Following the Way | Being a Temple
Well, it’s the second Sunday in 2021. And, right now, at Melbourne Heights, we are talking about how we can follow Jesus throughout this new year. But the problem that we sometimes have is that we think we only have to follow Jesus in the churchy areas of our lives. So usually when we talk about following Jesus, we think about how we can follow Jesus in a worship service or during our Small Groups, or we think that following Jesus is just about reading the Bible or praying. But Jesus isn’t just the Lord over the churchy stuff...Jesus is Lord over everything. So following Jesus is something that we need to do in every area of our lives.
Following Jesus is something that we need to do in every area of our lives.
So we’re going to spend the next three weeks talking about how we can follow Jesus in some of the different areas of our lives. And the areas that we’re going to focus on are the areas that we all tend to focus on at the beginning of a new year. So we’re going to talk about the areas of our lives that we make New Year’s Resolutions for.
So what are the areas that we make resolutions for? Well, let’s start by taking a look at what the most common New Year’s Resolutions are. And according to Inc. Magazine, 71 percent of people who make resolutions resolve to diet or eat healthier. 65 percent resolve to exercise more. 54 percent resolve to lose weight. 32 percent resolve to save more or spend less money. 26 percent resolve to learn a new skill or hobby. And 17 percent resolve to read more in the upcoming year.
So from looking at this list of resolutions, we can see three areas of life that we all tend to focus on at the beginning of a new year. We all tend to focus on our health--that’s why so many people resolve to lose weight or exercise more. We all tend to focus on our finances--that’s why we resolve to spend less or save more. And we all tend to focus on how we spend our free time--that’s why we resolve to find new hobbies or read more.
So these are the areas that we’re going to focus on over the next three weeks. We’re going to talk about how we can follow Jesus in our health, our finances, and our free time. And, since most New Year’s Resolutions have to do with our health, that’s where we’re going to start today.
And, if I’m being completely honest with you, when I’ve made resolutions in the past they have almost always dealt with my health. You see, I’ve struggled with my weight for about half my life. It all started when I went off to college. Before I went to college, I was a really active kid. Throughout high school, I played football, basketball, and even ran track. But when I went off to college all of that stopped.
But my eating habits didn’t change. So, by the end of my freshman year of college, I had put on 35 pounds. And things didn’t get better from there. Seven years after I graduated from college, I was in the worst health I had ever been in. I weighed over 260 pounds. My BMI was 33.4, which put me squarely in the obese category. I got winded when I went up a flight of stairs. I could barely button the top button on all of my dress shirts. And there’s really no telling what else may have been going on in my body because I refused to see a doctor.
So on New Year’s Day of 2011, I made a resolution. I resolved to eat healthier, to exercise more, and to lose some of those extra pounds I was carrying around. And for the first half of that year, things went extremely well. I lost over forty pounds and even ran my first couple of 5Ks. But, by the end of that year, my old habits started creeping back in. So even though I continue to run fairly regularly to this day, I have managed to find about twenty of the forty pounds I lost all those years ago.
So I get it. I understand why so many people make New Year’s Resolutions about their health. But I also know that most of us never think beyond what we want for our own health. So we think about how nice it would be to drop a few extra pounds, or we think about how amazing it would feel to complete a marathon. But we never stop to think about what God wants for our health.
So that’s what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to talk about what God wants for your health and why God wants you to be as healthy as you can. But before we start talking about that there’s something else that we need to talk about first.
For a lot of us, the issues that we have with our health or with our weight keep us from fully accepting ourselves. I mean, when I go to a waterpark with Hannah I always wear some sort of t-shirt with my swim trunks. And I do that in part because it’s easier to wear a t-shirt than to put sunscreen on my back, but I also wear a t-shirt because I’m a little self-conscious of my belly. And I know I shouldn’t be...but the extra weight I carry around my waist keeps me from fully accepting who I am right now.
And the way that the world treats you can be even worse when you have health issues. Whether you’ve ever experienced it or not, body shaming is a real thing. So people will mock you or deride you because of how heavy you are or because of how thin you are. Or they’ll do it because you have wrinkles or pimples.. Or they’ll do it because your muscles are too big or because your muscles are too small...and the list goes on and on.
