– The Disease of Spiritual Gluttony and/or Anorexia (Philippians 3:18-19) –
AKA – A Hunger that is Never Satisfied – A Branch that is Withering – A Life that Never Produces Fruit – Fruit Going to Waste Because It Isn’t Being Used
I don’t know about you, but I am ready to see God transform my life in such a way that I can actually be useful to the Body of Christ. I can’t do it alone, and if you’ve read this far, then perhaps, you agree. The message that you are reading, I write because this is the message God has been teaching me. Within the past week, I have found myself saying that perhaps I am just the callous on the toe of the body, meant to lovingly provoke the Body of Christ to get about the business of exfoliating me – who knows! But I am uncomfortable with staying where I am, and I have a hunger for more of Jesus Christ. My appetite should help increase your appetite – if for nothing more – than to study the Word of God for yourself to find proof that I am wrong.
Symptoms – feeling like God doesn’t answer our prayers; emptiness and dissatisfaction that we try to suppress or feed but never goes away; a numbness to the people around us who are hurting that never turns into active compassion which drives us to serve others; a growing weariness with the routines of religious experiences that never lead to repentance or revival
Are you brave enough to do something about it? Or are you going to stop reading and leave it up to someone else to hopefully fix one day?
*** Spoiler Alert – the Truth sometimes hurts! ***
The Causes of the Disease:
- American Christians have grown to be lazy consumers of religious experiences. Many of us all too often fall on the side of extremes- of either religious gluttony or spiritual anorexia. We are either stuffed full of someone else’s sermons while we do nothing with what we learn except let it rot within our bellies- or we entirely depend on a Sunday morning Word, while we spiritually starve ourselves the other six days of the week. We have our five minute devotion that is based entirely on someone else’s revelation of who God is- usually written to tickle our ears and make us feel good – and we check Bible Study off our daily to-do-lists. We have our five minute “wish list” prayer to God declaring all the items we want Him to do for us throughout our day- and we check prayer time off our to-do-lists. We go on throughout our day. We are hurting on the inside. We are struggling with sin. We are experiencing no real change or transformation in our lives. Our diets are killing our spiritual lives from the inside out.
- We show up to the church building to “have church” a couple of times of week and consume a little bit more, while we put on our happy faces and sit in our comfortable seats- hiding who we really are- our struggles, our pain, our testimonies- and check that off our lists too. We come and go, come and go- come and go- thinking church is the place- failing to realize that we ARE the church. We attend church on a regular basis and treat it as if it was an all-you-can-eat buffet – hoarding the things we like and leaving the things we don’t care for or complain because we didn’t get the golden morsel from the message we were hoping to find – that is able to nourish us throughout the remaining days of the week. We look to the pastor to be the master chef, and we look to others to serve us instead of seeing where we can plug in and serve others.
- As a result, we go to church week after week, and we leave the same exact person we were when we came. We have failed to recognize that we shouldn’t be going to church – we ARE the church! We ARE the actual body of Jesus Christ. Each one of us have been given spiritual gifts, and God expects us to use those gifts within the Body of Christ. Being part of the Church Body means we must participate! We cannot look to our pastors to do it all, nor our Sunday school teachers, nor our music leaders, nor our youth leaders. We cannot see ourselves as recipients alone. Nor can we come to church and sit in our own little places with our own cliques of friends – wearing our religious masks – acting as if we are all OK. Church is not a country club, a social club, or a religious experience.
And if we say we realize it, then we are still either too lazy or too immature and unequipped to actually realize what that means.
Let’s face it- how many of us really want God in all of our business? How many of us really want the complete conviction of God’s Word? How many of us would rather just keep God on our nice little check lists so we can feel good? But how often are we still feeling empty and unsatisfied at the end of the day with all that we have consumed?
We start the next day over and consume the same diet…we convince ourselves that we are ok- but in our hearts- we really don’t have the faith and obedience to see the work of God transforming our lives. We don’t even know what it means, and we are certainly not going to ask our brothers and sisters for help because that means we have to take off our religious masks. That means we might have to let go of our pride that disguises itself as fear of rejection, being talked about, and being hurt by other Christians.
The church is not to meet at a place but to be THE PLACE where members of The Body can find healing, exhortation, reproof, rebuke, guidance, counsel, and prayer. Too often, we put on our best faces to go to church. That is exactly opposite of what God wants from us. God is looking for brokenness and humility. He is looking for us to serve Him in our need not in our excess. He is looking to be made stronger in our weakness. He is looking for us to Be the Body not go to church.
