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Steve Mickel: Transforming the Body, 2 Corinthians 6:12-20

May 16, 2022

Audio Recording

For good or for evil, the body lies right at the center of the spiritual life…one can immediately see all around us that the human body is a primary barrier to conformity to Christ. But this was never God’s intent.

Renovation of the Heart
Steve Mickel: Transforming the Body, 2 Corinthians 6:12-20
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in bend Oregon. Thanks for joining us

00:06 As far back as I can remember. I I've always wanted to be like Jesus. I know that sounds super religious. And look at me. I didn't say I arrived at what at being like Jesus, just that I want to be like Jesus. I remember as a young boy growing up in the church, I imagine walking with Jesus and trying to emulate his thoughts, his actions, his body languages feelings, his rhythms, the whole not thin sinning thing, you know about Jesus seemed, seemed possible actually at that time. And, and then I became a teenager and I had all of these passions and desires that the church told me were inappropriate and that my body, could actually become a tool of the devil. And so I ended up growing up thinking the body was evil, certainly against the way of Jesus.

01:08 I don't believe that anymore. And I do believe because our bodies are always with us. They play a huge part in us becoming more like Jesus. They can either support that process or often in my life get in the way of that process and that, and that's really the problem. Isn't it for most of us, including me, the body, not the inner self governs our lives. It's in the driver's seat, rather than mind over body it's body over everything else. And it's, it's not actually how God created us to thrive. I love what Dallas Willard, who wrote renovation of the heart. The speakers have been kind of using that book as, as, as information for the, the series we're in about, spiritual formation. And he wrote these words about the human body. He, he wrote, he wrote the human body is betrayed in its own nature. When it is made central to human life, it is created for spiritual life in the kingdom of God. And to be honored indeed glorified in that context. But when taken out of that context and made the central focus of human experience and endeavor, it is betrayed robbed of the spiritual resources meant to sustain its life and proper functioning. And in turn it, then betrays those who center their lives on it. Let me ask you, have you ever said something you regretted

02:49

02:50 Ever anybody, have you ever ate some feed you regretted or drank a little bit more than you should have anyone? No. Don't don't raise your hand. Have you ever looked at something you knew you should not have looked at? We all have done these things. If you've ever said I lost my temper, then you understand the power. The body has to govern our lives. Uh one person, someone once said that the tongue is the last bodily part to submit to goodness and rightness. And I don't think he was wrong, but do you know that the body is not evil as maybe you've heard in, from a pulpit in your life before? It's not God created it, God fashioned it, he shaped it. It is not evil. Some early church, followers of Christ actually spread this lie that it was that the body was evil and therefore Christ could not have been fully human.

03:55 And, it was a, it was a common heresy, in the early beginnings of the church. Others, tried to literally whip their body into submission, because they felt like it was evil. And these are distortions. I hope, you know that of the reality that the body does desire to be in control. It does desire for that, that there's, this, this something innate in us. It wants to be in charge, but, but it can fool us into thinking that it wasn't meant as a beautiful compliment to our spirit. And it is the Bo God created the body to be used for his goodness.

04:43 So we know that the body, it can't be all evil, right? Because how, how could the body, if it was evil, be capable of such deeply spiritual acts as allowing the words from our mouth to encourage and build up another soul. How could the body be evil if these hands and these feet could be used to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to serve the poor and the hurting and the weak? How, how, how could that, how could that those things come from an evil body? Right? So we know there's something that we know that the body isn't evil. So how do we keep it though supporting rather than dismantling our spiritual lives? So I want us to look at a couple of passages that the apostle Paul wrote. If you have a Bible you can follow along in first Corinthians chapter six. And it's interesting before we get to these passages, there's kind of two general groups of people that Paul wrote to, in the church, in Corinth, the church in Rome, the church in Ephesus, these churches were made up of these two groups.

