The test results are conclusive; you have cancer. It is inoperable, and I am sorry to have to say, it is terminal.” Those are probably some of the most traumatic words anyone could ever hear.
It was not too long ago that a neighbor came to my door inquiring about natural remedies. Her husband’s cancer had returned after having been in remission, and the doctors did not offer any hope. Two years earlier, her husband had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, which had attached itself to one of his lungs. Sadly, it was malignant. At that time, surgery had been performed in hopes of preventing it from spreading. Tragically, during the surgery, the nerve to his diaphragm had been severed, resulting in the complete loss of the use of his good lung—the lung without cancer. In spite of this, the surgery seemed to have been successful, as far as the cancer was concerned. A tumor the size of a grapefruit had been removed. Since then, he has had x-rays taken of his lungs every few months to check for any signs of the cancer’s return.
Now their worst fears were a reality. It was back, and it had taken root in his chest cavity. The doctor referred them to the Cancer Research Foundation, telling them
that there was nothing he could do. Maybe the Foundation could help—good luck.
After bouncing from one sympathetic listener, unable to help, to another, my neighbor decided to investigate natural remedies. She was highly motivated—she wanted her husband to live! Both she and her husband realized that this was a matter of life and death.
Stop drinking coffee? No problem! Give up eating sugar and meat? No problem! Drink the juice of fresh vegetables three times a day? No problem! Exercise, breathe fresh air, drink plenty of water . . . no problem! Whatever it takes.
Why is it that something drastic has to happen to us to prompt us to re-evaluate our priorities? So often, when we find ourselves in a crisis, we earnestly plead, “Lord, save me! I promise, from now on . . . .” In our moment of need, and usually with good intentions, we solemnly promise to do this or change that. Whatever it takes. Like children wandering in the wilderness, we say, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” (Exodus 19:8.) But after the crisis passes and things are going along fairly well, we find ourselves slipping back into our old ways. Though we may not utter the words, our actions betray us. “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” (Exodus 5:2.)
Giving Good Gifts
The Word of God is an important factor in the maintenance of our health and physical well-being. “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they [are] life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.” Proverbs 4:20–22. “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4. “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” 111 John 2.
From the beginning, God has been very specific about the importance of temperance and a healthy diet. Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, were given an abundance of fresh, wholesome food. (See Genesis 1:29.) After the flood, more instructions were given. (See Genesis 9:3.) Ancient Israel was given specific orders regarding clean and unclean foods. (See Leviticus 11:1–47.) At each step of the way, God has given His people ample instruction. It is no less true today. Through His modern-day prophet, Ellen White, God has given explicit instruction for the people upon whom the end of the earth is come.
Why? He has very good reasons. He has a vested interest in the great controversy, which is wrapping up, and He is acquainted, all too well, with our human nature and our bent toward sin. Deuteronomy 14:2, 3 makes it very clear: “For thou [art] an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth. Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.”
The Right Stuff
The world today is very much self-oriented and ego-driven. The youth are mercilessly pressured to “fit in.” To be different in any way is to be exiled to a life on the outside of the “in” crowd. For the most part, a good grade point average is not a thing to be sought after or desired. On the other hand, anything displaying a Nike logo is to die for. To be “cool” is to go along with the rest of crowd—the cigarettes, sex, alcohol, and drugs. Not to do so is to be viciously cast out. The young people know they have to do certain things to be accepted—hang with a certain crowd and wear the right stuff. To be accepted seems to be the most important thing. This is the world in which they live.
“Say no to drugs,” they are told by worldly educators—the same adults who are puffing on cigarettes and drinking cocktails. Is it any wonder children are confused and rebellious? Yet they are expected to conform to a standard which adults, in their sphere, seldom reach. And yes, it holds true inside the church as well. The youth are told, you have to do this; you cannot do that, and all the while they see inconsistencies in the lives of adults all around them.
When a youth becomes involved with drugs, alcohol, sex, cigarettes, or other vice, they are told, “Just say no!”—usually by an adult who will not say “No!” to his or her own vices. Youth see right through the facade. “Why should I listen to you when you cannot get it right?”
In a nation where the currency proclaims “In God We Trust,” to have Christian morals and values is to be scorned today. Unfortunately, that is not confined to the younger generation, nor is it just with the world. Too often, professing Christian (including Seventh-day Adventist) adults permit peer pressure to sway them from standing in steadfast opposition against wrong. “What will someone think?” “I might lose my position.”
