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Indulgence is Not a Worthy ‘Reward’

22 Jul

Ethel Mae woke up in the middle of the night and decided to get a drink of water. 

But on the way to the refrigerator, she passed the candy dish and grabbed a butterscotch candy. Then on the way to the cupboard for a glass, she opened the snack drawer and grabbed a Hostess Twinkie. Then she took her glass over to the refrigerator to get some chilled water and stopped off at the cookie jar for some peanut butter cookiesFinally, she picked up the pitcher and poured herself some water. And grabbed the leftover pie on the top shelf before she shut the refrigerator door.

After munching on her treats, she headed back to bed and crawled under the covers; but she accidentally woke up her husband, Harry, who said he felt thirsty. 

“I’ll get it!” Ethel Mae said … getting up with a big smile. 

I can’t say I’ve had a middle-of-the-night food binge like that, but when I went on a food program to get healthy and lose weight, I soon realized how indulgent I can be.

John Bloom at DesiringGod.org says, “We are all self-indulgers. The whole lot of us. Let’s just admit it upfront and help each other fight!”

Indulgence is foolish and selfish.

And sinful!

When we indulge rather than fight or abstain from “the passions of the flesh,” we’re only inviting more problems.

[I’m not talking about the planned-for dessert or a well-chosen and hopefully healthy occasional “treat.” There’s a difference related to motive.]

We know indulgence when we see it. Indulgence puts a damper on our desire to please the Lord and is contrary to wisely stewarding our bodies.

Indulgence can be heinous, but it can be subtle too. It can even be a form of idolatry. The enemy of our soul can even deceive us into believing indulgence is a good thing… a REWARD.

What? A reward?

Yes, I discovered this trickery while deep into my healthy eating plan. I proudly marked off a week of staying “on program” and said to myself,

You deserve a treat!”

So I started with an extra “allowable” food bar (which is really a candy bar dressed up in protein).

  • Then a few animal crackers.
  • Then a brownie.
  • Then an ice cream sandwich.

Soon, I was totally out of control.

I was living out what my nutritionist says,

“You have the disease of ‘MORE!'”

It’s a “heart” disease, and escalating indulgence is one of the clues I have it.

We need to be careful when we equate “deserving” with indulging. Indulgence—too much of a good thing—can be a first step on a fresh journey away from self-control. 

That’s how subtle this form of idolatry is. The thing we indulge in—in my case, sugar or overly-starchy foods—can become a driving “master” in our lives; we can find our indulgence addictive and destructive.

Our emotions can trick us.

Bloom says, “At the moment of indulging, it doesn’t feel like an enemy. It feels like a reward that makes us happy. … But after indulging, defeat hangs like a heavy yoke around the neck of our souls.”

I thought indulgence was my “reward” for obedience and wise choices. But that was a lie—a false promise built on a false premise.

My reward should have been the joy found in pleasing the Lord.

Rather than the joy of fulfilling a temporary craving, I should have focused on eternal truths like the one found in Luke 9:23-25:

… “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”

The truth is, indulgence should not be part of my life in ANY form—pride and self-glory, greed, gluttony or any lust of the flesh.

I should be “awake and have control,” not be sleepy and indulgent!

My body is God’s dwelling place, and I am set apart for the praise of His glory.

Being “set apart” is being sanctified and holy, and those words are incongruous with the word “indulgent.”

But I have to confess. Sometimes it’s just plain hard not to indulge.

That’s when I need an eternal focus. I must remember my real reward is the “prize” awaiting me from the Lord at His return.

As Jesus said in Revelation 22:12: “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”

And His reward will be a lot more satisfying than a middle-of-the-night food spree.

Do you struggle with indulging in sinful attitudes and behaviors? What is the lie you are believing, or the false promise you’re embracing? 

 – Dawn

Graphic courtesy of cohdra-Morguefile

 

 

Family Tree Tangles

17 Feb

I get a kick out of all those ancestry sites on television lately—people finding out more about their extended family tree. It reminded me of some humor I saw last year:

I sent that “Ancestry” site some information on my family tree. They sent me back a packet of seeds and suggested I just start over!*

There’s a real truth in the midst of that humor!

newseeds_lolwithgod_diyseedpacketgraphic_adapted_almostmakesperfect-com

For many years, I tried to grow something beautiful out of my life with a lot of self-effort. I read oodles of self-help books and listened to self-improvement tapes.

There was a lot of insight in those resources, the problem was, it’s really hard to grow something beautiful from bad seed.

I was still, as the scriptures say, “in Adam,” and that made beautiful growth hopeless (1 Corinthians 15:22a; Romans 5:19a)

Adam brought sin into the world with his disobedience to the Lord’s command. His sin resulted in condemnation and spiritual death. Because of Adam, all humanity is born in sin. Adam was the “federal head” of the human race, and with his sin, all of humanity was separated from God, deserving only spiritual death. 

Like the self-righteous Pharisees (John 8:44), I could make some progress, but even then, it was often with wrong motives. Like the Pharisees, I was inwardly a rebel against the Lord—just like proud, self-focused Satan (Isaiah 14:13-14).

I had to face the fact that I was addicted to sin. I was in bondage to it.

