My Body – Myself?
Too Much Focus On Bodies
Dr. Steve Newdell
The most highly honored Pastor John Piper advised a writer about body focus issues from a Biblical perspective and that is the subject of this piece.
Today’s society is entirely too focused upon appearance and too often many people are constantly thinking about, in grief, crying, about their looks, their face, their body, their earthly possessions and everything Satan throws at us to distract us from what we really need to be focused upon, which of course is God, through The Christ Jesus.
Centuries ago, even in the 1800’s people worried about survival and had no time or interest in constantly looking into a mirror. They often didn’t have a mirror. Their church pastors would have told them to focus upon God instead of how attractive you can be. Even today there are a few church denominations that teach women to cover up completely, be modest, go without make-up and live a sober life for God.
Sadly, the world has turned God’s good upside down in every respect. Now, instead of the world wanting to be saved for Christ, they want to be saved FROM Christian apologetics teachers! [Satan forbid they might read ME!]
You’ll be reminded, I’m an old Chiropractor and Massage Therapist and after about 4,500 patient visits each year (just 18.5/day), bodies are not an issue for me. I stay physically fit but I don’t rage about it. I eat right but I don’t worry over it. I know my gender and I don’t wear make-up. Now I live in the tropics and when I go out, I wear blue jeans and a short sleeve shirt and that’s about the most “fashion” you’ll get from me.
I think “growing old gracefully” has something to do with good manners, and behaving as God would have us to do, so for me this entire body focus is not a huge deal. But if it is for you, you need what Pastor John Piper is teaching us. So now let’s go into notes from his interview, and remember a lot of the comments are mine, so you shouldn’t be upset with Mr. Piper if you don’t like something you read.
A woman wrote in and in parts said:
“I constantly feel uncomfortable in my own skin and obsess about what other people might be thinking about it.”…. “In the last eight years of my life, I’m not sure I’ve gone a full minute without having intrusive, destructive, and negative thoughts about my physical appearance. Sometimes I wonder if I have a mental illness, and I know the value of having this checked out by a local doctor (and I have). But I would love biblical help from you. …. what about my view of myself? What would you say to me?”
“If you believe what God says, you love the fact that he said it. It becomes part of what satisfies your soul.”
1. A Right Focus
You said, “Ever since puberty, I have hated my body.” I wonder if it might be worth considering that there is a good hatred of the body and a bad hatred of the body. The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “I discipline [pummel] my body” — literally, “I give my body a black eye” — “and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
You don’t beat up on your friend. You beat up on your enemies. Of course, the body in one sense is a friend. There’s no life on earth without it. It does make some pleasures possible. It will be raised on the last day and made beautiful and glorious for every single child of God.
But there’s another sense in which the body is not a friend. It has become the base of operations for much enemy activity, and it has become complicit in that attack of the evil one on us.
Paul knows it, and he hates that aspect of the body. He will not let the body rule him or destroy him. He writes in Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” He means the body that he is in that tempts him to do things that will lead to death.
Paul has an ambivalent view of the body. He doesn’t want to throw it away in suicide or mutilate it in some unhealthy way. He prefers resurrection. He doesn’t want it to vanish. He knows God gave us a body for a reason. Yet, while he’s here on the earth, the enemy has made Paul’s body complicit in his destruction. He hates it in that sense, so he opposes it and will not let the body destroy him.
Maybe one should say, I should ignore everything about my body that tempts me to sin.
Thus, we put our mind on important and eternal things, instead of on temporary issues like, “being popular.” Everyone wants to be needed, wanted and appreciated. But when you reach age 50 it’s unlikely you’ll ever see your body with a perfect athletic figure or physique again. So then what will you have? How will you live if suddenly all of those temporary interests simply do not fit you any longer? And look at what has happened to people who had multiple cosmetic surgeries. They’re a mess! Attempting to stay youthful and beautiful forever is impossible and focusing upon it is like living in a dream! Living in your dream is a definition for psychosis! Leave “Dreamland” and come to reality in present time.
