Food allergies have spiked in recent years. We hear more about allergies to nuts, milk, soy, wheat, etc. However, what we call allergies is not always about an allergic reaction. For instance, being stung by a bee might cause an allergic reaction, but that is different than not being able to eat a bee (who does that?). Likewise, from a food perspective, some people get ill from being around items such as peanuts. Others are ok unless they eat them. The issue with eating the peanut is the body not being able to process the food properly. This is my case with wheat (and a variety of other foods).
I say I am allergic to gluten (wheat), eggs, pork, etc. But I can be around them; I just cannot eat them. That is, my body does not digest them properly. For instance, with gluten, the enzyme that most people have to break down gluten is absent from my intestines. Thus, when I eat it, I get very sick. VERY sick. Knowing that I will get sick causes me to be cautious in what I eat.
But effectively, what I have is an inability to digest gluten. That is the reality of indigestion. The word means to have difficulty or the inability to digest food. For some, indigestion means an upset stomach. For others it might mean cramps, bloating, or gas. And for some the consequences can be deadly.
As we talk about the digestive system today, we must understand that indigestion is the result of adding something to the digestive system that it cannot process correctly. Whether we notice the issue in our mouths, our stomach, or our intestines, our bodies will let us know that something is wrong if we eat something that is not right. So, for those who know that certain foods are problems, what do we do? We avoid them. We get very good at reading labels. We ask for special menus at restaurants. We let other people know what our restrictions are if we are having a meal with them (and/or we bring our own food).
But you know what we don’t do? We don’t stop eating.
Today, I want to look briefly at three areas the Bible mentions which should bring indigestion to a born-again believer. But this message is not meant to beat us up for having indigestion; rather, it is to encourage us to focus on eating right, so to speak. Our passage found in 1 John 2, verses 15-17.
Last week we discussed what defiles us. It isn’t the food we eat because, as Jesus said, that passes through us. We might get sick from what we eat, but being sick and being defiled are two different things. So what does defile us? I believe the Bible clearly points to three areas in our lives that can defile us:
- Desires of the flesh
- Desires of the eyes
- Pride of life.
We see these three areas listed here in 1 John 2. But we see the examples of these areas in the temptation of man in the Garden, and the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Thus, whether we are surrounded by lush beauty in near-perfect conditions, or we find ourselves in the midst of nothingness in the midst of life’s challenges, these three areas will tempt us and give us a spiritual indigestion if we give in to their appeal.
The Desires of the Flesh
For Adam and Eve, this was seeing that the tree was good for food (Genesis 3.8). Our bodies need nourishment. God made us this way. And He made food for us to enjoy. But God does give us restrictions, and Eve, then Adam, allowed their desire for a different kind of food, one that they had not yet enjoyed, to be their downfall. And, because of this desire of the flesh, they would soon realize another desire – to cover their bodies – because they knew they were naked. This covering has led to distorted desires of the flesh for mankind since the day they first ate of the fruit.
For you and me, that desire may be another person, it may be seeking some sensual pleasure, and it may even be seeking comfort when we know we are called to make a sacrifice. I believe one of the greatest idols today is comfort. I promise you, two Sundays ago, our mission team was miserable following a rain in Kenya. The humidity was so high that you could not blink without dripping buckets of sweat. My flesh did not like it – not at all. My flesh desired air conditioning and comfort, but sometimes God calls us to engage in other ways and we have to put aside our fleshly desires. That was one of those times for us. You have had them as well. The key is not to allow these desires to overrule what we know we are to do. And the example we have is found in Jesus.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way. Thus, that will include desires of the flesh and the eyes, and the pride of life. In fact, we can find all of these in one story in Matthew 4. For Jesus, He was hungry. He had not eaten in 40 days. And Satan appeared to Jesus and helped Jesus to see that His hunger could be gone by turning the stones to bread (Matthew 4.3-4). As I have mentioned before, the stones in this area are somewhat large and brown and resemble a small loaf of bread. So, Jesus, no doubt, had seen these stones for days and thought about they looked like bread. But He did not give into His fleshly desires. He did not fulfill His desires in the short-term because He knew the long-term goal.
You and I need to have the same idea in mind. Our fleshly desires will distract us from the good
in the long-term. In fact, the story we read earlier from Luke 10 indicates this truth as well. Martha was doing good work, but she was missing the greater benefit of being with Jesus. We will come back to this idea in a few more minutes. But first, let’s look at the desires of the eyes.
