By Dr. James Merritt, Senior Pastor of Cross Pointe Church and host of Touching Lives.

 

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: For 2010 we’ve added a new form of content to Faith & Fitness Magazine. For years we have been committed to delivering solid fitness research, information and ideas. We’ll continue to bring you professionals who offer a wide array of fitness knowledge. But in addition to this “teach it” approach we want to increase your ability to grow spiritually with an expanded “preach it” format. We’re asking authors to challenge and inspire. This is gym equipment to build spiritual muscle.

Have you ever wanted to get your life lined up with God’s purpose so that you can live a life on the level? It is amazing how just being one degree off in a measurement or even one letter off in a word can completely throw your life out of whack.

I read a report that a Swedish couple who was touring in Italy wanted to go see the Island of Capri. They were in a little Italian town called “Carpi”. They went to the tourist office and asked where they could find the Island of Capri and its famous blue grotto. When they got back in their car they typed in to their automobile GPS the destination, but instead of typing in “Capri” they typed in “Carpi”. Relying completely on their state-of-art navigational system they wound up driving 400 miles off course.(1)

It doesn’t take a lot for you to get off course in your life. Getting your priorities straight, managing your time well, and handling your money wisely are so interrelated that if one is off course normally the other two are as well. There is one simple reason why we ought to consider the body that we live in very important and we ought to treat it with tender loving care and that is because God made it and God values it. The Bible says this about every body that has ever been made,
“It is fearfully and wonderfully made… it is intricately fashioned.”

God’s value for the human body extends beyond creation all the way through to death. Another passage in the Bible gives evidence to that, “God himself made sure that Moses body got a decent burial.” From creation, through death on into eternity; our bodies are so important to God that He has promised to raise them from the dead. Every Christmas we are reminded that God assumed a body Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. God thinks your body is very important. People tend to go to two extremes with their body. Many people don’t think their body is as important as God does and there are others who think their body is more important than God does.

Many, if not most people, ignore their body. On one hand, there are people who adore their body. They focus so much attention on the physical side that they totally neglect their own spiritual growth and maturity. On the other hand some people focus on the spiritual side of life and then neglect the physical side. Some people are too sexy for their shirt and some people are so big they can’t get in it. Some people take 50 vitamins a day and some people can’t spell “vitamin.” The Bible has a word to say to both of you.

On the one hand let’s be honest, there is a real problem with many people ignoring their body and neglecting their health. We let our bodies run down like an abandoned shack – we let it get fat, flabby, floppy, treat our stomachs like a garbage disposal, and look like we are in desperate need of a Nutra-System fix.
Some statistics show that around sixty-seven percent of the people in this country are overweight. Thirty-three percent are obese. Seventy percent rarely or never exercise and it is costing this country plenty. Chew on this the next time you are idling in the drive through line at your favorite fast food restaurant. Cars on US roads must burn nearly 1 billion additional gallons of gas a year, because of overweight drivers and passengers. In other words, one of the best things you can do to boost the fuel economy of your car is eat fewer cookies.(2)

One of the downsides of living in such a prosperous well-fed country is there are all kinds of opportunities to abuse our body in ways that God never intended. Someone put it this way – “God populated the earth with vegetables of all kinds so that humans would live a long and healthy life. And Satan created the ninety-nine cent double-cheeseburger. He also said to humans, ‘You want fries with that?’ And the humans said, ‘Super-size them’ and humans gained pounds. And God created healthful yogurt, but Satan froze the yogurt and brought forth chocolate, M&Ms, and brightly-colored candy to put on top of the yogurt and humans gained more pounds. And God brought forth running shoes and humans resolved to lose all those extra pounds, but Satan brought forth cable tv, remote control, and potato chips. And the human clutched his remote and ate his chips. Satan saw this and said, ‘It is good.’ And humans went into cardiac arrest and God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery and Satan created HMOs.”

I know what all you gym-rats are doing right now with a smug look on your faces, but you’ve gone to the other extreme. You don’t ignore your body, but you adore your body. You are consumed with how you look. You run, pump iron, eat vitamins, wheat germ, bananas, and drink smoothies, but you are doing it for all the wrong reasons. All you are trying to do is live longer. You are going to find out the reason we ought to keep our bodies healthy has nothing to do with how long we live, but how we live.

You spend so much of your time on your diet, on clothes and plastic surgery which has now become a $14 billion industry. In fact, this would be an interesting question, “I wonder how many of you have had plastic surgery? I love what Dolly Parton said, “If I see something sagging, dragging, or bagging, I get it sucked, tucked, or plucked. It takes a lot of money to look as cheap as I do.”

