ABSTAINING FROM FOOD TO REGAIN MASTERY OF THE FLESH

HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

We are wise to recognize that food was the enticement the devil used to cause Eve and Adam to sin in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 2 the Lord God told Adam and Eve that they could eat freely of every tree in the garden of Eden, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). God did not tell Adam and Eve to refrain from touching a particular animal or smelling a particular flower or swimming in a certain stream. He told them to refrain from taking a particular fruit into their bodies-one type of fruit out of all the many types He had made available to them.

God had given Adam and Eve authority over all things that He had created-every bird, fish, beast of the field, and over “every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat” (Genesis 1:29). God did not prohibit Adam and Eve from interacting with any part of God’s creation when He commanded them to be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth, and subdue it-except for this one tree and its fruit. They were not to eat of a particular tree, what God described to them as the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Why did God set apart this one tree and its fruit? God was giving Adam and Eve free will and the ability to make choices and decisions. Free will isn’t really free if a person has no choice.

Adam and Eve had a choice to make about this one tree. God told them to abstain from eating its fruit because He did not want His beloved creation to have a knowledge of evil. He had already given them a full knowledge of everything He called “good.”He wanted to spare them the heartache of knowing evil. That’s true for us today as Christians. God calls us to pursue only what is good. Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Whatsoever things are true . . . honest . . . just . . . pure . . . lovely . . . of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). God desires only good for His children. He tells us in His Word, “Be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Even as God calls us away from evil and toward good, He gives us a choice. So many of the problems we have in our world today are the result of men and women making the wrong choices. They have knowingly and unknowingly chosen what is evil. And the end result is the same for us as it was for Adam and Eve: death and all forms of sin that lead to death (see Rom. 6:23).

Let me point out to you two results from the disastrous choice that Adam and Eve made about the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

1. Diverted Attention

First, Eve listened to what the devil had to say to her about the fruit itself. The devil diverted her attention from whatever it was that Eve was doing. He called her attention to the tree and its fruit. The Bible tells us the devil came to her in the guise of a beautiful and subtle serpent and said to her, “Hath God said, Ye, shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1). There’s no indication that Eve had given much thought to the tree before the devil asked her this question. There’s no record that she longed for it or had any curiosity about it. She certainly didn’t crave it, because she had never tasted it!

In many ways, the devil uses this same tactic today. He calls our attention to how beautiful and refreshing certain foods and beverages appear. It’s difficult to go through a day without seeing enticing food and beverage commercials on billboards, on television, and in magazines. Foods are presented in the most tempting ways in stores, restaurants, and on menus. The devil says the same thing to us he said to Eve:”Has God really said you can’t have a bite of this?”

I have heard people say “that the cake or ice cream is calling me,” “that food looks good and I want some of that at all cost.” Yes, the appearance of it looks good but after you paid for it the appearance is much different. I urge you to think and check in with the word of God first.

Now I’m certainly not linking the devil to a piece of pie, but I am saying this: the devil will always call your attention repeatedly to the thing that is harmful to you, but he will do it in a way that makes you feel deprived if you don’t indulge in eating, drinking, or partaking of what is harmful. The implication of the devil is always: “This is so good. Has God really said you can’t have any of this good thing?”

Never forget that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the knowledge of good and evil. There was an element of good in that fruit, not just evil. The devil told Eve specifically that the fruit of the tree was “good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes” (Genesis 3:6). All Eve had to do was look to see that the fruit was pleasant. She made a bad assumption, however, that what was visually pleasant would also be “good for food.” In that, the devil was very wrong!

What about us? There’s an element of good in foods and substances that are ultimately bad for us, even if it’s just the good appearance, smell, or taste. Have you ever noticed how beautiful all the coloured and distinctly shaped bottles look in a bar? Those bottles always seem light in just the right way to make them look very special, very festive, very appealing. Many foods are pleasant to the eyes. Many drinks are presented in ways that make them appear pleasing. We buy into the lie that what is pleasing is also nutritious and beneficial.

  • Fasting calls us to turn away from food.
  • Fasting calls us to redivert our attention back to the things of God and His commandments.
  • Fasting calls us to face and overcome the devil’s call: “Has God really said you can’t have this?”
  • Fasting calls us to abstain from all things harmful to us, and in most cases, from all food for a period of time.

The devil’s insistent question is likely to become very loud in our minds as we begin a fast: “Has God really said you can’t eat? Not anything? Not the things you love the most? Has God really called you to fast- to abstain totally from this thing that you have labelled as ‘good’?”

Our answer must be a firm “Yes! God has called me to fast. He has called me to give my full attention to Him and to His commandments. He has called me to obey Him fully in all things. And God has called me to say no to you, devil!”

2. Temptations Toward False Benefits

Eve listened to what the devil had to say to her about the benefits of eating what God had prohibited. The devil always points out the would-be and usually short-term benefits of sin. Many substances that are ultimately harmful to us taste good or feel good or bring pleasure. In some cases, the partaking of the substance makes us feel like adults, feel accepted by others, or feel more powerful and in greater control. Some people say about certain foods and substances that they “give me quick energy,” “make me more alert,” or “help me relax.”

The devil told Eve that the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would make her wise-she would be as a “god,” knowing good and evil.

In the short term, the devil was right. Eve suddenly had a knowledge of evil. She really knew in her own experience as a human being that evil existed. This was the first time in her life she had ever known the contrast-up to that point, all things had been good.

What the devil failed to mention to Eve was the ultimate consequence that God had associated with eating of this fruit: “You shall surely die.” The devil failed to mention any downside to her disobedience. In fact, he dismissed God’s consequences with a sarcastic question.

The devil comes at us the same way. The devil never tells us that drinking alcohol can make a person an alcoholic. He never tells a person that smoking cigarettes can cause him or her to have lung cancer. He never tells a person that eating too much of the wrong foods can lead to chronic illness and premature death. The devil points out only short-term benefits, never long-term disasters.

When we fast, we are suddenly aware once again of what is good and evil. We have a heightened awareness not only of God’s goodness and of God’s commandments, but of the evil that abounds in the world around us.

Those who fast often experience greater discernment of good and evil. In fact, it seems to be a major by-product of fasting. God seems to give us an opportunity as we fast to take a look again at our lives and the world around us and to discern what is good and what is evil.

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