with a passion to worship God,
who care for one another
and bring God’s love into a broken world”
Today I pick up my series on ‘Going Deeper’. It’s a series about the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines, like solitude, silence, fasting, Scripture, giving, fellowship and so on. They are practices that helps you to pursue the presence of God and enjoy more full the spiritual life in God’s kingdom. The spiritual disciplines all involve bodily action and today I am going to look at a couple of passages from the Bible that describes how your body can be used in order to ‘go deeper’ with God.
Intro: The body
Today I will speak about ‘the body’. Not the body as a metaphor to describe our nature as church, but the physical body. Flesh and bones, hands and feet, head and heart. Your body, my body, our bodies.
It wasn’t until some time ago that I held quite a wrong view about my body. Somehow, after I came to Christ, I developed the belief that my body didn’t really matter – I thought that the spiritual life was all about my soul. Before my conversion, it was all about my body and pleasing its desires. Sports, adrenaline, drinking, sex, partying, food, etc. Which isn’t strange, because ‘in the world’ it is all about the body. Just look on the advertisements about anti-aging, fashion, diet, chocolate ;). It was no longer important to me – or at least shouldn’t be.
On top of that, I also found my body more like a hindrance in following Jesus rather than powerful resource. That same body with which I lift my hands in worship is also able to act sinfully. It’s the tension that Jesus described as ‘the spirit is willing, but the body is weak’ [Math. 26:41]. And every time I sinned, I began to dislike my body, developing a very low view of my body.
Maybe that’s your experience too. And what value do you actually give your body? And what value do you think God gives your body? [think about it for a second]
God thinks quite differently about my body than I did at that time and holds quite a high view about my and your body. And in fact, it is your body that fulfils a key role in expressing your relationship, love and worship to God.
Today I pick up my series on ‘Going Deeper’. It’s a series about the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines, like solitude, silence, fasting, Scripture, giving, fellowship and so on. They are practices that helps you to pursue the presence of God and enjoy more full the spiritual life in God’s kingdom.
The spiritual disciplines all involve bodily action and today I am going to look at a couple of passages from the Bible that describes how your body can be used in order to ‘go deeper’ with God. We begin with Romans 12:1-2.
The Spiritual act of Worship
Reading: Rom. 12:1-2
I was right in saying that everything had changed for me because of Jesus Christ. But I was wrong in saying that ‘my body didn’t really matter’. In Rom. 12 we find the right perspective on ‘the body’:
‘Therefore, because you’re changed by God’s grace and mercy, offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship!’
Romans 12 is built firmly on the theology of chapter 1-11. In these chapters, Paul lays out what God has done for us in his redemption through Jesus Christ. Chapter 12 is the beginning of the practical implications of this redemption. Paul basically says: ‘Now you need to make it your own [appropriate] what God has done for you [apply]'.
And what did God do for you? He broke the dominion of sin over your life and now it is grace and mercy that reigns over your [Rom. 6:18]. And this breakthrough of grace and mercy has paved the way to live a different kind of life – a new life in Jesus Christ, a life with heavenly and eternal quality! Living out this new life in Jesus is nothing else than an overall lifestyle of worship, in which your body is heavily involved. Your body does matter! Let’s have a look on what Paul says about your body.
Christian spirituality is about the entire person. The body is more than only flesh and blood, Paul speaks about you as ‘whole person’, including your body. Instead of holding a low view about your body, you should actually use it to glorify God! For Jesus has redeemed your body to serve and worship God! This is quite a different perspective, don’t you think so? Paul speaks in sacrificial language. Offer your body to God as a sacrifice. We no longer have to bring literal sacrifices, as the people of God in the OT used to do. Jesus Christ became the ultimate sacrifice in his death on the cross, in which all literal offers are fulfilled. The sacrifices we bring to God today are all spiritual – like that of your body. How does that look like?
Just some time ago I read a book in which the author used to take 1 day a year to literally dedicate each member of his body to the Lord; committing his hands, fingers, feet, toes, legs, ears, everything, under the rule of Jesus! I actually forgot what book and who the author was, but I think it’s an inspiring way of devoting your body with full intention to the Lord.