When you’re age 50, you had by then better know who you are and what your purposes in life are. Focus upon what matters in the long term. I tell you honestly, from the perspective of a man who has focused upon God most of his life, these temporal issues about money, desire for adulation, endless pleasures, beauty and desire for continual sexual stimulation — are really very small and silly/childish concerns.
Make a choice: Imagine you had only two choices for what is said about you at your grave. (1) She sure had a lot of lovers and a lot of fun. Now Satan has her.
(2) She was dignified and always gracious, kind, generous and loving. She gave love to everyone she knew and they loved her back, and now she takes the love received because of her kindness before The Christ Jesus, where I am confident she will receive His welcome to enter into his Kingdom forever and ever.
2. Do you believe God has the right perspective?
Have you ever thought that believing God and believing in the New Testament is more than intellectual ascent to the truth of something?
Believing in the New Testament means receiving, embracing, and loving. For example, in John 1:12, “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Believing Christ is receiving Christ. Welcoming Christ is embracing Christ as true and beautiful and satisfying.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:10, Paul refers to unbelievers as those who “refused to love the truth and so be saved.” This means that believing the truth includes loving the truth.
The devils believe and tremble (James 2:19). We don’t want to be in their camp!
If you believe what God says, you love the fact that he said it. You embrace it. It becomes part of what satisfies your soul. God’s perspective is precious if it’s believed. His perspective is wisdom.
Our narrow minded perspective should be viewed as the words of lost souls wandering in the dark on an icy mountain precipice.
Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Believing Jesus means believing that who he is and what he says are thirst quenching and soul satisfying. Ask yourself, What do I mean when I say, ‘I believe God’s perspective about me is true’? Do you really believe it?
3. True Freedom
Let’s think about those who are obsessed with this body-focusing. Sometimes when we are obsessing about something, we make the mistake of thinking we can stop obsessing about it by focusing directly on the problem of obsession. That never works, does it? In the very focusing on the problem of obsession, we continue to obsess.
The absolutely crucial need is to set our minds on things different and greater than ourselves.
When Paul said, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2–3), that includes your body. Set your mind on things that are above, not on your body.
The battle with obsession will not be won by desperately trying not to see yourself.
The world and its needs, wants and troubles are a lot bigger than the focus upon something that fits into a little mirror. The confined, cramped, smallness of the world you inhabit must be changed to see the wider picture. All of your boundaries must be replaced by the majesty and greatness and unimaginable expansiveness of God.
If you really want to solve this problem, get into the mission field! Go help the poor and miserable somewhere. Volunteer to work in a public free clinic. If that terrifies you, offer to work at an animal shelter and help the poor who cannot speak for themselves. Put your mind upon what life demands, instead of on what idiotic fashion magazines demand. Suddenly you’ll come to a huge realization! That will set your life free, and perhaps on a new and better, brighter path.
That someone wrote something in a magazine doesn’t make it truth. That a friend made a statement doesn’t mean it’s true. Be your own thinker and ignore what you know is a lie, or what the Holy Spirit tells/shows you is not true.
Many of the problems that we try to deal with are absolutely unsolvable because the solution lies not in adjusting things in the little world we have chosen for our lair, but in leaving the entire abode far behind so that we suddenly are staggered by the grandeur of God and his creation.
This staggering experience turns out to be an expansive universe of the world where we can live, the rest of our now mind expanded lives.
Suddenly, you might realize you haven’t thought about yourself at all, good or bad. You have been concerned about what others think of you.
Freedom is not finally liking the body that you see in the mirror of the little room of your world. Freedom is having the walls blown away and being so staggered by the world and its grandeur and the greatness of the God who made it, that the last thing you would worry about or think about is yourself.
I you work on what I’ve written here, you will be drawn outside yourself in a stunning, experience of glorious freedom.
Notes for this piece taken from John Piper’s, “My Body, Friend or Foe?” at www.desiringgod.org (recommended)
Ask yourself and answer: Consider this for a long time and return to it several times until you think you have completely answered.
What Really Matters?
- What I think of others?
- What others think of others?
- What others think of me?
- What God thinks of me?
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