Today, at the chiropractor’s office, I read that the problem with low-carb diets is that people can’t stick to them.
I’d heard that before. People who go on the Atkins’ diet have been tested, and the results are amazing. Not only do they lose weight, but heart-attack indicators like triglycerides are lowered. On top of this, they lose more weight that people on other diets . . .
For six months.
Yo-Yo Dieting and Yo-Yo Christianity
After twelve months people on the Atkins diet have usually lost no weight at all or very little.
The article said you would do better continuing with carbs, but making better choices. Get your carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables.
Which brings us to following Christ. This is, after all, not a health blog.
The Scriptures say:
Why, as though you are living in the world, do you subject yourself to religious dogmas? ‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle … ‘ are things that vanish and are misused because they belong to the commands and teaching of men. True, they have an appearance of wisdom in self-made religion, humility, and severity with the body, but they’re of no value against satisfying bodily desires. (Col. 2:21-23, wording by me)
When we get filled with zeal for God, we are prone to setting all sorts of strict rules for ourselves. We adopt strict dress codes, forbid all entertainment, and insert religious language into everything we say.
These things make us feel good about ourselves. We’re denying our natural inclinations, and we’re subjecting ourselves to God.
Or so we think.
Indulging Bodily Desires
Bodily desires do not only include food, sex, and luxury–the things against which we love to make rules. In the Scriptures, bodily desires include things like jealousy, pride, envy, and selfish ambition; they include hatred, slander, and gossip.
How often are our rules–“do not touch,” “do not taste,” “do not handle”–perfect vehicles for condemning others and then talking about those we condemn. They are great reasons for us to be proud of our Christianity and how well we do in Christ, especially compared to others. There are whole denominations founded on such strict rules, but those denominations struggle with hypocrisy and nominalism as badly as any others.
Such denominations are victims of low-carb Christianity. They’ve cut out the carbs, but it’s done no good against the indulgence of the flesh. Eventually, their desires overcome them, and those desires come out either by hypocritical violation of their own rules or by condemnation, envy, and hatred towards other Christians.
Walking by the Spirit
Do you ever wonder why the New Testament emphasizes walking by the Spirit over obeying the Law, but then turns around and says that only those who keep God’s commands know him (1 Jn. 2:3-4)?
It’s to save us from low-carb Christianity, a Christianity in which we will eventually be overcome by our cravings (Rom. 7). The problem with low-carb diets is not that they have the wrong goal. The problem is they don’t achieve the goal.
The same with low-carb Christianity. The problem is not the goal. Romans 7 warns us about the weakness of the Law, but it highly praises the purpose of the Law (e.g., v. 12). When God provides Romans 8–the sacrifice of Christ and walking by the Spirit–as a solution, it is to “fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law” (8:4).
It is good to keep God’s commands. It is not good to walk in the flesh.
Saul of Tarsus thought he was keeping God’s commands when he was killing Christians. Today, many “Christians” think they are keeping God’s commands while they hate their brother and divide Christ, and they are just as guilty and just as in need of the light of Jesus Christ as Saul was.
The Right Way to Deny the Flesh
Throughout Christian history there have been great saints of God who denied themselves in the extreme and were greatly blessed and used by God. What’s the difference between them and the low-carb Christians I’m talking about?
They denied themselves, not others.
If you walk by the Spirit, the first lesson you will get from God is that Romans 7 is true. In you, that is in your flesh, nothing good dwells. He will drive that home to you, and you will learn not to trust yourself.
If you walk by the Spirit, you will be filled with love. You will encourage your brother, not exalt yourself above him. You will consider others better than yourself, not because of your impressive humility, but because you know who you are. You won’t have to pretend you consider others ahead of yourself. Knowing yourself, seeing that nothing good dwells in you, it will not be difficult for you to do.
A Proper Diet
Just as the solution for a low-carb diet is to make modifications to your diet and lifestyle that will be permanent, so if you walk by the Spirit, you will find that you are able to walk in obedience to God. He will lead you; he will not overwhelm you with strict, ascetic rules that you can’t continue in. He won’t give you a lifestyle that causes you to look down your nose at others.
I once watched a news interview with Mother Theresa. A newscaster asked what it felt like to be a saint of God. Mother Theresa looked directly at him and said, “I am no more a saint than you are. I simply do what I can where I am, and you must do what you can where you are.”
I’m quoting from memory, so I’m sure that’s not real accurate, but that was the gist of her statement. It applies to all of us. We are not to make duplicates of ourselves; we are to make disciples of Christ. Jesus is still able to lead his people*.
*In the current state of Christianity, it is important when mentioning “his people” to point out that his people are those who have believed his Gospel. They deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him. Those that accept Jesus into their heart on the promise of a better life followed by heaven, but who have not agreed to follow him wherever he leads them, are not his people. Sorry.