We cannot expect real change in our lives nor can we expect to see the Holy Spirit move in our lives when we treat church like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Nor can we expect to see the Gospel come fully alive in our own lives when we treat church as a social club. In order for our lives to be radically changed, we must find out what part of the Body we actually are and function in that place. The Word of God should not be a five-minute thing we do to check off on our morning lists nor should our prayer time with God be something we check off of our morning lists as well. The Word of God must be sound in our hearts; we must abide in it on a constant basis; we should be praying without ceasing.
Too often we look to the Word of God to find a fuzzy encouragement to continue down the same paths we are already on. We forget to understand that the Word of God is given for wisdom, reproof, instruction, and correction. God is a God of love. And you cannot separate His love from His correction (Hebrews 12:6-11, Proverbs 3:11-14, II Timothy 4:1-5). He uses The Word and the lives of the people that belong to the Body of Christ to buffer and sharpen one another. We cannot truly receive all that Christ has for us while continuing to hide behind our masks and keep God on our “morning to-do list.”
Diagnosis of the Disease:
- Work Out Your Salvation With Fear and Trembling – Begin By Examining What Fruit Your Life Produces
*** Spoiler Alert – If it doesn’t look like a duck, and quack like a duck, it probably ain’t a duck! ***
Some of us have been ‘saved’ for longer than we were ‘unsaved,’ and NOTHING in our lives has really changed except how we FEEL from day to day. This has all too often described MYSELF – so I am preaching to MYSELF. If it convicts your heart too, then perhaps it should. If the power of God is not evident in our lives by recognizable fruit, then we must truly examine ourselves to see if we are connected to the Vine (II Corinthians 13:5, Psalm 132:23-24, John 15, Matthew 7:15-20)!
You might say- like I had for a long time, “I’m only human. God knows I’ll never be perfect.”
How dare we doubt that our human weaknesses can keep God from doing all that He wants to accomplish in us; yet, at the same time claim that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above ALL that we ask OR think, ACCORDING to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20-21). How shameful considering, He Who has called us, has also EQUIPPED us (II Corinthians 10:1-6, Ephesians 6:13-18)!
God will faithfully complete this process in us, as we submit ourselves to Him (Philippians 1:6, Hebrews 2:1, I Thessalonians 5:24, I John 4:16, I John 3:1, Hebrews 11:6, Isaiah 7:9, Proverbs 10:24). The Word of God makes clear that those who belong to Him will be glorified (Romans 8:30), but that no one will be glorified who does not continue in the faith (I Corinthians 15:1-2, Colossians 1:21-23, Matthew 10:22, John 15).
Yes, we cannot do this by ourselves – we will miserably fail if we rely upon our own strength. We were not meant to do it by ourselves. We were meant to be weak and emptied of ourselves – broken and spilled out; therefore, needing, depending, and relying upon the strength of Jesus Christ continually – who is made perfect in our weakness (II Corinthians 12:8-10, Psalm 51:17)
- Do We Take Suffering Seriously and Embrace It?
*** Spoiler Alert – If we don’t feel like we’re suffering in this process, then there is a problem. ***
As we read in II Timothy 2, Paul stresses the importance of living faithfully before God, even to the point of suffering. II Timothy 2 makes it clear that if we do not find ourselves suffering for the sake of Christ, then we are not truly being diligent in our service to Christ. The suffering he speaks of doesn’t necessarily describe persecution from others, as much and as often as it describes the suffering we should be experiencing as we deny our fleshly appetites and submit it to the Spirit of God within us – suffering caused by laying down our old selves and becoming the new creation we are called to become (II Corinthians 5:17-21, Romans 12:1-2). This suffering happens as we diligently study and apply God’s Word in our lives. Application of the Word of God is of utmost importance, as it is the proof that we are truly God’s children. Without application of the Word, we prove ourselves to be gluttons – We become guilty of what Jesus described in Matthew 15:7-9. We profess God with our mouths, but we fail to honor Him with our lives. We become so full of Scripture, while we neglect the most important ministry – our families, the poor and needy in our communities, serving others in love, taking care of orphans and widows – the entire ministry of Jesus Christ – a command given in James 1:27. This command is the evidence of correctly applying what II Timothy 2 described as what should be the outcome of our diligent study and workmanship.
The Solutions to the Causes of the Disease:
- We must ask ourselves a couple of questions:
The first question we must ask ourselves is – do we truly want to die to ourselves that we may live eternally? Do we mean it enough to stop doing what we have always done to be what we have been called to be? We must – if we truly want to be saved (Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 4:22-24, Colossians 3:5, Luke 9:23-24, John 12:24, I Peter 4:1-2, Galatians 5:24, Romans 8:12-13, Romans 6:8-14, John 3:30, Titus 2:12, Matthew 10:38, Galatians 6:14). Are we truly saved? When is our salvation complete?