05:47 One group were, were Jewish, converts to Christianity. And when it came to the body, they had a long list, very rigid list of how the body should be used and should not be used. the strict regulations regarding the use of the body. And so they're coming out of that context into this church now, but the second there's this other group though, who were pagans, who came to Christ and they had no limitations on the use of their body prior to knowing Jesus. So you got these two different groups in the church and they're, and Paul's trying to help them see, how does the way of Jesus inform the use or misuse of our bodies? both from, from both perspectives, cuz both by the way, can misuse their bodies legalism or just, Hey, anything goes right. And so this is what Paul is trying to do in, first Corinthians chapter six, verse 12, when he writes all things are lawful for me, that man, I could spend a long time just kind of talk, unpacking that like come on the Jewish audience that heard this would be like, that's not true.

06:59 There's a lot that is not lawful for me. I got the list. The, the, the, the synagogue rabbi passed it out last week, right? So they had this list. And so Paul's coming and saying, listen, all things are lawful for me. He's challenging this idea that the Jewish people would've brought in, but then he says, but not all things are helpful. What Paul's doing is he's, he's taking out the use. He's he's, he's, reconverting the use of how we think about our body from what's right and wrong, which is what we generally in the church think about to what is helpful or not helpful. This is actually language we're using in discipling younger people. Because, because when we say, when they ask about, any to pick any issue with your body, sex before marriage, and they'll go like, why should, why can't I do that?

07:53 And, and if you say, well, it's wrong, they'll look at you. Like, okay, what planet did you goose come from? You know, or if you say, oh, the Bible says it's, the Bible says, it's, it'll be like, oh, come on. But if you say, it's not, it's not helpful for you. It's not good for you. They lean in and they go like, okay, talk to me about that. Why is it because they're interested in, in what's helpful for them. And so Paul is actually changing the language here, as we think about how, how to use, how to use the body. Not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me. He says it again, but I will not be dominated by anything. And here's this central point he's saying I'm not gonna, we, we shouldn't allow the body to dictate life. It should not be at the center of our universe.

08:40 We should not be dominated by it. Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy both one. And the other, the body is not meant for sexual imorality, but for the Lord and the Lord for the body, this he's speaking directly to the pagan. Like this is you. This was your life. You live this way. And, and, and, and there was no real rules in the way that you lived sexually. And Paul saying, listen, that we, we shouldn't do that. We should, because our bodies are not our own. He actually says right. Cuz God raised the Lord. And we also raise this up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? So what Paul is doing is he keeps raising the value of the body rather than diminishing. See culture would like to say, the body's important, but it's not, as, it's not so important that it really matters what you do with it.

09:34 As long as you don't hurt anybody else with it. And Paul is saying, wait, wait, wait. As Christ followers. This idea that our bodies, our actual bodies are members with Christ. Shall I then take that member of Christ and make them a member of a prostitute? Never? Or do you not know that the, that, that he, who is joined to a prostitute, becomes one body with her. Again, it's not about what's right and wrong. It's about what's good, helpful, beneficial. For, as it is written, the two will become one flesh, but he is joined to the Lord, becomes one spirit with him. So flee from sexual imorality. Every other sin, a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. And then this is he just, Paul just takes it another step up in terms of the value of the body.

10:24 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy spirit within you? Now I'm gonna stop right here for just a moment, because I can already feel the shame coming into the room because of things that you maybe you've heard preachers use this passage and you start to feel bad about. We start to feel bad about ourselves. We start to feel bad about our past. We start to realize that we haven't lived up to this and we allow the enemy to start bringing shame into our lives because we're not living this ideal that Paul is talking about. And rather than allowing shame, would you just, just push that to the side and go like, wait a second. Did Paul just say that this body is a temple? This body holds the holy spirit, that this body is part of not separate from my spiritual development and growth that it can actually connect to that.

