February 4, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker
Parents, if you haven’t read C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books to your children, you should probably get the series, these eight books that C.S. Lewis (this famous Oxford atheist who became a follower of Jesus later in life) wrote. When he wrote the Narnia books, he wrote them to explain what Jesus was like to his niece, and he wrote them to an eight-year-old. The lion in the books of Narnia is based on the lion of the tribe of Judah, based on Jesus Christ. Aslan is the name that C.S. Lewis gives this lion, and then over and over again in this series of books, The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis reminds the readers, when it comes to this lion, he’s not a tame lion, which means he really doesn’t fit your mold. In fact, it’s the other way around. You’re supposed to fit his mold.
I guess you could say today is C.S Lewis Day on purpose, because I want to use at the beginning of the sermon for you today, a story that I read a long time ago that God really, really used to get my attention in the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says, “I want you to imagine for just a second that you go to a foreign country. You go to a country that’s kind of isolated and cut off from the rest of the world, and when you’re there, you go there to try to influence that country for Jesus Christ. So, the first thing that you do when you show up in the foreign country is you try to learn what life is like, and the first night that you’re there, everybody in this little village that you went to stops what they’re doing and they get up. They go to this center of the village (this kind of auditorium, this hall), and obviously this is so important, that this little village really just shuts down so that everybody can go.”
In the book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says that because you’re trying to figure out what this culture is like, you just tag along to see what’s going to happen inside the auditorium, inside this great hall, and then C.S. Lewis says there is excitement when people are walking in the room and the lights in the hall dim, and at the beginning or at the center of the room, when the lights go down, there is this focus on a tray that set up in the middle of the room. C.S. Lewis says that there’s a man who walks onto the stage, and he goes to the stage, and you can feel the excitement in the room, that people are longing to see what’s underneath the copper in the tray in the room.
As the man reaches down and he starts to get ready to lift the cover off the tray, people lean onto the edge of their seats to see what’s underneath this cover, and finally with great fanfare he pulls the lid, and it’s Chick-fil-A on Sunday! It’s a chicken miracle! That’s what people see under the lid. Basically, C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, when he lifts the lid, there’s a bit of bacon or some mutton chops under that lid, and everyone in the room explodes with spontaneous applause.
Lewis says if you went to visit that culture in that country, you would say, “Something is wrong with these people. Of course, we have to eat food to live, but somehow, food has become way too important in this society.”
C.S. Lewis originally gave a series of radio addresses on the BBC from 1941 to 1944 which eventually became the book, Mere Christianity, and C.S. Lewis takes this illustration and he says, “Can I tell you about 1940’s post-Victorian England?” He said this is what the body, or literally what C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, is this is what sex is like in 1940’s England. Somehow this thing, the body, has become way too important.
Now, I want you just imagine that somebody comes in 2018 in the Chattahoochee Valley. Imagine that somebody comes to visit our society, and they don’t know much about the way that we live, so they drive down Veterans Parkway, and they start to read billboards, and within 3 miles of reading these billboards, they see the billboard for the tanning salon, and they see the billboard for the gym membership, and they see the billboard for breast augmentation surgery, and they see the billboard for fat reduction. Those people would probably say, “Hey, what’s wrong with this society? It seems like the body has become way too important in this society.”
If C.S. Lewis were here today, he would say that maybe we’re doing in our community today what those folks did with a bit of bacon or a mutton chop in this fictional foreign country. So today, let’s take a look at how weird people, that is those of us who claim the name of Jesus Christ, who say we’re supposed to live differently from the society around us, how do we view our body?
We are in a sermon series called Weird. Weird people (those who claim the name of Christ, who are supposed to live differently as a result of what we believe) we have a body to die for. Now, I’m not talking about a sexy body. That’s way too easy to shoot for. Perhaps what we do with our bodies, is set the bar way too low. You see, we’re just striving to try to look good and hopefully by the way that we look, it makes us feel good when in reality, what the Bible is asking for from us is a body that is totally, completely surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. -a body that is in the hands of the master. He can do with it whatever he chooses to do with it, because before were done today, you’ll see that a body to die for means it’s not really my body to begin with.
