Thursday, July 9, 2015

Thin Bodies and Iron Yokes

When Christ and His gospel are preached in all their fullness men and women are set free. They are not set free from rules and obedience. But they are set free from man's rules and they are set free from obedience as the road to salvation. Obedience flows from gratitude for our great salvation, not from a desire to be approved by men. The gospel says that satisfaction has been  made for all our sins. There is nothing we can do, say, think, implement, or learn that will take away our sins. Our sins are freely, completely, taken away in Christ. We now have an easy yoke and light burden. Our King is not a tyrant as men are. He is a our Brother (Hebrews 2:11). We have been freely adopted into His family by our gracious Father. His laws are not burdensome

But bondage is always out there stalking us like a pack of wolves. There are always men rattling chains, but claiming they are keys. They are slave traders promising freedom. They say, "Our yoke is better than Christ's." But we find in the end that their yoke is made of iron and crushes us. We must have our eyes out for those who would bind us.

There are many areas where God's people have been brought into bondage over the years. One of the current yokes is the constant pressure on godly women to be thin and eat healthy. While few churches have it in their bylaws and no one would say it out loud, our women have learned that if you are going to be holy then you must be thin. If you really care about God and your family then you will eat healthy. If you really love your husband then you will make sure you are thin so he wants to have sex. If you really love your children you will lose your pregnancy weight so you can keep up with them after birth. If you really want to be effective for Christ you will be thin so your witness is not hurt by being "overweight." The fruit of the Spirit is no longer peace, joy, and patience but thinness, healthiness, and attractiveness.

The criteria will be different in various church communities. In modern, contemporary church communities it will look one way. In conservative, homeschooling communities it will look another way. In old, established churches it might look another way. But due to the avalanche of advertising and the Internet no community is immune. We daily swim in the world's ocean of ideas. All of us are wet.

Christian culture has bought what the world is selling. Therefore our women are in bondage. What to do?

First, husbands, fathers, and mothers need to plead the shed blood of Christ for putting our daughters and wives in chains. They are insecure. They are ashamed of their bodies, their hair, their nakedness before their husbands, their hips, their stomachs, their pregnancies, their love of food, and how God made them. We have taught them, to our shame, that being thin and hot is more important than peace, joy, patience, and Christ likeness. We have taught them what our Lord never taught, that being thin and healthy is a sign of holiness. We have taught them that they must earn the favor of God. How? They must earn our favor. We have taught them to look down on those who are not thin or healthy. How? We look down on them ourselves. When our daughters put on weight we chide them. When our wives put on weight, are pregnant, or lose that "girlish" figure we stop initiating sex. We have put them in chains. We are preaching a false gospel. Is it any wonder that Christian women are often obsessed by their weight, by food, by exercise, by various alternative medicines, by vaccines (pro or con), by clothes, etc.? Is it any wonder that Christian women are vulnerable to eating disorders, sexual problems, promiscuity, fornication, predatory men, doctrinal heresy, and Fifty Shades of Grey? Is it any wonder that we lose so many of our daughters? Brothers, we have sinned against them. We must repent with tears.

Second, ladies you are daughters of the King. You are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10).  Has the world put you in chains? Have you added to Christ? Do you believe that you will be "accepted in the Beloved" when you are thin, sexy, and healthy (Ephesians 1:6)? Sisters, repent. The answer is not to try harder. You cannot earn His gift through any amount of exercise.  His favor cannot be earned by thin hips and size 2 jeans. And besides, in the end, all your best efforts will be in vain. Your body will die. It will get old and rot. Your skin will wrinkle and sag. Your eyes will dim. Does that scare you? Do you want to stay thin and young forever? If so, then the world has a hold of your heart. Repent. Do you sit under the yoke of never being quite good enough for your husband? Your father? Your mother? Is there is a lack of freedom in your marriage bed? Are you thin, but still worried about your weight? Are you heavy, but hate your body and wish it was different? Come to Jesus and repent. Of what? Repent of believing the lies of the world, of believing that Christ is not sufficient. This is hard. Repentance always is. But repentance, and only repentance, brings freedom. Christ's yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). Take it and drop the one your father, mother, husband, or the world gave you.

Finally, pastors, we must preach and live the gospel, the glorious, life-giving, gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel does not bind men like the laws of men. It sets them free. There is deep joy when our people know down in their bones that all of their sins are forgiven in Christ. The foundation for a free church is the cross, not any of our laws, traditions, or health choices. Our men must learn that having holy wives and daughters is far different and far more important than having thin ones.  We must warn and gently rebuke where necessary when a man or woman has bought into the world's view of health and body.  We must remind our flock that their bodies are slowly dying, but their souls are being renewed (II Cor. 4:16).  We must remind them that bodily exercise is of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things (I Timothy 4:8). Freedom from the laws of men must be preached and modeled.  There are green pastures and clear waters for the sheep of God. We must lead them there by the Word and by our lives.

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Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8