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Glorious Creator; Wonderful Creation!
Thinking about our place in God’s universe
See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.
God, Himself a Spirit, intended from the beginning of time to communicate with and have a relationship with the physical, flesh-and-blood people He had created. That was the initial and major reason He brought the world into being. God’s simple statement was: “It [is] good.” In Revelation 4:11 it is written, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”God is the God of physical creation. He made a tangible, physical universe, a universe composed of stuff. It may well be said that, to God, matter matters. He, the author of life, created the heavens and the earth. He then created the sun, moon, stars, plants, animals, and man. Man was the only created being formed in God’s image.
Man was created so that he could bring glory to God and have a relationship with Him. Scripture specifically records that man was made in the image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:26). If sin had never entered the world, it appears that man would have lived forever, and without the catastrophic consequences of eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, from which he had expressly been forbidden to eat.
Because the wages of sin is death, the whole of the created realm was affected by the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Sin entered the world. And with sin came several consequences—separation from God, pain in childbirth, intensive frustration in work, sickness and disease, and—ultimately—physical death. Death is the separation of the body from the soul.
At the very beginning, everything was good; in fact, everything was perfect—that is, until the ruin that came about by the fall. This brought in its wake the consequences of deterioration and death.
From Ruin to Redemption
However, God did not leave it at that. In one of the best known passages in the Bible, it is written: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16, 17).
Titus 2:11-14 states “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Knowing that man is a sinner, God provided a way that he could be redeemed, and live above the lawless state he had originally thrust himself into.
One of the reasons for providing redemption thorough the work of Jesus is that ordinary people—like you and me—may be brought back into a proper relationship with God. God, our maker, designed people with both physical and spiritual aspects. Jesus Himself, born of Mary, came into the world in a physical body. He ate food, drank liquids, grew physically, and attained various stages of physical, social and spiritual maturity. Luke 2:52 records that “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
Soul and Body—Both Are Important
The Bible unashamedly presents people as having both physical and spiritual aspects in their design. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament look forward to a final state in which we will live in perfect, resurrected bodies.
Even though we presently live in a world in which decay and death are ever-present realities, the Bible encourages a healthy and positive view of our physical makeup. Jesus took great care to heal and restore people as He went about doing good. He commissioned His apostles to do some of the same kinds of things. And as the times transitioned from His three-year ministry to the crucifixion and resurrection, the body of Jesus did not lie for long in the grave. In His real human body He ascended to heaven, and He will one day come back in that same, resurrected, glorified body!
It is a less-than-Christian view that considers matter—and especially the human body—as evil or unworthy of proper care and attention. In the times after the New Testament was written, there were some wrong views in circulation in which people believed that spirit was essentially good, and that matter—physical stuff, including the body—was essentially evil. This led to some wrong thinking about the human body, sometimes being worked out in gluttony, sexual immorality, or at times in an ascetic lifestyle in which bodily needs and cares were largely ignored or minimized.
At another extreme, too much emphasis was placed on the body strong and beautiful. Some thinking and teaching that the Greeks embraced made the physical self a kind of idol to be held in awe and reverence.
The Bible’s Balanced View
The Bible is superbly balanced in the way it considers the interplay between the spiritual and the physical. God is Spirit, and there is a significant spiritual realm; nevertheless, He has made humans as psychosomatic beings—which means that their makeup includes spiritual and material aspects—and both require attention in living in a way that is pleasing to Him. Consequently, it is important that one cares for one’s body so as to be continually fit for the Master’s use.
This sets the scene for us to consider the emphasis of the key references from both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
1 Corinthians 16: 19-20 states: “… Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
1 Timothy 4:8 records: “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
Ephesians 5:18 says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” We should be responsible with our bodies, especially being careful with what we put in them, and considering the outcomes that could result.
1 Corinthians 15:54-58 states: “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Read the whole of 1 Corinthians 15 and its teaching on the resurrection of our bodies to see how important, from God’s perspective, our bodies actually are!
