The Biblical Call to Moderation
BY BROTHER MICHEL LANKFORD
The desire and passion of my life is that God with His Son Jesus Christ and by the working of His Holy Spirit would transform me from my most inward part to my most outward and visible part until my every desire, passion, thought, attitude, motive, word and action is completely transformed with His Love and Righteousness until I am a total delight to God's heart and a glorious representation of His Son.
I long to authentically abide in God , Jesus Christ, and His word. I long to authentically know the Truth, and for the Truth to set me free. I long to be set free from everything that could hinder the statements above from becoming the living reality in me. I long to authentically walk in the more abundant life that Jesus Christ came to give us. If that is your goal, then join me in studying in applying God's word together. If that is not your goal, chances are you'll find things in this Bible study hard or impossible to swallow. I approach Bible study with the following axioms as my guides, and I invite you to do the same.
• I believe that Almighty God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them by speaking His Word (Genesis 1:1-3, 31). Therefore, I believe that God said what He meant and means what He says. I believe that all Scripture (Old Testament and New Testament) is God breathed, anointed and appointed by God.
• I believe that it is all completely sufficient for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the people of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
• I believe that it is the refusal to rightly divide and obey God's word that is at the root cause of every human ill and character defect we will ever encounter.
• I believe that when it is rightly divided and obediently applied in the context of being in right relationship with God and Jesus Christ, His Word is completely sufficient to give us true wisdom in every situation, guidance and comfort through every hardship, and victory in every battle.
• If you too believe these things, then you are ready to study.
What is Gluttony?
Let's see if this scenario looks or sounds familiar. You get up after dinner from a family gathering and take an extra swig of some carbonated beverage, just hoping you can belch to relieve some of the pressure. We've all seen and done it. We all know what the big events are: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, a family reunion or church social. Most if not all of America's major social events revolve around food. If you ask most people about a definition of gluttony, almost all the responses you get will pertain to the overeating of food. While that is certainly true, and moderating our food intake is a great place to start, you may find it interesting that according to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition), gluttony is more properly defined as the greedy or excessive indulgence in anything.  What’s even more interesting is that Scripture would find that definition to be bang on target. In a very real sense, over indulging in food, drink, sleep, entertainment, spending money or pleasure of any kind could correctly be characterized as gluttony. Overeating certainly would qualify because, by the time one reaches the point of overeating they are no longer hungry, they are eating for comfort or pleasure seeking.
An Overview of the Problem
Over Indulging in Food
Approximately 66% of Americans are overweight or obese
A recent study suggests that 9.1% of all US health expenditures spent annually is related to weight issues. In real dollars that’s a total of approximately $117 billion annually. Of that $61 billion can be directly attributed to obesity issues, $56 billion is indirect.
Our Indulging in Resources
According to the United Nations human development report of 1998, “Globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures — the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%. ” Think about it. That means that at any given point, 86% of all available resources are being spent to house, feed, clothe, transport, medically treat or entertain 20% of the population! That leaves 80% of the population forced to divide the 15% of resources that remain. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the biggest fan of globalization or the UN, but I’ve heard and seen these statistics other places. So it makes you stop and think.
In spite of the fact that we consume so much (since America would have to qualify as one of the wealthier industrialized nations), we don’t seem to be satisfied with what we have. According to an article by Kim Khan of MSN, more than 43% of American families spend more each year than they earn. In fact on average every family spends $1.23 for every single dollar they earn. The average American family carries $8,000 of revolving credit card debts. These are debts not including those essentials such as mortgage, car payments and student loans . All things considered, I believe that it is safe to say we are definitely a nation of people who typically live excessively, even if we may not believe that we live excessively. The numbers simply don’t lie.
Is Gluttony a Sin?
I believe that to properly answer that question one must look at several factors:
What is sin as God defines it?
What effect does gluttony or overindulging in food, drink, sleep, entertainment, spending money or pleasures of any kind typically have on our lives?
