Last year I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. As I learned more about diabetes, I cut down on sugar and processed foods. My wife added more fruits and vegetables to the home meals. I ate smaller portions, and spread the food over five meals a day. I made sure to keep on weightlifting.
My lifestyle changes were not particularly difficult to make. Why was my transition to a new diabetic lifestyle so smooth? Shouldn’t I have mumbled more over eating less chocolate? Why wasn’t I grouchier after eating a smaller meal than usual? Because, as a Christian, it has already been normal to repent of old behaviors and to take up new ones.
If we were willing to put off evil things to benefit us spiritually, shall we not also change to new practices that benefit us physically? In both cases, we are dealing with the flesh. If you had decided to start a regular time of prayer and the word early in the morning, didn’t you have to say no to the flesh in order to do so? You did not necessarily give up sinful practices to make the change, but had to override your own appetites and desire to be pampered. The flesh always wants to be pampered. It always wants the spotlight. It wants to be fed as soon it sends you the signal. “Stop reading your Bible and get a snack NOW!”
As we sow, so shall we reap. The more we pamper the flesh, the harder it is to change course. The rudder rusts into position, making it difficult to turn toward new horizons. Do we really need to persevere in that behavior that upsets our spouse or parents? Must we continue to feed the flesh when medical or spiritual studies show it will harm us in the end?
If our desire is to become more like Jesus Christ, we have already been making changes that conform us to His image. We have discovered that we must watch and pray lest the flesh get the upper hand. We are alert to the temptations around us. We are serious about taking God at His word.
Greater flexibility in serving the Lord comes with the flesh reckoned dead. The flesh is our enemy. God has no use for it and neither have we. If we are in the flesh, we cannot please God, for the flesh is the enemy of God (Rom. 8:7-8). If we pamper the flesh, we mock the work of Christ on the cross.
At forty-nine years old, am I too old to take on new things? Am I supposed to be set in my ways? In the past year I have started the Topical Memory System, been learning PHP/MySQL computer programming for the web, finished writing another Christian book, become the official Cub Scout den photographer, traveled to another state to preach, and developed a new friendship. I never want to stop changing. God’s goal is that I become more like Jesus. For that to happen, many more changes are in order. When I self-discipline myself to say no to sugar, I strengthen myself to say yes to Jesus.
Do our decisions reflect a love for God – or for comfort? How can we say no to the flesh today? I have a great meal ahead of me, consisting of good things that will nourish and strengthen me. What’s on your plate?