Dan Bell is a husband, father, and a new follower of Christ!  He works for an insurance company in the Des Moines area and loves to explore the deep, philosophical truths of the Christian faith. 

Finally- the blur of the holiday season has settled and the normal routine of our lives comes back in full swing. Of course, with this we often bring resolutions with us through the new year as well. As I was clearing my kitchen of the Precious Moments Holiday village that my wife and I set up each year, I was struck with some ideas and resolutions of my own.

As with all things, the ideas that strike me are rarely done in a vacuum. Instead, they are pooled from recent concepts being brought to mind and co-mingling with experiences and thoughts of yesterday and yesterdays’ long forgotten. On this particular day, in the midst of Pastor Mike’s Identity Series fresh in mind, I began to think of the ever changing landscape of Christian life and the changing ideals - norms and folkways – of society.

Especially though for early Christians, throughout the New Testament we see the concept of fasting. They did this to show reverence to the Lord. The idea that we would withhold from ourselves something that mustered our entire willpower to be without in order to guide us to the notion that we are inherently incomplete… that we are naturally unable to provide satisfaction to ourselves and that we needed God to give us identity, fulfillment, and hope. This concept has, to varying degrees, stuck around but not in the capacity that we have read about in the New Testament. Typically, a fast in the modern age is the removal of a mild convenience from our lives- no meat on Fridays, no candy or cussing during Lent, etc…

Nowadays, we have New Year’s Resolutions. These come in all shapes and sizes, but pop culture has it that we need to improve ourselves- or at least- improve of the how we act and look in accordance with societal ideals. We need to lose weight, we need to work out more, we need to look good in the mirror... we need to go with less to prove our worth to ourselves and prove ourselves of worth.

What struck me and spurred me to write was that as a culture we still fast. We still hold to that type of notion of self-denial and minimalism but the direction, the purpose for such has shifted. We now see folks fasting- actually attempting- to go without things that actually strain their willpower, but the reason for this is NOT to show reverence to the Lord, or to prove to ourselves our inadequacies before Him, but rather, these things are done to prove or promote our reverence to ourselves! We bow and sacrifice to ourselves and to the alter of humanism. We build ourselves up, much like the Tower of Babel as an affront to God. “Look at me, World, and hear me roar for I can accomplish anything I set my mind to!”

Society has replaced God with the concept of ‘self-worth’ and self-importance and the paradigm shift has tremendous ramifications. One such ramification is just as Pastor Mike explained a few Sundays ago– a world where we see men choosing to be women and vice versa and a world where it is wrong to consider certain acts as sin (i.e. homosexuality). We see a world where the hierarchy of parents over children is crumbling and the very fabric of family unraveling. We see disposal marriages across every facet of life and across the socioeconomic spectrum and while there can be many fingers pointed for such things, I cannot think of a greater reason than replacement of God in our lives and society with the idea of self and the paradigm of “me-first”.

The point of this ramble is that in all we do, the goal should be to honor God. I am not saying that we shouldn’t try to become better. We should all strive to become better– better Christians and better stewards of the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior! Self-denial of carbs for the sake of looking better is simple vanity! These bodies are fleeting and are made to break down as we know them. However, desiring better eating habits for the sake of living a longer life so that we can spread more Christian joy and help fulfill the Great Commission is a virtue! Working harder to make more money is no sin and neither is stretching our budgets but doing so for the purpose of greater and fancier possessions brings about a new master that bids total allegiance. When these tidings are brought to us, we are but stewards of such tidings and as such, it is imperative and our duty to broadcast these blessings to increase the reach of Light of the World.