- KNOW the WORD of God for yourself and study Scriptures within Their Context!!!
*** Spoiler Alert – When we try to separate the Scripture into a verse here or there to encourage ourselves to believe that we are ok – we are guilty of adding and/or taking away from the Word of God (Revelation 22:17-21). You can’t base all of your belief on one Scripture – you must base your belief on the ENTIRE Word of God – and God expects you to spend ALL your heart, soul, and mind doing this. ***
The apostle Paul wrote to the evangelist Timothy, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The word ‘study’ means ‘strive, or be diligent.’ Being an approved workman involves much more than a simple morning devotion written by someone else or attending church services throughout the week. Paul wanted Timothy to understand that to be a workman that God could approve, he would have to be diligent in his service to God. To be a diligent and approved workman, we would have to correctly handle God’s Word by rightly dividing the Word of Truth – by correctly handling the Bible, through much study, contemplation, and prayer. Being an approved workman is the commanded goal that all of God’s children should have set before them on a continual basis.
We are commanded to grow in our faith; we are commanded to study to show ourselves approved; our ignorance of Scripture cannot be excuse; our lack of time to study cannot be our excuse. If this is the case – then we have allowed other things to take precedence in our lives over Jesus Christ’s work in us – this is defined as IDOLATRY. This is where ‘dying to self’ MUST BEGIN!
- Understand That Salvation is a Continual Process – Stop Taking Everybody Else’s Word for It and Study to Find Out For Yourself What It Means! Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13).
*** Spoiler Alert – ‘everybody ain’t going to heaven; Jesus said ‘many are called and few are chosen’; He also said that ‘narrow is the gate’ and that ‘many would stand before Him believing they were saved – only to be called evil workers of iniquity and demanded to ‘depart’ (Matthew 7:21-23). ***
I have wrestled with the idea of eternal security my entire life. Trust me, I wanted to embrace the ‘once saved always saved doctrine.’ But the Holy Spirit inside of me would never give me peace through that doctrine – as it doesn’t line up with God’s Word. As much as I want a one-time guarantee, the only guarantee I have found is in my faith expressed through my obedience to Jesus Christ.
Yes, we are born again by the grace of God through faith – as a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Yes, we do not do the works of God to gain personal favor with God. However, we must also understand that we are commanded to be doers of the Word (James 1:22). We must understand that we are known whose we are by the fruit we produce (Galatians 5). That fruit is produced by abiding in Christ (John 15).
Our works are evidence of our faith (James 2). Furthermore, we need to make sure we have truly interpreted the words – ‘grace,’ ‘faith,’ ‘saved,’ and ‘abide’ – according to Scripture. Biblically – the word ‘faith’ used over and over again throughout the New Testament is defined as ‘pistis’ – ‘trust with an implication that action must follow.’ Faith cannot be left to merely mean – ‘think.’ To leave Biblical faith at this definition is to sever ourselves from what makes us Spirit beings – our thoughts are subject to change, and must be monitored, sifted, and altered to the Word of God (II Corinthians 10:3-5, Philippians 4:8).
Biblically – the word ‘grace’ is defined as ‘charis’ – ‘the state of kindness and favor toward someone, often with a FOCUS on a benefit given to the object. The benefit spoken of here is the act of being ‘saved.’ Biblically, ‘saved’ is defined as ‘sozo’ – ‘to be in right relationship with God.’ However, this word cannot be severed without understanding its context and relationship to ALL of the other Scriptures which explain that ‘he who endures to the end will be saved’ because the word ‘saved’ in all those places means the SAME EXACT thing (Matthew 24:13, Matthew 10:22, Mark 13:13) – being ‘saved’ cannot be severed from ‘enduring to the end’ – nor can it be separated from ‘perfect love’ – nor can it be separated from ‘repentance’ (Hebrews 6:15, I Corinthians 13, Mark 4:17, Philippians 3, Acts 16, Romans 10, John 3, Matthew 10, Hebrews 3, Colossians 1, Titus 3:5, I John 5:1-5, Psalm 91, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 12:1, I Peter 4:1-2, Romans 6:14-16, Psalm 119:1-3, 133, John 6:44, Romans 2:4, James 2, I Thessalonians 1:3, II Thessalonians 1:11, II Thessalonians 2:1-3, Ephesians 4:27, Mark 11:22). Biblically – the word ‘endure’ is defined as ‘hypomeno’ – ‘to stay behind, to stand firm, to persevere, to take it patiently, to abode still, to suffer.’ Biblically, the word ‘abide’ is defined as ‘meno’ – ‘to stay, remain, dwell, to be in a state that begins and CONTINUES.’
