Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Do you want to hear a healthy, balanced approach to food? Here's Elyse Fitzpatrick.
 
Elyse Fitzpatrick: I think it's good for us just from time to time to say "no" to our flesh. Can you have this? Sure. Is it sinful for you to have it? No. Do you need to have it whenever you want it? Absolutely not. You know what? Today I'm going to say "no"—just to say, "Flesh, you are not going to rule my life." 

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, February 7. 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We have been talking over the last several days with Elyse Fitzpatrick about her book Love to Eat, Hate to Eat: Breaking the Bondage of Destructive Eating Habits. As we have said, this is an issue that so many, many, many of us as Christian women identify with.

I'm thankful that we have been joined here in the studio by a number of women who have been participating in the conversation with us.

Now we just want to give you a chance to perhaps ask Elyse a question about what we have been talking about or maybe to share out of your own life, your own experience, something that the Lord has shown you that has been helpful to you in this area. Perhaps you can share out of your own defeat and realizing that whatever you have experienced by way of defeat in this area, chances are very strong that you are not alone in this room in that area.

So there's really the freedom to be real with each other and to walk in the light and let the Lord minister His grace through His Word to us.

Elyse, one of the insights that you share in your book which I thought was so powerful was that God has given us both fasting and feasting and the right balance and proportion of those for His glory and great freedom.

The world's counterfeit substitutes for those things are anorexia and gluttony. So we take what God intended to be a good gift, fasting in its place and feasting in its place. We abuse them and pervert them and take them to excess and out from under the control of God, and we end up with anorexia and gluttony.

Talk just a moment if you would about the whole thing of fasting and what you see as being the role of fasting in the life of a believer. 

Elyse: I think that fasting is obviously a biblical discipline. Fasting does not prove your sincerity to God or anything like that. I think that just getting ourselves away from food a while to muse upon the Lord is a good thing to do.

I'm very careful when I talk about fasting because there are people for whom fasting would be disastrous. Certainly, if you are a person who struggles with not eating enough, you need to not fast.

But for a person who is in bondage to food, for a person who is just looking to become closer in her relationship with the Lord, I think fasting is appropriate whether you choose just to fast for one day or however long that might be.

I think it's good for us just from time to time to say "no" to our flesh. Can you have this? Sure. Is it sinful for you to have it? No. Do you need to have it whenever you want it? Absolutely not. You know what? Today I'm going to say "no." 

Nancy: Just to say, "Flesh, you are not going to rule my life." 

Elyse: Just to say, "Flesh, you are not going to rule of my life" and during this time when I would have spent time cooking or eating (whatever), I'm going to meditate on the Lord.

So fasting I think can be very powerful in our lives. We need to manage it and not to give in to some sort of other asceticism.

Nancy: And not use it as penance . . . 

Elyse: Exactly. 

Nancy: . . . for having sinned by overeating. 

Elyse: Right, right. That's what we see in bulimia a lot. The purge in the bulimic is penance. "It's okay. I'm going to make up for the fact that I overate." We do that in numbers of different ways. "I ate too much so I am going to go exercise a lot." Exercise is good; it's healthy. We should do it. But we need to think about it for what it is. It's not penance for overeating. 

Nancy: What's the alternative, biblically, to penance? 

Elyse: Repentance. Right? The biblical alternative to penance is repentance and obedience. One of the Puritans said, “If your obedience is not joyful, it's penance.” So I want to have obedience and repentance and confession and . . . 

Nancy: . . . trusting in the atonement of Christ as what pays for my sin, not any penance that I can do. 

Elyse: Exactly. Exactly. 

Audience Member (Karen): Elyse, I would just like to ask if you could address: When you have a struggle like this of compulsively overeating and you have seen that it's almost like an inherited thing, and you know that it's a problem, an issue with your heart, and you want to overcome that, but what is so hard for me is seeing what I am doing to my children.

They are observing my behavior. I make food such a focus that I'm setting them up for failure, too.

So I cope and I struggle with my own sin issues. But then I have more condemnation put upon me because of what I am doing to my children.

