Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:23. When the Holy Spirit is actively present in my life, I have more control of myself, not less. A lifestyle that is given to excess in which my bodily desires are controlling me, that is not a Christian body.
In the New Testament, the pagans are described as living lifestyles given to excess. Their bodies were in control of them instead of them controlling their bodies. “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19; See also Romans 16:18)
Because of the Fall, my body wants more than it needs. Its goal is consumption. Its desires are insatiable. Hedonistic. Like the children in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, we will naturally want to eat, drink, and gratify all our appetites in excess. The question is really one of control. Who is in control? Is it me by the Spirit OR me by the flesh? “That each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor.” (1 Thessalonians 4:4)
Here there is great hypocrisy in churches where we preach loudly against satisfying the desires of the flesh and condemn the world for all of its passions and then are dismissed to the fellowship hall filled with doughnuts and desserts. Or take the stereotypical preacher who is unnaturally overweight, the buttons on his shirt are stretched to the max, and his belt is clearly on the last loop. All the while telling the flock they need to learn to deny themselves more and live for eternity. Really?
Is it wrong to eat a steak and strawberry pie? No. God has given us all things for us to enjoy (1 Corinthians 6:17) and real Christians enjoy their food more not less. There is a family taking me out for a steak for Sunday lunch. I shall eat it to the glory of God.
However, can I NOT eat the steak? Am I free to NOT eat the dessert? Can I curb my body’s desires? Or do I willingly eat, drink, smoke, inhale anything that will damage God’s body of which I am a steward? Is my lifestyle over time doing damage to the body Christ died to redeem?
I am not talking about the effects of slowing metabolism as we age or medical conditions that complicate this or a hundred other exceptions you may be able to come up with. I think you know what I am talking about; a lack of self-control and a failure to connect how I treat my body with my Christianity.
Are we a church that values the human body without hating it, abusing it, or worshiping it? In a body-obsessed world like ours, a Christian who doesn’t obsess over their body, but stewards it as God’s gift will shine brightly indeed.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
© 2011 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s web site address(http://www.bethelweb.org/) on the copied resource.