Rejecting Hedonism and Embracing Surrender

This morning, I was planning to discuss the misconception that the ED sufferer will never be fully recovered, but "always in recovery", but found an interesting exegesis of James 4 on Mike Ratliff's blog, "Possessing the Treasure". His entry for today is entitled "Warning Against Worldliness", and while he is not specifically discussing eating disorders or other addictions, the principals of humbling one's self and avoiding hedonism and idolatry certainly apply.

Below is an excerpt from his blog. You may read the entire article here. My comments are in red.

In v5 we have a difficult verse. Here it is, ‘Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?’ The word spirit here is not referring to the Holy Spirit, but to the spirit that each person has. This is that part of us that worships God. However, when we are all wrapped up in lusting with passion after the world and its ways then our spirits are actually worshiping idols. God yearns jealously over our spirits that we would direct our worship and service to Him. If we do not do this then we are guilty of idolatry. Those who are in this idolatry are walking in pride. Who truly worships God by His grace? It is the humble. The humble are those Christians who have denied self, taken up their crosses and are following their Lord. They have rejected hedonism, which is idolatry and self-worship. Those who are living the crucified life are able to do so by His grace. Those who are not humble cannot turn, worship God in spirit and truth because they are proud and are opposed by God.

This is why nothing is going to change for the anorexic or bulimic until you learn to humble yourself before God, as laid out last week. Unfortunately, ED practitioners (for lack of a better word - we certainly aren't "victims", as we initiated the behavior ourselves) tend to grasp their idolatry tightly, certain that we are the ones in control. Besides, isn't being thin of utmost importance???

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:7-10 ESV)

We know instinctively that our behavior is sin. We know this even before the new birth (I had been bulimic for four years before turning to Christ). Our consciences tell us it is shameful and a "deed of darkness" (Romans 1:20-25; 13:12). But shame - and our own self-sufficiency (which is a form of pride) often keeps the eating disordered Christian from submitting this part of her life to God's authority. Without that close, dynamic relationship (which is only available as we walk closely with the Lord), we are powerless to 'resist the devil' - and often, we aren't sure we really want to. Can we imagine life without this "crutch"?

Submitting ourselves to God is accomplished by the grace of God as we deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Christ. The enemy will taunt us, attack us, and tempt us, however, as we walk in submission to God, we are able to resist him. This is not accomplished by our puny will power. No, we must have God’s grace in order to do this. Through this, our enemy will flee from us. We must draw near unto God and then He will draw near unto us. The only ones who can do this are the humble because He opposes the proud. Therefore, we see that James is telling us that the way to not be worldly and ate up with hedonism is to humble ourselves before God and draw near unto Him. We worship Him in spirit and in truth and reject the ways and stuff of the world. We learn to pray according to His will instead of after the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life.

(Emphasis mine). Well said. From personal experience, I can tell you, it really works. If you want a simple answer on how to repent from an eating disorder, that's it right there. Print out the above paragraph and glue it to your mirror.

When James tell us to cleanse our hands, purify our hearts, be wretched, morn, and weep, and let our laughter be turned to mourning and our joy to gloom—he is describing what our attitude must be toward sin in our life. We must learn to deny ourselves and walk in repentance. Those who claim to be Christians, but who are consumed by their flesh are not doing this. They are not taking their sin seriously. We must repent of this my brethren. We must humble ourselves before the Lord, and then He will exalt us. If we try to exalt ourselves, God will not exalt us. Remember, coveting can also include wanting to be exalted in the Church.

Remember, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. God will develop this in you as you steadfastly cling to Him for strength and guidance.
My brethren, we must learn to deny ourselves that we may break the bonds that our flesh has put us in. I lived for many years as a Christian who was enslaved to his flesh. It was miserable. I did not know that I was supposed to mortify my sins, to deny my flesh, to walk in humility before the Lord instead of pursuing what my flesh wanted. If we do not learn this then there is no way to walk in repentance.
Big, fat amen.

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