I heard about a woman who was struggling about whether or not to have cosmetic surgery. She was going to have a face-lift, but it was going to be very expensive. She was going back and forth as to whether or not she ought to do it. As she was talking about it with her husband, who was trying to get her to do it, she said, “What if I drop dead two months after the surgery? Then what would you do?” He thought for a moment and said, “Well, I guess we would have an open-casket.”

Some of you health-nuts are more concerned about your body than you are your soul. You will miss church if it rains, sleets, or snows, but you won’t let any of those things stop you from going to the gym. The truth is both of those extremes are wrong. We should neither ignore our bodies nor should we idolize our bodies.

I am not Dr. Phil and I am not going to tell you what to eat, what to drink or how to exercise. Many have already formulated their viewpoint much like Mark Twain. He once said, “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like and do what you had rather not.”
I want all of us to see our bodies in a completely different way than perhaps we ever have before, because how you see your body will determine how you treat your body. Whether or not you ignore your body or adore your body is not a physical issue, but a spiritual issue. There is a story in the Bible to help us understand this concept.

Let me give you the back-drop to it. There were people in Corinth, which was a pagan city. They had begun to think about the human body the same way Greeks thought about it. They felt the body was not important. Their philosophy was, “God doesn’t care about my body; He only cares about my spirit. After all the body is going to die anyway so I can do anything with my body I want to.” In other words, it was the old, “If it feels good do it” philosophy. By the way, that is the same mentality that says, “It is alright to pollute the air, trash the land, and dirty the water, because it is all going up in smoke anyway.” It is a way of thinking that is wrong. What I want you to learn is this: My body belongs to God and I am to honor Him in how I treat it. The author Paul in the Bible communicates that there are two ways we need to see our bodies. If you keep these two things in mind you will always keep the proper perspective on your body and your health.

I Should See My Body As A Temple Where God Lives

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” (I Corinthians 6:19, NIV) I want you to see your body the way God sees your body. When God looks at your body He doesn’t primarily see flesh and bones, hair and teeth, eyes, feet, and hands. When God looks at your body, He sees a temple where He lives. Your body is meant to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. You wouldn’t know this reading the English version, but in the Greek Language the word “your” is plural while the word “body” is singular. It is as if Paul is talking to the entire congregation and speaking to all of them at once, but he is pointing out every individual body. He is saying from the little boy and little girl to the grown man and the grown women, “Follow Jesus Christ. Your body is God’s temple.”

There is a reason why our body is called a “temple.” In the Bible, the temple was a place of worship. In like fashion your body is to be a place of worship. The Holy Spirit lives in my temple twenty-four hours a day, so every waking moment my body is to be a place where God is worshipped and God is honored.
Your body is not a hotel with check out time at twelve o’clock on Sunday when church is over. Your body is a temple where the Spirit of God resides every moment every day.

Keep in mind, just like the temple, the body is a place of worship, but it is not an object of worship. We worship in this building, but we don’t worship this building, but because it is God’s building we respect it and we keep it clean and honor it by the way we occupy it. Just as we are to respect and take care of the one house (the building) we are to respect and take care of the other house (the body). That is exactly what we are told in another part of scripture,
“Every one of you should learn to control his body, keeping it pure and treating it with respect, and never regarding it as an instrument for self-gratification, as do pagans with no knowledge of God.”

Now take a look at this. The Bible also says, “You are not your own. You were bought at a price.” What that means is that your body is not just a temple, but it is God’s temple and it belongs to Him. God bought you. The bill of sale is the cross of Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ died on the cross and paid for your sins He also paid for you. God owns every part of you – every ounce, every pound, every sinew, every fiber, every muscle, every nerve and every corpuscle belongs to Him.

Do you understand what that means? You can no longer say, “Well, it is my lungs I’ll smoke if I want to.” They are not your lungs. You can no longer say, “It is my stomach. I’ll eat what I want to.” It is not your stomach. You can no longer say, “It is my eyes. I’ll look at what I want to.” They are not your eyes. You can no longer say, “It is my mouth and I’ll say what I please.” It is not your mouth. You have been bought with a price. You are no longer your own.
God has one claim on every human being and He has two claims on every one of His followers. He has the claim of creation over every human being, because He created all of us. If you are one of His followers, He also has the claim of redemption, because He bought you with the blood of His own son. When you begin to see your body as a temple where God lives it will change your entire perspective. But He says something else…
 

I Should See My Body As A Tool That God Uses

“Therefore honor God with your body.” (I Corinthians 6:20) Take care of body in such a way that it can reach its fullest potential and purpose which is to honor God. Your body was created for one purpose – to honor and to glorify God. That means where you take it, how you treat it, what you put in it and what you do with it is all to glorify Him. “Bring all who claim Me as their God for I have made them for my glory.” (Isaiah 43:7) The word “honor” is the word that gives us the word “doxology”. A doxology is a word-phrase. In other words, our body is to be a walking, living, breathing, talking, doxology of praise and glory to God in everything we do with it. That is a staggering thought.

