Why do we often neglect the importance of our body when it comes to religious practice?
Podcast Transcript: Click HERE to listen to the full episode.
Have you ever caught yourself in one of those moments when you begin to feel the life you are living is not the one that was meant for you?
I know I have. The anxiety about “what is” versus what life was supposed to be can easily sneak up on us before we realize it and paralyze us like a panic attack.
What we wanted was perfect and what we got instead was disappointment.
But where did we get this idea that our lives were supposed to perfectly turn out in the way we had planned? I mean it is almost as if this desire for perfection is actually built into our DNA.
If you think about it though, the reason we believe we deserve perfection is because the fantasy of perfection sold to us every single day. Whether it is in the movies we watch, the websites we browse, even the social media we post – time and time again we find this veneer of perfection is ever present to both entice and torture us at the same time.
Thus, it is our dissatisfaction with reality that drives us toward the fantasy of perfection.
But then again when we look a little deeper it may not be perfection so much as completeness – wholeness – that we are pursing – like a never ending scavenger hunt looking to find the part of us that seems to be missing.
Could the pursuit of perfection actually be a pursuit of God?
Of course philosophers such as Fredrick Nietzsche would say no and suggest instead that the concept of God is a human invention, part of an evolutionary stage in our development as a species to push us toward perfection as a species. And as our imagination becomes reality, we no longer need god and thus can declare triumphantly that “God is dead” .
Nietzsche believed that our perfection as a species was not only possible but inevitable, and that in the future our race would evolve into a new kind of human being he called the overman or more popularly known as the superman.
For Nietzsche the superman was more than a philosophic theory – it was a vision. It represented his hope for humanity.
The superman no longer needed God because the superman was god.
I have to say – on a certain level I resonate with his vision for humanity.
It is compelling to believe that somehow our human species is advancing on a natural path toward perfection.
Unfortunately history has proven this social darwinism propagated by Nietzsche has frightful consequences. Mainly that it can be used to justify almost any abuse of power in the name of purity.
Of course, Hitler was greatly influenced by Nietzsche and his concept of the superman and believed the German master race had grown weak due to the influence of non-Aryans in Germany. To Hitler, survival of the German “Aryan” race depended on its ability to maintain the purity of its gene pool.
Thus in the name of German nationalism and pride Nazis targeted certain groups or races that they considered biologically inferior for extermination. These included Jews, Roma (gypsies), Poles, Soviets, people with disabilities and homosexuals.
This is the dark side of pursuing perfection. When we believe it is possible to purify and perfect ourselves then we naturally move toward trying to purify and perfect one another – resulting in the uniformity of the majority and persecution of the minority.
Interestingly, the Bible predicts a massive world-wide movement towards uniformity in the last days in chatter 13 of the book of Revelation. However rather than physical uniformity as was the goal of the Nazi’s – in this case it is a moral uniformity.
“He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” (Revelation 13:15–17 NKJV)
Now, throughout history there has been much speculation as to what the Mark of the Beast actually is – and yes we will eventually be going into more detail about it in a future episode – but for now it is enough to understand that it is something that test the loyalty to God and his commandments of every believer just prior to Jesus 2nd coming.
In fact there is no stronger language in the Bible than that found in the 3rd Angel’s message of Revelation 14 warning us not receive the Mark of Beast and its consequences.
“Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:9–10 NKJV)
Now you can begin to see the dilemma. On the one hand if we don’t receive the mark of the beast everything we own will be taken away from us and we eventually will condemned to die. On the other hand, if we take the Mark of the Beast we will fall under the most severe judgment of God contained in the entire Bible.
Will we be able to stand for God when every earthly support is taken away from us?
If you dont know the answer to that question – you have come to the right place. This podcast is all about preparing you to stand for God when the world is bowing down to the image of the Beast.
Thankfully God has given us an interpretive key to the book of Revelation and all its mysteries in the little apocalyptic book of Daniel found right between the major and minor prophets of the Old Testament.
In fact it is the only book of the Bible the explicitly states that it would be sealed until the time of the end. Meaning the book of Daniel was specifically written for those who do not want to be conformed to the world but who want to be transformed into the image of Jesus instead.
It wasn’t written for the superman who doesn’t need God but rather the poor in spirit who in humility recognize their utter weakness.
It is to this book now that we turn our attention.
