CTT | A Thought on Christian Liberty

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s take a look at a systematic approach to proselytizing, and see if you can identify what is being presented as good news here:

  1. You’re sick. You aren’t nearly as healthy as you think you are. Somewhere, deep down inside, you know you’re not complete. There’s something missing in your life and you’ve filled your life full of empty or even poisonous things that are killing you. Don’t you feel like life could be better?
  2. Have you settled for surviving, when you should be thriving and living prosperously and in great health? Whether it’s pride, rebellion, or fear of failure, you need to humble yourself and accept that how you’ve been living life all this time has been wrong, self-indulgent, and self-destructive.
  3. There is a way out. There are a lot of counterfeits out there, lots of empty promises, lots of people claiming that their truth is THE truth only for their systems to crumble into falsehood and despair. I have good news for you, and I stand here before you as a witness to its power and meaning. I’m not selling anything, I’m sharing what I believe to be the Truth.
  4. But it won’t be easy. While some might issue challenges to “give it a try”, I’m here to tell you that this isn’t about experimenting with something incrementally. If you’re ready for real change, meaningful change, your entire life will have to change. You must turn away from the way you’ve been doing life, and follow the narrow path to new life that I’m presenting to you today.
  5. You’ll need to throw out the old, don’t hold onto the things of the past, they will only hold you down and tempt you to fall away. They might even cause you pain. Your friends won’t understand why you no longer live life the way they do. But once they see how much more happy and healthy and powerful you’ve become, they’ll ask you what is different in your life, and then they’ll be ready to listen. Then they’ll taste and see. And perhaps, they, too, will come out of the dead-end, fruitless life, they’ve grown up in.

The list I’ve just provided probably looks a lot like a jab at western evangelical “give your life to Jesus” pitch. It actually wasn’t. What I presented above is what I’ve witnessed from the gospel of Atkins, Gluten-free, Vegan, and Paleo diets. Definitely a works-based religion. Are any of them inherently evil? Not at all. In fact, if you are celiac, I’ll recommend a gluten-free diet right along with the medical community. If you struggle with self-control in the area of junk foods, I might recommend a more Paleo-like diet. If you simply (for whatever reason) find meat and dairy un-palatable, I’d recommend researching vegan-best-practices. Some of these diets serve a purpose for some people who for various reasons need help making basic food decisions. None of these things is a panacea, and none of them save. Yet, I see far more aggressive food-evangelism than I do Christian.

America is Sick

However, more important than the pervasive general obesity in America, is the rampant unbelief and false doctrine that is filling society. Society is rejecting the Authority of the Bible. That’s a problem that needs constant attention. That is the role of the church, and our charge as Christians, stewards of the Gospel of God’s Grace. We are to be witness of the Truth of God’s Word.  Yes, America is overweight and generally unhealthy. Yes, we should be better stewards of the life we live by God’s grace.  As Christians, we need to keep the message clear… and sometimes proselytizing a diet (or vehemently opposing one) distracts from the Gospel. It did in the early church, with the Judeaizers. Paul dealt with it explicitly in his letter to the Romans, and he did so in a way that still find applicability today.

Romans 14 (ESV)

Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building.

20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

As long as we are living our lives in humility and Worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our diet (fad or real) is a matter of Christian Liberty. Only when your diet becomes an idol for you or a stumbling block for you or a brother/sister who is weak in the Faith, does Scripture have a hard say. For the mature, the prohibition from drunkenness doesn’t mandate a rejection of all things alcoholic. For the immature, such abstinence may be necessary as a guardian until maturity in self control is achieved.

Conclusion

I truly do not care how a brother or sister in the faith has chosen to eat or drink. Vegan, Paleo, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, Omnivore, Kosher, doesn’t matter. Your diet isn’t a Gospel matter; your tastes in food or drink, your food allergies, or your personal distrust of processed food products are not Gospel matters. Crash diets are a concern, and the motive for such diets are generally what need to be addressed, Biblically. Faith, and the object of our Faith, is the concern, not diet. As an ominvore, I will poke fun at trendy diets and fad diets. I won’t make fun of anyone’d diet that is forced by allergies/ailments/injuries, though, that’s no fad or trend. What does draw my ire, and what has led to this post, is when Christians lose sight of the line between nutrition and Gospel. The Scriptures are quite clear that God has declared all food clean. So there is no Scriptural basis for insisting on any particular diet, or even suggesting that one diet is morally superior to another. I fell victim to this before, where I noticed I was proselytizing a diet more naturally and aggressively than I was the Gospel. That was a problem for me, and I am now hyper sensitive to it.

Dear Christians, in your desire to live a more healthy lifestyle, guard your hearts. It is far too easy for our sinful hearts to slip into idolatry, where our faith gets misplaced in our health, our beauty, our fitness, our diet, our uniqueness, etc. And while we will not agree on the best flavor of ice-cream… or on whether or not one should even eat ice-cream, we will live in unity of the Faith, the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Romans 15:1-7 (ESV) | The Example of Christ

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

But Empty Calories Taste Gooood

Rock of Horeb by Mariano David Otero ©2010-2014 MarianoDavidOtero

Rock of Horeb by Mariano David Otero ©2010-2014 MarianoDavidOtero

Today has been a different sort of day for me, so today’s post is more of me sharing in a blog what has been rolling around in my head for the past week or so.

