Appetite on the altar

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)

Get back on the altar

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Hired Servants and Heirs of the Kingdom

When we become a follower of Jesus Christ there are many things in our lives that change.  Many of the changes we go through are fundamental, especially as it relates to our relationship with God as well as our relationships with other people.  Love is the new foundation of our lives. Not human love that is based on condition and performance but the love of God, His love is perfect and complete. He loves us regardless of our condition or our performance and asks us to love each other in this same manner. That type of love, well, that is a huge change for all of us.

The message of the Gospel transforms us from slaves of sin and religious law into new creations that have not only be given grace, mercy and new life through Jesus Christ but adoption into the family of God.

God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. (Galatians 4:5 NLT)

The transformation we experience through the new birth takes us from those who were disconnected from a relationship with God to those who have not just been forgiven but have been changed and adopted as His children. We, who were the slaves of sin, had our freedom purchased at the highest cost of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We were purchased by God.  We were set free by God and then we were adopted by God.

The challenge for many followers of Jesus is to accept the love of God without condition. God loves us, period. As a follower of Christ we know that He loved us while we were separated from Him due to our sin. Yet, for many, we work to earn the love of God through good deeds, religious service and by living a righteous and morally upright life. All of these things are wonderful but they can never cause the Lord to love us any more than He did when we were still separated from Him in our sins.  We were adopted. We have become His children.  Romans 8:17 says that we are “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ”.  Jesus paid the entire price. Jesus made the way. Jesus interceded on our behalf. We are now adopted into the family and treated as children of God to the point that the Apostle Paul classified us as “joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.” God deals with us in the same manner as He deals with Jesus because it is Jesus that has caused us to be reconciled to Him.

I say all of this because we need to realize that we are not slaves and servants of the King of kings but we are adopted children. The behavior that the scriptures seek from followers of Jesus is not that of those who have been purchased and now are forced to work for a new master but that of sons and daughters who will inherit the Kingdom of their Heavenly Father. Slaves and servants are forced to work in the service of their master because they are owned or they have been hired to do so. It is true that many people who are hired or employed truly care about their work and the people they work for and with. However, their relationship is based solely on finances and should the financial part of the relationship end their service to their employer would also come to an end.

We, the followers of Christ, those who have been adopted as His sons and daughters must begin to behave as heirs of the Kingdom and not as hired servants of the King. We must serve and worship because of love, because of inheritance and most of all because of relationship.

The Great Commission is not a project that God is hiring servants to staff. There are far too many church people working in “the ministry” as if they were doing God a favor. Their labor is no longer born from love but from an obligation that is task oriented, service oriented and in some cases self-serving. It is an unfortunate reality that many church volunteers and even church staff members treat their positions as if they worked for a secular corporation. You can’t go home from the Kingdom when your Father is the King.

As a small business owner I know that even when I leave the office at the end of day I am, really, always working. I cannot disconnect myself from the company; the company and I are connected.

My relationship with Jesus Christ goes exponentially deeper than business ownership. It is the foundation of my existence. He has adopted me and made me an heir of the Kingdom. Much of the teaching I have heard on this truth highlights the benefits of being a child of God. Most of the teachings I have heard along these lines are biblical but most of the time the other side of the message is not shared. Being a child who is an heir bears responsibility along with the benefits. The Kingdom of heaven is our family business. It is our family legacy. It is who we are. We are children of the King not His hired servants. Jesus spoke of His love and devotion for His people comparing a shepherd to a hired servant:

 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.” (John 10:11-13 NLT)

I know that I am only a small part of the Kingdom and that I am only one of millions perhaps billions of other heirs to the Kingdom but that does not change my sense of ownership or responsibility.  As an heir of God’s Kingdom I am responsible for the state of His Kingdom because it is my Kingdom too. I will never be the King but it is always going to by my Kingdom, it is always going to be my home. If you have been adopted too we share this responsibility together.

Christianity must be more than our religious affiliation and church more than a destination for worship and service. We must come to the place where we recognize and realize that we are not hired servants but adopted children who are heir and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.

This new life in this new Kingdom is not about making God happy with us because of what we do or do not do. This new life is about loving God with our entire being and loving people the way we love ourselves. It is about letting go of our will and our way so that we might embrace His will and His ways. It is no longer about building our own legacy or making our own mark upon society but it is all about expanding His Kingdom of which He has made each of us an heir.

My challenge to each of us (specifically me) is stop living as a hired servant and begin living as an adopted heir of the King of kings.

If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:39 NLT)

Kingdom 12438


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