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Your Physical Relationship: Jesus as Your Trainer

(This is the next chapter in the book, Hand in Hand: Deepening Your Relationship with Jesus Christ).

God created us tripartite:  body, soul and spirit.  The body is the physical part; the spirit is the life activity; and the soul is the part that makes each of us unique.  Think of it as an iPod:  it consists of the device itself, the electrical current, and the media recorded on it.  These three aspects of each person are inseparable until our final day on earth.  You are a creation of God and all things related to your physical being have a huge impact on your spiritual being.  Therefore, the care of the body bears a vital relationship to spirituality. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

On the other hand, we must be careful not to glorify, exalt or worship the body.  Humans have a history of turning spiritual concepts into carnal icons.  Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Romans 1:21-23. Today, this tendency has mushroomed into a universal cult sporting many different sects.  Cosmetics, the movie industry, beauty contests, supermodel idolatry, muscleman mania, tattoo and body piercing fads, plastic surgery trends and pornography thrive in this environment of carnal pleasure and obsession with looks.  The more outrageous, garish or shocking the effect, it seems as though the more desirable it is.  The visible, tangible and sensate features of the body pose a constant temptation to focus on the outward appearance to the neglect of the inner person.  The believer needs to avoid this excess while maintaining a proper attitude toward the body.

The Bible makes it clear that the soul and the spirit have an eternal essence, whereas the body is only for this life.  This does not diminish the importance of the body; if anything, it emphasizes our obligation to maintain it as the repository of the soul and spirit.   As Paul, the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians, “If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us.”  2 Corinthians 4:7 (MSG).  So, even though our bodies are perishable, they are still God’s chosen method to house His Spirit and to interact with other human beings on earth. 

Treat Your Physical Body with Respect 

We have a duty to maintain the body that God gave us.  If you have failed to do this, you need to return to an alignment with the purpose of your Creator.  It is God’s will for you treat your body with the highest level of respect.  The Old Testament proclaimed the health and well-being of each person as a fundamental part of the Jewish religion.  Personal hygiene guidelines, dietary laws, disease prevention laws and dozens of related customs were imposed upon the people in an effort to keep them healthy.  The New Testament views many of these laws as spiritual applications, but the principle of maintaining a healthy body stays the same.  

A Healthy Diet Is Your Responsibility  

Not everyone has the knowledge of nutrition and dietary health, nor do we all have the finances to support the best possible eating regimen, but we should be reasonable about our intake.  There is little excuse for us to overdo it with salt, sugar, carbohydrates or other foods or food additives that we know are bad for us. Information on good nutrition may be found in many places.  Just understand that if you begin to gain excess weight or start to suffer physical symptoms of bad health, it is time to make a change.  The problem most likely stems from poor discipline rather than a lack of knowledge or money.  When you sit down to eat with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you; And put a knife to your throat If you are a man given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.   Proverbs 23:1-3.  

Your Body Needs Exercise 

Moderate exercise does benefit the body.  If you lead a sedentary life, with little or no cardiovascular or muscle activity, you risk damage to your heart and your entire physical wellbeing.  The Apostle Paul did say For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come,” (1 Timothy 4:8), but his reference was probably that of the Greek Olympic traditions.  His other allusions to athletics such as running or boxing indicate that he was familiar with physical exercise in a positive sense.  Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore, I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

Do Not Defile Your Body 

Neglecting your physical body is bad enough, but many people deliberately abuse their bodies.  The kinds of abuse to which humankind has subjected the body boggles the mind.  God never intended for us to become morbidly obese, addicted to drugs alcoholics, smokers, consumers of poisonous junk food or mutilators of our physical beings.  One of the many curses of modern society concerns the overuse of prescription drugs.  The insidious factor is that since these substances are legally obtained, they seem harmless.  The Scriptures do not forbid the use of medicines, but the narcotic content of today’s pharmaceuticals constitute a much greater hazard than any concoctions used two thousand years ago.  Addiction to a drug can overtake a person quickly and unexpectedly.  This danger warrants extreme caution when taking certain drugs, even though they are helpful in suppressing excruciating pain.  All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 1 Corinthians 6:12. 

