In Piper's 2008 sermon, "A Broken and Contrite Heart God Will Not Despise", he discusses the godly sorrow and repentance that should typify a Christian as we see it in Psalm 51. King David recognized and sorrowed over his sin, and went through the steps of genuine repentance. He knew God was gracious and would forgive him, but that did not prompt him to presume on God's grace (which was, in fact, evident even under the Old Covenant). David turns to God, he prays for cleansing, he confesses the seriousness of his sin, and finally he pleads for renewal. As Piper succinctly states, "Forgiven people are committed to being changed by God." I encourage you to read the whole message, and pray through Psalm 51 yourself as you allow God to cleanse and renew you from your bulimia and other personal sin.
However, Piper made an excellent point towards the conclusion, which I would like to point out to you. If you are still in the throes of an eating disorder, there is a direct application, so bear with me.
Psalm 51 was David's penitential heart cry after his adultery with Bathsheba was found out, and the prophet Nathan confronted him. Yet, as Piper points out, not once does the psalm mention sexual sin.
Read the following, and substitute "bulimia" or "food addiction" for "sexual sin", and you will see where I'm going with this:
Is it not astonishing that nowhere in this Psalm does he pray directly about sex? It all started with sex, leading to deceit, leading to murder. Or did it? I don’t think so. Sigmund Freud may think that all our hang-ups start with sex. But David (speaking for God) does not see things that way.
Sexual Sin: Symptom, Not Disease
Why isn’t he crying out for sexual restraint? Why isn’t he praying for men to hold him accountable? Why isn’t he praying for protected eyes and sex-free thoughts? The reason is that he knows that sexual sin is a symptom, not the disease. People give way to sexual sin because they don’t have the fullness of joy and gladness in Christ. Their spirits are not steadfast and firm and established. They waver. They are enticed, and they give way because God does not have the place in our feelings and thoughts that he should.
David knew this about himself. It’s true about us too. David is showing us, by the way he prays, what the real need is for those who sin sexually. Not a word in this psalm about sex. Instead: “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. . . . Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing, firm, established spirit.” This is profound wisdom for us.
(John Piper, "A Broken and Contrite Heart God Will Not Despise", emphasis mine.)
Last night, I received an e-mail from a young Christian lady to whom I had sent my book manuscript in order to help her learn how to fully repent of her bulimia and allow God to renew her mind. She wrote, "I am scared because the more I read the more I seem to want to eat." This makes perfect sense, given where she currently is spiritually: when we've given in to a counterfeit "lust of the flesh" and gotten used to it (and food can clearlybe a "lust of the flesh", as surely as sexual lust is), our brains need re-programming. The spirit may indeed be willing, but the flesh is still so weak.
That is exactly why we need Christ.
To quote Piper elsewhere in the sermon: "We know more of the mystery of this redemption than David did. We know Christ. But we lay hold of the mercy in the same way he did. The first thing he does is turn helpless to the mercy and love of God. Today that means turning helpless to Christ."
You cannot simply "clean up your act" and turn from your unhealthy relationship with food, in your own strength, so that God will accept and be pleased with you. You cannot redeem yourself to the Redeemer. That would defeat the whole purpose of repentance, and negate the ongoing reality of a Christian's "brokenhearted joy". It is only by throwing yourself upon the mercy of Jesus, your all-loving, merciful and understanding Savior, that you may begin to replace the counterfeit and fleeting satisfaction of "lusts of the flesh" with deep and abiding joy in His Person.
All addictions have the same root. All are spiritual sicknesses, pointing up man's greatest need: salvation and forgiveness. When our joy and satisfaction is not found in Christ, we will seek it elsewhere. And inevitably, like David, we will fall. Praise God for His unfathomable mercy and limitless grace! May we never presume upon it, or lose our sense of awe and joy in His power to set us free.
Remember, it is not about the food. It was never about the food. It is about seeing and savoring God for Who He really is, and clinging to the hem of His garnment moment by moment. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)