Like you said, just this past week I got up on Monday morning and thought, Okay I'm going to do better this week. I am going to watch what I eat. I'm going to take care of myself. I'm going to exercise.

And the Lord just whispered into my spirit. He said, "Karen, you cannot do this. You can only do this through the power of the Holy Spirit, and until you let go, and you let Me take this issue in your life, you will never have victory."

I would ask if you could just address that a little bit. 

Elyse: Thank you first of all for your openness about that. This is an issue for most of us that is an ongoing issue. This is one of those places where God works progressive sanctification over a long period of time.

So first of all, I want to encourage you that even if you have to get up every morning for the next six months or year and say, "Father today, today." I would encourage you first of all, that's the place to start.

The place to start is on your knees in prayer asking that the Lord would help you to eat properly, but to do so primarily for His glory. So the way that I pray in the morning is I pray, "Father, You know my besetting sins. Please keep me from them today for Your glory, for Your glory."

I would also encourage you, and I am going to say this very carefully, I want to encourage you that your children's sanctification, your children's growth and holiness, does not depend solely upon you.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit may use even your failures as a means to draw them to Himself. God may use even this area in their lives as a means to draw them to Him (just like He is doing with you) to draw them to Him and to help them to see that they need a Savior.

So I want to try and perhaps comfort you a little bit. It doesn't depend just on you. That doesn't excuse us from seeking to be obedient. We just need to remember that our children's souls belong to the Lord and not to us. 

Nancy: It's really important for your children to see, whether it's in this area or any other issue, to see the humility, the way you respond when you do fail. It's important to see parents not only obeying God, that's obviously vital, but to see parents repenting and believing the gospel, living out the gospel, and going to the cross when they fail.

Children know that their parents fail anyway. So the honesty of parents walking in the light before their children and saying, "I am a sinner in need of God's grace continually" is probably as helpful in their process of sanctification as if, in a sense, you never sinned.
Again, "we don't sin so that grace may abound. God forbid" (see Rom. 6:15). But as we do sin, grace does abound.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back. She and Elyse Fitzpatrick have been discussing a topic we all deal with: food. We have been eating so long you'd think we would have mastered it by now. But it seems like we all have issues and questions.

Today's program is part of a series with Elyse Fitzpatrick called Love to Eat, Hate to Eat. The conversations with Elyse are so helpful that it hurts to edit some of the content out, but that's what we do in order to fit the time restraints of radio. But you can hear Nancy's entire conversation with Elyse by ordering this series on three CDs. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1-800-569-5959.

That’s the same number to call and get a copy of Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book, Love to Eat, Hate to Eat. We’ll send it to you when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Again, visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959 and ask for Love to Eat, Hate to Eat by Elyse Fitzpatrick.

Now, let’s get back to the conversation between Elyse and Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: Now one of the things I love about your approach to this whole topic is you're saying that what we need is "Spirit-wrought godliness," you call it, not just another diet. You say that work of the Spirit in our hearts, bringing about a transformation and conforming us to the image of Christ is the only solution in dealing with these enslaving habits, that will bring about true and lasting change.

Then the whole process of change and sanctification becomes so important. How do we become like Christ? How do we become holy and becoming pre-occupied, if you will, with that as our objective and that as our goal rather than just how do I look good or how do I get control over this eating habit.

Now, I appreciated in the book a list of four things that you said we need to do as part of the process or that are part of the process of sanctification. We’ve talked about one of those already that, relying upon the Holy Spirit, we have to become convinced that our present method of eating is sinful, if it is, and cease from it.
We’ve talked some about how do I identify what is sinful eating, how to know if it is sinful eating. Tell us, then, what is the next step in the process of change and sanctification?

Elyse: The next step would be, and again, this is relying on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Nancy: We need to keep saying that.

Elyse: Yes, yes, because, again, we find ourselves on Monday morning saying, “I’m going to just gut it out this week. This week I am going to do this.”

Nancy: That’s a killer way to live.

Elyse: Yes, yes, it is. And it’s a way to live that’s just filled with defeat.

