Are You Happy With Your Body?

The wonder of God’s creation is all around us. When I was a kid, our family attempted to visit Crawford Notch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire as close to October 7 as possible. There were two reasons for this little trip. It was my mother’s birthday and the foliage was at its peak. Many years later, I took my wife back to show her the beauty of the trees. Driving through the White Mountains in New Hampshire late one afternoon as the sun shone on that array of colors, it was so bright that I was forced to pull off by the side of the road and wait awhile.

The Midwest grain fields, the Arizona desert, and the Colorado mountains are other places where God displays His handiwork. However, God’s Word says that to see the crowning work of God’s creative power, we have to look at the human being, whom God has created in His own image and gave dominion over all creation.

God created you! Think of it! Look at these words, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. Your eyes saw my unformed body.” The Psalmist was so overwhelmed that he said, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. I know that full well.”

Think of it! God has given us a mind and a will, which makes it possible for us to be free beings capable of making our own decisions. We are not puppets.

The Bible further describes the human when it says, “The Lord God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.” It is this soul that makes us immortal. All other parts of the creation die, including the body, but the soul is eternal.

Having revealed that we are His creation, He tells us to take care of ourselves. Paul writes, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” Overeating, smoking, not exercising, burning the candle at both ends, abusing drugs and alcohol, and immoral living are a few examples of what the medical people say will eventually destroy the body. How easy it is to forget this counsel from both God and our doctors!

When I see the extra pounds I carry, how I fail to exercise, and sometimes burn the candle at both ends not getting proper rest, I realize that I am not properly caring for my body. That is sin. We are not caring for God’s gift to us.

Sometimes we get more concerned about protecting the environment than our bodies.

The Bible continues to give us insights when it tells us the body is only good for about seventy-nine to eighty years. “The length of our days is seventy or eighty, if we have the strength.” (Psalm 90:10) Read the obituaries and see how true this is. Our parts wear out. We can replace some parts like knees, hips, livers, hearts, kidneys, eyes, and maybe a few more. Yet ultimately we die. Solomon writes, “All come from dust, and to dust all return.” (Ecclesiastes 3:20) Paul describes our bodies as tents when he writes to the Corinthian Christians: “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in the heaven, not built by human hands.” He continues that, while we live in this body, we will have our pains.

Intellectually understanding that we are going to die is not difficult for us, but emotionally this is very difficult to understand. Listen to our conversations. We talk as if life is going on without interruption. That is my style. Right now I am thinking about adding a four-season room to our house. It has to be mostly glass, heated and cooled, so that we can sit there and look out at the birds and flowers in our back yard. How beautiful it would be in the winter when the wind and snow are blowing around. Hearing this, my wife, who has had a serious encounter with death, says, “We don’t need this room. We are not going to be here that many years. There are better ways to use our money.” She has accepted her mortality far better than I have.

Well, are you happy with the body God gave you to use for a few years? Are you taking care of it? He wants us to enjoy it and use it to His glory as well as our own until the day comes that we leave it and receive our new body. Hear these words: “The body that is sown (buried) is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (I Corinthians 15:42-44)

This new body is offered to all, but only those who are repentant of their sins and have received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord will possess it. In this old body we are sinners. This sin separates us from the Creator. However, He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus, into this world as a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus rose to win for us victory over death. We are clearly told in the Word that this salvation is ours if, in faith, we have received Jesus as our Savior.

Are you happy with your body? In Christ, God has an even better one prepared for us.

May I Introduce you to Yourself?

A golfer was being congratulated for winning the city tournament. His reply was, “I never thought I could do it.” A mother, who was found guilty of killing her baby, is quoted in the newspaper as saying, “I can’t believe I did such a terrible thing.” This leads to the question: How well do we know ourselves?