Jeremiah 9:23-24 states “Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.’”
Psalm 18:30-34 says, “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?—the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”
Psalm 144:1 says, “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.”
In all of one’s consideration for weights and conditioning, it is still important to recognize what 1 Peter 5:5 states that we are to “clothe ourselves in humility.” Galatians 6:14 says, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
2 Corinthians 10:12 says that “when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”
Galatians 6:3 makes the point that “if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
Putting This All Together…
For Christians, it is important to note that their bodies are considered to be temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). In the Bible, the temple was understood to be a place where God was especially present. The connection in thought is vitally important: if you are a believer—if your faith and trust are in Christ to be your Savior and you are endeavoring to live a life pleasing to Him—then your body is a residence place of the Holy Spirit! If you care for your own residence (whether a family home, apartment or condo)—and surely you do, taking the time and trouble to maintain it, remodel it from time to time, decorating it when it needs such attention—then how much more should you take care of the physical body God has entrusted to you!
Extending this analogy, of course moderation is a key consideration. The Bible calls for moderation in all things (“Let your moderation be known unto all men”—see Philippians 4:5, KJV). There is a time and a place for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8). The careful and controlled pursuit of bodily exercise, in endeavoring to be fit for the Master, doing all things heartily as to Him (Colossians 3:23) may be a vital component in your usefulness to Him as you live out the days and years He has appointed for you in this world.
The Christian Perspective
Living in our modern society can be challenging, especially as there is such a culture of competition to be thin and/or muscular and/or beautiful (etc.) in order to feel a significant sense of self-worth. People focusing on such externals will not find their fulfillment in Jesus and His purposes. The message of Jesus is so different: He is the source of self-worth; you don’t need to find it in superficial and socially related things. Your relationship with Him, not the way you look or how much you weigh, should mean the most to you as a Christian.
Yes, it can be hard to live outside of society’s standards! Yet, Christ never gave in to that pressure. He lived in the world, but He was not of the world. The aim of a Christian is to be like Christ. The ultimate message He sends is that He loves His people unconditionally, and He therefore wants you to consider yourself in the light of that. As one person said, “God doesn’t make any junk.”
In reading the final part of this chapter, consider the following biblical principles and references:
The Lord Jesus Christ, in coming into this world, did so not as an angel or some kind of spirit, but as the God-Man. Philippians 2 and 1 Timothy 3:16 make it clear that the Second Person of the Trinity became fully human and, in His body, achieved redemption for ordinary people. God’s grace to us was brought through the physical, bodily suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. Soldiers slammed nails through his hands and feet, ripping through skin, tendons, muscle, and bone. They smashed a crown of thorns on his head. They stabbed a spear into his side and bodily fluids poured out. Jesus died on a rugged cross. He went through it, suffering in his body because people are made up of both body and soul. Jesus had to really die, to provide a blood sacrifice, so that people, after seeking forgiveness for their sins, might have eternal life. To accomplish this redemption, Jesus had to be both fully man and fully God.
People are wonderfully created in God’s image, after His likeness. While this may be primarily a spiritual reference, the fact is that He has placed us in bodies. These bodies are to be offered up to Him in the process of living a life of practical usefulness in this world. Romans 12:1 urges us: “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.”
A healthy body is one that enables you more easily and practically to glorify God.
Adam and Eve, and all their descendants, have been created in the image of God, to be busy working in and stewards over creation. Caring for one’s physical body is one of these creative tasks.
Modern society’s view of beauty is one that is very different from the one the Bible emphasizes. As God’s image bearers, in whatever way He has made our physical form, we do have a beauty, and our sense of self-worth is tied in with this. Never believe the lie that says you are ugly!
John 10:10 makes the point that Jesus came so that we may have life, and have it to the full. John later wished his readers good health in writing these words: “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul” (3 John 2)
© John Lehman, 2015, from Fit for the Master