Nancy: It ends up putting us in a self-righteous place, which is exactly what the Pharisees did. They had it all put together on the outside, but inside the cup, Jesus said, their hearts were just full of greed and sin.

Elyse: Right. So, again, it’s a reliance upon the Holy Spirit, which is why, as we've been talking, I've been really trying to stress prayer, asking God for help. In relying upon the Holy Spirit, we need to then become convinced that God's ways, God's methods for disciplined eating, are right and to begin practicing them.

I know that sounds really simplistic. It's basically what the Bible calls the put off/put on dynamic. When we identify sinful practices in our life, the Bible tells us what to do. The Bible says that we need to, by the power of the Holy Spirit, if we are convinced that the way we are doing something is sinful, that we need to stop doing that thing.

But it's not just enough to stop doing it. We must do something else. We must now put on godly eating habits, becoming convinced that the way that God talks about food, the way that God talks about how we're sustained, is correct and that we need to begin to do that.

So it's not just enough, again, to say "I'm going to stop doing this; I'm going to put off this sin." In order to truly change, we have to put obedient living in its place.

So the second step is to become convinced that God's methods for disciplined eating are right and begin practicing them.

Nancy: And then we need to let that whole way of thinking change our way of thinking, which is the third step you talk about in that process.

Elyse: Right, to seek diligently, to change your mind and become conformed to God's thinking, especially in the area of your eating habits. That's where Bible study or reading books about appropriate use of food is really helpful. We are asking the Lord, just going through, perhaps, and doing a Bible study on what the Bible has to say about food.

It’s really astonishing to me that from the very beginning, from the Garden of Eden all the way through to the marriage supper of the Lamb, the Bible talks about food and about appropriate ways to eat.

So I want to begin to think God's thoughts after Him about food. I want to think about it the way that He wants me to think about it. So I learn that food is good. It is given to me as good, as a blessing from the Lord. And yet, like all of the goods that God gives to us, it must be managed under His sovereign rule. So I need to think about food in those ways and seek to become conformed to His thoughts in my thinking.

Then, finally, to practice these things.

Nancy: And practice, and practice and practice.

Elyse: And practice. I appreciate what you said. So many women have kitchens filled with diet books. Whatever the latest book is (you know, every six months or so it changes), and these books sell millions and millions of copies because people are desperate and they're really looking for something that will tell them, "Just tell me what to do, and I'll do it."

Of course, the problem is that, particularly for those who diet, you can lose twenty or thirty or fifty pounds, and you can do it over and over and over and over again in your life, depending upon what diet you're on.

So I don't focus on that. I do lay out sort of an eating plan, but that's not where the focus is. The focus has to be on the Holy Spirit sanctifying this area of my life, making me holy in this area of my life. So that I'm not worried about, “Am I eating X number of fat grams; am I eating this many calories; am I eating this many carbs?” I'm saying, "Is the way that I'm eating right now glorifying to God?"

Nancy: In fact, Colossians talks about how some people say, "Don't taste; don't touch," and that those ways of constantly putting our flesh under the Law don't actually remove our sensual or sinful appetites and desires.

Elyse: Right. As a matter of fact, what Colossians says, then, at the end is that it really only results in fleshly indulgence, you know.

Nancy: We really want more.

Elyse: Yes, we just want more. So instead of saying, "You can't ever eat this," I want to ask other questions that have more to do with my motive for wanting to eat it: Am I truly hungry? Am I eating this rejoicing before the Lord with friends?

We've got that passage in Deuteronomy 26 where God says that we can use what actually is a second tithe to enjoy whatever we want to eat as we're gathered together with other people.

See, there's nothing wrong with that, but it has to do with the heart attitude: Am I seeking to please God in my eating? Sometimes that means I don't feast; sometimes that means I need to fast; sometimes that means that I just say, "For a season I'm not going to eat this food." It's not because the food is sinful in itself, but because I see that it's becoming to mean too much to me. I can't make it through the morning unless I have it, so I'm not going to be enslaved to it. So I'm just going to say "no" to it for a while.