We are too concerned about what others—our friends, neighbors, co-workers or family—will think if we do this or do not do that. We expect our children to ignore peer pressure and do the right thing. But how often do we do it? As Christians, should we not be showing them how to do it? Should not we be consulting God first, instead of our friends and neighbors? Should not we be doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do?
Putting it on the Altar
It is easy enough for us to read the story of Cain and Abel, and say, “Oh, I would never do that!” But if we examine our lives, we might discover that our actions betray our profession. Though we may not literally place fruits or vegetables upon the altar, upon closer inspection we may be surprised to see that our offering may not be precisely what God requires. Like Cain, we have disregarded the Lord’s direct and explicit command.
From Patriarchs and Prophets, 72, 73, we read: “Cain and Abel represent two classes that will exist in the world till the close of time. One class avail themselves of the appointed sacrifice for sin; the other venture to depend upon their own merits; theirs is a sacrifice without the virtue of divine mediation, and thus it is not able to bring man into favor with God. . . .
“True faith, which relies wholly upon Christ, will be manifested by obedience to all the requirements of God. From Adam’s day to the present time the great controversy has been concerning obedience to God’s law. In all ages there have been those who claimed a right to the favor of God even while they were disregarding some of His commands. But the Scriptures declare that by works is ‘faith made perfect;’ and that, without the works of obedience, faith ‘is dead.’ James 2:22, 17. He that professes to know God, ‘and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.’ 1 John 2:4.”
A Polluted Offering?
Spend some time considering your offering. Dust off your copy of The Sanctified Life and read chapter three. Space does not permit us to print the entire chapter here, but it would be time well spent to study it. The following excerpts may provide the challenge we need to face our personal obstacles and press toward the mark.
“ ‘Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul,’ is the language of the apostle Peter (1 Peter 2:11). Many regard this text as a warning against licentiousness only, but it has a broader meaning. It forbids every injurious gratification of appetite or passion. Let none who profess godliness regard with indifference the health of the body, and flatter themselves that intemperance is no sin, and will not affect their spirituality. A close sympathy exists between the physical and the moral nature. Any habit which does not promote health degrades the higher and nobler faculties. Wrong habits of eating and drinking lead to errors in thought and action. Indulgence of appetite strengthens the animal propensities, giving them the ascendancy over the mental and spiritual powers.” The Sanctified Life, 25.
“In the ten commandments God has laid down the laws of His kingdom. Any violation of the laws of nature is a violation of the law of God.
“The Lord has given His holy commandments to be a wall of protection around His created beings, and those who will keep themselves from the defilement of appetite and passion may become partakers of the divine nature.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, 1105.
“Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they [do it] to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” 1 Corinthians 9:25–27.
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20.
“We are to use every spiritual nerve and muscle in the contest for the crown of life. No one who does his best will fail in this contest.
“All who seek for the prize are to place themselves under strict discipline. ‘Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.’ [1 Corinthians 9:25.] . . .
“How much more should those who enter for the gospel race, restrain themselves from the unlawful indulgence of appetite and ‘abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.’ [1 Peter 2:11.] They must be temperate at all times. The same restraint that gives them the power to obtain the victory at one time will, if practiced constantly, give them a great advantage in the race for the crown of life.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1089.
“So the Christian today needs to keep strict guard over his appetite. He needs to subject himself to severe training, that he may not run uncertainly or at random, without seeing his standard and striving to reach it. He must obey the laws of God. The physical, mental, and moral powers must be kept in the most perfect condition if he would obtain the approval of God. ‘I keep under my body,’ the apostle says. [1 Corinthians 9:27.] This means literally to beat back its desire and impulses and passions by severe discipline . . . .” Ibid.
“God has bought us, and He claims a throne in each heart. Our minds and bodies must be subordinated to Him, and the natural habits and appetites must be made subservient to the higher wants of the soul. But we can place no dependence upon ourselves in this work. We cannot with safety follow our own guidance. The Holy Spirit must renew and sanctify us. In God’s service there must be no halfway work.” Ibid., 1088.
“Again, the apostle writes to the believers, ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service’ (Romans 12: 1). Specific directions were given to ancient Israel that no defective or diseased animal should be presented as an offering to God. Only the most perfect were to be selected for this purpose. The Lord, through the prophet Malachi, most severely reproved His people for departing from these instructions.
“ ‘A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Where-in have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts. . . . Ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord’ (Malachi 1:6–13).
“Though addressed to ancient Israel, these words contain a lesson for the people of God today. When the apostle appeals to his brethren to present their bodies ‘a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,’ he sets forth the principles of true sanctification. It is not merely a theory, an emotion, or a form of words, but a living, active principle, entering into the everyday life. It requires that our habits of eating, drinking, and dressing be such as to secure the preservation of physical, mental, and moral health, that we may present to the Lord our bodies, not an offering corrupted by wrong habits, but ‘a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.’ ” The Sanctified Life, 27, 28.
Defining the Terms
A closer look at Romans 12:1 needs to be taken. You can probably recite it from memory, but you need to understand more fully what the words really mean. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.”
living (zao): lively, active, enduring, living and constant, as opposed to what is dead, inactive, or intermittent.
holy (hagios): set apart, sanctified, consecrated. Chaste, pure. Its fundamental idea is separation, consecration, devotion to the service of Deity, sharing in God’s purity and abstaining from earth’s defilement. It particularly means perfect, without blemish.
acceptable (euarestos): well-pleasing, used with reference to God, that which God wills and recognizes. Antonym: hard to bear, oppressive, bad, bitter, heavy, grievous, difficult, perilous.
reasonable (logikos): from logos, pertaining to reason; that service to God which implies intelligent meditation or reflection, without heathen practices.
service (latreia): service for hire or as a slave, divine service. Synonym: religion, worship; voluntarily adopted worship; piety; godliness; service, ministry.
In like manner, let us define several more words pertaining to our subject.
appetite: 1) a: any of the instinctive desires necessary to keep up organic life. b: a desire for food or drink. 2) a desire to satisfy any bodily need or craving. 3) a desire or liking for something; fondness, taste; an appetite for power or pleasure. 4) an inherent, insatiable craving. Synonym: longing, inclination, wish, relish, gusto, zest.
lust: 1) a: pleasure, delight. b: personal inclination: wish; 2) intense or unbridled sexual desire: lasciviousness. 3) a: an intense longing: craving. b: enthusiasm, eagerness.
passion: 1) any emotion or feeling (love, desire, anger, hate, fear, grief, joy, hope, etc.) especially when of a powerful or compelling nature; 2) strong feeling or desire; . . . 6) a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything; . . . 8) an outburst or strong emotion or feeling; 9) violent anger; 10) the state of being acted upon or affected by something external, especially something alien to one’s nature or to one’s customary behavior. Synonym: fervor, zeal, ardor, ire, fury, wrath, rage.
Appetite is not spelled H-U-N-G-E-R
If Eve was hungry when she tasted the forbidden fruit, inspiration is strangely silent on the point. That fact is worthy of consideration. Please notice that appetite is not hunger; rather, words such as desire and craving are given. It could be said that for Eve it was a desire to appease her curiosity that caused her to leave her husband’s side. And we all know the rest of that story.
Appetite in and of itself is not sin. However, permitting the appetite to rule or have dominance over that which God has set forth as principles of health is surely a violation of the first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3.
“It is as truly a sin to violate the laws of our being as it is to break the ten commandments. To do either is to break God’s laws. Those who transgress the law of God in their physical organism, will be inclined to violate the law of God spoken from Sinai.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 17.
Taste is only one of the five senses—taste, sight, smell, touch, and hearing. Our nature is a combination of the spiritual, mental, and physical being. Our character is made up of the things we think, do, and say. An unsanctified appetite can, or dare I say will, disqualify a person from acceptable service to God by corrupting the senses, nature, and character, ultimately bringing that person to eternal ruin.
“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., 59.
“It is impossible for those who indulge the appetite to attain to Christian perfection.” Ibid., 22.
This is not about an egg or a piece of chocolate. It goes so much deeper than that. In fact, the first two sections of Counsels on Diet and Foods are entitled “Reasons for Reform” and “Diet and Spirituality,” and they provide a wonderful foundation upon which to base our decisions and build our characters. Each day we place our offering upon the altar. The decisions we make reveal to the watching universe precisely who is upon the throne in our hearts—either the god of this world, or the God of Heaven.
Cathy Summers Timmons, a member of LandMarks’ editorial staff, writes from her home in Wichita, Kansas. She may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.