Therefore, Biblical faith – is causing our minds to line up with God’s Word and walking in obedience to the Word of God – Jesus (John 1), until the day we take our last breaths or Jesus returns (II Timothy 2:19, Matthew 23:25, Luke 6:46, I John 1:9, Romans 12:1-2, John 7:17, II Corinthians 7:1, James 1:12, I Corinthians 15:58, Hebrews 10:36, Mark 13:13, Ephesians 6:10-17, II Timothy 4:7, Hebrews 12:1-3). The transformation that happens through this process is what makes us salt and light to the dark world around us. The outward manifestation of this process is what encourages fellow Believers – this is our testimony. We cannot base our salvation upon a prayer we prayed as a child- as much as we would like a ‘one size fits all’ guarantee, salvation, by Biblical definition based upon the WHOLE Word of God, involves the full package – faith, grace, belief, endurance, repentance, fruit!!!
- Let the Scriptures Instruct, Reprove, and Correct Us as They Are Meant to Do!!!
*** Spoiler Alert – The Word of God is not meant to be a band-aid that covers our boo-boos or make us ‘feel better!’ ***
Many of us look for a verse here or a verse there that might make us feel better about our situation. We read it, perhaps even memorize it – but we don’t study them in context to understand the true meaning of it. We look for something that encourages our flesh – not something that feeds our Spirit man. We go as far as to misinterpret encourage as to mean – ‘to feel good’ – yet, Scripturally ignoring that the true meaning of ‘encourage’ is defined as ‘to strengthen, to make repairs, to urge to take hold of.’ In II Timothy 2, Paul reveals the purposes of Scripture, which many of us fail to recognize, clearly interpret, or fully seem like we want to acknowledge. All Scripture is given to us for four reasons: for doctrine, for reproof (‘certainty, evidence, rebuke’), for correction (‘to straighten up, getting it right again’), and for instruction in righteousness. It is given to us to spur us into a constant process of studying God’s Word and responding to what we have read with repentance and service to others.
- BE THE BODY OF CHRIST!
Do we feel too alone and unequipped to endeavor the process?
*** Spoiler Alert – In order for the Church Body to grow and you to grow strong within the Church Body, you must participate. If you believe that your personal life and choices are not the business of the other members of the Body of Christ – then you are WRONG! ***
Every person is an important part of the Body of Christ. We cannot function without all the parts (I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 2:19-22, Ephesians 4:11-25, Ephesians 5:19-20).
The thing that hinders this is “self” – self-preservation, self-promotion, and other self-related things, which have become more important to us and have torn down the things God would have us to be doing. The things that keep us from functioning properly are the things we allow in our lives. It is all a choice.
Do we choose pride and resort to self-preservation and self-promotion or do we choose humility and self-disclosure?
Do we choose to make excuses for ourselves out of fear or do we step out in faith and allow God to use our lives as a testimony of His resurrection power?
Do we let grace stop at the cross or do we allow grace to perfect itself within us?
Do we choose to wander around the desert like the Israelites for 40 years – relying on Moses to do all the work or do we subject ourselves to obedience to Christ and take on the business of being the Body of Christ?
I Peter 2:9 says to us, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” This is not something we can allow someone to do for us, and then is not something we can do alone or apart from the Body of Christ.
How many of us expect our pastor to hear from God for us, instead of listening to God ourselves?
How many of us are comfortable playing church instead of being the Church?
We have been designed by God to interact with members of the Body, so that we might edify and encourage one another. God gives each of us a portion of faith and imparts within us gifts to be used for His glorification. We are meant to be sharing our faith and our gifts with the Body. We cannot choose to remain in our comfort zones and allow ourselves to be spoon-fed. We cannot continue to choose the easy path in order to protect ourselves from being hurt by imperfect people. Many of us are playing church and wearing masks because we have been wounded and mistreated by others. But this is no excuse. The enemy has used our hurts and pride as tactics to cause the Body of Christ to be in division and alienated from one another. It is time to rise up and be the Body of Christ and allow others to do the same (Romans 12:1-8).
The Remedy to the Disease – Be the Church!
How do we start?
John 15:1-2 says, “”I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Purging is also known as pruning. When you prune a plant, you cut back the branches so that new fruit can grow. It is a process that God does within us, and it hurts. However, it is the kind of pain that produces healing within our Spirit man. It involves giving up the things that we hold more important than God and the things that contradict God’s nature.
