Thursday, December 9, 2010

Food, Beauty & Control

This week I listened to a really great series by Bob Lepine, guest speaker on Revive Our Hearts, talk about three big issues that women deal with every day, food, beauty and control. If you haven't heard them, I highly recommend them. Here are some of highlights.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I’ve sometimes said that the very first sin committed by the very first woman back in the Garden of Eden had to do with overeating. Ever since that day, a lot of us women have struggled to maintain a healthy approach to food.

Bob Lepine: Here’s the other thing: I also want to suggest to us that it is not wrong, it’s not sinful, it’s not inappropriate for women to pay attention to what you eat, or to have a desire to look good, or to exercise some degree of control over your surroundings. In fact, the Bible teaches that it is wise and prudent to exercise some wisdom in these areas.

I would say to men today, and I do say to men today, that passivity of the men today is one of the great sins going on in the church. God has called men to be leaders, to guide, to guard, to protect, to feed, to lead. And men say, “Just give me the remote, and let somebody else handle it.” That’s what a lot of guys will do, and it goes back to this passivity.

I want to make a couple of points here. I want you to see that all of us are in danger when we become dissatisfied with what God has provided for us.

Ladies, you want to know the secret of being content? Instead of focusing and dwelling on everything that’s wrong around you, set your mind on the good things you have. That’s a part of the secret of being content.

I remember hearing Elisabeth Elliot talk one time about a man having an ink stain on the pocket of his shirt, and she said, “If you looked at that, this blotch of ink, right there on the pocket of his shirt, here’s the question, ‘How much of that shirt is stained by the ink?’ Maybe one percent. Ninety-nine percent of the shirt is clean and pure, but where does your eye go? Right to the blotch. You almost can’t help but look at it.”

She said that’s the way a lot of women are with their husbands. A lot of husbands are good men with some ink stains, but you just can’t take your eyes off the ink stains.

Part of the secret of being content is to take your eyes off the ink stains and to look instead at what is praiseworthy, excellent, commendable, good, pure. Find those things. Affirm those things in your husband instead of always saying, “When are you going to fix that ink stain?”

You want to know the secret of being content?

  • Think on the right things.
  • Make your requests known to God.
  • Model reasonableness in your life.
  • Send more time rejoicing than you do.

Now you go, “What’s wrong with healthy eating? It’s a good thing, right?” Well, it can drift into idolatry. When what you eat or what you don’t eat takes on proportions that food was never intended to bear in life, when the importance of food becomes bigger than it ought to become, we’ve got a problem.

Obesity—listen to me—obesity is an issue when it affects your health and your ability to care for others or forcing them to care for you. So there’s an issue with obesity if it interferes with carrying out the mission of God. But what I’m saying is it’s possible for what a lot of women eat or don’t eat to become an idol.

It’s also possible for your preoccupation with appearance and beauty to become an idol, too.

You see, that’s part of the issue here. What you eat is what keeps your body going, but ultimately, your body’s not eternal. It’s your earth suit. It’s what you need to function. You want to keep it in good operating order, but your body’s not going to last forever. It’s going to wear out, and so whether it’s food or whether it’s beauty, you’re focused on the temporal, not on the eternal.

Eve was focused on the temporal, not the eternal. Her focus was moved from what God has said is important and good to what she wanted, and that’s when it became problematic.

  • The issue is how much focus or importance do you place on physical appearance?
  • How much are you seeking the approval of others, of men?
  • Is your thinking about your outward appearance shaped more by the culture or by the Bible?
  • What’s in your heart when you focus on your appearance? Is it value connected to your appearance?

So don’t neglect bodily exercise, but when you make that more important than the cultivation of godliness, you've got things messed up. And I see that happen too much in too many people.

Now, let me just add real quickly, there is one place in the Bible where it talks about physical beauty being important for a woman. You know where it is? It’s in marriage. It’s in the Song of Solomon. There are these passages in the Song of Solomon where the Shulamite woman is commended for making herself beautiful for her husband, where he describes her beauty as being alluring and appealing and attractive.

That’s the place in the Bible where your physical appearance is commended and called to be a good thing. It honors your husband. It is a gift to him when you make yourself beautiful, but let me quickly add this. No amount of physical attractiveness can compensate for a lack of godly character. A beautiful shrew is still a shrew.

By the same token, a plain-looking, un-made-up woman who smiles and radiates the goodness of God from her face is beautiful, is beautiful. See, there is a reflection of beauty that comes out in the life of a woman who is really focused on the things of God.

Ultimately, when Eve took the fruit, she was believing this lie. She was believing, “I will be better off if I know what God knows about good and evil, and then I can decide for myself what’s the right thing, and I won’t have to trust or rely on God anymore. I can be in control of my life.”

When God created the world, He said, “It’s good.” Here we’ve got Eve looking at the fruit, and she’s saying, “It’s good. It’s good. It’s good.” She’s already replacing God’s role in terms of what’s good in her life.

When we make something into an idol, here’s what we do: We inflate its function.Something becomes an idol when you give it more function than it was designed to have. It starts to function as a god in your life. It’s something that you start to worship and obey, and you will not violate the commands of your idol. It’s functioning like a god. It drives us with warnings and promises. We have to have it. It leads us to shame. Our life feels wrong if we don’t attain our idol.

  • What do you organize your life around? Do you organize your life around eating and appearance? If so, they may have become idols.
  • What do you want or crave or wish for? What do you obsess over? What preoccupies your thinking? What do you find your mind instinctively drifting toward? What fills your conversation? Is it food? Appearance? The things of God?
  • What are you willing to sacrifice an inordinate amount of time or money to obtain? That may be an idol in your life.
  • What do you fear losing? What is it, that if you lost it, you would lose your desire to live because all of the meaning would be sucked out of your life, all desire to move forward would be lost? That’s an idol.
  • What do you rejoice over? What present or hoped-for things bring you great pleasure or delight? That could be an idol.
  • What makes you angry or frustrated? Is it food related? Is it your appearance?
  • What can cause anxiety or great stress? Food? Appearance?
  • How do you define success or failure? How do you weigh your significance or insignificance?
  • How do you define yourself?

At the root of all of our sin is idolatry. Someone has said, “Idols are cruel masters holding out false promises and making unreasonable demands of your life. They require that you sacrifice for them, and yet they make no sacrifices for you.”

How do you deal with idols in your life? You deal with them this way:

  • First of all, you identify them.
  • Secondly, you confess that they’re idols.
  • Third, you turn from them. You repent. That’s what repent means—to turn from.
  • And then, here’s the key thing: You have to replace the idol with God.

It was never intended to be an independent project. Your sanctification is a group project, and you’ve got to be able to do it with sisters who love you and who will help you, and you can fight the battle together.

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