In our text, the Almighty offers to take us by the hand and introduce us to ourselves. Would you like to hear Him say, “Meet Yourself”? David, the Psalmist, says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me, and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Sometimes God has to correct a poor understanding we may have of ourselves. For example, meet Mr. or Mrs. Perfect. Well, if they are not perfect, they are almost perfect. They believe they made few mistakes, and when it appears they have, it is only because other people don’t understand. They are seldom wrong. These people can be careless with the truth if it means accomplishing what he or she wants to do. They might be very cold or lacking in compassion when it comes to dealing with a situation where other people are involved. If it means cutting down a person to accomplish their goal, it has to be done. Let the chips fall wherever they may. These are people who are often oblivious to their actions.

Irene might truly believe she is a great mother. The problem is that her children do not share this opinion. They might say, “Mom, we know that you love us. It’s just that you love yourself more. When we really need you to give us some time, you’re not around. We know that you’re aware of this and might even feel guilty. That’s when you say as you get into the car, ÔI wish I could stay home, but you know how it is.’ The problem is that we don’t know how it is. Is the appointment, even if it is at the church, more important than your children?”

If we have some of Mr. or Mrs. Perfect in us, God has to introduce us to ourselves. When He is done speaking to us in His Word, we can only respond by saying, “Wow, is this who I am? I can’t believe it!” This is how King David felt when God showed him his true self and what he was capable of doing.

Now meet Mr. and Mrs. No Good. These people live with a low self-image. “I’m not worth much. I have few abilities. I have a poor attitude, which makes me offensive to others and limits my number of friends. I know how to make money, but there’s more to life than being financially successful. Why can’t I be like my brother?”

How do we get to know ourselves?

Parents have played a part in our self-image. No matter how disgusted parents might be with their children, they should never, never say, “You will never amount to anything.” This is one of those remarks that, though it is not meant, it is not forgotten.

To the other extreme, there are those parents who are always defending their children regardless of whether they are right or wrong. It was the other kid’s fault. I will never forget standing with a mother in the police station at 3:00 a.m. Her son had been arrested for selling drugs. Her comment was, “Our son’s problem is his friends. He would never have been guilty of such a crime had it not been for the young man he was with.” Today that son, defended by his mother, is serving a long sentence in a federal penitentiary.

Friends can shape our feelings of who we are. Each Sunday I would stand by the door greeting members of the congregation after the service. “Great sermon, Pastor!” Soon I began to believe it, although the presentation of the message was not too hot. People want to be nice even though their compliments are not always truthful.

On the other hand, a friend of mine has now left the ministry. He had served two congregations back to back that were so critical of his work, he decided life was too short and went back to school. Today he is an attorney and doing well.

In retrospect, St. Paul gives us some very good advice on people’s judgment. He says, “It is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or any human court. It is the Lord who judges.” Our prayer needs to be, “Lord, show me who I am, and then help me deal with myself.”

So God goes to work on Mr. and Mrs. Perfect. He asks, “Why do you try to lie yourself out of something you said or did? If it was wrong, confess your sin. Remember my promise: ÔIf you confess your sin, I am anxious to forgive you.’ That is why I died on the cross Ð that your sins might be forgiven. Don’t keep trying to defend yourself. I will never condone your sin, but I will abundantly pardon you. But then let’s look at your personality. Let me point out to you how self-centered you really are. That is not good. It breeds unhappiness. Let me pull you outside yourself by showing you how much other people need you and what you can do for them.”

God continues: “Shall we search a bit farther? It would be well if you would control your tongue. I will empower you to use it to praise rather than criticize people. My servant, Martin Luther, said it well when he explained the commandment, ÔThou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.’ Remember what he wrote? ÔYou should fear and love God so that you do not belie, betray, backbite nor slander your neighbor, but apologize for him, speak well of him, and put the most charitable construction on all that he does.’ This does not mean that you condone his wrong, but you talk with him about it in love and kindness.”

And to you who think you are nothing, God says, “Let’s search your spirit. Maybe parents, teachers, and friends have been hard on you. Perhaps you suffer from their evaluations. Yet I forgave you when you sinned and gave my Son to be your Savior. I have called you to be my ambassador. I am going to make my appeal to this world through you. What does that mean for you? I hope it has the same effect on you that it did on St. Paul when he said, ÔI can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.'”

