You Are What You Eat [1 Cor. 6:12-20]
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You Are What You Eat – 11.13.2022
[1 Corinthians 6:12-20 and Philippians 4:5-9]
You are what you eat from your head to your feet. That’s one of those timeless phrases that moms and dads tell their little kids so they will eat healthy. But it’s a very strange phrase when we stop to think about it. TV personality Craig Ferguson tells a story from when he was five years old. And he grew up in a little village in Scotland, and in their home, there was a fruit basket. And because they were one of the wealthy families there was actually fruit in the fruit basket. And so one day, Craig’s mother watched as Craig ate two full bananas from the basket. And her response was, “Craig, if you eat one more banana you’re going to turn into a banana.” Now remember, this child is five years old. It’s like when a parent tells you, “you keep making that face and it’ll get stuck like that.” And you live your life terrified that your face is going to get stuck. “Craig, if you eat one more banana you’re going to turn into a banana.” Now what was particularly terrifying for little 5 year old Craig was the fact that his mother had watched him eat two bananas – but there were another two bananas that he ate that she knew nothing about. Poor kid was walking around like a time-bomb thinking he was going to transform at any second. You are what you eat from your head to your feet.
I once heard that who we are is the combination of the three people we spend the most time with. We adopt and adapt the traits of those people we spend the most time with. That’s why husbands and wives become more alike as time goes on. They spend time together, and they influence each other back and forth. But in this modern world, we have more influences and pressures and pulling forces than at any other time in history. Books, movies, tv, social media, the internet, junk mail, phone calls, text messages – everything shapes us. In a way we are like clay, molded and shaped by the things around us. Today we are going to take a look at those influences around us, and what we do with them.
And so we dive into our text for today. Our passage in Corinthians begins, [read 12-13]. Now, we are kind of walking into a conversation in the middle. The people of Corinth are in the early church, and they are trying to figure out what their identity is. What does it mean to be a Christian? Jews have been around for a long time, but this is something different, this is something new. So these early Christians are asking themselves – who are we? We have this freedom in Christ – the food restrictions are gone, no more sacrifices – so who are we? “I’m allowed to do anything,” but I must not become a slave to anything. If we’re not careful, even good things can be given too much priority. It said the body is not made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. Now there are two words here I want to look close at. The first one is body. In greek Paul uses the word “soma.” And one thing I have found is that for Paul “soma” means the physical body, but also the spiritual self, our soul. Soma means all that we are, body and mind. It is your entire identity. So this is more than just saying, “your physical body” – the real translation pushes it beyond that to include your entire identity.
Now, the second word I want to point out is “sexual immorality.” I think that word is a huge red flag in a lot of people. They hear “sexual immorality” (and another translation says “fornication”) and we hear that and think – Uhp, judgment is coming, I’m about to be judged. But let’s put down the red flags. I’m not here to judge you, I’m here to protect your identity. The word in greek is “porneia.” That kind of gives us an idea of what it’s about. Porneia is sort of a catch all term for sexual brokenness. You see God gave us the idea of sex. He is the creator, he made us and designed us. He could have crafted us as human beings so that people can get pregnant just by holding hands, he could have said that holding hands is the highest level of physical intimacy that we can achieve, but he said, No I can do better than that. So sex is not a bad thing, sex is a good thing. But human sexuality is a gift that we as people need to steward. I think one of the easiest ways to talk about stewarding is like gardening. You have been given something to protect, to plant seeds and care for them, to find growth and life and health. Your sexuality is a gift that God gave you to take care of and protect and keep healthy. And in this messed up world we live in, so often we have taken this good thing and we corrupt it, we ruin it. Rather than being intentional about where we plant things, we’re just throwing seeds wherever we want. Porneia is a catch all term for sexual brokenness and yes, it’s where the word porn comes from. And I’ve got plenty to say about the porn industry – modern sex slavery. But the Greek word goes so much bigger than that. It also means all sorts of sexual brokenness, most commonly sex outside of marriage, and adultery and pedophilia and all these terrible things that are out there. And people get really distracted by these words and these ideas about sex and fornication and porneia because our culture is just soaked in these images. But actually that’s not the focus of the passage.
Verse 15-16 tells us [read it]. This passage is not actually about sex, it’s about your identity. Who you are. And Paul is using the most intimate language he can possibly come up with. Remember soma, who you are, body and mind. And Paul uses marriage language, because with humans that’s the most commited, united, intimate relationship we have. And so he talks about our relationship with God like a marriage, and when we let other things in life dominate us – it’s like we are leaving our marriage and going to find a prostitute. It’s gross and it’s wrong and it’s hurtful – but most importantly it’s broken. Porneia lives where God is supposed to live. You cannot both worship God and be dominated by other things in life. You have to choose who you belong to.
You see, for Christians, we give our lives to Jesus. God claims you. He created you, he has a plan and a purpose for your life. Now a lot of us hold back, we want to be in control of our lives. We think we know better than God. I do what I want, I’m not influenced by this stuff around me, I’m too strong for that. But the truth is we are all controlled by something. We are the product of our environment. But there is a better way. It says, who you are, mind and body, is not meant for brokenness. It’s not meant for a bad imitation of control – a lie. You are meant for something more. You are meant for God, who can take you on to perfection. Verse 19, [19-20]. God didn’t just create you and abandon you. God has been watching over you every single step of the way. You are valuable to God. He has high hopes for you. He sees the potential in your life, He knows what you could be and he wants you to realize that. Who you are, body and soul, you could be a force for good in the world. God claims you. We have been bought with a price. Will we honor that, or run away from that – like a married man with a prostitute?
