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Gluttony to Temperance

Daniel Thompson - 7/28/2019

We become what we consume.

There are entire industries that exist to convince us… that we NEED more than we need.

The reason network and cable TV continue to prosper is because of the 15-20 minutes an hour companies spend convincing us that we need more stuff.

  • If you NEED a 4th meal… Taco Bell has you covered till 2A.
  • Body aching, dry skin, need a new car? Shaquille O’Neal has you covered with Icy Hot, Gold Bond, and a Buick!
  • If you have a long term settlement but you NEED cash now… call J.G. Wentworth! (877-Cash-now!)

In the car, in front of our TVs, while we’re at home on our smart phones and a targeted add shows up about something we’re never searched for but just so happened to have a conversation about 2 hours earlier (Pause)… We’re all the proverbial mouse… on the never-ending quest for the cheese at the end of the maze. I know this all too well.

So… does anyone know… who lives in this pineapple under the sea? (Slide) (SpongeBob House Picture)

Let’s just say SpongeBob was a cultural movement among us Middle School aged folks in the Early 00’s. During my Senior choir concert I actually wore a SpongeBob Square-Tie. I had an assorted collection of SpongeBob items that I often requested for my Birthday or Christmas. And now SpongeBob only seems to have only grown in popularity.

So just the other day I’m scrolling through Twitter and I see the most beautiful pair of shoes I’ve ever laid my eyes on appear… (Slide) SpongeBob Square pants basketball shoes… $130 for a pair of SpongeBob sneakers? WHAT A DEAL. So from my spot on the couch I look up at my wife and what do I say… Honey… I NEED these shoes.

Gluttony… So when we think gluttony what do we usually think about? The food we eat. All the food. Especially when we eat too much food.

This used to make me think of the story from the Book of Judges where the evil King named Eglon of Moab is so overweight that when someone comes to kill him the sword goes into his body and the handle gets swallowed by his own gut. So we hear this story and think… AHA there’s gluttony… *quick check of the waist*… phew I’m sure I look better than that guy! Check gluttony of the list.

Gluttony and food tend to go together of course. But gluttony isn’t strictly a food thing. It’s really a consumption thing.

Consumption of food and drink… sure… but consumption of stuff, entertainment, relationships, sex, substances, accomplishments, adventures etc. etc. If gluttony were personified and had a one-word life motto, that motto would be “MORE.”

Transition statement and Main Question/Tension: We have a special relationship in our corner of the world with the God of more. Outwardly… gluttony seems like a vice we can pin on people based on their appearance. But this would be incredibly shortsighted.

So I want you to ask yourself today, “what am I consuming?” And “is it consuming me?”

A lot of ourselves have everyone convinced that we’re doing okay. We have MORE than enough. And we’re proud of it. And that may just be the problem. Some of us need to take a step back and realize that this isn’t okay. We’re not okay.

Let’s pray.

Would you turn with me to John 6:48?

In the book of John, we get so many vivid pictures of Jesus’ interactions with people. Jesus hanging out at a wedding feast. Jesus hanging out with a curious religious leader under the cover of nightfall. Jesus hanging out with a WOMAN… scandalous… but a woman from the wrong side of the railroad tracks at that! Jesus healing the poor and elite alike. Jesus miraculously feeding a crowd of thousands.

We’ve all heard the pithy phrase, “You are what you eat…” In a way I think Jesus would agree. Because it seems like Jesus is totally comfortable in making us uncomfortable about what we are consuming.

Up to this point in the book of John Jesus has essentially curried favor with everyone he has met. But Jesus is about to take a sharp turn and make those following him very uncomfortable.

Starting in John 6:48 Jesus says:  48 I am the bread of life.49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:48-60)

For those of you who are new today, welcome to one of the most bizarre passages of the Bible.

“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” You can kind of sympathize right. I mean Jesus has been such a compelling figure to follow. He heals. He provides. He teaches. And then “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life… For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”

The earliest Christians were often accused by those within the broader Roman Empire of secret cannibalism. The did gather secretly and regularly to commemorate and remember the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

So let’s set that up on the shelf for a second. What’s going on here?

