Clinging to Christ
I love watching sprinters. It intrigues me how these runners train their entire lives for races that last less than ten seconds. Usain Bolt is a great example. He is the best sprinter to ever live:
St. Paul compares the spiritual life to a race. He points shows how in order to grow in our spiritual life, we must beat our body into submission.
Sometimes, however, we can do severe things to grow spiritually, and actually see the opposite happen. Paul points out a group like this in a different letter. He speaks of a group whose practices appear spiritual but have no value stopping the indulging of the flesh.
So I can be severe with my ‘body’ but still continue indulging my ‘flesh.’ What Paul means by this is that we can be harsh with our bodies while doing nothing to combat the god-hating, evil part of us that lives in rebellion toward God.
I can fast to lose weight, tell people I’m fasting so that they tell me how great I am, or to indulge my flesh with feelings of superiority over others.
I can pray in order to get only the things that I want, rather than allowing God to shape my desires.
I can read the Scriptures so that I can appear smarter at bible studies.
So, if I know I may need to ‘beat my body and make it my slave’ to grow spiritually, but I also know that those practices could either help me grow spiritually or lead me into greater indulgence of the flesh, how can I distinguish between whether I am doing valuable things or just indulging my pride?
It is all about Christ. The problem with the group Paul talked about is made clear in verse 19. They weren’t “holding fast to the Head.” They weren’t clinging to Christ. Oneness with Christ is the goal of human life and the goal of all our spiritual disciplines.
When I fast, I do it to cling to Jesus.
When I pray, I do it to become one with Christ.
When I read the Scriptures, I do it to conform to oneness with my Lord.
When I have daily times of prayer with my wife, I do it to lead my home into greater concord with Jesus.
Those are the only spiritual disciplines worth doing. Make your body your slave. But only the things done that lead to union with our Lord will stand.