We live in an age and culture where almost every human problem is defined as a disease. Alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual addiction, gambling addiction, Road rage and the list is virtually endless. Can everything that goes wrong in the lives of human beings be attributed to a “disease?” In one sense yes, in another sense, no. I believe that all human ills can be traced back to one disease. The disease is called sin, and it is terminal! That’s right, terminal. When we treat all these excesses in human behavior as disease, we really are only treating the symptoms, not the true disease.
One of the reasons that we fail to recognize sin is pride. We don’t want to admit that we are really suffering from the disease of sin. Part of us wants to think that we’re doing better than we really are. The other reason why we do not face our sin is that we have a real and legitimate fear of the consequences. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23 a).
“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8 NASB).
Failing to recognize our sin is extremely dangerous. That's because unresolved sin will bring about destruction. It is written: "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23 NASB) The death that sin causes literally refers to eternal darkness and separation from God and His love. It is further written: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but it's end is the way of death." (See Proverbs 12:15,14:12,16:25). Okay, we know that sin is destructive. So how and why do we fail to recognize our sin?
We don't recognize our sin partly because the very nature of sin is deceitful. Our sinful nature lies to us and tells us we're okay even if we're not (see Hebrews 3:13)
Part of the reason we don't recognize our sin is because it does seem pleasurable for a while (see Hebrews 11:25).
We don't see our sin in part because we don't recognize it as being sin even when it is sin. That's partly because we compare ourselves to each other and our culture rather than God and Christ's standards. In other words we lower the bar so much, we think things we do and think are okay with God, when in reality they are not right at all (2 Corinthians 10:12).
Sometimes we don't see our sin because we refuse to see it or deal with it. It's like being in a house with dirty cat litter. You have two options. You can recognize and admit that the house stinks and the cat litter needs to be changed. You can then act wisely and change the litter. The result will be that the House will smell cleaner and be fresher, the cat will be happier, and your friends and neighbors won't be offended. Or, you could do the selfish, lazy, unwise, and stupid thing and just ignore the filthy kitty litter. If you live with its filthy state long enough, you will in fact eventually reach the point where you don't notice the stench. However, the consequences of the stench will still impact your life despite the fact that you've grown so accustomed to it that you don't notice it. Your home will still be unhealthy, the cats will be unhappy, the Board of Health will eventually fine you, the landlord will evict you, and your friends and neighbors won't want to be around you. Unresolved sin works much the same way.
With God's help we can learn to recognize the stench of sin. We can choose to confess it as sin and turn away from it. With God's help we can learn new ways of living and have a more abundant life, or we can be stupid, and ignore the stench of our sin until it brings about the wages of death.
One of the things that causes people to incorrectly say they have no sin is that they fail to understand what sin is. The word in the Greek New Testament is Gk Strong's #266. It's transliterated "hamartia." The word is an old archery term meaning "to miss the mark." Basically, sin is missing the bull's-eye on God's best standards or ideals.
Using our dictionary definition of sin or "hamartia," let's restate 1 John 1:8 including our definition:
If we say that we have not missed the mark of God's best and highest standards for our lives, then we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. Romans 3:23 gives us a hint of what sin is as well: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." (Romans 3:23 NASB) In this case, falling short of the glory of God is the equivalent of the definition "missing the mark." Many people want to claim that there is no absolute mark or standard. Other people want to adjust the standard so they can deceive themselves into believing they have not missed the mark, when indeed we all have.
Nevertheless, our refusal to acknowledge God or that He has a standard doesn't remove the standard. It's just like saying the cat litter doesn't stink when in fact it does.
It's practically impossible to know whether you've missed the mark if you don't know what the mark looks like. So what is the standard? What does God's bull's-eye it’s practically impossible to mark of excellence look like?
I believe that God's bull's-eye mark of excellence falls into four broad categories:
Love: God's highest standard is a godly Love. Its characteristics are described in (1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Ephesians 4:32). We are to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:34-40; Matthew 7:12).