11:20 It's amazing. That's incredible that this is the temple of the holy spirit whom you have from God. You are not your own for you or bought with a price. So glorified God, where in your body, let your body display the goodness of God. Let it, let it represent what God is doing in you internally. But there's a tension isn't there in all of this because we know it. Doesn't we know we struggle with this. And so Paul says to the Romans in Romans chapter seven for, I do not understand my own actions for, I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. good. We don't have to take responsibility. I love that. Actually. That's awesome. Yo, it's not me. It's that sin thing.

12:15 I can't get away from it, but he's, he's, he's letting us know there's a tension in this. He's not just trying to say, Hey, come on. What's wrong with you? Start, start doing what you're supposed to be doing. No, he's like, listen, we're we live in this place of tension between what Paul says in to the church in Corinth with what he says here in Romans. You've probably heard the saying, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Have you, have you heard that saying little? Let's do a little Bible trivia. If I was in Sunday school with your kids, I would ask them, who do you guys think said that? And they would say Jesus, because they're in church and they would not be wrong. Jesus did say that. But here's the harder question I would ask them. Does anyone know where Jesus said that I'm asking in the garden?

13:02 Very good gold cross sticker for you. Awesome. Yeah. Jesus said in the garden of GSEM and this in the, in the context is that he was about to go to his death. He was trying to, get his disciples to pray with him, his friends to pray with him. And so he says, sit here and pray. And he goes a little distance away and he begins to pray. He comes back and he finds his disciples doing what? Sleeping, sleeping. Right. You all know the story. Right. And, and he's like, oh, you guys wake up, can you please pray with me? And they're like, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. We got, we got this Jesus, we got you. We got you back. so he goes back. He, he come back. He goes back again a few minutes later and what are they doing again? They're sleeping still.

13:44 And then he says, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Jesus. Even Jesus acknowledged this tension, even Jesus acknowledged. Listen, I know that there's things in your spirit because you're wanting to grow in Christ because you're aligning your mind and your thoughts and your will to gods that because of that, there are going to be things that, you know, you should do, and there, and there'll be times that you do those things. But then there will be times where the flesh is weak and you're not able to do so. Jesus is saying, listen, but he's not letting this off the hook either. He's not saying well, that's just the way it is. So don't even try. He doesn't do that because he knows the potential that our bodies have for helping us grow closer to Christ. And if our bodies are not part of that process, then we never can fully become into, be formed into the image of God because what's being formed inside will always be revealed outside.

14:49 And as we're being formed inside, God wants our bodies to align themselves with what's happening internally. So how do we do this? Well, I'm glad you came today, cuz I have a formula for you. no, it's not a, I don't have a formula. I do have three practices that I believe that if we begin to implement these things day in and day out in our lives, we begin to think differently about this, that I think you'll begin to see transformation happen in your body over time. You'll begin to see that, that over time you begin to align your, the actions of your body, the, the things that you do with your body, more and more with the way of Jesus. And so I wanna give you these three practices. So when Jesus does ask us to stay up and pray your body, your body doesn't get in the way, but not only that, it actually reinforces the desire of your spirit.

15:37 All right? So here's the first practice. If you're taking notes, write this down, set apart your body for God set apart your body for God sounds strange. I know, but this is really important. Paul, wrote to the Romans in Romans 12, I appeal to you therefore brothers by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. This image of, submitting your bodies, presenting your bodies to God as a living, sacrifice is intriguing. one person said after the last service, the funny thing about living sacrifices is they that they can choose to get up off the altar and not sacrifice themselves. I actually love that about humanity. We get to decide, we get to choose, but this choosing of daily presenting our bodies to God, here's my body. God, it's not my own. I know I can do with it. What I want. You've given me that you've given me oversight of it. But as a Christ follower, I want to turn around and give it to you. Well, what does that mean? Simple things. Every once in a while, you might see someone here in this building during this church service raise their hands or even kneel. maybe even dance.

