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What's in Your Head?
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By David B. Smith

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iBelieve: How I Live Matters | PDF Version | Study Guide: Christian Behavior

It’s a Sunday afternoon and you have three hours to spend doing something nice. Will you treat yourself to a special meal? Sample some pleasant entertainment? Go shopping? Check in at a spa for a makeover?

For the Christian, it’s thought-provoking to realize that even these leisure choices carry eternal ramifications! What we do affects our mind. How we live influences our neighbors. The dinner menu we select can either strengthen us for Christian service or sap our moral energies. And the Bible shares a wealth of guidelines that can help the believer fulfill what Jesus generously said about His friends: I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

The key to appreciating the “rules” of Christian life and behavior is to grasp the weight, the significance of how holiness strengthens the grand cause of furthering God’s kingdom aims. A healthy believer whose life is clearly well-ordered, simple, and graciously appealing wins many onlookers to the cause of Jesus. On the other hand, a church populated by dysfunctional, careless citizens turns away many seekers.

Green Bay Packers football player Jerry Kramer spent the 1966 season keeping a diary of the many lifestyle sacrifices he made on a daily basis. Coach Vince Lombardi was the meanest, screamingest tyrant in the NFL; he drove his players mercilessly with drills and laps and a tortuous exercise called “up-downs,” all done in 105-degree Wisconsin heat. In the cafeteria, Jerry had to scrupulously watch his weight, trying to stay at a nimble yet muscular 245 pounds. Life was a daily challenge of denying self, saying no to temptations. Why? Because the Packers wanted to repeat as world champions! And on New Year’s Eve, in sub-zero weather, the classic “Ice Bowl” NFC Championship Game against the Cowboys came down to a last-second play where Jerry had to provide QB Bart Starr a crucial block. The entire season rested on this moment. And he writes how he poured every moment of sacrifice, of dieting, of exercising, of skipping midnight pizza-and-beer parties, into that block. He pushed Jethro Pugh out of the way and the Packers scored the winning TD.

The New Testament helps instill in each of us the right balance between Calvary grace and obedient care in adopting a lifestyle. Galations 5:13: You, my brothers, were called to be free, Paul admits. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. Sometimes we even avoid what for us might be an innocent lifestyle choice — if it could serve as a stumbling block to our neighbor.

Health is one of the key matters addressed in the pages of Scripture, with our bodies described as a temple dwelling for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). The Bible encourages a simple, healthy diet, with the meat-free Eden menu as an optimal choice. The most up-to-date medical thinking about food choices corroborates that minimizing meat intake is suggested — and even that the “clean-unclean” specifications going clear back to the Old Testament have current validity. The Bible also advises against the scourge of alcohol abuse. Our mind is a command center! John Wesley’s mother, Susannah, once wrote: “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, decreases the strength and authority of your mind over your body — that thing is wrong, however innocent it may be in itself.”

Scripture even encourages believers to adopt a modest lifestyle, not encouraging another person’s lustful impulses by our wardrobe. Everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world (1 John 2:16). The New Testament recommends a lifestyle of pure simplicity, not slavishly dependent upon expensive jewels and elaborate hairstyles. In recent years, even secular commentators have mocked celebrity Christians who slathered on garish, “needy” amounts of makeup.  

What about the playlist in our iPod and the pile of DVDs around the big-screen? Commercial sponsors don’t spend millions of dollars buying ad space during Super Bowl Sunday because media doesn’t change lives . . . but because the things that hit our brain through the senses clearly do change our attitudes and behaviors! Movies, TV, books, and music are all soldiers marching into our soul, and our spiritual sensibilities can either be bolstered or compromised by the media decisions we make each day.

In C. S. Lewis’ classic book, The Screwtape Letters, one of Lucifer’s fallen angels writes pages of advice to his protégé about how to slowly ease a fledgling Christian out of heaven’s orbit. His diabolical advice? Gradual, innocent lifestyle compromises — even a game of cards. Lewis once observed that even our play, our recreational moments, ought to be colored by the reality that our friendships, our moments of levity, are nudging precious souls either away from heaven . . . or toward it.
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David B. Smith writes from California. (22 of 28)  His web page is davidsmithbooks.com. Biblebay Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information.