And because of all of this, somewhere deep down, we can believe that there is a certain mold that we have to fit into to be truly loved and accepted. But I want you to hear this right now, that is not how it works with God. God loves you and accepts you no matter what you look like. God loves you and accepts you no matter what health conditions you may have. Or to put it as simply as I possibly can: God loves and accepts you, period.
God loves you and accepts you, period.
As a matter of fact, in his letter to followers of Jesus in the ancient city of Ephesus, Paul tells us this:
10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Ephesians 2:10 (New Living Translation)
So God doesn’t care what you look like or what health issues you may be facing. God considers you to be his masterpiece. So even if you feel like you’re more like one of Picasso’s paintings than one of Michelangelo’s sculptures, God sees you as a masterpiece. And God loves you no matter what.
So we’re not talking about what God wants for our health because God will love us more if we’re healthier. There is nothing that you can do to make God love you more and there is nothing that you can do to make God love you less.
All right, so now that we are clear on that, let’s talk about what God wants for our health. And whenever we want to hear what God has to say about any topic, the best place to turn is the Bible. And that’s because we believe that the Bible is a book that God uses to reveal who he is, who we are, and how God wants us to live. So what does the Bible have to say about our health? What does the Bible have to say about our health?
Well, the honest answer is: not as much as we’d like for it to. The Bible doesn’t give us the perfect diet to follow, or tell us how many calories or carbs we’re supposed to eat in a day. And the Bible doesn’t lay out an exercise program we can follow so that we can all have the body of a superhero. And the Bible doesn’t tell us what our ideal BMI or waistline should be. The truth is that a lot of what the Bible has to say about health has to deal with keeping diseases from spreading inside a community. And believe it or not, those sound a lot like the things the CDC has told us we can do to stop the spread of the coronavirus...things like washing your hands and keeping your distance from people who might be sick.
But there are a few passages that we find in the Bible that allude to how we can be healthier. There are passages like Proverbs 23:20-21 that tells us, “20 Do not carouse with drunkards or feast with gluttons, 21 for they are on their way to poverty, and too much sleep clothes them in rags.” So this passage seems to allude to the fact that eating too much or drinking too much isn’t good for us...even though it’s really telling us to choose the people we hang around with carefully.
But, let’s be honest here, we don’t really need to find passages in the Bible that tell us how we can be healthier. We already know how we can be healthier. And we know it has to do with what we eat and how much we exercise. So the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that are put out by the United States Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services every five years, tell us that if we want to be healthier we should eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats (like fish and chicken). And we should try to stay away from saturated fats and trans fats, and foods that are high in salt and sugar. And the CDC tells us that if we want to be healthier we should be active for 150 minutes each week, and do things that improve both our cardiovascular health as well as our strength.
So we don’t really need the Bible to tell us how to be healthier. We need the Bible to tell us why our health matters. And, if you made a resolution to get healthier this year, the why is a lot more important than the how. The why will keep you motivated. The why will help you bounce back when you slip up. The why will give you something to work toward.
So why does the Bible tell us that our health matters? Or, more importantly, why is our health important to God?
Why is our health important to God?
Well, to answer that question there is probably no better place we can turn to than the book of Corinthians. And this book--or more accurately, this letter--is a great place to turn to because followers of Jesus in the ancient city of Corinth had bought into the Greek idea that the physical world and the spiritual world are completely separate. So there were some people in the church in Corinth who were running around overeating and getting drunk and doing all kinds of others that I don’t really want to talk about when kids are watching this video.
