I have been thinking about appetites lately. It started back when I listened to the Reformer’s Unanimous message on Principle # 4 again: “You cannot satisfy a fleshly appetite by indulging in it,” a couple weeks or so ago.
It is really a very good principle. There is a lot of truth packed into it.
Let me unwrap a little bit of it for you. It is what I have been pondering on, and putting into practice for the last couple weeks, and I am really excited about it.
There are a few different kinds of appetites, and you can classify them in a few different ways.
If you classify them by the object of desire, for example, you have basically two kinds: good and bad. An example of a good appetite would be reading God’s Word, or righteousness. God clearly commands us to desire and hunger after these things over and over in the Bible. And example of a bad appetite would be sinful sexual lust, drugs, and stuff like that.
Those are obvious examples, but it gets harder to categorize things when you start trying to classify things like healthy food. Is that a fleshly appetite? Is that a godly appetite? Is that an appetite that could grow to be a consuming appetite? It is actually all of those, which makes it tough to see whether it is good or bad. I mean, think about it. If it is kept under control, and it doesn’t become an idol (that is, your appetite for it becomes overwhelming), it is good and right, and should be encouraged. So it seems almost like….
A gradient! Oh no!
You have black (bad appetites) and white (good appetites) and gray (appetites that are… um middly). Gray areas are not good, are they? They just smell of compromise and wishy-washy-ness and relative morality and… bleagch.
So that is why I was thinking about this, and I discovered another way to categorize appetites: by the nature of the appetite.
Let’s illustrate with food, because it is near to our hearts and easy to apply.
Did you know that if you consistently eat food that satisfies your nutritional needs (yes, that is what food is for), you won’t fill your stomach up? It actually isn’t good for you to eat until your stomach is full: you are supposed to eat until your nutritional requirements are met for that meal. If you do it right, your appetite actually turns off and you can’t eat another bite.
Of course if you aren’t eating food that satisfies those needs, you won’t have that effect, and the only way you can feel sort of ‘satisfied’ is to eat until your stomach is full of food. The problem with that is that your stomach isn’t really made to handle that, and it will expand and stretch to hold it all. And your appetite will grow with it. So you will gradually eat more and more at each meal.
What happens then is that you start to eat to satisfy your mouth. You eat because it tastes good going through your mouth, and you keep on sending food through until either your mouth says it is enough, or your stomach begins to complain that it is overloaded, and you stop because you don’t want to face the consequences of overeating.
Unfortunately if you keep going in that direction you will get to the point where it doesn’t matter any more. You begin to despise your food, and your body is screaming in misery at you because it is being abused, but you can’t stop eating. You are eating to satisfy, not your needs, not your stomach, not your mouth, but your appetite itself. You are a slave to your … addiction.
So we have four kinds of appetites there, and the progression between them. Notice that you don’t start down this slippery slope unless you change your intake to something that doesn’t have safeguards to protect you from abusing it.
Here is where it gets exciting.
Our spiritual life has this same division of appetites!
When you are doing something for God, something that God wants you to do, by definition it won’t take control of your life. That is how it is designed to work. You can’t spend too much time reading God’s Word, if you are doing it for the right reasons, because it will drive you to get out and take action on what it is talking about. The same thing goes for prayer or any other spiritual discipline. This also applies to things that God calls you to do, like spending time with your family, having a successful job, resting, or recreation. Each of these things, when done with the right motivation, will fall into place in God’s big picture of your life and will never take over more room than they need.
But if you start focusing on anything for its own sake, it starts to grow, and you begin to toe the line of it beginning to encroach on your other tasks and duties in life. The problem with toeing the line, though, is that it moves. It moves farther and farther out (in your eyes, not in God’s), until you are far away from where God wants you to be, and that thing has become a stronghold in your life.
When that happens you start doing it just for the pleasure of doing it. Pleasure is not a bad thing: God designed many of things purely for our pleasure with no ‘practical’ benefits other than just that. But when the pleasure becomes centered on our flesh, rather than on God, bad things begin to happen. You do it as much as possible, and only stop when you fear the consequences. You sleep until you fear losing your job. You work until you fear losing your sleep or your family. You read your Bible (as a self-righteous hypocrite) until you fear losing other things that might be important to you.
But living like that is like playing Russian Roulette. Every day you take a shot at your head, and the cylinder moves the bullet one place closer to you. You don’t know when the day of reckoning will come, but be assured that it will if you don’t change your course. The closer you get the less and less you care about consequences, and you begin to recklessly throw yourself into it. You begin to hate your life; you hate your passion; you hate your appetite; and you hate everything that tries to drag you from it.
You become like Gollum in Lord of the Rings.
And at the end of that road is death. No hope or way of escape is in that direction.
You have to turn around and run for God, casting out all things that feed the wrong appetites: the ones that are not for His glory. You need to seek out those things that satisfy your righteous appetites: the ones that bring God glory. You need to starve those appetites which are displeasing to God.
And if you don’t.
Hell awaits you.
Filed under: Heavenly | Tagged: Addictions, Appetites, Character development, Desire, Food, God, Godly living, hot topic, Legalism, Life, Love, Lust, Purity, Reformers Unanimous, Repentance, Righteousness, Walking with God | 8 Comments »