It is a choice, but it is a choice we cannot afford to avoid. The Body of Christ depends upon us to allow the process of pruning to take place. Since we are members of the Body of Christ, we are branches on the Vine of Jesus Christ. If we as branches, don’t do our necessary jobs, we are purged so that new growth can take place. I’m not exactly sure if being cut off from the Vine means we lose our salvation, but from my study of the Scripture as a whole, I can only believe, at this point, that a dead branch is just that – a dead branch. I don’t know about you, but I am not willing to take a chance on losing my eternal security – I believe that my spiritual life depends on my abiding in Christ until the end – whether it be my last breath or Christ’s return.
So what does all of this mean? How does the Body of Christ work together to edify and encourage one another?
When a part of your body is harmed or hurt in some way, your entire body becomes involved in the process of healing. The Body of Christ is supposed to function in the same manner. When a part of the Body is hurting, the rest of the Body is to make itself available to help however we can.
Prayer is certainly the most important thing we can do. But how many of us tell one another – “I’ll pray for you” – but we treat it with the same importance as we do when insincerely ask people “how are you” while we walk past them without sincerely listening to their response? The Bible tells us many times to pray without ceasing. Are we doing that? Are we truly interceding on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Is it possible that people’s lives are not being changed because we are not truly praying for them like we should? It is the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man that availeth much”(James 5:16). Are we praying effectively? Are we living in the righteousness of Jesus Christ?
With that being said, it is important to remember that praying is not the only thing we are commanded to do as the Body of Christ. We are also commanded to, “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Now with that being said, in consideration of everything else I have said, it is time for us to consider how we are meant to stir one another to good works.
Part of the problem is that we replace the word love with tolerance. We tolerate one another’s sins rather than loving one another. We misinterpret Scripture and take it out of context to fit our comfort levels rather than truly asking God for wisdom regarding the passage. In our hopeless effort to protect our pride and continue wearing our masks, we tell everyone to mind their own business and stop judging us, and we forego the true meanings of long-suffering, patience, meekness – perfect love. We short change ourselves and the Body of Christ by sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring bad fruit – like it will go away by itself. We hide from “being judged” by ignoring one another’s sins altogether. We avoid correcting sin, calling it what it truly is – we avoid rebuke, reproof, and correction, which the Word of God commands us to do (Matthew 18:15-18, I Corinthians 5:1-13, Galatians 6:1-2, James 5:19-20, Leviticus 19:17, II Thessalonians 3:6-14, Colossians 3:16, I Thessalonians 5:14, Proverbs 10).
Perfect love cannot be separated from warning one another when we are in sin! It is God’s job to judge the world; it is our duty to correct and admonish one another in meekness and love – not hypocrisy and pride (I Corinthians 5:12-13). So many people have taken Matthew 7 out of context entirely because we want to protect ourselves, and keep a hold of those secret things that we don’t want to give up. Read Matthew 7 in its entirety – and when you’re done, make sure you read Galatians 6:1-18. The point of Matthew 7 is to drive home the importance of keeping our lives right with God, so we can help others do the same! Hypocritical, unrighteous judgment is a result of hidden sins within our own lives that we fail to deal with while pointing the finger at someone else. That is unrighteous judgment. However, the Scripture commands us to lovingly and patiently hold one another accountable, rebuke sin when it is evident, and exhort one another to good works (II Timothy 4:2, Hebrews 10:24-25). How can we watch our brothers and sisters do something that is harming their fellowship with Jesus and with the Body of Christ and not say anything?
I would have to contend that the real problem is the great maturity in Christ we must have in order to practice meekness, kindness, patience, and long suffering – while also living our lives in such a way that we are dead to our own sinful flesh, so we can truly get to the job of helping one another identify and overcome the obstacles of our faith that we might become fruit-bearing branches.
It takes a lot less effort to criticize, to cause division, to gossip amongst ourselves, and to play church. It takes a lot less effort to keep our masks on and hide behind the faults of someone else rather than becoming part of one another’s journeys and bearing one another’s burdens. We dare not confess our sins to one another (James 5:16) because our pride might be wounded! We dare not reprove (to expose or confront), rebuke (to criticize sharply, admonish, or reprimand), or exhort (to call to one’s side, to motivate, to encourage) one another because we don’t want anyone to do the same to us! It takes a lot less effort to just pat one another on the backs and go about our same routines.
Spiritual Gluttony and/or Anorexia is a disease that cannot be remedied by itself in my opinion. We need one another. Will you help me? Let’s get on with the task of Jesus’ two greatest commandments – Matthew 22:36-40, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
“Love your neighbor as yourself” – enough to be who we were created to be and exhort one another to do the same!