By the way, this is also not a health and wellness sermon. Although I’m not opposed to health and wellness (certainly that’s not a bad thing), this is a warfare sermon, because if you’re reading the King James version of the Bible, 423 times in that version of the Bible, the word flesh is going to appear, and often it’s in opposition with the spirit and there is this war that’s going on inside of us for our flesh, and whatever gets most of your time, whatever gets most of your attention, that thing starts to win the war.
We’re going to look at the Christian Standard Version of the Bible. There are 278 references in this version of the Bible to the word body. I’m guessing you don’t want me to go through all 278 of them today, so I’m just going to use a few, but these few verses from the Bible are going to show us, what does “a body to die for” look like?
I. My body is God’s tool
Here’s the first thing that I think I’d like you to write down: My body is a tool; it’s a tool in God’s hands. He’s the master, he’s the creator, and this created thing belongs to him, not to me. Abraham Kuyper, a famous Dutch politician and a believer who was also a practicing theologian, wrote a book last century called Every Square Inch. In this book, Abraham Kuyper says to his society, “If Jesus Christ really created all, if King Jesus is really ruler over it all, there is not 1 inch on the planet that he doesn’t have the authority to point and to say ‘Mine. That belongs to me, to include your flesh or to include your body.’” Listen to how the Bible describes the way we weird people view our bodies in 1st Corinthians chapter 9:
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
Weird people don’t worship their bodies, but here’s the truth: Weird people don’t neglect their bodies either. Weird people make their bodies a tool in the hands of King Jesus, subject to his Lordship. Do this for me: When the Olympics come on TV, I want you to pay special attention to the commitment that the Olympians give to their sport, because that’s the kind of language that the Bible is using for us today. They give everything for four years of their life, body and total commitment, to win something that the Bible refers to as temporary. It’s going to wear out. It’s going to perish. You and I have this physical body for a short period of time here on earth, and what we do with this physical body influences what’s waiting for us after this body is worn out and after this body is over with.
Here’s the truth: Olympic athletes measure what they eat and when they eat and how much they eat. They dedicate themselves from the moment that they wake up to the moment they go to sleep to their sport. Everything is given to that sport, and they do it in the hopes of winning a gold medal. And the kind of language that the Bible is using for us today is, if athletes would give that, shouldn’t we as followers of Christ be willing to give just as much physically in our faith?
The word discipline and the word disciple are really from the same root word. If you have been around Calvary for more than two seconds, you know that this church is passionate about one thing: making disciples. Here’s what the Bible the saying for us today: A disciple is disciplined, and if you’re not disciplined, there something wrong with your type of discipleship, but the Bible is doing something even more unusual for us today. A disciple is not just spiritually disciplined; a disciple is also physically disciplined.
I think I’m guilty of this. Many pastors are. We talk a lot about surrendering to Jesus at the soul-level or giving him control of your mind or heart, but we don’t talk a lot about giving them control over your body, and today this sermon is to say, “Jesus, you have control over my body.” Here’s the best way to put this: “This is not my body; it’s yours. You created it. You are Lord over it. You can do whatever you want to do with this body. It is yours for your service. It is a tool in your hands, Jesus. It doesn’t belong to me.”
So, can I talk to the young ladies here? -and perhaps some others fit in this category. I’m not young, and I’ve never been a lady, but I do know this: There are a lot of young ladies in America who have a really distorted view of self-worth because of body image issues, and if you’re a Christian, it is time for us to do a little bit of work on this, because if you put too much emphasis on the way that you look, if you’re not careful, this starts to become way too important. It can become the thing that you’re worshiping. This is why people develop eating disorders. -because they’re all consumed by the way that they look.