And yet, offering your body to the Lord is a continuous action. It is a living sacrifice; it is not dead, but alive in Christ [Rom. 6:11] – Rom.12 is about your overall lifestyle as a disciple of Jesus.
The person’s body who lives UP to God is a holy sacrifice. Here you really begin to see what value God gives to your body. ‘Holy’ means ‘set apart’. In Christ your body is set apart for the Lord.
In 1 Cor. 6:12-20 you find the same thought. Paul [again] writes against some Christians who remained in an overall lifestyle of sexual immorality. They too held a wrong view about the body, thinking that the spiritual life was all about the spirit and whatever you do with your body, doesn’t affect your spirit. Sexual immorality in their view was no big deal. Let me read a couple of verses about what Paul has to say about the body in this passage:
Does your body not matter? Does God have a low view on your body and should you therefore reject your body? Is it all about the soul or the spirit? Not at all!
God has purchased your body with the blood of his own Son who died for you on the cross! In Jesus, God has set your body apart; you are no longer the owner of your body, it now belongs to God. It is redeemed. Paid for. Purchased. He even made it His dwelling place – the holy Spirit is in you. Would God do that if your body doesn’t really matter? It does matter – your body is not meant for destruction but for resurrection – it is united with Christ [1 Cor. 6:13-14, Rom. 6:5]!! The in breaking news is that your body is fully included in the redemption of Jesus Christ!
This, people, is really good news. There are many who struggle with their bodies, you might be one of them. For me personally, I struggle with my body too. I have this rheumatic disease that deforms my body and causes ugly spots on my skin. It made me to really dislike and even hate my body. At times I was stressed and depressed and ashamed about my body. You might struggle with how you look like. Or your body is sick.
Or you find it hard to control your body and struggle with sin and addiction. And although it is a real challenge to face those struggles, I hope and pray that you begin to appreciate your body as something that belongs to God, something which is redeemed, paid for. Don’t hate your body, hate the sin, hate the sickness, but begin to learn to look at your body just as God does.
Offer your body as a sacrifice, pleasing to God, this your spiritual act of worship. A complete different way of looking at your body!
Small group talk: 2 min. Turn to your neighbour and have open conversation how you’ve viewed your body until now – and/or how what place you gave your body in your relationship with God.
I would like us to turn to Rom. 6:11-14. Before we get practical and look at how you can use your body as spiritual act of worship, I would like to say a few words about the struggle with sin.
The reality is that the Christian life often seems to be more like a battlefield rather than paradise. At least, that’s my experience. I know that I am called to a life in obedience to God and in followership of Jesus. And yet, each day I struggle to do that. Each day I sin. Like everyone else. Is that just bad character? Or is it a different tension?
Reading: Romans 6:11-14.
Can you say ‘hopla’? […] ‘Hopla’ is a Greek word that Paul uses in this passage, which in the NIV is translated as instrument. But ‘hopla’ actually means ‘weapon’. It is through your body that you communicate with the space and world around you. Paul says that a Christian can either communicate with his body with this world as a weapon of wickedness or as a weapon of righteousness.
Paul paints the picture of your interaction with the world as a ‘battlefield’. The struggles you face in your followership of Jesus is probably not so much about ‘bad character’ it is much more about ‘reality’ – the Christian life is one of constant battle. And the arena is the world, in which you and I live. It is the sin and satanic-dominated world [Eph. 2:1-2, 6:12] in which all people naturally belong, but from which the Christian is redeemed. And the battle you fight is a spiritual one.
Because although you’ve been transferred from this sin and satanic-dominated world into the kingdom of God [Col. 1:13], it does not isolate you from the influence of ‘this dark world’; you still life in a mortal body! And the spiritual battle is fought and won or lost in the daily decisions that you make about how to use your body!
This is the conflict! And it is in this arena, this battlefield, that you constantly need to make a choice: will I use my body as a weapon of wickedness or as a weapon for righteousness?