We are not done with this psalm, but time has run out. God willing, we will come back to it next week for some more good thoughts, which come from a loving Heavenly Father who wants to introduce us to ourselves.

Why Not Turn on the Light?

Most of us have had our television program interrupted with an announcement, “Your area is under a severe thunderstorm watch.” Suddenly there is a flash of lightening and a clap of thunder that shakes the house, and the lights go out. Now you have to find a candle and then a match to light it. You know where the candles are; but, since there are not smokers in the family, you don’t know where to find matches.

What a symbol of life! In so many ways we walk around in the dark. This last year has found many living in the dark when looking at their financial statement. Where do I invest my money so that I know that it will be safe, and yet give me a reasonable rate of interest? Some of the most competent brokers will preface their counsel with these familiar words, “We do not know what our economy will be like in the future.”

However, the more important question is, Do we walk in spiritual darkness? The Bible speaks often about living in spiritual darkness. Moses, speaking to his people, said, “The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness, and confusion of mind. At midday you will grope about like a blind man in the dark . . .” (Deuteronomy 28:29) Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) He is telling the people that a life without him is a journey in darkness.

The Psalmist tells us in our text today, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” He joins the other Biblical writers in saying that, without God’s Word, we live in darkness. There is no question that we live in a world of spiritual darkness. Here are a few examples of how God’s Word penetrates that darkness.

The majority of people’s thoughts about life after death reveal how confused they are regarding eternity. They live in complete darkness. Here is a typical statement: “Yes, I believe there is a life after death. If I live a good life, I believe the Higher Power will give me my reward.” God, bringing light to the subject, says, “I have gone to prepare a place for you, and I will come again and receive you to myself.” The heavenly home is not a reward for a life well spent. It is a gift offered to all people, but given only to those who confess Jesus as Savior and Lord.

People living in spiritual darkness say, “I don’t understand where God is. If there is a God, He isn’t fair. Why did He let my loved one die when she was needed so badly?” Then God enlightens us and says, “There is nothing permanent in this life.” The Bible talks about the people of faith who lived for a while, and then went to their heavenly home: “All these people of God were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted they were strangers and aliens on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:12) The old spiritual hymn says it so well: “This world is not my home, I’m only passing through . . .” One could not argue that a mother’s death when her children are small is a tragedy. How the family needs the love that only a mother can give. However, the light of God’s Word tells us clearly that this is not a promise God has given to us. What disturbing light this is for some who feel they are permanent citizens of the planet earth and their plans should be fulfilled!

There are many times when God’s light is not what we really want. When I was a kid, I had a morning paper route, which meant I had to get up at 5:00 a.m. Sometimes I would turn off my alarm, but by 5:10 I heard the footsteps of my mother coming into my room and turning on that bright ceiling light. “It’s morning, and you have to get going.” How I wished it were still dark outside and I could go back to sleep for a few more hours. At that point, the light was not welcome.

Some immature Christians believe God will spare His own from hardship and pain. The Scriptures make it clear that, rather than spare us from difficulties, our faith in Christ can make life more difficult. The book of Acts is a light on this subject. The followers of Jesus were not spared from beatings, imprisonment, shipwreck, slander, separation from loved ones, and a host of other difficult experiences. God’s light can sometimes be so frightening that we would prefer to shut off the light. But then He reminds us, “I am with you always.”

People want a God who will serve them, but the thought of their serving Him is not as popular. The light coming from Jesus is shocking, “If you want to be my disciple, take up your cross and follow me.”

As of late, people (yes, even theological professors) say, “We must accept the fact that Christianity has to make some cultural adjustments or people will turn off the Church and its message.” God makes it clear that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change. Sin is sin. He will never condone sin, but He will forgive it if the sinner is repentant.

Pluralism has captured the minds of many people who often say, “We are all after the same thing. There are many ways to heaven.” Then comes the light from Jesus, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) Suddenly we stand in the bright light of Jesus’ words.

God’s Word is our revelation. He has given it to us so that we do not walk in darkness. Colin Smith has said it well, “The Bible is a revelation and not an explanation. It does not answer all of our questions. In fact, at times it can make us quite confused and frustrated. But God’s Word one day will be made clear for us, and our eyes will no longer be blinded.”