But, if you’re not careful, you can neglect it to the point that the way that you look doesn’t line up with what you say you believe. -that your actions and your words don’t really match. So, I guess I’m trying to say what Hailee Steinfeld says. It’s okay to want to change the body you came in, but I really want you to feel good in your own skin, and a body to die for is a body that doesn’t belong to you anymore; it has been surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is his body to do with whatever he chooses.
II. My body is God’s temple
Look, your body according to the Bible is not just a tool; the Bible takes this one step further and says your body is actually a temple, a temple that is sacred, and it belongs to the King of Kings. It belongs to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I’m going to tell you a quick story in just a second about 2 verses of the Bible that God used to slap me upside the head, but before I do that, I want to show you these verses, and I want you to pay close attention to the language that the Bible uses, not about a brick and mortar temple but about the flesh temple.1st Corinthians chapter 3:
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, and that is what you are.
Look, Jesus had a physical body. He left Heaven, took on physical form, lived here on Earth for a very short period of time. Jesus physically went to the cross. He bodily gave everything to pay for my sin, to ransom you back from your sin. They took his body off of the cross. They laid it in a tomb, and you know the rest of the story. 3 days later, that dead man came out of the tomb alive. He walked on Earth for about 40 more days, and then Jesus went in bodily form back to Heaven. He is right now dwelling at the right hand of God the Father.
But, what about the Holy Spirit? Does the Holy Spirit also have a body here on Earth? If you were to read 1st Corinthians chapter 3, you would have to say, “Well yes, technically he does, and this is it. Your body is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. You see, when you surrendered to Jesus Christ, he came in, body and soul. And now that body is the dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit, which means now that body is not just a tool of God; now it’s the temple of God.
Back in ancient Jerusalem, it wasn’t bricks and mortar that made the temple of God; it was the presence of God on Earth. What the Bible is teaching is, it’s not bricks and mortar that make the church. There is nothing sacred about this building. It’s you, when you come into this building. Jesus says it this way, “Where 2 or 3 are gathered together in my name in agreement with one another,” Jesus says, “I’m going to be with you in your midst.” In fact, he’s saying here, “I’m going to be inside you, and your body is now my dwelling place.”
I told you I was going to give you a quick story. For a long time when I was a sergeant in the Army, I used to dip Copenhagen. Now, before you start to tell me how gross that is, I just want to tell you, for a couple of years, Copenhagen literally saved my life because in the invasion of Panama, in Kuwait, and in Somalia, it kept me awake and alert, and I would probably be dead if it wasn’t for that little can of Copenhagen. So, I’m sitting in church one day, and Dawn and I had just read these verses earlier that week in our devotions, and the pastor wasn’t even preaching about these 2 verse, but I’m sitting in church one day here in town years and years ago, and it was like the Lord slapped me on the side of the head and said, “Jeff, that body that you have, it belongs to me, not to you. And Jeff, you’re desecrating my body by putting that stuff in your mouth.” And immediately, I made the decision, Okay if that’s the case, God, this is your temple; it belongs to you. If I’m desecrating your temple, then I will stop immediately. I think that Sunday afternoon was the last time I ever put a dip of Copenhagen in my mouth.
Now, I’m not telling you guys that you need to stop dipping. Maybe you do, because your teeth are going to fall out and you’ll look like an old man when you’re 40 years old. But I’m telling you this: Your body is the temple of the Lord. It belongs to him; it is a sacred and a special tool in his hands. And the way that you handle your body can dishonor Christ. It can destroy your witness if you’re not careful.
So, I’m about to say something that’s going to make almost everybody in this room mad, but here it goes anyway. There’s one of two dangers that we have to be careful about as followers of Jesus. There are 2 cliffs that if you’re not careful, you’re going to fall over. The first cliff is for people who have way too much emphasis on the way that they look. For you body Nazis out there, who all you think about is how you look, and all you can care about is how much you weigh and the way that you look in the mirror, that’s dangerous to your soul. -because if you’re not careful, this thing will start to consume you. What you spend your time and what you spend your money, what you spend all of your energy on, that’s the thing that you’re worshiping, and if you’re not careful, you’ll start to worship the way that you look.