If that is true what are the implications and what are the applications we can make concerning our health and our body? Let me ask you this question, “How would my life change if I began to see my body as a temple where God lives and a tool that God uses?” Let me just give you four areas where you need to take God seriously in your health and with your body.
 

AREA 1: DIET

I heard preachers rant and rail against smoking and against drinking, but lets be honest. It is just as wrong to stuff God’s temple with food as it is to stuff God’s temple with smoke or alcohol. In the church at Rome, some people were slaves to their own bellies. That is why Paul said, “God has given us an appetite for food and stomachs to digest it, but that doesn’t mean we should eat more than we need. Don’t think of eating as important, because someday God will do away with both stomachs and food.” (I Corinthians 6:13)
There is an old saying that inside of every fat person there is a thin person trying to get out. I believe it is also true that outside of every thin person is a fat person trying to climb in. There are too many of us who spend too much time adding rooms to our temple. The truth is we ought to be examples to others in every way including the way we treat our body.
 

AREA 2: EXERCISE

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (I Timothy 4:8) Notice that this verse does not say that exercise is completely unimportant. As a matter of fact it says it does have some value. It simply prioritizes exercise correctly by saying that godliness is of greater value. Again, if your body is a temple, God deserves to live in the best body you can give Him. If your body is a tool that God uses, then you ought to give Him a tool that is most useful. The reason why all of us ought to exercise is not to improve the quality of our body or the look of our bodies so that other people will notice us or admire us. It should be to get our physical health to the point that we will have more physical energy that we can devote to godliness and spiritual things.

When we take care of our bodies we are energized to do more in our personal life, our family life and our spiritual life. There was a study of some top level executives that revealed 93% of them have a high energy level. Less than 10% of them smoke, 90% of them exercise regularly and most of them maintain healthy cholesterol levels.(3)
 

AREA 3: REST

Your body needs rest. Did you know that drowsiness has become a very significant problem in America? It kills 38,000 people a year. Drowsiness and fatigue costs Americans roughly $166 billion a year in lost productivity.(4) We need to rest daily. That is why we get sleepy. We need to rest weekly and that is why God gave us the Sabbath Day. We need to rest monthly. That is why God gave us the weekends. We need to rest yearly and that is why we need to take vacations.

AREA 4: CHURCH

One of the healthiest things you can do for your temple is to bring your temple to the temple. Regular church goers, on average, have blood pressure 5% lower than those who don’t go to church. Frequent church goers are almost 25% less likely to die than persons who go seldom or not at all. In fact, people who attend church weekly live an average of 7 years longer than people who never attend church.(5) Yes, health is important. Taking care of your body is important to God and ought to be important to you, but listen carefully. The major reason why we ought to have healthy bodies is not just so we will live longer, but so that we will live better. We can give God our very best thinking, our highest energy, and our longest service.

God cares about what you do with your body. Caring for your physical life is not just a physical issue, but it is a moral issue and spiritual issue. The right use of your body honors God and glorifies Him. Your body is His body. We are eternally united to the God who created us. We are personally indwelt by His Sprit and we have been bought with the price of the blood of His son and that is why health is not just a matter of happiness, but it is a matter of Holiness.

 

 

Footnotes: (1)“Swedes Miss Capri after GPS Gaffe”, BBCNews, 12/23/2009. (2)“Obesity Takes A Toll On The Road”, Readers Digest, April 2007. (3)Zig Ziglar, Something To Brag About, p. 59. (4)In Other Words, Winter, 1999.p 7 (5)In Other Words, Winter, 1999.p 11

 

Dr. James Merritt is the founder and Senior Pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia. He serves as the host of Touching Lives International Radio and Television Broadcast Ministry airing in all 50 states and 122 countries around the world on TBN, The Church Channel, and The Liberty Channel. James is also a popular speaker and the author of several books including Friends, Foes and Fools, God’s Prescription For A Healthy Christian, How To Be A Winner and Influence Anybody and Crown Him King.

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