’s time for me to grow up and start being a man about this.

    ‘Scuse me, I gotta get ready for lunch…

  23. JimBob:

    Too funny!

    I think you have a good point and that is that a lifetime of habit is difficult to change. When one is young, one establishes a pattern of eating a certain amount of calories. When young, in most cases, one does not suffer consequences to eating those calories because one tends to be more active, have a metabolism, etc. Things change with age but the habit remains.

    With age, I have gained weight. With medical assistance, I have determined that I can not consume more than 1400 calories a day in order to maintain weight. Obviously, I must go below that amount to lose weight. These numbers could change if I would only add more physical activity to my daily life. So, my problem is two-fold. I do not want to add more physical activity to my daily life and 1400 calories a day is not satisfying to my belly.

    So, is my belly a god to me? I do not think so, though I definitely enjoy feasting, that is not a daily struggle for me. The struggle is re-training my belly to accept, without protest, only 1400 calories a day. To date, the re-training is not going well and therefore, the extra poundage has increased over the past ten years. I am not getting any younger and therefore, I better find a way to win this battle or else the next twenty to thirty years, if God wills to leave me here, could be a physically tough time.

  24. You should do a post on vanity, Michael.

    I mean, not because I think you’re an expert on being vain, you know, but because I’d be interested to hear your take on self-esteem, pride, looking good, and how faith does and doesn’t help with stuff like that.

    Boethius and the rest of you weight-watchers, sincerely, good luck with that. Battling your metabolism can be extremely difficult, but the payoff is immense when your body finally starts to feel like it should.

  25. “Look at the way you are living, and measure it against those who place no value on Christ, have no time for Christ and are walking away from Christ and his Kingdom. Aside from your rhetoric and the more obvious, easier choices….is there that much of a difference?”

    Amen. If it walks like a duck…..

    “I’m talking about vast tracts of life spent in front of a game, or porn, or food, or doing nothing. Just lots of nothing.”

    It’s the “lots of nothing” that hit me. So, as of yesterday, I went back to college at 36 to become a teacher. Just sitting around waiting for God to drop something in my lap led to 15 wasted years. I hope He will forgive me.

    DD

  26. DaveD:

    I am a teacher. You made a great choice. It is very rewarding. All the struggles you will have to go through are worth the effort.

  27. Ouch!

  28. God cannot be pleased with us when gluttony is accepted practice for Christians. And ‘serving tables’ is not practiced much anymore.

  29. In case I missed it, did someone mention “I am the Bread of Life.”

  30. Nightturkey says

    I recently read an interesting take on Romans 12:1&2. To present one’s body as a living sacrifice, the key is to treat the body as the sacrificial animal rather than the idol to which other things are sacrificed.
    After offending God for many years by my unconfessed sin of Gluttony, last year I created a mental category labeled “Luxury Eating” and before I put anything in my mouth asked whether that thing fit in that category. If it did, I simply didn’t eat it.
    …okay, it was simple, but it sure as StoveTop wasn’t EASY. My Belly-Baal whimpered, hollered, demanded, threw tantrums and screamed in protest, and I confess that I bowed to it more than a few times. BUT!! I did eventually learn how to discern between “need” and “want”, my walk with the Lord took on a new clarity and closeness, and as a healthy side effect I lost 40 pounds – my doctor took me off my blood pressure and cholesterol medications. Now all I have to do is resist the temptation to swap Gluttony for Vanity…