From "Redeemed from the Pit" -
Chapter 8 "Tempted Beyond What You Can Bear?"
Putting On and Putting Off
As a bulimic begins to practice taking her obsessive thoughts captive to Christ, gradually they will decrease in frequency and intensity. Her behavior will begin to change. True repentance always leads to a steady (if sometimes gradual) decline in sin and improved behavior. As we turn from the old thought patterns that led us into slavery in the first place, the Holy Spirit imparts both the will and the strength to change our behavior. Paul describes this process as “putting off the sinful nature” (NIV, Colossians 2:11) or “lay[ing] aside the deeds of darkness and put[ing] on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). In Ephesians 4:22-24 he tells believers to “lay aside” (“put off” in other translations) the old self and “put on” the new self – which, he goes on to say, “in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth”. In the likeness of God? Sounds like a tall order! But remember, He has equipped us and will help us grow. A couple of chapters later, Paul twice exhorts Christians to “put on” the armor of God. Clearly, Paul originated what biblical counselors call the “put off/put on” principle.
Likewise, avoiding old patterns of behavior (such as using food for emotional reasons) will not bring about true, inward change unless those old habits are replaced with new, godly ones. Nature abhors a vacuum. Allowing God to pull up the roots of our besetting, habitual sin is the first step – but the next is to fill in the hole that remains with Christ-like behavior and thoughts. Of course, developing these God-honoring practices does not happen overnight, but they are cultivated as the Holy Spirit changes our hearts. If you are persistent in seeking God, He will give you the strength and desire to obey Him. Our behavior changes, because God’s love has first transformed our hearts and altered our thinking.
Paul gives us concrete examples of how we must consciously discard old tendencies and deliberately replace them in Ephesians 4:25-32. Let’s look at a few of the sinful habits he tells us to stop doing, and what we are to start doing instead:
Now, let’s take this principle and apply it to eating disorders. Most of the warnings and exhortations the Bible gives us are general enough to apply to any sin, because all sin ultimately is a heart issue. While Paul did not specifically have gluttony or self-abuse in mind when he penned his epistles, Romans 8:13 is a goal all repentant anorexics and bulimics can share: “…if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live”.
What specific attitudes and thought patterns can you identify which need to be “put off”? What actions? I mention thoughts and attitudes first, as they determine your outward behavior (Luke 6:45). As you prayerfully identify areas of your thought-life that are contributing to your eating disorder, ask God to show you biblical attitudes to “put on” in their place. I have listed a few suggestions to get you started.