17:08 Let's not get too crazy around here. right. You know what the word worship actually, one of the meanings is to lay down and I mean, there there's this physi it's actually the word worship is a physical demonstration. It's a, it's saying, God, this I'm aligning during worship. I'm aligning my body to my spirit. What my spirit is saying about you. I am, I am expressing that physically. My body is a living sacrifice of praise to you. A few weeks ago, we were singing, about the resurrection. I was sitting over here in the front row and, and and out of the core of my being, I mean, I could start to feel it right here. And we were singing this song about God, Jesus coming back from the dead. And I mean, it was just like, I knew I was gonna shout. I just knew it.

18:00 And part of me was hoping, I hope other people do it with me, you know? And it just, it just, it just started it just boiled up. And, and there was this moment, like, yeah, you know, I was the only one that did it but so it was awkward, but there was another guy, somewhere in the bag was just kind of like got into it with me a little bit. But it was just this. I didn't do it for you. By the way, it was, it was an expression. But what do we typically do with our bodies? We push it down. We say, decorum we're in public. It reminds me of what king David, who was allowing himself his body to fully express, his gratitude to God for delivering the people of Israel. And he ends up dancing in the streets with very little on like shorts.

18:56 It's about it. I mean, that's the flannel picture I got in my Sunday school class done got a lot on and he is dancing. I think it's his wife who rebukes him. If you remember the story, like David puts something on, you know, that's my translation. And, and and he, and what does he say? I will be even more undignified than this because he was, he was allowing his body to fully express what God was doing internally. No, no, no, no, no. God is not asking you to dance naked at church. I know he is not but the idea here is that we let's set apart our bodies for God, let them speak, let them shout, let them dance, let them praise, let them be, let them externally express the internal work that God is doing. And, it's so important to set apart our bodies for God, let them be an expression of, of sacrifice, a sacrifice of praise to God in different ways, set apart your body for God.

20:09 Here's the second one. That's that will make sense, but it's super hard. Don't idolize the body. Now this, this, it means to give right idolizing means to give something more attention, to it than other things. And this might prove to be actually the most difficult practice of the three, because it's the most obvious. And it's our culture has spent decades telling us how important our bodies are and you've already heard 'em I'm not trying to minimize our bodies in the least. I'm trying to raise the value of them. But we, we, our culture says a way to the proper way to look at our body or the proper way our bodies should look and should act. And we have to break out of this cuz we, cuz we need to be informed by how God sees our bodies, not by how the world sees our bodies. last year, last year I was in Orlando. I'm not sure about this story by the way, but, it's one of those things. It happens every once in a while.

21:13 Anyway, I was in Orlando last year and I'm in these meetings, four square meetings of the board. And so I'm, I'm in kind of a formal business attire and Casey Parnell. So if you know Casey, he was on staff here for years. leaves, worship still, occasionally he passed. He does worship up in Beaverton now at Beaverton Foursquare church, part of our denomination, with a guy named Brad, Brad was happened to be there too. So, I wanted to connect with Casey after this session. He wasn't there so I didn't get to see him. And so I called him up and said, Hey, Casey, let's grab dinner. He said, great. I'm at the pool, meet me there. And I'm like, okay. So I come down with my bag and my, you know, formal outfit and Brad and Casey have been sitting by the pool.

21:55 And let's just say they're glistening. They, they, I don't know if they were just in the pool or they just were, you know, just kinda lotion up or whatever, but they were. And these are good looking guys. I gotta say, they're like, wow, that that's impressive. You know? And and I'm starting to get a little self-conscious and so, as you can tell, and so Casey, he's always so inclusive, you know, and Casey's like, Steve, come on, man, let's get in the pool, let's take your shirt off, grab a drink. And I'm like, no, I'm not. no, I'm not gonna do that. I mean, what you got going on there, ain't going on here, you know, and I'm not gonna do that. And I was, so it felt so awkward to me. They weren't awkward. I just felt so uncomfortable. and I, I remember thinking later, I'm like, what, why do I care so much about what people think?