So Paul, who was the foremost missionary and theologian of the first century as well as the guy who started the church in the city of Corinth, writes a letter to help straighten things out. So let’s take a look at part of what Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians. We’ll be looking at 1 Corinthians 6, and we’ll start reading in verse 12. Paul writes:
6:12 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 13 You say, “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.” (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies…
And skipping down to verse 19, it says:
19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:12-13, 19-20 (New Living Translation)
So, in this passage, you hear what I was just talking about. You have some people in the church in Corinth running around doing whatever they want because they believe that they are allowed to do whatever they want. But Paul reminds them that just because you can do something that doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
Just because you can do something that doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
But that’s not all that Paul reminds them of. Paul also reminds them that as followers of Jesus they are not the ones who get the last say in what they do. As followers of Jesus, Jesus gets the last say in what we do. And Jesus gets the last say in what we do because we were bought at a price. Jesus laid down his life for us. And when we become followers of Jesus we commit to lay down our lives for him.
So, when it comes to our health, we are supposed to lay down our wants and our desires so that we can live the life God wants us to live. And Paul tells us exactly what it means for us to live the life that Jesus wants us to live when he tells us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Now let’s stop here for a minute and talk about what it means for our bodies to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. And we have to start by talking about what happens in the temple, and since we are thousands of years removed from the temple...it’s easier if we think about what happens in a church.
So what kind of stuff happens in a church? Well, the first thing that happens in a church is worship. And I like to explain what worship is by using the 3 Ps. Worship is where we enter into God’s presence, we praise God for who he is and what he does, and we align our priorities with God’s priorities.
But worship isn’t the only thing that happens in a church. Churches are also places where we serve. Now sometimes our service literally happens inside the church--like when I preach in a sanctuary, or when you teach your Small Group, or when you volunteer as a greeter. But the church is also a place that we serve from. Just think about the work our church does with the Cabbage Patch House and the Angel Tree program. We have served hundreds of families through our church.
So when Paul tells us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, Paul is telling us that our bodies are what God gives us to worship him and to serve others.
Our bodies are what God gives us to worship him and to serve others.
And that’s why our health matters to God.
Our health matters to God because if we aren’t healthy then we can’t really worship God and serve others. Think about it this way, over Christmas, I overindulged a little bit. I ate too many Christmas cookies and too much of the candy that Santa left in my stocking. And that made me feel lousy. And since I felt lousy I didn’t really want to do anything. I just wanted to sit on the couch until my stomach stopped hurting. And because of that I couldn’t really worship God or serve others.
But when I take better care of myself--when I eat more fruits and veggies, when I go for a run, when I get a good night’s sleep--I feel better and I have the energy to worship God and to serve other people. So we need to realize that our health directly impacts the life that God wants us to have. God wants our lives to be filled with worship. God wants our lives to be filled with service. God wants our lives to make an impact. But we can’t do that if we don’t take care of ourselves.
So instead of resolving to eat healthier because you don’t like the way you look in your swimsuit, or instead of resolving to exercise more so you can mark running a marathon off of your bucket list, I want you to remember why your health really matters. Your health matters because God has something that he wants you to do with your body. God wants you to worship him and to serve others. God wants you to do good things and to make a real impact in this world. And to make that impact, you need to be as healthy as you can be.
Now, before I finish up, there’s one other thing I want to talk about when it comes to your health and serving others. And I kind of hit on this earlier when I told you that a lot of what the Bible has to say about health has to deal with how we can keep diseases from spreading. Over the last year, we have been living through an outbreak of the most deadly virus we have seen for the last hundred years.
And, as followers of Jesus, we have an obligation to do everything that we can to slow the spread of this virus. We have an obligation to social distance so we don’t risk spreading the virus father. We have an obligation to self-quarantine if we have been exposed to this virus. We have an obligation to wear our face masks when we’re out in public. And, unless there is a specific medical reason why your doctor says you shouldn’t, we have an obligation to get vaccinated against this virus as quickly as we can.
And we have an obligation to do all of these things because of what God has done for us. I’ve said this many times in conversations I’ve had over the last few months but I want to say it right here, during a sermon too. Jesus laid down his life for us...so we can social distance, and wear our masks, and get vaccinated for others. It’s part of what it means to serve others and be the temple of the Holy Spirit.
So if we want to follow the ways of Jesus. We have to follow Jesus with our health. We have to do what we can to be as healthy as possible and to keep others as healthy as possible so that we can worship God and serve this world.