Our world is broken and people walk in darkness. Read the newspapers and you will find evidence that darkness is all around us. Our government is filled with corruption. Big business and trade unions, with their dishonesty, cause us to ask, How far can we trust them? Even the Church roams about in darkness as it departs from the Scriptures, which is its only authority in matters of faith and life. But let us not despair, for those who know Christ have seen a great light. They know the truth, which has set them free and opened their eyes. That light is Christ and His Word.

Changed Hearts Live Differently

Can one expect a person to live as a Christian when they have little or no relationship with Jesus Christ? The answer is no. The minister tells the people to follow Jesus when a part of his congregation does not have the foggiest notion what this means. The friend counsels his neighbor to do what Jesus would do, and the woman does not know what He would do.

Can we expect people who are Christian to live differently than those who have no relationship with Him? The Bible says we can. Peter writes, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (13) The conjunction “therefore” is a word used to connect two thoughts. The first truth is that we have been brought into a living relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. The second thought is to live a life pleasing to God. Those two thoughts are related. If you are God’s child, let your life show it.

It is ridiculous to expect a person who is not a Christian to live as Christ would have them live. It is equally ridiculous for one who confesses faith in Christ as Savior and Lord to live no different than the unbelieving world lives. The Christian has a new heart. Paul says it, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold the new has come.”

What is the difference between the Christian and the non-Christian? Are not both still sinners? The answer is, yes, both have failed to live up to God’s expectations. The difference is that in the life of the Christian, the pattern of sin has been broken. The sinner has been transformed into a new person. He seeks to break the pattern of living outside a relationship with God. The goal in daily living is to live for Him. We are not satisfied with our lives and sorrow over our sinful state, but we are thankful that we have come as far as we have in our faith.

Chuck Colson tells of an interview that Mike Wallace had with Yehiel Dinur, a concentration camp survivor. Dinur, a witness at the Nuremberg trials, was asked to testify in the trial of Adolph Eichmann. Eichmann had been the architect for the concentration camps; Dinur had been a prisoner at Auschwitz. When he walked into the room and saw Eichmann, he began to weep and then fainted. When asked why he fainted, Dinur made it clear it was not because of his hatred for Eichmann, but rather to see that this war criminal was just another man. He wrote, “I was afraid about myself. I saw that I am capable to do what he did. I am exactly like him.”

It is frightening to think what the human being is capable of doing when the pattern of sin is not broken and their nature is not brought under control. Certainly Eichmann as a child had no thoughts of being responsible for the death of millions of people. However, circumstances in his life and a sinful nature made him what he was. Yet the pattern of sin has been broken, and Peter quotes a verse from the Old Testament, “Therefore, be holy, because I am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2)

The Christ-controlled life differs from a passion-controlled life. Peter writes, “As obedient children do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” What are some of these changes from our past behavior?

The unforgiving spirit has learned to forgive. God forgives us daily through Christ. This compels us to be forgiving people. To be a forgiving person is foreign in the thinking of the non-Christian person. Experientially, he does not know what forgiveness is. As a Christian, you cannot live with hatred in your heart and feel good about it. In Christian living, there can be no place for broken relationships.

The profane tongue is now used to share the Gospel with others. One of my friends, who could hardly utter a sentence without using profanity, says, “When I met Christ, my tongue, that once used his name profanely, became the tongue that sings his praises and tells others what he has done for me.” This is the testimony of millions of people through the ages.

The immoral person has a new lifestyle. The unfaithful spouse learns the meaning of Christian marriage as God intended it to be.

Greed is replaced with sharing. The pattern of sin has been broken. There is something greater in life than accumulating more and more. We have better understanding of how much is enough when Christ lives in us.

The addict discovers the joy of sobriety. Life can be faced realistically without a crutch, for God has become our strength. He is the One who empowers us to walk away from the temptation.

If you asked Peter what he most loved to preach about during those years following Pentecost, he might answer you this way: “One of my favorite messages to those who had received Christ was that changed hearts live differently.” It is a message that I bring to you who live in a culture that knows little about changed hearts.