Jesus has been patrolling the countryside of Israel gathering up a crowd of disciples who were likely Jewish in ethnicity and religious belief. Many of them were likely convinced that this Jesus was a messianic figure who would proclaim liberty for the people of Israel.

For the longest time Israel had been in geographical exile. Under the reign of Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians they had lived in a land that was not their own. And now even though they could live in their homeland, they were still under the imperial reign of the Roman Empire. Yeah, you can go to the temple to worship, but if you come across a Roman soldier and he asks you to carry his equipment, you’re required by law to do so for at least a mile.

They wanted a leader to deliver them from this enduring legacy of geographical and imperial captivity. A leader like Moses. And Jesus was starting to fit the mold.

Moses is a big deal. So when Jesus says “Your ancestors ate Manna in the wilderness and they died,” And he says it TWICE. He’s basically raining on their parade. “Yeah cool story bro, but they all still died.” Jesus is minimizing the legacy of Moses’ leadership and maybe even in their perspective the miraculous provision of God.

In Verse 61 Jesus even offers us a clue when he says, “Does this offend you?” Cue the Jeff Foxworthy line… “Here’s your sign…” Duh, we’re offended Jesus! You’re supposed to represent us!

In their perspective what Jesus is saying is blasphemous, unpatriotic, and even creepy. You know the whole eat my flesh and drink my blood thing.

Verse 66 goes on to say that: 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Jesus takes a sharp turn in his public life from glamour rock-star to dangerous prophet. And we need to take a sharp turn this morning, too.

When Jesus says “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them,” he lays out for us the big idea that’s going to focus everything we have to say about gluttony and the opposite reality… As humans we become what we consume.

On a physical level you have to know this is true. Remember when your metabolism allowed you to consume fast food and still feel normal the next day? Uh yeah, that bad news is coming for you. We are humans. We’re not invincible. What we consume is what we become.

By this point I hope you understand that this is more than a food thing. But let’s not underplay the physical side of this too. In our corner of the world, since we have such abundant resources, we tend to focus our spiritual life on the mental and emotional. In this line of thought It’s what we believe and how we feel that matters most to God.

That’s why from the dawning of the Midwestern local church we’ve had church potlucks with an abundance of desserts, carbs, and sodium and haven’t thought twice about it. We eat until we’re in pain and we don’t think even twice about it! Honestly, we celebrate it.

It is important to understand that (Slide) Our bodies are the center of our spiritual life. In a mysterious way our hearts, minds, bodies and souls are intertwined into whole persons that God desires to save completely in and through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. If we are in Jesus and He is in us, our bodies are going to be a part of us forever.

In verse 54 Jesus even says “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” That’s not a metaphor. Scripture consistently testifies that on the last day Jesus will resurrect our physical bodies to be with him for eternity. Jesus was to redeem us spiritually. mentally, emotionally, and yes physically. Bodies and matter are not evil. But we can make evil decisions with our bodies.

Think of your body like an engine for your spiritual life. As long as we’re present in the body, we continue to think, feel, consume, make decisions etc. But if you flood an engine with too much gasoline, the engine stalls. It fails to perform.We do this to ourselves when we over consume.

But let me be clear. Since gluttony isn’t just an overeating thing, you can become a glutton for just about anything. You can become a glutton for diet and exercise. You can overextend your body physically to the point where it begins to break down.

And by the way, just because your genetics don’t naturally sway you to look like an hourglass or Arnold Schwarzenegger, doesn’t mean that God is dissatisfied with your body. He created you. He loves you. Just understand that you live in a culture that says to you “Eat whatever you want” AND “look perfect” at the same time. That’s an impossible tension to live within. You were created for a life far more fulfilling than that. 

Gluttony. When I told my wife this was the topic she literally laughed out loud. I have a consumption issue.

When it comes to media, it is not uncommon for me to get the message from Netflix “Are you still watching.” When it comes to possessions I can buy stuff with the best of them. I never have enough. When it comes to food, it’s really easy to sneak to the custard shop a block from our house.