The Desires of the Eyes
Again, let us look at Adam and Eve, ourselves, and Jesus in this section.
In the Garden, Eve saw that the fruit was a delight to the eyes (Genesis 3.6). We do not know what type of fruit it was, but as I have said before it was not an apple (unless apples have changed) because Genesis 1.29 says that any tree with fruit that has a seed was available to eat. But something about this fruit was appealing to the eyes. Maybe it was bright. Maybe she could see the juices ready to explode in her mouth. Only she knows. But the reality was that something caught her eye and it made her desire the fruit.
Isn’t that what happens to us as well? We see a bright, shiny, new something and we say, “I have to have that!” Maybe it is food. Maybe it is a car. A new tool. Etc. The truth is that we see thousands of things every day. Some are not appealing to us, but others get our attention quickly. But, truth be told, often times the appeal fades quickly. I have used this example before, but seeing a pizza on tv is one of those tempting moments for me. Of course, advertisers know this. But I have never seen a pizza look as good in person as the ones I have seen on tv. Not even close. The desire of the eyes makes me want it, but once I get it, I am left feeling like I have been cheated. I know Eve (and Adam) felt that more than I can imagine.
But Jesus did not. Again, Jesus was tempted by a desire of the eyes as well. The devil took Jesus to the highest mountain in the area and showed Jesus all of the kingdoms and told Jesus they could be His if Jesus would simply bow down and worship Satan (Matthew 4.8-9). Please note that Jesus did not argue that the kingdoms were not Satan’s to give. But again, Jesus knew the long-game. He knew that if He remained true to God and worship and serve Him only (v 10), then one day every knee would bow at His name (Philippians 2.10-11).
The desire of the eyes is real. Eve, then Adam, fell prey to this desire. You and I fall prey to it. But Jesus did not and that can give us hope that we can overcome the desire as well.
The Pride of Life
The last of the three items mentioned by John in 1 John 2 is the pride of life. Again, we will see that it was pride that led to the Fall of Man, and it is overcoming the temptation of pride that allowed Jesus to be our Redeemer.
For Eve, the pride is found again in Genesis 3.6. She was fueled, however, by the promise of serpent in verse 5, that by eating of the fruit, she would be like God in knowing good and evil. The serpent played to her pride by suggesting that the fruit offered her something she did not possess. In essence, the lie she heard was that if she ate the fruit, she would be like God (Genesis 3.5-6).
Aren’t we the same way? Our pride often gets the better of us by making us think we are more than we are or that to stay that way, we must deny others.
It is said that the male ego is one of the most forceful, yet fragile items on earth. And, indeed, men are often filled with pride. But so are women. We all are. Let me prove it to you…if you got the least bit offended that I said you have pride, then that is proof. We show our pride by how we dress, in how we act, in where we go, etc. Most of our pride remains in our heads (thank goodness), but it seeps out far more often than we think. Perhaps we think we can do something better than someone else, or perhaps we think we are better than someone else. All of those aspects are a part of our pride and will lead us into a trap from which we cannot break free.
Please understand that being proud of what we do and being prideful are two different things. We can, and should, take pride in what we do. After all, Paul reminds us that everything we do is to be done for the Lord (Colossians 3.17, 23) and should be done for the glory of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10.31). So, taking pride in our work and doing it with excellence is good. But to merely carry ourselves with pride (and letting others know how proud we really are) is something that should be discouraged.
Again, we can see this clearly in the example of Jesus in Matthew 4. Jesus was, and is, the Son of God. He should take pride in that. But He did not count that fact worth abusing His power. When the devil told Him to prove who He really was by making a spectacle of Himself jumping from the top of the temple, Jesus refused (Matthew 4.5-7). In fact, in Philippians 2, Paul tells us that Jesus gave up His status to become like us and even further disgraced Himself to die for us.
But pride is a tricky thing. Let us briefly look at the passage from Luke 10 that was read earlier. Martha is the owner of the house. It was her responsibility to make sure the guests received the care they needed. And she was doing all she could to care for them. But her sister, Mary, simply sat at the feet of Jesus listening as He taught. Why did Jesus challenge Martha when she appealed to Him to have Mary help her? I don’t think it is because of what she was doing. I think it is because of why she was doing it. She took pride in serving. Again, there is nothing wrong with doing our best. But for Martha, Jesus knew that she needed to unclutter her life as much as she needed to unclutter her house. (That is what the phrase “anxious and troubled” means here.) She wanted to make her house look good (because of pride), but she first needed to make herself good.