God’s Gift of Time

Elton Trueblood wrote in his book, The Company of the Committed, “Once a Christian has become a part of Christ’s company, he must be ready to give up some of his personal freedom. He may no longer be the sole arbiter of his own time. Our relationship to time is highly paradoxical. Though we live in an age marked by timesaving devices, we are ever more hectic in running from appointment to appointment. Theoretically we should have more time than all of our ancestors did, but we do not. We deliberately add to the number of our engagements until our lives are fragmented. Too many commitments amount virtually to none. A person who is always available is not worth much when he is available.”

I was in my 40s when I heard Dr. Trueblood speak those words. I was busy with my family, a congregation to serve, and responsibilities in the community. I needed to hear Dr. Trueblood’s words then, and I need to hear them now that I am in my 70s. The Scriptures make it clear that time is a gift that should not be wasted.

Our Lord was a busy person. Jesus’ healing power, preaching, and teaching attracted large crowds. They came with needs asking for his time that he might help them. This he did, but the hour came when Christ saw that he needed to get away from everyone to be alone with his Heavenly Father. Our text tells us that, after He sent the disciples away and dismissed the crowds, “he went up on a mountainside to pray.”

In our text Jesus teaches us the importance of taking time to be alone with God. It had been a busy day. Christ’s healing, preaching, and teaching attracted large crowds, and he was anxious to serve them. Yet the time came when “Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.” Jesus found it necessary to be alone with His Father for a time of rest and spiritual renewal.

It is in those hours with God that we get help for use of our time. The Scriptures help us understand what the priorities of life are. Our work places great demands on our time, and that is right, for a part of our Christian witness is to be faithful in our labor. The love for our families tells us they need us, not just our money, but us. Our bodies tell us they must have some of our time for rest, exercise, and recreation. The needs of others in our communities and churches tell us they need us.

Trueblood goes on to help us in his book when he writes, “If people will go through their date book and fill in empty places with important commitments, including time with God, they will more ably resist the temptation to scatter their energies.”

Do you have a date book? For fifty years our denominational publishing house has sent me a date book. No matter where I go, even to the golf course, the date book is with me. Occasionally I lose it, and then it is considered an emergency at our house. I recall once our daughter asked me, “What is worse, to lose your New Testament or your date book?” Without having to think I said, “Losing the date book is far worse.” This was not the answer she was expecting, so I had to explain to her that I could go to the bookstore and buy another New Testament. However, the date book, with all of the commitments, could not be duplicated.

There is no question that the only way to make the best use of our time is to be organized. Along with the date book, there is that piece of paper that suggests when, during the day you do what. One of my friends, a busy businessman, writes down in his date book, “one hour for Bible study and prayer.” Most days this is 6:00 a.m. However, when that hour is not going to work out, he schedules it at another time during the day. I believe that Jesus might say with a smile on his face, “You want to accomplish a lot during the day. During your quiet time with me, take your date book and list what you are going to do today. That is where you will learn to set priorities.”

The last two minutes of a basketball game, where the score is very close, can take an eternity to play. Each second counts. The coaches save their time-outs for those last minutes. The team that is leading wants to run time off the clock. Those who are behind become masters at sparing the seconds to get the extra shots, which can tie the game or move them ahead. Though the score has been close throughout the game, it is those last seconds that count.

It is a picture of life. Time does not mean too much to a child. As he or she grows older and school becomes more challenging making demands on his or her time, the good teacher talks about study habits. When you are in the working world and find there are not enough hours in the day for all that needs to be accomplished, you enroll in a time-management course. I believe that Jesus would bless these courses, because time is God’s gift to us, and we should not waste it.

Should you throw the date book away in retirement? Some would recommend that you do. It is true that life is less complicated with fewer demands on your time. However, I have to discipline myself to leave the television and the social obligations to be alone with God and His Word.

Elton Trueblood helped me to look at how I use my time. But more than Trueblood, or any person, it is the voice of Jesus that reminds me that time is God’s gift to me, and I need to be a good steward of this blessing.