Around five years ago, I started to wonder about my diet. I was constantly dealing with migraines and my overall health wasn’t that good. Part of my problem was a serious heart condition, but I also started to wonder if I was gluten intolerant. Both of my sisters dealt with that and I started to notice a pattern of meals with high-levels of gluten followed by the dreaded “headache.”
After some consideration, my wife and I made the decision to move towards a gluten-free diet. Not just me, but our whole family. We knew it was going to be hard, expensive, and inconvenient at times, but we thought it was better than the alternative. Thankfully, we got great results. My headaches gradually started to go away and Steph did a great job of changing how she cooked. It has been a sacrifice for sure, but it has paid off in a big way.
When we went gluten-free, we were able to eliminate most of the gluten in our diet, but not all. There are often little traces of gluten that end up in food, which is why nutritional companies are careful to note that on their labels. While some people are required to be on a strict gluten-free diet, my system can tolerate small amounts of it, and I am thankful for that. In all reality, it is hard to completely eliminate gluten from your diet. Some do it out of necessity, but they have to be very careful.
There have been times over the last few years I have pondered how our “gluten detox” parallels what should be happening in the life of every believer. Since the time of our conception, we have been infected with the virus of sin (Psalm 51:5). Wherever we go, our sin nature goes with us. The good news is that if you are a Christian, not only are you forgiven, but you have been freed from sin’s power. The apostle Paul explains it this way: “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).
Indeed, this is good news! But we must be careful to guard against a passive approach to Christian discipleship. Many have fallen prey to the “let go and let God” approach. It sounds all good and spiritual, but it is not biblical. Consider just one verse, Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
This “laying aside” is tough business. Sin seeps into the core of our being and makes detox extremely difficult. In fact, my gluten illustration breaks down here because it can be eliminated from a person’s diet. However, sin touches us at a heart level (Matthew 15:19, Jeremiah 17:9) and stays with us until our final breath.
That being said, victory over indwelling sin is not impossible. Far from it! God has given His people everything they need in their fight against sin. He has given us the Word, prayer, the Church, not to mention other spiritual disciplines, and most importantly…..Himself. God has given us His Holy Spirit in order that we might put off sin and put on righteousness.
What if we put as much effort into our own sanctification as we did into things like diet and nutrition? My wife and I, like many, have put a lot of thought and energy in figuring out our diet. We did this because we wanted to feel better, and work towards eliminating those foods negatively impacting our systems. This is good and even necessary, but Scripture reminds us that we have a much bigger problem than that of food allergies. That problem is sin.
It is my prayer that we would be vigilant in our efforts to detox from sin. As John Piper puts it, “Be killing sin before sin kills you.” Be pro-active and intentional, but also understand your desperate need for God. Philippians 2:12-13 seems to capture well these twin dynamics: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and work for his good pleasure.”
Christian, be encouraged! God is preparing you for heaven and desires that you might “share in His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). Know that one day our battle against sin will be over and there will be no more need for detox. Praise God!