This idea goes back to the idea of defilement from last week. It is not what we do that makes us good, it is who we are. Notice the final verse of the passage for today in 1 John 2. Read 1 John 2.17.
We must do the will of God, but to do it, we must first know it. All of the things we chase – the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and filling our pride, will pass, but by doing the will of God, we abide forever. And that is our key. I told you this message was not to beat us up, so let me turn the idea for good.
Follow the Spirit
Three weeks ago, Sam stood here and preached from John 15. He shared the true meaning of Jesus’ words of “abide in Me.” How do we do that? Through the Spirit. See the problem for most Christians is we are worried about what we might do wrong rather than focusing on doing right. More importantly, many Christians are more worried about pointing out what others are doing wrong rather than focusing on being right themselves and helping others to be right.
But if we are tuned into the Spirit, we will be right. We will focus on the good, not the bad. We will focus on being healthy, not just avoid being hurt. Yes, we will be hurt, and yes we will still make mistakes, but the difference between living by the Spirit and trying to avoid living in sin may sound like a fine line, but the distinction is huge.
Let me tie this back to the digestive system. Just because we may have challenges with certain foods does not mean we should stop living. I know what I can and cannot eat. We rarely eat out because of my diet and when I do, I know what I can and cannot eat at any given restaurant. Occasionally, though, I will make a mistake. It happened to me in Kenya on our last day. Someone passed around some beef jerky and I took a bite. I had been eating the same brand throughout the trip, but after I took the bite, I noticed that this jerky was peppered (not original). I asked for the bag and immediately knew I might be in trouble. I was able to spit most of it out, but not before I had already eaten some of it.
The next eight hours would determine how well the ride home would be. If I ingested enough, I would have miserable and one of the restrooms in the plane would have been claimed by me for the entire trip. But thankfully, I caught myself before I had ingested too much. And fortunately, I had some pills with me that might (the FDA has not said yes) help as well as some activated charcoal which I hoped would draw in any enzymes that otherwise might cause problems.
Fortunately, everything was fine. I did not have “indigestion” or in my case, get violently ill. Why? Because I followed what was right! I know what I am to eat, and what I should avoid. When I stick to what I know works, I am fine. In this case, I made a mistake, but because I know what is good, I was able to correct the situation quickly. If I only focused on what was bad, I would not have been able to make things right. In other words, it was not about avoiding a type of food it was about eating what I should eat.
That is what it means to follow the Holy Spirit. The desires of the flesh are real. The desires of the eyes are real. Pride is certainly real. But rather than trying to avoid giving into those desires, when we focus on following the Spirit, we will be fine. But we do not stop living. We just live by a different understanding. Again, we live by the Spirit, not in fear of what we might do.
True, we do face temptations, and we must be cautious not to give in to our temptations a little here and a little there. Why? Over time, that sin adds up and we lose a sense of what is real. To put it into the terms of indigestion, we know we shouldn’t do it, but we do it anyway and hope a pill can cover up the effects.
Like in the situation I faced, sometimes a pill is necessary. But it is one thing to need a pill in an emergency, it is another to use it because we are not willing to forgo what will cause us problems in the first place. It is the difference between taking the purple pill because our bodies must have it, and taking it because we will not avoid the foods we know will make our heart burn and the acid fly.
Our JOURNEY letter for today is: J – JESUS.
The reality is that sometimes we all need a pill to help us with our digestive issues. Perhaps it is an antacid or something similar, or a pill to help us digest a certain enzyme. But even if our digestive system works well, it isn’t a purple, pink, or blue pill we need, it is the red blood of Jesus that truly makes us well. It is knowing Him and abiding in Him that allows us to follow the Spirit and avoid the temptations and desires that will otherwise cause us problems we would rather avoid.
PRINCIPLE: The temptations we face are real, but so is the solution – following the Holy Spirit.
QUESTION: What desires of your heart prevent you from following Jesus as He would have you follow Him?
OPPORTUNITY: Stop focusing on what not to do and focus on the goodness of God instead.
NEXT STEP(S): LIVE: As you take your vitamins or medicine this week, consider adding an “extra pill” as a reminder to allow the Spirit to be your guide each day.