22:50 And then I'm quickly reminded we all do. And and there's no way we can solve this human human dilemma a couple minutes and this message. But what I do know is that we trust our bodies to do a lot of things for us. We trust them to do a lot of things for us to make a living, to go on runs or try to stay healthy. And if I, if I am ashamed of it or hate it, it's incongruent to trust something that you're ashamed of. And I realize that there's something here that in our culture is allowed of body shaming. That actually keeps us from honoring what God has created to see it as beautiful as a temple, as something that is useful. and I, and, and, and that we don't, and that I don't have to be ashamed of it. And we certainly don't need to go the other extreme, right. And idolize it or Casey for that matter. But we need, but we, but we shouldn't hate them either because hating our bodies produce shame and it creates this weird war inside of us. So where do we start? Well, I, I'm gonna have you say something I'm gonna have you repeat after me a phrase. It's a simple phrase. It's not going to resolve everything. It's not that type of thing, but it is something I think we need to verbalize that my body is part of who I am, but it is not all that I am. And so would you just say that out loud with me? My body is part of who I am, but it is not all that I am.

24:44 It's an important part of who I am, but it isn't at the center. It doesn't get to call the shots. It doesn't get to tell me how I'm gonna live my life. It's so important. I was speaking to our speaking team about this. and, and we decided that every once in a while, every once in a while to keep our body in proper alignment with everything we need, we need to tell our body just every once in a while. No,

25:19 no, no, I know you want that, but no, no, not gonna, well, no, you don't get your way every day body. You don't get it. I was, as we were talking about this, one of the speaking team members, she, she said that, she'll just do, no shop month, every once in a while. intentionally to let the body know it's not in charge. So yeah, she'll still shop for groceries for her family. But, but she doesn't shop on Amazon. She doesn't look for new outfits. It's just reminding it's one way that she reminds her body. You're not in charge. You know, this is one of the reasons why fasting is such a spiritual exercise. And how many of you hate fasting? Go ahead. Everyone can raise their hand. It's okay. I it's hard. And I, and I, when I fasted, I, and I'm not even a food gut person, I, I just eat food to like live.

26:16 I don't, I don't enjoy it all that much. I don't like if somebody asks me, what's your favorite food? I'm like, I don't know the one that gets me to the next meal, I guess. I don't know. I, this is so sad, isn't it? Yeah. Evan loves food. I mean, just loves it, but I'm not, I'm not really a food person, but so, so you would think Fastly would be easy for me, but I tell you what, when I start to fast, I don't fast very often, but when I do, it's like, my body is just like, excuse me. we had an agreement that you're just going to eat whenever I'm hungry and you're not enjoying it. And I'm fine with that. But, but you're not eating right now. I'm hungry. And so all of a sudden when I'm fasting, you guys, everything looks good.

27:01 I, I will be, I, I can't, I can't walk through town and go like, oh my gosh, when I'm fascinated, because it's just like, I want to eat everything. I'm not like that in general. But my body is like, it wants to be in charge. And it reminds me how central my body has become when I try to take something away from it. So every once in a while, we just need to tell it. No, my theory is is that if we tell it no enough and often enough that it'll start getting used to it, it's a theory because I haven't tried it. I gotta be honest with you. I just have it. It's a theory. And I think, I think, I think we should go for it. I think we should just start telling it. No. And eventually I believe that what will, what will happen?

27:50 A byproduct of not idolizing our body is by, is that we will end up worrying less about what happens to it. I think we'll stop living. We'll stop living in fear that we don't measure up. So set apart your body for God, do not idolize your body. And here's the third practice. And I'm way over time. Let's get let's nail nail this one quick care for care for, and honor, your body health is one of the greatest gifts, that we can not only give our children, but it also strengthens our spiritual growth. Nourish it, exercise it, rest it, there's not, it's not like it's, it's like Paul, what? It's good for us. What's helpful for us. And, and multitude of studies show how, how, important the right amount of sleep is, to our entire lives, right? without rest, what happens is the body moves to the center when we're tired, we, it, it increases our potential of anxiety and it moves to the center.