And it is in Daniel chapter 1 that we both introduced to Daniel and to his three companions Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Who are better known for the their Babylonian names: Shadrach; Meshach; and Abed-Nego.
It is in this chapter that we told how they ended up in Babylon – the City of Jerusalem had been sacked and the Temple of God robbed from its sacred treasures – and many of the noblemen and their children were taken captive.
These youth were to be pushed through an intense 3 year re-education program designed to bring them into harmony with all the language, beliefs, and customs of the Babylonians
In essence they were wise men in training.
However – almost as soon as their training had begun they were tested in a way they had never been tested before.
“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.”
¶So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.” So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days.
¶And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies. Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
¶As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” (Daniel 1:8–17 NKJV)
Out of all the stories in the book of Daniel – this story on face value would seem most insignificant. I mean what is the big deal what Daniel and his friends ate and drank. Why would God inspire a story about health and temperance at the beginning of deeply prophetic book written for people living in the last days?
Could it be that health and temperance of the body has a direct connection to the mind and ultimately the spirit in all of us?
That seems to be what the story is teaching us here. Because Daniel and his 3 friends did everything in their power to honor God by honoring their bodies – God was able to bless them above everyone else not only in the school but the entire Kingdom.
Time and time again they were able to see what others couldn’t see. They were able to stay true to God and his commandments when everyone around them was compromising.
This what we see Daniel introducing us that we are not just brains on a stick but an integrated whole – mind, body, and spirit.
This is a principle we find in the New Testament as well.
The Apostle Paul said it this way,
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 NKJV)
As you can see – this idea of moving toward perfection is divinely inspired into all of us.
We may never get it right – but that is not because it is not God’s will for us to move out of the old life and into the new.
From sin to righteousness in our spirit
Form ignorance to knowledge of truth in our minds
And from disease to health in our bodies
And to neglect the development of any of these integrated parts of us is to neglect the development of the whole.
That is why we read Paul saying in one of his other letters:
“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 NKJV)
Thus any form of discipleship that only focuses on Spiritual formation and not on bodily formation is incomplete.
We don’t give God only a part of ourselves when we choose to follow him – we give him everything – because he has given everything to us in return.
He says my grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.
God wants to make every part of us today that is weak strong for tomorrow.
Because tomorrow is coming whether we like it or not.
And one day soon their going to be a tomorrow where we are going to be tested in regards to what we believe.
Does it really matter if we fail or pass the test?
What do you think would have happened to Daniel and his three friends if they had shrugged their shoulders about eating that which they knew God had forbidden them to eat?
Would their story still have turned out the way it did?
It’s hard to imagine it would especially in light of these words from Jesus,
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” (Luke 16:10 ESV)
It is the small victories that prepare us for the big ones.
It is doubtful we can fully appreciate everything God is trying to prepare us for if we are not fully committed to following him in all aspects of lives today.
Thus Daniel and his 3 friends are inspirited illustrations of what the life of one preparing for the soon coming of Jesus looks like.
In one other place Paul compared our preparation for heaven with those preparing for a race here on earth. He said,
“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 NKJV)
There is no doubt then that taking care of our body should be a primary concern for those who want to be ready for Jesus.
So what does that look like practically?
I cant tell you specifics – but what I can tell you is that a plant based diet was the original diet we were given to eat in eden – it was the diet undertaken by Daniel and his three friends in Babylon and it will be our diet in Heaven and on the New Earth.
Today there is plenty of scientific research indicating that a plant based diet is more healthy than a meat and dairy based one – so I encourage you to do the research yourself.
Of course, it is not just what you eat – but how you live the rest of your life too. What you drink, how much you exercise and get outside, and how often you get a good nights sleep – all of it adds up in the end to a better performing body – which facilitates a better performing mind – that is connected to the ever-present spirt of God.
Do you currently feel plateaued in your spiritual vitality and knowledge of the scriptures? Do you find yourself struggling to stay interested in spiritual things? It could be that you are discounting your daily lifestyle as a contributing factor.
The book of Daniel teaches us that it is going to take more than a knowledge of truth to stand in the last days – it is going to require a faith we have tested in the small things first. The things that no one else knows except you and God.
Won’t you begin developing that trust with him today?
Wont you allow him to sanctify you in mind, body, and spirit.
Wont you begin today to find your completeness and satisfaction in him?