From the Messenger of Hope, Newsletter of Hope Lutheran Church in West Jordan, Utah:
â€œLetâ€™s not mince words. I like to eat. I like it a lot. And, Iâ€™m used to it: eating what I want, when I want, and however much I want. And if I should ever regret it, itâ€™s usually a passing wish that I looked better or had more energy. Or that I hadnâ€™t gorged myself on some particular binge. Most of the time, I just enjoy it.â€
There comes a time when a person realizes they need to change their ways if theyâ€™re going to live well. So sometimes folksâ€”even like the guy quoted aboveâ€”go on a regimen of diet and exercise. Then what everyone else is enjoyingâ€”you canâ€™t.
You canâ€™t eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and however much. You throw away the junk food. You quit colas. You give up the midnight snacks and sweets and breads. Even the Reeseâ€™s. You skip the drivethru. Steak and Potatoes give way to turkey and steamed vegetables. You still have all your cravingsâ€¦ you just donâ€™t want to work against yourself. You get a taste of self-denial.
Of course, even this isnâ€™t pure. We do it for our selves: to look better, or feel better, or get noticed, or to make a love interest who kicked us to the curb regret it.
But St. Paul talks about a spiritual self-denial, which grows out of faith. For God knows better than we do whatâ€™s good for us; and our sinful desires (running contrary to His word and will) are not good for us.
St. Paul writes, 1 Cor. 9:24-25: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
For a braided crown of fading glory, people train hard, and consider carefully what theyâ€™ll eat, how much of it, and whenâ€¦ and they train, and train hardâ€¦ all with a view toward the race, and all with a view toward the prize.
I must confess, I donâ€™t often think of my faith in those terms. I donâ€™t think of my sins in those terms. But letâ€™s not mince words. According to sin at work in me, I like to gossip. I like to horde. I like filthy talk and lust. Iâ€™m like a morbidly obese man with a greasy drumstick just handed a number to pin to my shirt.
But even then, this race is not uncertain. The race is already won. For our sinless Lord Christ has run the straight race, the way of the cross, to the finish. He purchased us by His blood and won us by His death. His grace forgives every sin. We believe. And when we believe, sin doesnâ€™t look so good anymore. What holds our hearts is the promise of that crown of life.
Christ grants it to all those who believe and remain in Him by faith. That crown is theirs to keep.