28:56 weariness makes our bodies vulnerable, to immediate gratification to, to not being able to say the nos. and I, and, and I get it right. Very few, very few of us want to go to the gym and work out because there's a bunch of people that look like Casey there, I'm sorry to bring up Casey again, but she's like, ah, I don't wanna go there. but the reality is, is when we work hard, whether it's at the gym or just in work, we rest well, when we work hard, we rest well, when I rest well, I'm more present, to myself, to others. and I'm more focused. I'm more disciplined and I don't do it to look a certain way obviously. but staying healthy, honors the other parts of my life that I deeply care about. And so, care for and honor your body.

29:49 And one of the best ways I think to care for, and honor, our bodies is by listening to it, listen physically to your body. What is it telling you? This was something that my therapist actually helped me to understand is that God created our bodies to communicate. And so, I'll, everybody experiences tension in a different place in their bodies. For me, it's right here in, in my core. And, and when something, when, and I'll, I'll start to feel anxious or stress it's right here, this is where I start to feel it. And, and rather than just avoiding it, ignoring it, I respond to it. I, I begin to not just listen to my body, but I begin to talk to my body like, okay, what's going on? Why, why am I feeling this way? What's happening? I'll, I'll, I'll talk to a couple trusted people.

30:36 Like this is what I'm sense. This is what I'm feeling, you know? And I don't just avoid, I used to avoid what my body said to me. It's not healthy. It's not good for us, right. To care for. And honor, our bodies means we pay attention to it. we listen to it and then occasionally we need to talk to it every once in a while, you need to tell your body chill out. Don't be so don't get so riled up. It's gonna be okay, take a deep breath, cuz we're in charge my body. Isn't my body's not running the show. Oh, it feels like it a lot, but it's not. I want to, but I, but I wanna care for it. And I want to honor it. Well, the way I want to end today is by, doing a responsive meditative reading of one of the Psalms.

31:24 That is probably one of the most meaningful Psalms to me growing up, in the church because it helped communicate what God actually thought about me, what he actually thought, not just about my soul, but also about my body. And it really informed me. And still to this day, it informs me about how, I view my body, how God views my body and how he sees it, kind of interacting with everything. And so would you stand with me and we're going to read this together. It's a long section of Psalm 1 39. but it is, I believe as we read it together, I don't want you to read it to me. I don't want you to, you know, project your voice. I want you to read it out loud, but I want you just to do it in the quietness of this moment between you and God.

32:11 This is a moment where you're, where you're allowing, what king David expressed about how he saw God, how he viewed God through the lens of his body, how God viewed his body to be expressed in your life. And so let's read this together as we finished today, oh Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know, when I sit down or stand up, you know my thoughts, even when I'm far away, you see me when I travel and when I rest at home, you know everything I do. You know what I'm going to say, even before I say it, Lord, you go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too. Great for me to understand you made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb.

33:12 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex. Your workmanship is marvelous. How well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion. As I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me? Oh God, they cannot be numbered. I can't even count them. They outnumber the grains of sand. And when I wake up, you are still with me. Search me, oh God. And know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Jesus, our lives are in your hands, but more specifically, our bodies are in your hands. We recommit our bodies to your care Lord.

34:27 We offer them as a sacrifice of praise to you. We pray Lord that you would help us by your spirit to keep day by day realigning, how important our bodies are and how unimportant they are. Help us to find that place. Jesus, where there's a balance and in your spirit, working with our spirit to work through our bodies, Jesus help our bodies to not get in the way of spiritual growth, but to compliment it, to strengthen it, we love you. Jesus. We thank you for your word. It is life to us. Keep changing our hearts to be more and more like you, Lord, we pray in Jesus' name.