Drink water

Are you and avid water drinker? If you aren’t part of the “get fit” crowd, chances are you go through your day without so much as a single glass of water. We have lots of sports drinks, sodas, milk, tea, coffee, fruit juices and even very tasty vegetable juices, not to mention beer and liquor. Our bodies need water for their functions.  If I may, I thought I’d grab a quick list from a fun site (though we could turn to medical journals for a more scholarly approach)

source: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/why-your-body-needs-water.html

Your body is mostly (50 to 70 percent) water. Exactly how much water depends on how old you are and how much muscle and fat you have. Muscle tissue has more water than fat tissue. Because the average male body has proportionately more muscle than the average female body, it also has more water. For the same reason — more muscle — a young body has more water than an older one.

You definitely won’t enjoy the experience, but if you have to, you can live without food for weeks at a time, getting subsistence levels of nutrients by digesting your own muscle and fat. But water is different. Without it, you’ll die in a matter of days — more quickly in a place warm enough to make you perspire and lose water more quickly.

You need water to

  • Digest food, dissolving nutrients so that they can pass through the intestinal cell walls into your bloodstream, and move food along through your intestinal tract.
    Carry waste products out of your body.
  • Provide a medium in which biochemical reactions such as metabolism (digesting food, producing energy, and building tissue) occur.
  • Send electrical messages between cells so that your muscles can move, your eyes can see, your brain can think, and so on.
  • Regulate body temperature — cooling your body with moisture (perspiration) that evaporates on your skin.
  • Lubricate your moving parts.

As much as three-quarters of the water in your body is in intracellular fluid, the liquid inside body cells. The rest is in extracellular fluid, which is all the other body liquids, such as

  • Interstitial fluid (the fluid between cells)
  • Blood plasma (the clear liquid in blood)
  • Lymph (a clear, slightly yellow fluid collected from body tissues that flows through your lymph nodes and eventually into your blood vessels)
  • Bodily secretions such as sweat, seminal fluid, and vaginal fluids
  • Urine

Personal confession: while growing up, I did not enjoy drinking water directly unless it was during a break in Wrestling or Football practice. After serving in the Army, I learned the value of good drinking water, even from a plastic canteen that has been sitting in the 90ºF sun for several hours. However, whenever I am comfortably in my home enjoying time with friends and family and not breaking a sweat… I don’t turn to water, I go for some of those empty calorie drinks. Why? Because they taste goooood. Sure, in every consumable liquid there is some measure of water; however, the body has to work a lot harder to use what little water is available and some of it has to be then used to cleanse the system of impurities (pointing mainly at the sugary sodas, coffee, tea, and alcoholic drinks). When a doctor prescribes “more fluids”, we should understand “water” (you should get your electrolytes from eating good foods, it doesn’t have to be in drink form).

Drink Water

John 4:1-15 (ESV) | Jesus and the Woman of Samaria
1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

This passage is often heavily spiritualized (particularly within the continuationist view) pointing to God the Holy Spirit. This passage isn’t just about God the Holy Spirit, but about the Word of God, the Word made Flesh in Jesus Christ and in the Written Word that was Breathed Out by God. Without the Holy Spirit we cannot hope to see God in the Scriptures; however, we who have received faith by hearing the Word of God and have accepted the Law and Gospel of Jesus and been baptized have been sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit, who teaches us as we read the Written Word of God.

During any given week, I read through some 20 or so discernment articles or blogs, and listen to a good 15 hours of exegetical teaching, discernment ministries, commentaries, and (regrettably) some really bad sermons. The answer I jump to in almost all cases is “read your Bibles”. Last week, while I was listening to one of the bad sermons, I heard the false teacher implore the listeners to “read their Bibles”.  That’s when it struck me… they don’t know how to read their Bibles, and the false-teacher knows it. The false teacher presents himself (or herself) as the keeper of the well. They are the only ones who know how to draw the water, because the well is so deep. So they’ll say in one breath “read your Bibles” and with the next they’ll twist a passage completely out of context to woo the crowd and impress them with their sugary drink theology. The question that is left in the mind of the listener is, “why is it when I draw my own water (Read the Bible) it never comes out tasting so sweetly?” There is no way to read the Bible yourself and come up with the wild allegories and “life applications” that these false teachers peddle, and they know it. But they are counting on you to defer to their teaching for your next “sugar rush” more than they are on you clearing your palate.

A child who has grown up on a steady diet of fruit juices and milk will find water unpleasant to drink. It tastes bland without all of that sugar. There aren’t any bubbles. There’s no buzz.  Even as an adult, have you ever tried to eliminate extra sugar from your diet? It makes everything taste… well… blah. The truth is, you’ve grown accustomed to high-fructose sugary everything. Your palate has been overloaded for so long, you have no idea just how much sugar you ingest without noticing (incidentally, we also tend to do this with salt). Most people can’t handle going from a normal-high sugar diet to a balanced diet and hold steadily. I find that I need to reset my palate first by eliminating as many sources of added sugar as possible, so that I can once-again detect when my food/drink has been sweetened.

Learn to Read Your Bible and Drink Pure Water

What we try to focus on here is pointing out to our readers what it takes to read the Bible for what it says, without additives. Please, take a break from all of the NY Times Best Sellers advertised in your Christian bookstore, and learn to read your Bible. I recommend getting a good coach. I’ve learned a lot from listening to Chris Rosebrough at Fighting for the Faith, Jonathan Fisk at Worldview Everlasting, Alistair Begg on Truth for Life, and Todd Friel at WretchedRadio. For those keeping track of denominations, that’s 2 Lutheran, 1 Nondenominational, and 1 Reformed. From time to time, if we get side-tracked and you feel we’ve not made clear where we draw our connections in the text, please challenge us here. Let us know when we’ve skipped a step or erred entirely. Hold us accountable, so that we might be Faithful Stewards of God’s Word.

Colossians 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge