“When you sit down to eat with a ruler, Consider carefully what is before you; And put a knife to your throat If you are a man given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, For they are deceptive food.” Proverbs 23:1–3
“Do not mix with winebibbers, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.” Proverbs 23:20, 21
Is neglect of physical law sin? God answers this question clearly. “The transgression of physical law is transgression of God’s law. Our Creator is Jesus Christ. He is the author of our being. He is the author of the physical law as He is the author of the moral law. And the human being who is careless and reckless of the habits and practises [sic] that concern his physical life and health, sins against God. God is not reverenced, respected, or recognized. This is shown by the injury done to the body in violation of physical law.” Healthful Living, 17.
Yes, neglect of physical law is sin. But the issue with appetite goes well beyond the issue of sin.
In looking at the “shadow” or “type” of the earthly sanctuary we learn that on the typical Day of Atonement, God required that people “afflict their souls, and do no work on that same day.” The consequences for disregarding these instructions were clear cut and serious. God said, “For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people” and “that person I will destroy from among his people” (Leviticus 23:27–30). We are living in the antitypical Day of Atonement. The same requirement is in effect for us, only in a much greater degree.
Here we will look at health and its relation to the Most Holy Place message, “keep your garments spotless.” Why is this topic so critically important to the message of the Most Holy Place?
God says, through His servant, “The strength of the temptation to indulge appetite can be measured only by the inexpressible anguish of our Redeemer in that long fast in the wilderness. He knew that the indulgence of perverted appetite would so deaden man’s perceptions that sacred things could not be discerned.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 167.
Friends, are you indulging appetite? If so, what does God say? He says “sacred things could not be understood.” One may wish to quibble over these words. We may question a plain statement from the Lord. Adam and Eve both questioned God and that led to their fall. We must take God at His word. God says, “He knew that the indulgence of perverted appetite would so deaden man’s perceptions that sacred things could not be discerned.”
One may think they understand sacred things, but if appetite is indulged, what does God say? He says, that regardless of what you think or believe, the reality is that those who indulge perverted appetite cannot understand sacred things.
“The controlling power of appetite will prove the ruin of thousands, when, if they had conquered on this point, they would have had moral power to gain the victory over every other temptation of Satan. But those who are slaves to appetite will fail in perfecting Christian character.” Ibid., 163.
We need to state very briefly here that it is not only what we eat, but how much we eat, whether we eat at regular times, and whether we eat between meals, etc., as well. God has warned, “even health reformers can err in the quantity of food. They can eat immoderately of a healthful quality of food.” Ibid., 244.
“It is impossible for those who give the reins to appetite to attain to Christian perfection.” Ibid., 236.
This is why, of all the topics that we need to study in perfecting our characters, this is the one that we are studying. I don’t want to talk about this. God put this burden in my mind, and I cannot refuse, but at the risk of my own soul.
“Those who would have clear minds to discern Satan’s devices must have their physical appetites under the control of reason and conscience. The moral and vigorous action of the higher powers of the mind are essential to the perfection of Christian character. And the strength or the weakness of the mind has very much to do with our usefulness in this world, and with our final salvation. The ignorance that has prevailed in regard to God’s law in our physical nature is deplorable. Intemperance of any kind is a violation of the laws of our being. Imbecility is prevailing to a fearful extent. Sin is made attractive by the covering of light which Satan throws over it, and he is well pleased when he can hold the Christian world in their daily habits under the tyranny of custom, like the heathen, and allow appetite to govern them.” Messages to Young People, 236, 237.
“If men and women of intelligence have their moral powers benumbed through intemperance of any kind, they are, in many of their habits, elevated but little above the heathen. Satan is constantly drawing the people from saving light, to custom and fashion, irrespective of physical, mental, and moral health. The great enemy knows that if appetite and passion predominate, health of body and strength of intellect are sacrificed upon the altar of self-gratification, and man is brought to speedy ruin. If enlightened intellect holds the reins, controlling the animal propensities, keeping them in subjection to the moral powers, Satan well knows that his power to overcome with his temptations is very small. …
“A large share of the Christian world have no right to call themselves Christians. [They are breaking the 3rd commandment. They are taking God’s name in vain.] Their habits, their extravagance, and general treatment of their own bodies, are in violation of physical law, and contrary to the Bible standard. They are working out for themselves, in their course of life, physical suffering, mental and moral feebleness.” The Review and Herald, September 8, 1874.
“God gives no permission to man to violate the laws of his being. But man, through yielding to Satan’s temptations to indulge intemperance, brings the higher faculties in subjection to the animal appetites and passions. When these gain the ascendency, man, who was created a little lower than the angels, with faculties susceptible of the highest cultivation, surrenders to be controlled by Satan. And he gains easy access to those who are in bondage to appetite. Through intemperance, some sacrifice one-half, and others two-thirds, of their physical, mental, and moral powers, and become playthings for the enemy. Those who would have clear minds to discern Satan’s devices, must have their physical appetites under the control of reason and conscience. The moral and vigorous action of the higher powers of the mind are essential to the perfection of Christian character. And the strength or weakness of the mind has very much to do with our usefulness in this world, and with our final salvation. The ignorance that has prevailed in regard to God’s law in our physical nature is deplorable. Intemperance of any kind is a violation of the laws of our being. Imbecility is prevailing to a fearful extent. Sin is made attractive by the covering of light which Satan throws over it, and he is well pleased when he can hold the Christian world in their daily habits under the tyranny of custom, like the heathen, and allow appetite to govern them.” Ibid.
“Why do some of our ministering brethren manifest so little interest in health reform? It is because instruction on temperance in all things is opposed to their practice of self-indulgence. In some places this has been the great stumbling block in the way of our bringing the people to investigate and practice and teach health reform. No man should be set apart as a teacher of the people while his own teaching or example contradicts the testimony God has given His servants to bear in regard to diet, for this will bring confusion. His disregard of health reform unfits him to stand as the Lord’s messenger.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 378.
These are strong words but sometimes God uses strong words like these to wake us up out of lethal slumber. If we do not wake up and change our habits, He knows that we cannot be in eternity with Him, and He longs for you and me to be with Him throughout eternity. This is why He uses such strong language. However, there is something else I would like us to consider and understand.
When Jesus comes to get His saints, and all are seated at that great wedding feast, will any intemperate person be at that table? No, not one. When does the change have to take place? Jesus told a well-known and true story from Old Testament times that gives us the answer. The application of this story is found in The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, 40, 41. The story is of the building of the temple of God during the reign of Solomon. Spirit of Prophecy says the following: “The stones were not prepared for their respective places just as they were about to be laid in the wall of the temple; all the fitting and planning was done previous to their being brought to the place of building. So it is that all the hewing, fitting and polishing of character must be done during man’s probation. When Christ shall come again to earth it will not be to purify and refine the characters of men, and to fit them for Heaven. His work then will only be to change their corruptible bodies and fashion them like unto Christ’s most glorious body. Only a symmetrical and perfect character will in that day entitle men to the finishing touch of immortality.
“Earth is the quarry and the work-shop where men are to be fitted and refined for the courts of Heaven.”
My friends, if we want to be at that great banquet table in heaven, we must conquer appetite here. If we do not, we cannot understand God’s great plan for our salvation. If we choose to remain in sin on this point, we will also bear the sin of leading other people into the paths that lead away from God and heaven. We must control our appetites here. It is an essential part of the Most Holy Place message, “keep your garments spotless.”
“The church is making history. Every day is a battle and a march. On every side we are beset by invisible foes, and we either conquer through the grace given us by God or we are conquered. I urge that those who are taking a neutral position in regard to health reform be converted. This light is precious, and the Lord gives me the message to urge that all who bear responsibilities in any line in the work of God take heed that truth is in the ascendancy in the heart and life. Only thus can any meet the temptations they are sure to encounter in the world.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 377, 378.
“The light that the Lord has given on this subject in His word is plain, and men will be tested and tried in many ways to see if they will heed it. Every church, every family, needs to be instructed in regard to Christian temperance. All should know how to eat and drink in order to preserve health. We are amid the closing scenes of this world’s history, and there should be harmonious action in the ranks of Sabbathkeepers. Those who stand aloof from the great work of instructing the people upon this question do not follow where the Great Physician leads the way. ‘If any man will come after Me,’ Christ said, ‘let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me’ (Matthew 16:24).” Ibid., 378.
“How many are deceiving their own souls and cheating themselves out of the blessings that others might secure if they would believe and obey? Probation still lingers, and it is our privilege to lay hold of the hope set before us in the gospel. Let us repent and be converted and forsake our sins, that they may be blotted out. ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away: but My words shall not pass away. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man’ (Luke 21:33–36).” Ibid., vol. 9, 268, 269.
Remember, my friends, we have a compassionate Saviour. In His mercy in our behalf He endured that “long fast in the wilderness” that we might have His power to overcome. Oh, friends, let us not show despite to His great love and mercy, His tremendous suffering and sacrifice on our behalf. Let us claim the victory that was His and overcome as He overcame. Let us indeed “keep our garments spotless” through the mighty new covenant provided for us by our loving, merciful and just Father and His only begotten Son.
Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She may be contacted by email at: email@example.com.