Saturday, May 31, 2008

dieting and gluttony (5h) John Piper on how eating affects our spiritual lives

Don't worry, I am planning to tie up the loose ends and conclude this series on gluttony, dieting, and honouring God with our eating!

Just a few more quotes to go, addressing an issue we haven't really looked at yet: how eating and physical health impact our spiritual life. Then I want to review a helpful book Hate to Eat, Love to Eat by Elyse Fitzpatrick on food addiction for those of you who struggle in this area, and conclude by giving you practical applications from my own experience.

So here's some helpful comments by John Piper on how eating can help or hinder our joy in God, from his excellent book When I Don't Desire God. This quote is from a chapter on how things like sleep, food, exercise, music, relationships and beauty affect our physical bodies, and since we are embodied creatures, impact our joy in God. I commend this book and this chapter to you!

The proper or improper use of our bodies can have a huge effect on the way we experience spiritual reality. ... Proper eating and exercising and sleeping has a marked effect on the mind and its ability to process natural beauty and biblical truth.

So the question must be faced: How do we use the created world around us, including our own bodies, to help us fight for joy in God? ... We all make choices about how we sleep and exercise and eat. ... There is no way around the issue. ... Our physical lives will affect our spiritual lives whether we plan it or not. Better to think it through and be intentional. ... Take steps to keep our bodies and minds as fit as we can for spiritual use. ...

Please don't interpret this as a kind of chipper health and happiness regimen. The question is not whether God can reveal himself in precious ways to those who suffer. He can and does. ... The questions is what we should do during times when we can choose our own lifestyle of eating and exercising and resting. In what indirect ways can we improve the ability of our bodies and minds for their partnership in perceiving the glory of God? ...

Sereno Dwight tells us that Jonathan Edwards "carefully observed the effects of the different sorts of food, and selected those which best suited his constitution, and rendered him most fit for mental labour." Thus he abstained from every quantity and kind of food that made him sick or sleepy. Edwards had set this pattern when he was twenty-one years old when he wrote in his diary, "By a sparingness in diet, and eating as much as may be what is light and easy of digestion, I shall doubtless be able to think more clearly, and shall gain time." Hence he was "Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking."

The point here is not to commend the particulars of Edwards's eating habits. The point is that we be intentional about how our eating affects the ability of our body to be a helpful partner in seeing the glory of God. We live in an era of eating disorders. I am not eager to create another one. I commend balance. Put the following two texts beside each other. On the one hand, Paul made food and drink clearly secondary: "The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17). But on the other hand, he said, in regard to food, "I will not be enslaved by anything" (1 Cor. 6:12). In the balance of these two truths we can find a way to eat that will provide both the denial and the delight that will fit us for seeing the glory of God in the Word and in the world. ...

Contemporary medical knowledge would include the fact that obesity kills and contributes to dozens of ailments. Not all obesity is self-inflicted. Some medical conditions make it virtually impossible to avoid it. But most of it is self-inflicted, and this kind of self-destruction does not enhance the ability of the body or the mind to see and savour the glory of God in this world, or the glory of Christ who endured the cross by postponing the feast till the age to come (Heb. 12:2).

This quote is from the chapter "How to wield the world in the fight for joy" in John Piper's When I Don't Desire God, pp.201-2.

You can follow the thread on eating, gluttony and dieting here.

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