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Growing Closer to God

Growing Closer to God

I was once at a conference doing a question-and-answer session when someone asked, “How do you grow close to God?”

Great question. Possible answers swirled about in my mind. I ultimately answered, “By making the choice to deny ourselves something that is permissible but not beneficial. And making this intentional sacrifice for the sole purpose of growing closer to God. After all, Jesus Himself said,

If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. — Luke 9:23 NASB

By way of example, I shared how I was intentionally sacrificing sugar and processed things that, once consumed, turn into sugar in my body. Yes, I was doing it to get healthy. But the deeper reason for choosing to purify myself was to help me grow closer to God.

My answer was real, vulnerable, and honest. Maybe a little too honest. The women in the audience gasped when I said I was in a season of sacrificing sugar. It wasn’t two seconds later that a conference attendee grabbed the audience microphone and blurted out, “Well, if Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life, I can’t see how sugar and processed carbs are bad at all!”

The audience erupted with laughter.

I forced a smile, but I felt smaller than a wart on the end of an ant’s nose.

They didn’t get it.

Or maybe I didn’t get it. Was I just a foolish, Jesus-chasing girl who mistakenly believed my desires to please Him with this food battle would somehow help me grow closer to Him?

Yes, I want to lose weight. But this journey really is about learning to tell myself no and make wiser choices daily. And somehow becoming a woman of self-discipline honors God and helps me live the godly characteristic of self-control, which is among the fruit of the Spirit (the evidence of God’s Spirit being in you) listed in Galatians 5:22–23. In the end, pursuing self-control does help my heart feel purer and closer to Jesus to receive what He wants for me each day... instead of clogged with guilty feelings about my poor choices.

But self-control is hard. We don’t like to deny ourselves. We don’t think it’s necessary. We make excuses and declare, “That’s nice for you, but I could never give that up.” And if we’re relying on ourselves, that’s true. But there’s another level to self-control that too few of us find.

Before the apostle Paul listed the fruit of the Spirit in his letter to the churches in Galatia, he described a power available to us that goes way beyond self-control:

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. — Galatians 5:16, emphasis added

In other words, live with the willingness to walk away when the Holy Spirit nudges you and says, “That food choice is permissible but not beneficial — so don’t eat it.”

Not sinful — please hear me on this.

  • Food isn’t sinful. But when food is what Satan holds up in front us and says, “You’ll never be free from this battle. You aren’t capable of self-control with food,” we must see that its inappropriate consumption can be his lure to draw our hearts into a place of defeat.

For others it will be sex outside marriage, the inappropriate consumption of alcohol, illegal drugs, or some other physical means.

The obvious question, then, is how can we tune in to these nudges of the Holy Spirit? How can we “live by the Spirit”?

First, we have to know where the Spirit is and what He gives us. If we know Jesus as our personal Savior, the Bible teaches that we have the Holy Spirit living in us (Romans 8:11), infusing our lives with power that is beyond what we could muster up on our own.

Now then, how do we live by this Spirit and heed His voice of wisdom and caution? Here’s what the apostle Paul said:

Let us keep in step with the Spirit. — Galatians 5:25

In other words, we read the Bible with the intention of practicing what we read while asking the Holy Spirit to direct us in knowing how to do this.

I often pray this prayer: “I need wisdom to make wise choices. I need insight to remember the words I’ve read in Scripture. I need power beyond what I can find on my own.” It’s not a magic prayer. I still have to make the choice to walk away from the source of my temptation.

And making that choice is sometimes really hard; I won’t deny that.

Like when I’m in line at Starbucks. The barista takes my coffee order and then waves her hand like an enticing wand, directing my attention to a case full of delights that make a girl’s taste buds dance. Seriously dance. Like the rumba, tango, and a snappy little quick step all in a row. My taste buds dance around while begging like a small child in the candy aisle.

“Would you like something to go with your coffee?” she asks.

Of course I’d like something — I’d like two or three somethings! And I’ll be completely honest, it’s in moments like these that I want to ask Eve to clarify one simple thing. Please tell me that something got lost in translation and what was really dangling from that tree limb all those years ago were treats like this. I’m just saying.

Anyhow. Like I said, it’s not easy. It’s not easy relying on the Holy Spirit to direct us into wise choices. It’s not easy to dare to actually live a life in which we put Scripture in action. Especially scriptures about self-control.

It’s not easy but it is possible.

Excerpted with permission from I’ll Start Again Monday by Lysa TerKeurst, copyright Lysa TerKeurst.

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Your Turn

Food, like any other thing God made for our nourishment and joy, is not a sin. Eating isn’t a sin. But, what if we utilized food as a way to honor God and grow closer to Him? What would happen within us if we chose to eat healthfully and put every stumbling block before Jesus and ask for His help to deny ourselves anything that was an overindulgence and be filled with Him instead? ~ Devotionals Daily