God claims you because he loves you. And our response is to honor God with your soma, with your identity. With everything you do – honor God. With EVERYTHING you do – honor God. Not just the churchy stuff – you know, coming to church, reading your bible, but in every area of life, body and mind. I’m not just talking Sunday morning, I’m talking Monday to Saturday – your entire life. Do you take care of the body that God has given you? This physical thing that helps us walk and talk and live. I know, especially during the holidays it can be tough to take care of your body. Do you take care of your soul? With everything you do – honor God. Do you go to work, earn money, contribute to society in a way that honors God? How can you purchase groceries in a way that honors God? Gas in your car? What tv shows can you watch to honor God? What are sleeping habits that honor God? Now I think you’ll all come up with different answers, and I’m not saying there is one correct answer - but that’s the challenge. To figure out how you can honor God in everything you do. Honor God with all that you are – body, mind and soul.
Verse 18 tells us, [read it]. Another translation says flee fornication. Flee porneia, flee sexual brokenness. And that shows us something important. Our job as Christians is to discern our world. If you don’t know that word “discern” don’t worry about it – it just means, look at your life – what are you putting into your body, what are you putting into your mind? Remember, you are what you eat from your head to your feet. And there are two responses to the things of this world. Moderation or rejection. First, moderation. There are some things that are good in small doses – types of food, music, movies. These are voices in our world, influences on who we are, where we need moderation. And we have to be in control of how loud we let those voices grow. For example, television has become the new bible for the younger generation. We are letting sitcoms tell our children what is right and what is wrong. Instead of parents teaching children – we let music and movies, give them a sense of ethics. Oh it’s okay, I saw it in a tv show. Did you know that high schoolers these days, when asked in a survey said that the number one place they learn about sex is from watching pornography. They learn some new words, they don’t know what it means – so they google it and then watch the videos. And the problem is that for those kids in the survey, they didn’t know it was fiction. They don’t know it’s fake, it’s staged. They grow up thinking that’s what healthy sexuality looks like. They’re thinking, “that’s what it’s going to be like when I get married.” People get hurt. If we don’t teach people to steward the gift of their identity – their soma, body and mind, someone or something else will teach them. And I’m not just referencing some far off disconnected survey. I’ve lived through an addiction to pornography. They say there are men who struggle with pornography and men who lie about struggling with pornography. I’ve been porn free for almost a decade now, but part of my discernment, part of me looking at my life is that I have to be careful and filter what I watch. An easy example is Game of Thrones. I’ve read the books, I’m a huge fantasy fiction nerd – but I couldn’t watch the show, because it was too much nudity and it was messing with me. Now I’m not saying we can’t ever watch tv. I personally love movies, but we have to be in control of how loud those voices are. The first response is moderation.
The second response is to flee from other things. There are some things out there that we don’t need, even in small doses. I’ve always liked the phrase, “try everything once.” And that’s fine when you’re trying new foods. But the truth is there are some things in life – not even once. There are things out there that we need to cut out of our lives completely. Now that’s not something I can tell you. It’s different for different people. For example, alcohol. There are those who can drink in moderation. And there are others who need to flee completely away from that. You have to have that conversation with God, to figure out what is in your life that you need to walk away from. What influences, what people, what porneia is in your life that you need to flee from. To protect who you are, to protect your identity as a child of God. For some things – we need moderation. For others – flee, run away in the other direction. The most important thing is our connection to God. Never let anything threaten that.
Now there is one final thing I want to point out before we go. You are what you eat, you are a product of your environment. You are influenced, like it or not, by the things around you. Your world plays a part in who you have become. But, there’s another side to that coin. You are influenced – but you are also an influence. We are the product of our environment, but we also contribute to our environment. People influence you, but you can influence people too. Earlier I mentioned that God has a plan for you in this life. You are uniquely positioned. Your strengths, your weaknesses, your habits – you have been crafted, and God can use you to love someone who is out there. I’m a little worried – I’m just going to put this out there, I’m a little concerned that I accidentally created an idol out of myself in the last five years. I have loved doing ministry in this church, but I’m a little concerned that some people think I’m the only one who can do it. And I’m leaving in June, and I know we don’t like talking about it, but some folks are thinking it’s the end of the world. But here’s why I’m worried – this is not the Church of Pastor JJ. The job has never been – bring them to JJ and he will fix them. No, our work in this place has always been, bring people to Jesus and he will give them new life. Last week I saw a post on Twitter it said [show the tweet]. She was asking for stories of what the church can do, and I thought, “I’m a pastor, I probably have some stories.” And once I got started, it turned into this huge thread of stories of things you all have done in the church. I talked about the transportation angels, the Food Train, Telecare, The Forge Men’s Group, and after I had gushed about all the amazing things this group of people does to love God and love each other – do you know what I realized? I wasn’t in any of the stories! YOU are an influence in your world. And if you think for one second that I have more influence, more power in people’s lives than you – we have sorely misunderstood the power of the Holy Spirit. God wants to work through you. I mean this literally, Jesus wants to work through you to help people in your life discover their identity as a child of God. Think about the people you love. Think about the messages they hear, how so many of them think that they are not loved by God. You could be the voice of God in their life. Make a list, start praying for them every day. Invite them to church. Reach out to pray with them. Do all the amazing loving things that you already do for each other in these walls – do them for people out there and you will create a ripple of positive influence in our community that will long outlive any one person. After she posted that tweet, I was not the only one who responded with a pile of stories and this what she wrote, [show second tweet].
Philippians tells us [read 8-9]. I have nothing to add to that, and so I leave you with this. May you honor God with all that you are, and everything that you do. May you become an influence of good in the world. And may you be at peace knowing that God claims you. Amen.