So when Paul says, "I'm going to buffet"—that's buffet, not buffet, right?

Nancy: What does that word mean?

Elyse: Buffet? Or Buffet?

Nancy: I know what buffet means.

Elyse: I'm going to be strict with myself, not for the purpose of proving my own righteousness, but just because I don't want my flesh, which is very strong, to sort of get out of hand. I don't want my flesh to always be dictating to me what I ought to have.

So for instance, if there's something that I always eat (when I get up in the morning I must have this, this, and this), then I need to stop that for a while. Why?

Well, because I don't want to be enslaved to it. For me personally, that means that I don't drink caffeine. Now, everybody gasps because we all love our coffee. But I was at a conference one time and hadn't had enough caffeine during the day and had a horrible headache. You know, the caffeine headache. I thought, I'm addicted. I'm an addict; this is wrong.

So I don't want to be enslaved to anything, whether it's something that really has a physiological thing like that (caffeine) or even just having my Krispie Kreme donut in the morning. Can I go without it and not be cranky? That's a question I need to ask. See, that's harder than just saying, "Don't eat more than forty grams of fat or something."

Nancy: Harder, but ultimately the pathway to freedom.

Elyse: Correct.

Nancy: I'm thinking of that passage in 2 Peter 2 where Peter talks about those who promise us freedom (maybe all these diet books) but are themselves slaves of corruption. And then he says, "For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved."

And I think about the apostle Paul's writings in Corinthians and Romans where he says, “I'm not going to be enslaved by anything other than Jesus.” Is this thing okay? It may be permissible; it may not be inherently sinful, but does it bind me? Does it put me in bondage? Is it my master? If so, then for me it becomes a false god.

And we're not only putting off the old master and saying, "I won't be overcome by this, by God's grace and the power of His Holy Spirit. But I will bow before Him; I will acknowledge Him as the Lord and ruler of my life." 

Elyse: That, Nancy, makes everything much clearer. It enables us to then have the power of the Holy Spirit working in this so that it's not just me, again, being on a diet for three months and losing a couple of pounds. It's an issue of holiness and sanctification. 

Nancy: And worship. 

Elyse: Yes. It gets down to the command to love God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Those commands are just so amazing to me in this area of eating.

How much do I really love God like that? And how many times have I been unkind to someone? Cranky with someone who hasn't given me the food I think I have to have? You see, so I'm violating those commandments just to get the food I want. 

Leslie: That's Elyse Fitzpatrick. As she and Nancy Leigh DeMoss have shown us today, learning to control what we eat can be a matter of worship. One helpful way to grow in this area, to grow as a worshiper, is to get a copy of Elyse's book, “Love to Eat, Hate to Eat.”

When you support Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any size, we’ll send you a copy. So when you call with your donation, just ask for Love to Eat, Hate to Eat. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

This fall you have a chance to hear from our guest, Elyse Fitzpatrick, in person.

Here’s Nancy to tell you more.

Nancy: I believe that in our churches and across this nation, millions of women are at a crossroad. It’s time for us to surrender unhealthy attitudes and wrong assumptions. It’s time for us to cry out together for God to revive His people.

That’s why this year we’re hosting a national conference called True Woman ’12: Seeking Him Together for Spiritual Awakening. I believe something powerful happens when women gather together to cry out to the Lord, and that’s why we’re joining together to earnestly plead for God to pour out His Spirit on us and on our land.

I’ll be speaking at True Woman ’12, and so will today’s guest, Elyse Fitzpatrick. We’ll also be joined by Joni Eareckson Tada, Priscilla Shirer, Mary Kassian, Janet Parshall, and others. I hope you’ll join us and thousands of other women in seeking Him together at True Woman ’12.

The date, mark it on your calendar, is September 20-22 in Indianapolis. You can get all the details on group discounts and early-bird registration by visiting us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy.

Maybe after hearing today’s program and the series Love to Eat, Hate to Eat, you’re convicted that a certain eating habit is a sin for you. How do you bring about change when change seems so difficult? Get some help when Elyse Fitzpatrick joins us again tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.