What's in Your Head?
By David B. Smith
It was the seventh and final game of the ’88 National League playoffs. Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser had the Mets by the neck, leading 6-0, and struck out Howard Johnson to end the game and take L.A. to a World Series rendezvous with destiny and a Kirk Gibson homer.
But a poignant moment marked the game’s culmination. Hershiser, a born-again Christian, had a decidedly pious lifestyle. He guarded his heath; he read his Bible faithfully. He stunned the nation a few days later by singing the Doxology in front of Johnny Carson and a Tonight Show audience of millions. And as his fellow players rushed the mound, ready to celebrate, they had to pause as Hershiser, their hero, fell to one knee and prayed. Thousands of cameras clicked and caught the moment; a global audience grew quiet . . .
A guide For the Abundant Life. It’s sometimes tempting to feel like God’s Word is an oppressive rulebook with a long, petty list of don’ts. Actually, the Bible is an amazing guidebook for life! If a person embraces the heavenly blueprint, they will almost assuredly live a longer, happier, more fulfilled life. Jesus had each of us in mind when He contrasted His life of uplifting ministry with the career of a thief, telling His friends: “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
As the Christian prayerfully weighs God’s call to holy living, two sound principles can guide this exciting quest. Both are found in Galatians 5. First, a frosty, determined “checklist” attitude can never lead to salvation. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace (v. 4). In the same breath, Paul reminds us that our lives carry a powerful influence; our holiness or carelessness can impact our neighbors. You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love (v.13). For Christ’s sake, we should aim to live the fullest possible life of appealing service. Orel Hershiser played on a team of rugged, cynical athletes from all walks of life. He had to wear his Christian faith graciously, earning the team’s respect as a gritty “Bulldog.” Jesus was such a winsome and social friend, mingling with saints and sinners alike, that enemies accused Him of gluttony (Matthew 11:19); yet He was unstained by His friendships.
Live Long and Prosper. An NBC local reporter recently traveled to Loma Linda, California, researching why people in that town so often lived to be 100, stunning the actuarial statisticians! The answer, of course, is that many Adventists live and work there — and the Adventist healthy lifestyle is fast becoming the talk of the nation, adding close to a decade to a person’s life expectancy.
1 Corinthians 6:19: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you are bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. The health principles outlined in Scripture and also by a growing army of health professionals and current lifestyle coaches are actually very simple: walk away from tobacco, alcohol, stimulants, and harmful drugs. Get plenty of exercise and sunlight; drink eight daily glasses of water. The Eden diet is ideal — fully vegetarian, but for sure accept the Bible’s counsels regarding clean and unclean meats. Popular minister Joel Osteen recently stunned his huge Lakewood Church congregation and TV audience with a clear and scientific explanation about why even in this 21st century, Christians should consider taking pork and shellfish off their menus. (A full outline of the guidelines is found in Leviticus 11).
An unsettled question involves Mark 7, where Jesus referred to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. After condemning the selfish inner thoughts which polluted their souls, He said: “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” Then Mark adds: (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean” (v. 19). Some scholars believe Jesus was referencing unclean flesh foods strictly from a ceremonial point of view, but as Osteen has wisely discerned, it’s obvious that eating unhealthy food does leave its own damaging effects.
Come ye apart and rest awhile (Mark 6:31). Jesus lived a life of busy 24/7 ministry, but He wisely taught His disciples the importance of balance, inviting them to slip away for a quiet vacation of rest together with Him. We need to thank God that our TV remote controls have an OFF button on them; our Creator invites us: Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). Go for a long walk and savor the sunset. And obviously, the principle of Sabbath rest brings calm and weekly sanity to our otherwise frantic schedules.
Avenues to the Soul. Holiness also impacts our social life: how we play, what film and television programs we watch, the books we read, the music we download, the games we play. Our souls are changed by the things we take in through our senses — for good or for destruction! Paul writes: But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (I2 Corinthians 3:18). This is worthy and good — but on the other hand, any number of mass shootings have undeniably been partly due to lonely, embittered young men growing desensitized to the bloody violence of endless graphic video games. Does our spiritual diet from that Sunday matinee or Netflix meet the nutritional guideline found in Philippians 4:8? Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. We can all remember images we let pass through the gate that did not belong in a devoted Christian temple.
A Sanctified Wardrobe. God can also be honored by the clothes we choose to wear: are they clean and attractive and durable? Do they create a pleasing image or deliberately appeal to the prurient desires of the opposite sex? Paul writes to an easily influenced young man named Timothy, and advises that our beauty should come more from quiet good deeds than a lot of glittering jewelry. I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God (1 Timothy 2:9). We need to read these biblical counsels cheerfully, always with the goal of honoring Jesus and making the Christian faith appealing to outsiders. The NIV text notes for this passage concur, but add this comment: “Not a total ban on the wearing of jewelry or braided hair. Rather, Paul was expressing caution in a society where such things were signs of extravagant luxury and proud personal display.” Even late-night comedians joke scornfully about Christian women on television who betray a needy inward emptiness because they slather on so much makeup. On the other hand, the great Bible preacher and radio pioneer H. M. S. Richards once was asked about the morality of cosmetics. Perhaps recalling some of the unbending, stern-faced saints he had seen on the sawdust trail, he advised with a smile: “If the barn needs painting, paint it.”
There will often be times when the Christian will set aside even some innocent pleasure because of how others might be influenced. Paul gives this lasting counsel: “Do not cause anyone to stumble – even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 10:32, 33).
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David B. Smith writes from California. (22 of 28) His web page is Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information. Biblebay