It is my privilege to meet with a group of elders once a month to learn, fellowship and pray together. We have been working through the book Discipline The Glad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot. This month we were discussing the discipline of the body. Here are a couple of quotes from Chapter Seven of the book I thought were pertinent.
“Discipline, for the Christian begins with the body.”
Isn’t that so true! From the discipline of the body comes all other disciplines. If we can’t rule over our own body, we probably aren’t able to discipline much of anything else.
“We cannot give our hearts to God and keep our bodies for ourselves.”
If Jesus isn’t Lord over our bodies, then Jesus isn’t Lord at all. His dominion in our lives is all or nothing. He did not make us to live independent of Himself. He made us to be dependent and to worship and that begins with disciplining the fallen urges of the body. I think Romans 12:1 is the optimal text here:
Romans 12:1, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 1
The very act of presenting our bodies to Christ as a living sacrifice is an act of worship. We are acknowledging Him as Lord and giving to Him what is rightfully His, our lives which includes the physical body. So in presenting the body as a living sacrifice, we discipline the body.
Elliot covers four areas that the body needs discipline in: 1. Food. What we take into our bodies and how much. 2. Sleep. The body needs rest and therefore we must discipline when we go to bed and when we get up. 3. Exercise. The body needs to move and we must be intentional in this. 4. Sex. The body is designed by God for reproduction within the confines of the marriage covenant. To quote Elliot here, “If marriage is not included in God’s will for an individual, then sexual activity is not included either.” I couldn’t agree more. We must also then define marriage as a God given covenant between a man and woman. Elliot didn’t have to make that distinction when she was writing. How sad that we must.
It occurs to me as I look over this list, food, sleep, exercise and sex, that the world you and I live in has attacked each and every one of these areas of life to such a degree as to almost make it impossible to live the disciplined life. Take our food, for example. We have so much highly processes food that is so cheap and easily available that it seems impossible to avoid it. This highly processed food is at the root of the obesity crisis in America.
As Christians we must consider what we eat and how much if we are truly presenting our bodies to God for His glory. Moderation in all things is the key. Limit processed foods, eat vegetables, fruit, and meat and you should be healthy.
Then we have exercise. With the advent of modern technology, we have kids and adults that are addicted to games, television, phones, and social media. That means that kids often don’t go outside and play; they stay in inside and sit. Our new neighborhoods are constructed with no yards for kids to play in and so they don’t. We might send them to the park, but that also has its threats from drug dealers and gangs. On the other end, we have people who are so enthralled with the gym that working out has become their idol and their body their temple, their place of worship. As followers of Jesus, we need to walk well, not just spiritually but physically! Let’s be intentional to make sure we exercise the body. When you go to the mall park as far from the door as possible. That way you are giving prime parking spaces to others and you get in a walk. Make exercise a part of your lifestyle, but don’t let it become an idol!
Sleep also is under attack from technology. We stay up late and watch the tube and wonder why we or our children can’t sleep. The body was made to go to sleep when the light fades, so plan on turning off all the electronics well before bed time and let the brain settle down before lying down for the night. It’s a great time to read a book to the kids or to settle in with a cup of tea. Be intentional in preparing for sleep.
And last, but not least, there is the issue of sex! Where do we start in describing the attack of the culture on the sexual relationship? It’s everywhere and it is exploited to the place that it has become the driving force of the society. In many ways, we are reaping the results of the sexual revolution of the sixties. The results are death and divorce. As Christians, we must guard the mind to protect ourselves from lowering this wonderful gift of God to married couples to something animalistic. Discipline what you take into you mind for the glory of God.
So you see, dear friend what we are up against when it comes to disciplining the body. Everything is under attack and out of proportion. We have gone from moderation to over indulgence. So what do we as the children of God do? We become even more intentional in disciplining the body. We don’t want to over react and become hermits; but we do need to realize that if we are going to bring our body under subjection, we have to recognize the threats of the culture.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27, But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.1
His thought here of being disqualified from ministry was to be “benched,” unable to participate. When we don’t intentionally rule over the body and its longings, we are then unintentionally worshipping ourselves rather than the God who made us.
So there is a war out there for the mind and the body. We have to engage the war for the good not just of the body but the soul.
The New King James Version. (1982). (1 Co 9:27). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.