Our world swims in an epidemic of sexual sin, but this phenomenon existed in Paul’s times as well.  He warns the Romans about these excesses.  For this reason, God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise, also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:26-32.  This passage needs no additional commentary.  Anyone who aspires to a close relationship with God willingly submits to these commands.  

Conventional wisdom justifies sexual activity that the Bible deems illicit by calling it private, harmless and an expression personal preference.  Those who believe this, however, miss the point that sex is a relationship issue.  The Bible teaches us unequivocally that sexual sins defile the body.   Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!  Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:13-18. 

True Spirituality Involves Your Body 

A professed commitment to Jesus Christ that ignores the impact on the physical body reflects an insincere heart.  John said, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”  1 John 3:18. If we say we love Jesus, yet show no signs nor bear any fruit of the relationship, the world has reason to doubt us.  It is clear from the Scriptures that faith must be more than mental assent.  The Apostle Paul said, From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”  Galatians 6:17.  

If your physical body is not relevant to the display of your faith, then we have little more than a mind cult. The world should be able to observe you, to monitor your behavior and watch how you live to discern that you love Jesus.  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. Romans 12:1.  While the spoken word remains a central aspect of the power of God, we must also recognize that he communicated many things without words. In Genesis, God made coats of skins for Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness. This is a profound statement of divine intention. Even if there were no subsequent words to explain God’s act, the imagery of slaying and bloodshed itself would suffice to depict God’s assessment of sin. The rite of circumcision, Jacob’s wrestling match, the burning bush, pillars of cloud and fire, Aaron’s rod that budded, the Urim and Thummim, the tabernacle plan, the sacerdotal rituals and other actions that God did or commanded to be done show the importance of meanings in absence of words. 

Going further, Samson’s uncut locks of hair, judges giving a white or black stone, saluting and bowing to officials, ceremonial gift-giving, kisses, foods, preparation of meals, style and material for clothing, observation of days and time-periods, kinds of sacrifices and a host of other symbols were all used for various reasons in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, we see baptism in water by immersion, washing of feet, the communion supper, breaking of bread, anointing the sick with oil, fasting, giving of alms, and other sacraments or forms of service that had great meaning attached to them. The Bible overflows with non-verbal images. 

Without question then, non-verbal expressions in Bible practice were an important way to communicate thoughts, feelings and information to others. It is very instructive, then, to place this concept into the context of a Christian lifestyle as taught in the scriptures. For example, when someone declares that the wearing of long hair for women has no significance, he or she denies the reality of non-verbal communication. A woman’s long hair symbolizes a number of important concepts: submission to authority, distinction from the male gender, acceptance of a God-given role and a display of feminine glory. Likewise, when a woman’s hair was shorn, it was considered a mark of shame before the community. (1 Corinthians 11:1-15)

It is very difficult to say one thing and do another. For example, try shaking your head and saying “yes”, or nodding your head and saying “no”. If you concentrate, you might do it, otherwise, it’s hard to do. In the church, when a man says, “I am living a holy life,” and then gets drunk, philanders, and steals from his employer, his body language clearly contradicts his verbal messages. If a woman avows that she is pure and chaste, and then dresses like a prostitute and is frequently seen with different men at all hours of the night, what are we to conclude but that her claims are bogus? Actions verify words, not vice versa. Incidentally, the term to use for people who use words to cover up their actions is lying. No one needs resort to torrents of verbiage to convey a sense of godliness. If they would only act the part, many words would be unnecessary.

The Values of Christ Should Govern Your Physical Being 

The purpose in getting you on track with your body goes beyond health, feeling better, looking good or living longer.  Those may be worthwhile objectives, but the real purpose is that this is what God wants!  Keep God’s will as the driving force behind your behavior, dress, conversation, exercises.  It is your spiritual response to the divine purpose. 

Proper understanding of the scriptures will turn this around and create new, healthier habits.  If these demands seem extreme, they only show how far you may have drifted off of God’s chosen course.  But always keep in mind that the healthier your relationship to Jesus Christ, the more aware you will be of your responsibility to your physical body.

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