Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Church Covenant Series: Part 6 of 11

We continue our exposition of the eleven paragraphs of the JPBC membership covenant. Paragraph six reads:

We will be good stewards of our bodies, because they are temples of the Holy Spirit; we will not abuse ourselves through addiction or excess.

This part of our church covenant addresses the issue of the personal management of our lives, including our physical bodies. Stewardship is not just a matter of giving our money to the church. It also means that we are good stewards of our bodies and our physical health. Paul wrote in Romans 12:1 that we are to present our "bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable, to God which is your reasonable service."

Unlike some religions, Biblical Christianity does not see the body or the physical realm as inherently evil. When God made the earth, he declared it to be good (Genesis 1:31). Though sin has corrupted, the physical world is still a very good thing. The Bible also teaches that one day God will redeem our bodies by raising them from the dead, as he did Jesus the first fruits of the resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-49).

The covenant points out in the most practical terms that we are not to "abuse ourselves through addiction or excess." One of the fruit of the spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The Bible repeatedly warns of the dangers of over-consumption of alcoholic beverages. Proverbs 20:1 says, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whoever is deceived thereby is not wise" (KJV). For a devastating description of the suffering brought by alcohol abuse, read Proverbs 23:29-35. In Ephesians 5:18 Paul admonishes: "and do not be drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit" (KJV). These warnings against alcohol use can also be applied to any addictive drug.

The believer is also to avoid the sin of gluttony. Proverbs 23:20 reads: "Do not mix with winebibbers, or with gluttonous eaters of meat." Esau stands in Scripture as a "profane" man, because he was mastered by his physical appetite and sacrificed his birthright (see Genesis 25:29-34; Hebrews 12:16). The Christian is not to be appetite driven.

There are two things we need to avoid, however, as we consider this part of the covenant. First, we should not come to a place where we over-value care for our physical bodies. Some, for example, are tempted to make an idol of sport and exercise. We need to hear Paul’s caution: "For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come" (1 Timothy 4:8).

Second, we should avoid legalism in prohibition of the reasonable use of food and drink. Paul also spells this out in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 when he condemns some false teachers who were preaching legalistic self-denial. Paul says, "their own conscience is seared with a hot iron" as they command believers "to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth" (vv. 2-3). Excessive denial is as wicked as excessive over-consumption.

May God lead us to be good stewards of our lives, so that we can serve Him to the fullest!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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