I recommend that you get rid of every mirror in your house if you’re one of those people who is sliding towards the edge of being consumed by the way that you look. But here’s the other cliff that if you’re not careful, you’ll fall off. It’s the people who have neglected the way that they look to the point that the way that you look has started to become a stumbling block. Listen to me. For other people who don’t know Christ and they’re looking at you and they’re saying, “Wait a second. I hear what you’re saying, but the way that you look and what you’re saying, those 2 things just don’t seem to add up.”
If that’s you, I would ask you to examine carefully the way that you look, because either one of these two extremes is dangerous to your witness or dangerous to your soul. Don’t make either one of these mistakes. But can I be honest with you? This is the way most people in our society live. In fact, health and human services in the United States estimates by the year 2030, 50%, one half of all adults in America, will be obese and out of control in the way that they look.
III. My body is temporary
Your body is a tool. Your body is a temple. I probably don’t need to remind you, but it’s true. Your body is temporary. It is going to wear out, and one of these days, you’re going to spend eternity someplace, and eventually your body is going to catch up with your soul, and you’ll dwell eternally in one of two places: either Heaven or Hell.
I’m going to read a couple of verses from the Bible, and we’re going to land the plane with these few verses, but before I do, I want you pay close attention to 2 words. Pay attention to the word many and pay attention to the word our, because the word many is talking about how everybody else lives or functions or looks, and the word our is talking about us, the followers of Jesus. We’re not just supposed to be weird; we’re supposed to own it and live it, or perhaps look a little bit different than everyone else around us. Philippians chapter 3:
Philippians 3:18-21 18
For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, 20 but our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject everything to himself.
You should read these verses, and it should strike terror into you. Wait a second. I thought the cross of Jesus Christ was God’s payment for sin. I thought the cross of Jesus Christ made every man, every woman, every color of skin, young and old, wrinkled or not. I thought it made it possible for them to be made right with God. How could somebody possibly be an enemy of that?
The answer to the question in verse 18 is found in verse 19. Here’s what makes somebody an enemy of the cross of Christ: They are living for the flesh. They’re living for right now. They’re living for what they consume, or they’re living for pleasure, and because of that, they have pushed out or pushed away the cross. They’re not looking at the cross of Christ, because they’re looking to be filled right now, today, this instant. That’s why the Bible is using Heaven and here language (the here and the hereafter).
The people who are living for this instant, for right now, are looking for here, but there is a hereafter. For those of us who ultimately will dwell there when this temporary body wears out, we don’t live strictly speaking for what we consume or for pleasure or for instant gratification. Of course, I’ve got to eat. What I live for is what’s waiting for me on the other side after this body wears out.
Not long ago, I was in a hospital visiting a lady who was about to have surgery, pretty severe surgery, and I had this very conversation with her. I said, “Look, I don’t know if you’re going to be here for 6 more days or for 60 more years, but one day everybody’s body is going to wear out. Are you ready for that day?” She said she wasn’t, and she was getting ready to go through major surgery. I had the privilege of sharing the gospel with her. She didn’t really respond to Christ that instant.
Well, I was just visiting her last week, and I asked her, “Hey, have you nailed down where you’ll spend eternity?” She said, “I thought a lot about what you said when you were in the hospital, and it was thinking about death that finally the Lord used to get my attention. I gave my life to Christ not long ago, Jeff, and it was because I realized someday this body is going to give out.”
I want to remind you, watch the Super Bowl tonight. 100 of the greatest athletes in America will give themselves bodily to try to win a silver Tiffany trophy, and they will sacrifice whatever it takes to win that trophy. Look at the warriors in our community. Those great men and women have said, “I will give whatever it takes physically to preserve and protect our way of life.”