Faith: Faith is trusting God and taking Him at His word (Hebrews 11:1,6). Faith is one measure that God uses to decide whether a person is Righteous or not. (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11). God's word directly says that whatever we do not do by faith is sin (Romans 14:23b). Therefore, failing to live by faith (which is firm conviction or persuasion in a manner agreeable to God’s word) misses God’s bull’s-eye mark of excellence, and is therefore sin.
Obedience: If our love is genuine and your faith is growing, then obedience will surely follow (John 14:15,21). If I'm loving and trusting God as I should, then obedience is a natural outgrowth of my love and faith. It's a fact. Whenever I struggle with applying God's word in a particular area of my life (and we all will struggle), I try to find out where the breakdown is. Am I struggling with sincere love for God in this area? Am I having trouble here because I'm struggling with trusting God? Or am I struggling now because my own self-will and desire is too strong in this area of my life? Usually, once I resolve these questions, obeying God in whatever challenge I'm facing becomes much easier.
God cares more about our obedience than any sacrifice or ministry we can bring to Him (1 Samuel 15:22-23; Psalms 51:16-17). He cares more about our obedience than our church attendance, our tithing. Our obeying Him is more important than our serving or using our spiritual gifts. God desires people who obey Him from the heart, far more than He desires any other sacrifice. In fact, if you refuse or cannot obey what is written, then don't claim to have revelation knowledge of God. His own word would call you a liar (John 14:21).
Concerning this concept, I've heard many people approach God backwards. What I mean is they'll say something like, "If only God would reveal Himself to me more clearly, than I could obey him better." That sounds good, except for the fact that it's completely wrong. Christ said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." (John 14:21 NASB)
At first the idea that God only reveals Himself while we're obedient sounds unfair. After all we think to ourselves, how can we obey what we don't clearly understand? However, I believe that God established this concept for our protection. Think about it. The more we understand and know of God, the more accountable and responsible we are. If God were to reveal Himself to us before we determined in our heart that we wanted to obey Him, then we would be all the more condemned because we would be disobedient with full knowledge. By waiting until we determine in our hearts to be obedient before He reveals Himself, God ensures that our new revelation knowledge of Him will be a blessing, instead of a stumbling block.
Purposely Glorifying God: if we have the other three pillars of righteousness effectively working in our lives, the fourth one will come more naturally. That is that we are to live life purposefully with the goal of glorifying and honoring God. That means that we cannot live life passively. We must live life intentionally with the purpose of bringing honor to the one who made us (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17-23; James 2:12; John 5:19, 30;1 John 2:6).
So, God's four-square standard of excellence is Love, Faith, Obedience, and living purposefully to glorify God. Anything we do outside the realm of loving God with all our heart, anything we do outside of loving our neighbor as ourselves, anything we do outside of trusting God, and obeying Godwith purpose to bring Him Honor, is missing the mark of God's standard of excellence, and is therefore "hamartia" or sin.
Once we understand God's four-square standard of excellence, it's easy to see why God caused the Apostle John to write "If we say that we have no sin (if we say we have not missed God’s mark of excellence), we deceive ourselves. Think about it. If one has any integrity whatsoever, there is not a single person alive who can rightly claim that their every single action was motivated out of sincere love for God and the well-being of their fellow man. There is not one (except Jesus), who can rightly claim that every thought they had was loving and faithful, or that their every action is an obedient reflection of God's best character and His highest desire. It's no wonder the apostle Paul wrote, "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Taking all these concepts into consideration I believe that gluttony is in fact a sin, because giving in to excess is the opposite of one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit which is self-control (Galatians 5:22-24). If you look at the characteristics of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:19-21), one of them is sensuality (some versions translate it as lasciviousness or wantonness). It’s Greek word #766 The word is defined as
Excessive, refusing to heed or pay attention to reasonable limits; further characterized by greed and extravagance. I.e. wanton extravagance. b) To be unruly or lacking in self discipline.