I had to come to the point where I realized an important truth:

I didn’t need self-help. I needed God-help!

I needed the life and power to change that only comes in Jesus Christ.

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19)

My desire for never-ending self-help ended for me on September 7, 1971, when I received the gift of life in Christ.

In Christ, I am a new creation. When I received His grace, I was made righteous. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:4-6; John 1:12-13).

To be in Christ, means I was “with Him” in his death, burial and resurrection—the payment for my sin. Now I am a “joint heir” with Him, and I am placed into “the body of Christ”. I am forgiven, no longer separated from God, and free from bondage to sin. (Romans 6:3-5; 8:17; Ephesians 3:1-6; Colossians 1:14: Ephesians 2:12-13; John 8:36; Romans 8:2)

Although I still want to grow and change, I know I cannot make choices for eternity without the Lord. I know I am made “the righteousness of God in Him.” I am set apart and made holy for His use and complete in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 2:9-10)

It’s a totally different perspective. The old seed was destroyed and the Lord planted “new seed” in my heart.

This new seed grows, strengthens, empowers, makes change possible, and encourages me to love, bless and serve others (Ephesians 1:16-21; 3:16; Romans 6:4, 14; Ephesians 5:8).

The Lord works in me “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

I can cooperate with faith and obedience, but I know it is only God who cultivates His new seed within me.

Are you operating from bad seed? Are you still caught up in self-help? Is it time for some new seed?

 – Dawn

 * Cybersalt Digest, Issue 4027, 2/12/15, Oneliner #0984

Graphic adapted, used with permission: DIY Seed packet (http://almostmakesperfect.com/2015/05/12/diy-seed-packets-with-free-printable/)

 

Redouble Your Efforts

15 Oct

Somewhat skeptical of his son’s new found determination to become Charles Atlas, the father nevertheless spiritualexercise_lolwithgod_weights_jeltovski_morguefilefollowed the teenager over to the weight-lifting department, admiring a set of weights.

“Please, Dad,” pleaded the boy, “I promise I’ll use ’em every day.”

“I don’t know, Michael. It’s really a commitment on your part,” the father pointed out.

“Please, Dad?” the boy continued.

“They’re not cheap either,” the father came back.

“I’ll use ’em Dad, I promise. You’ll see.”

Finally won over, the father paid for the equipment and headed for the door.

From the corner of the store he heard his son yelp, “What! You mean I have to carry them to the car?” *

LOL.

That kid sounds just like me! In fact, some time ago, I broke up with my gym. We were just not working out. **

I don’t naturally “take” to exercise, but I know it’s good for me, so I persevere to find time for short spurts.

I take short walks, or exercise in a jacuzzi, or spend time (only 15 minutes) on a recumbent bike, or vacuum my house. For me, that’s manageable and it works.

The truth is, I don’t naturally “take” to spiritual exercise either. But there’s no question it’s good for me.

There was a time I was content to sit back as a Christian and not “work out” the salvation (Philippians 2:12) the Lord was “working in.”

I reasoned,

“It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

I was good at accepting the first part—allowing God to do His sanctifying work in me—but the second part was tough! I really didn’t have the desire for spiritual disciplines, and frankly, I didn’t think too much about doing things for God’s “good pleasure.”

In Philippians 2:12, Paul told the Philippian Church, “Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but even more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

What was Paul saying?

We’re to keep on doing what we did at the beginning, when we first trusted Christ. We’re to fear God (reverence Him) and know the Lord is evaluating our behavior.

There are some who say we’re not to work at all at becoming more Christ-like, but that’s not what scripture teaches. It might be natural for us to sin, but on the other hand, a child of God is called to respond to grace.

Remember what it was like when you first met the Lord? Remember the fire in your heart to show the Lord how much you loved Him because of His great sacrifice for you?

  • You couldn’t pray enough.
  • You couldn’t read the Bible enough.
  • Your heart poured out praise and worship.
  • You couldn’t wait to obey God.

Until you got busy with other things… distracted by lesser affections. And then, the prayer, Bible study, worshipful gratitude and responsive obedience just seemed like too much work!

But Paul was saying, “redouble your efforts!”

“Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God,” it says in The Message. “That energy is God’s energy, and energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.”

God rescues us, and then He works in us and gives us the energy to work at what will please Him!

Verses 14-16 give us a glimpse of what can happen if we follow God and work for Him. We will shine out like beacon lights in a dark and corrupt world! (v. 15) We will model the life-changing power of the Word of Life.

In verse 16, Paul essentially told the believers, “You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.”

Wow!

If I “redouble my efforts” to practice the spiritual disciplines, it’s going to be obvious to the world, and it’s going to bless others who have poured their time and energy into helping me grow too!

Our salvation is not of works, but that doesn’t mean we get lazy in pursuing the Lord once we know Him. As my Grandpa Parks used to day, “Don’t sit around like a bump on a pickle.”

Some might need the admonition, “Take time to rest,” but others need a “Get busy!”

In fact, Redouble Your Efforts!

* from Cybersalt Digest, Issue #3980, 10-30-13

** OK, I borrowed that from Cybersalt Digest, Issue #3981, 10-31-13

~ Dawn

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