E.g. When we moved into a new house there was this man from another street who would always walk with his two dogs through our street. No big deal, you would say. However, these dogs were pretty aggressive and intimidating and in a way they behaved exactly like their boss. And he wouldn’t walk with his dogs just once or twice a day. But four to five times a day. In other words, every other hour we were confronted with this man. We began to feel annoyed and irritated about it. We even began to speak judgemental about him and become angry at him. At a certain point, we realized that this wasn’t what Jesus asks from us. And thus we began to pray for him, his wife and family. We began to greet him and seek opportunity to start a friendly conversation. Last year we send them a Christmas card, and they send one in return, telling us that they were really encouraged by it. Meanwhile all our judgemental thoughts and negative emotions were gone. The kingdom is advanced!
Your body is a powerful weapon; you can either use it for the negative or positive! Be careful how you communicate with this world!
Let’s go back to Rom. 12:2 and close off practically how you can use your body as a weapon for righteousness and as a living sacrifice, pleasing to God. How do you do that?
Transformation & renewal: the Spiritual Disciplines
Romans 12:2 ‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’
Your deeds arise naturally out of a certain quality of life. In your life before Christ, you developed a certain quality of life, including its habits, defined by the power of sin. But now that grace and mercy reigns over you, you need to develop new habits that matches this new quality of life. Paul speaks about a process of transformation and renewal that needs to take place. A process of unlearning old worldly habits and learning new kingdom habits! It’s a transformation of both your external behaviour and of your inner being.
Dallas Willard, in his book on spiritual disciplines, states that ‘if we’ve experienced regeneration, we must not only talk about it, but exercise it, working out what God has worked in.’ Showing it in our fingertips, in our tongue, and in our bodily contact with other people. So that it becomes a natural part of you and practice is the key.
And this is where the spiritual disciplines come in. The disciplines as new habits [or activities] by which you bring your entire person, including your body, under the authority of Jesus Christ and into connection with God’s will and purpose for this new redeemed life. I will share a couple of personal examples, just to give you an idea how that could be like.
Usually, when I begin a windsurfing session, I dedicate it to the Lord. Giving Him thanks for the opportunity to enjoy His creation and praying a blessing over the session. By doing so, I bring my sports under Jesus authority and make it a ‘spiritual event’. Through which God is glorified and I am refreshed.
I can be quite self-centred and as of that have a natural tendency to keep things for myself. In order to break this pattern, I challenge myself in the practice of ‘generosity’ whenever an opportunity arrives. It could mean paying the bill or give something away. Bless someone with a financial gift or so. I must admit, sometimes I loose from myself and can’t bring it up to make the sacrifice, I am still learning ;). But the practice of generosity prevents me from letting ‘money’ or ‘possessions’ to become the most important in my life.
Another example. I am a person who really loves life – especially the burgundy way of life. Good food, or a good glass of whisky on Saturday night, or a nice beer as I enjoy the sun in spring. I love it! But I’ve decided to fast twice a year from those pleasures, to bring my love for the ‘good life’ in connection with God’s will and purposes.
One last example: as almost everybody else, I suffer from the noise and distraction of my smart phone. Each week I try to spent time in solitude and silence, usually taking a walk in nature, allowing God to speak in the silence and becoming aware of God’s presence in nature. I find it so valuable to have these moments!!
They are simple, but practical and powerful ways to submit my body to God and develop new habits that helps me to enjoy more fully the spiritual life in God’s kingdom.
Let me end with a quote from C.S. Lewis: "Spiritual growth requires an intentional effort on our part, while spiritual stagnation and decline requires no effort at all". I haven’t said it yet, but do it now: transformation and renewal is not going to happen merely in your own strength. But eventually it is by God’s grace and in the power of the holy Spirit that you’re changed and are able to live out that new life in Christ [Rom. 8:5]. And yet, true grace alone does not guarantee that you will pursue that new life in Jesus. You do have a part to play in your body’s transformation; and it is shaped by your actions like the spiritual disciplines.
And thus, go deeper with God an get that body involved! Give it the right value. See it as God sees it. Holy, set apart, for the Lord! Let grace and mercy reign and in response to that, offer your entire being as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
Group dialogue [30-45 min’s.]
Prayer / Ministry [10 min’s.]
During the dialogue it may have been that someone in the group shared about his or her struggles with his/her [view on the] body. Maybe there is sickness or pain or addiction. You may want to ask if you can minister to this person as a group.
Willard, D. 1988. The Spirit of Disciplines. Understanding How God Changes Lives. Harper Collins Publishers. New York. Page 118