I have been planning to write this message for about three months. It has been rolling around inside my heart and spirit and I hope that it will be encouraging, uplifting and possibly even provoke you to more closely follow Jesus.
Over the course of my adult life I have consistently struggled with my appetite, specifically in the area of food. Well, to be completely transparent it would probably not be correct to call it a struggle. A more accurate description of my life would be that my appetite for food was completely unchecked, undisciplined and it was not surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was Lord. Church was attended. The tithe was paid and offerings given. I would volunteer, share the gospel, pray, study the Word, worship and follow after holiness. I was a Christian, but a Christian whose appetite was not on the altar; a Christian whose appetite became a significant priority in life.
I have heard so many sermons, thoughts and ideas about food, obesity and appetite from various believers, church leaders and preachers. Opinions vary significantly. I have heard many quote Jesus when He said, “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” (Matthew 15:11 NLT). I have also heard others quote Jesus when He said, “Don’t spend all of your time thinking about eating or drinking or worrying about life. If you do, the final day will suddenly catch you like a trap.” (Luke 21: 34 CEV).
I had always excused myself from facing this area of my life because I was involved in ministry, I was a student and teacher of the Bible and I was passionate about Jesus Christ and fulfilling the Great Commission. I wrote this off in my reasoning as just the byproduct of being a passionate person. In reality it was a desire of the flesh that remained uncrucified, it was an area of my life that I refused to allow Jesus to become Lord of.
Now, please hear me clearly on this. My goal with this message is not to become a digital condemnation artist to those who struggle with their weight or to those whose appetites are also out of control. For twenty years of following Jesus this remained an area of my life that I rationalized as OK in the eyes of the Lord but in the last 6-7 months the Holy Spirit has dealt directly with the issue and made it clear that it was time to place my appetite on the altar. My encouragement to you is to dig into the Word and as the Holy Spirit deals with you concerning this area of your life (or any other) to obey His leading.
There was one major scripture that the Holy Spirit used to reveal to me that this part of my life needed to be crucified:
Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. (Philippians 3:17-20 NLT)
The phrase that jumped off the page for me was verse 19, “They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.” The King James Version of the Bible says, “whose god is their belly…” The apostle, in verse 18, said, “they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.” Reading this was like getting punched in the mouth by the Holy Spirit and it was a much needed wake-up call.
I loved Jesus but denying myself and taking up my cross daily as our Savior commanded us to do was not happening in my life. My appetite was not on the altar, it was on the throne of my heart and it directed much of my life, consumed much of my time and resources and was becoming a stumbling block to my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NLT)
If we have passions, desires and appetites that consume more of our heart than our Savior does it is time to place those appetites on the altar. The predominant passion in our life as prescribed by the Lord Jesus Christ is as follows:
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” (Matthew 22:27 NLT)
In April (2013) I placed my appetite on the altar. At age 37 it was difficult to face the fact that my addiction to food was a rival to my love for Christ but God in His grace has been working on my heart for many years. Since April there have been significant changes in my life and as a result in my body but most importantly in my priorities. Food remains a daily need but my desire for it no longer controls my activities.
Perhaps you may identify with my story and perhaps you have an out of control appetite in some area of your life. My encouragement to you is to bring it before the Lord and let Him change your mind, let Him change your heart. His grace is sufficient for you and He can and will help you through whatever you are struggling with. We have to be willing to call sin, “sin” and be willing to repent, laying our appetites on the altar.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6 NLT)