Permitting ourselves to remain trapped in gluttony or excessive behavior is extremely dangerous. In fact, it can keep you from inheriting the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21)! If you are indulging in excess, I beg you as a brother in Christ, please take it seriously. If you hang on to that sin, it will cost you eternally.
The Cure for Gluttony and Excess
While it's necessary to look at the exact nature of humanity's sin, and that we all fall short of God's highest desire, praised be God that His interaction with us doesn't end at 1John 1:8. If it did, all we would know is how terribly sinful we are in God's sight, but what could we do with such information? If the story ended here, we would be left with no hope, nothing but the prospect of death. God and His Loving nature would not, and did not leave us without hope. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:23). “For God demonstrates his love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ came to save sinners, because God does not desire to condemn anyone (John 3:16-17; 2 Peter 3:8-9; 1Timothy 1:15, 2:4). Beloved, in that is our hope and our rescue.
Getting rid of gluttony and excess from our lives is a cooperative venture with us and God working together. The first thing we must do is start believing that excessiveness is sin, and as such we must treat it like any other sin. We must cooperate with God and allow him to kill it before it destroys us. Part of that happens as a supernatural work of God and His grace in our lives. The other part happens by our cooperating with God and learning moderation. From our perspective the grace part of the solution is easy. Jesus took care of the penalty guilt and condemnation required for that sin on the cross. All we have to do for the grace part of the solution to work is believe what Jesus accomplished through the cross, confess that we are indeed trapped and guilty of the sin of gluttony, and the grace of God starts working on our behalf (1 John 1:9). So the good news is we’re not going to die. Jesus took care of that part. The bad news is that this doesn’t automatically eliminate our habits and attitudes and behavior patterns. To change those we are going to have to regularly cooperate with God by consistently and correctly applying His Word. We’re not going to die in the process, but if we are used to thinking and behaving excessively, there will definitely be times in the process when we feel or think we’re dying. That’s the truth and I guarantee it.
Learning Self-Control, Balance and Moderation
2 Timothy 4:5; Titus 2:2, 2:5-6; 1 Peter 1:13, 4:7, 5:8; -If you look at these references in the Greek, they all urge us to be “sober minded” i.e. moderate, temperate, balanced, and self-controlled. So important is this idea that in the original languages it's considered akin to being in one’s right mind or sound judgment. Let’s face it. Is it easier to walk on two legs or hop on one foot? Most people get off when they over focus on one Scripture, doctrine or discipline, and neglect other important ones. Some people are all about obeying. This can get us to be legalistic and self-righteous. Some people get extremely off-balanced on grace. They forget that even though God is very gracious He is also absolutely righteous and just as well. Some are all about praying, but it’s hard to get them actually doing anything. You get the idea. Extremism in almost all cases is dangerous. It gives the devil an opportunity to sabotage our lives. A wise person guards against all excess (Ecclesiastes 5:10; Habakkuk 2:5).
1. Make an earnest decision to seek God for appetite control. Understand that if you have food, shelter, clothing, a job, loving friends and family, and enough resources to have a little bit of fun now and again you have abundance. If you have all these things and you still don’t think you have enough, your appetite is out of control. If you have all these things and you are still not satisfied, then ask God to give you a greater appetite for His righteousness so that He can fulfill the longing of your heart that will truly satisfy you, because simply having more new or better or more expensive stuff won’t do the trick (Matthew 5:6).
2. There is no other way to learn self-control other than to say no to your flesh. Practice self-denial. Once or twice a week purposely deny yourself something. Start small first, but begin the discipline of purposely denying yourself. It won’t make you righteous but it will help you learn to submit to Jesus Christ who does.
3. I recommend that you begin learning to fast on purpose. Start with at least once or twice a month. When you fast, turn hunger times and mealtimes into prayer times. Remember to make self-control a focus of those prayer times.
Thank you for your kind attention.