And while I mention all those things, I want you to pay attention. Our natural response to over-consumption of media, stuff, food etc. there’s almost a levity to it in our minds. We have this hierarchy of vice where sex and substance sit at the tip of the spear… but we give each other passes for the stuff that’s less likely to wreck a family.

I’ve been thinking about the silent assassin of gluttony for about a month now. It’s kind of like greed. With greed we always want more, same as gluttony. But greed looks nastier because greed says I want more even if it means taking from someone else. Gluttony is subtler and more single-minded. (Slide) Gluttony just says I want more, period. It comes less from our minds than it does from our guts. It’s almost an instinct that if left unchecked can operate free of our ability to reel it in with self-control. It’s hard to notice.

So here’s what we need to do. Instead of illustrating gluttony, explaining gluttony, we need to shine a light on it. So what we’re going to do is sit still. I’m going to ask a few simple questions. And in silence, we’re going to allow the Holy Spirit to shine a light on whatever it is that we’re over-consuming. I’ll ask the questions and then give 30 or so seconds for you to just sit. You may be surprised by what the Holy Spirit reveals in this moment.

I’ll ask these in the first person. Place you palms open in a posture of receiving from the Holy Spirit what you need to hear. And feel free to write anything down that you hear if that is helpful. Alright, here we go:

  • “What am I over-consuming?” 30 seconds
  • “Have I convinced myself that I need anything that I don’t actually need?” 30 Seconds

Now, in silence, I want you to offer these prayers to the Holy Spirit if you need help

  • “Holy Spirit, help me take no more than what I need.”
  • “Holy Spirit, take from me what I am not willing to let go.”

Jesus says I am the true Bread. Jesus says I am the bread of life. To his contemporaries he said this in such a straight forward way that it frightened them. It even offended them. But when Jesus was traveling around the Israelite countryside, gathering quite the crowd and set of closer followers, it became important to distinguish the miraculous from the true substance.

So what does life beyond MORE look like?

The opposite of gluttony is fulfillment. It’s reaching the point where what God gives is enough. It’s a peace that resides deeper than the things that can pass in and out of our hands, or the food that can pass through our mouths into our stomachs.  I know there may well be a different picture of fulfillment for each person on the planet. But I am unashamed to say that the only one who has captivated me enough to deny my gut and be truly fulfilled in Jesus Christ. I made a decision to follow him 20 years ago this weekend. I have not always clung to the fulfillment that is found in him. But I cannot leave the life that is truly life.

At the end of our passage today Jesus asked his disciples who didn’t leave 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67-68)

Here, now, is where we as followers of Jesus remember we are what we consume…  23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

The communion table. This is where we remember what true food is. No, the small emblems are not intended as a meal replacement. They are emblems that proclaim in the death of Jesus that has swallowed up sin and death period. And until he returns and restores our bodies completely, we proclaim that in Jesus, there is true fulfillment. He is all we need.


Scripture Verses

John 6:48-60, John 6:67-68, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Worship Playlist

  • Your Grace is Enough
  • One Thing Remains
  • Jesus Son of God
  • Build My Life

Study Questions

Psalm:

"1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore." - Ps. 131

Proverb:

"Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice."- Pr. 16:8

Apply It!

Prayer:

"God, you are vitally active and most incarnate, and are not remote from me. At every moment, you await me in the activity, the work to be done, which every moment brings. You are, at the point of my pen, my pick, my paintbrush, my needle- and my heart and my thought. It is by carrying to its natural completion the stroke, the line, the stitch I am working on, that I shall lay hold on the ultimate end toward which my will at its deepest levels ends. Oh God, let me abide with you, as you already abide with me."- Teilhard de Chardin

"God, in every moment- you are enough."

Practice:

Gluttony is an extravagantly fed appetite. Where in your life do you lack self-control? What does this reveal about your relationship with Jesus? How can the Holy Spirit help you restrain or moderate your out of bounds appetites? This week prayerfully express your gratitude to God. Look to the giver of good gifts and not to the surplus of each good gift. Practiced giving away your excess. 

Resources

Downloads & Resources