And I want to really just ask Christians, how could you and I possibly give anything less? If this is what players on the football field, if this is what Olympic athletes, if this is what soldiers and airmen and sailors and Marines would be willing to do, how can we do anything less?
So, here’s my challenge for you today. My challenge is to live a life surrendered, radically surrendered, to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, which means your body is also surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Because this challenge is pretty vague, my guess is many of you are saying, “I have no idea how to do that, Jeff.” So, I’m about to do something with you that I rarely do. I really don’t like doing this, but I’m going to give you a list.
One reason why I don’t like giving lists is because I’m afraid you’re going to look at this checklist and say, “I’m doing number 1. Yep, I did number 3. I did at all 5 of them. I’m good, right? Maybe you can do all 5 of these things, and your heart isn’t right, in which case, perhaps you’re not good. But if you’re not sure what it looks like to have a body surrendered to Jesus Christ, here are just a couple of practices. Certainly, there are a lot more, but here are a couple of practices of being surrendered physically to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
5 practices of a surrendered body
Watch your weight
Don’t overemphasize your looks
Don’t develop a dependency
Be healthy enough today to go anywhere the Lord sends you tomorrow
First, watch your weight. Last year, 21% of all healthcare dollars were spent on obesity. That’s $344 billion in America. Number 2 almost directly contradicts it on purpose. Number 2: Watch your weight, but don’t watch it too carefully. Don’t over-emphasize the way that you look. Don’t let this thing start to consume you, because if you’re not careful, it will become a god that you’re worshiping (little g god). Number 3: Be active. -just simply healthy enough that God can use you at any time, at any place in this community. I understand some of you have health problems. I understand many of you are older and you can’t do what you once were able to do. Be active and healthy for your age and for your stage of life.
Number 4: Don’t develop a dependency. Obviously, I’m talking about opiates. I’m talking about oxycodone and methadone, but I’m also talking about tobacco. I’m also talking about alcohol. I’m talking about anything that starts to become a dependency for you. -that it starts to push the Holy Spirit of the living God out because you’re looking for that thing to fill you up, that thing to satisfy. Fifth and last (and really this is the challenge for all Christians, all of you are weirdos in this room). Be healthy enough today to go anywhere the Lord sends you tomorrow.
Let’s say tonight God says, “I want you to sell everything, get on a plane, go to a village in Central America or in South America, and I want you to spend the rest of your life serving there.” Are you physically healthy enough that you could do that right now? If the answer that question is no (and only you know the answer to that), if the answer that question is no, you need to really start to look at the way that you’re living your life, and you need to get a few things back into perspective. These are practices of somebody who has surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Many years ago, if you were a Christian, you knew that you may have to (here’s the language that people used many years ago) “surrender your body to the flames”. What that meant was, by following Jesus, it very well may cost you your life. They may burn you at the stake for following Jesus, and for many centuries, that was a very real possibility. I’m asking you to have that kind of radical commitment to Jesus. We don’t allow people to be burned at the stake anymore, but if we did, you should have the kind of commitment that if that’s what it cost me, that’s what I’ll give up. Jesus you have everything. -mind, soul, and body.
• I want to spend eternity in Heaven. I surrendered my body and soul to Jesus for the first time.
– I have developed an unhealthy view of my body. Pray for me to see myself like God sees me when I stand in front of the mirror.
+ I surrender control of my body to Jesus. He can do with me what he wants.
- If you could change anything about your health or fitness right now, what would it be?
- What would you describe as an unhealthy body image?
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:27. Does the phrase “body of Christ” only speak of the spiritual, or does it also imply the physical body as well?
- Nowhere does the Bible condemn cigarettes. Do you think it’s okay for a Christian to smoke? Explain your answer.
- If God were to ask you to surrender your body to the flames (death by burning at the stake), would you do it?
- How can someone pray for your health right now?
- Pray that God would use your body as a tool for his glory.