How does Christ prepare a “fish”? The same way you might. Here’s the last of 6 installments using the example of fish to learn about our relationship with Christ.
Preparing a Fish, Step 4: Get Rid of the Fish Guts
You’ve Got Guts! If someone like John Wayne said that to you, you could take it as a real compliment; but when the Bible states it … well, not so much. We’ll explain why in a moment.
When preparing a fish for your family, you usually want to cut off the head and tail. Those things don’t look too appetizing on the plate. One thing you’ll always want to do, though, is to make a slit down the fish’s belly and remove all the guts: the stomach and the intestines. If you don’t, when you sit down to eat, you won’t be having just fish for dinner; you’ll also be having everything your finny friend was having before you reeled him in. That’s right. You’ll be eating the contents of the fish’s stomach along with the — ahem — stuff in the fish’s intestines. Yech! That’s not very appealing.
Well, when God prepares each us for a new life with Him, He also wants to get rid of our guts. No, He doesn’t want to remove our vital organs — this is not Frankenstein’s Lab Class. But we can liken our “guts” to our natural, “fleshly” appetites and inclinations — and those things are not appealing to God. Why? Because our natural inclinations always lead us to do the wrong thing. Ever hear the expression “My gut reaction”? Follow your gut, and you might be inclined to do something you’ll later regret, like punch that obnoxious coworker in the snout. (Yes, yes, we know he’s been asking for it, but you mustn’t give in to your gut feelings.)
In addition to the sometimes savage, usually impulsive inclinations of your gut, there also are equally savage appetites (cravings) that lead us to make impulsive choices. We’ll rush into a bad relationship without taking the time to think things through; we’ll charge a new outfit that’s on sale, or drop several bills on a cool entertainment gadget, without truly counting the cost of how we’ll afford it; and without giving a single thought to calories or how we’ll fit into the new jeans we bought last month, we’ll scarf down a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s — after we’ve polished off a large Domino’s pizza! Face it, our appetites can and often do control us.
Speaking of the appetite, ever pass McDonald’s and decide you’re about to have a Mac Attack? You may not even feel hungry until you spy those golden arches, but suddenly you swerve across two lanes of traffic and bounce over a curb for a pack of fries! Are you weird? No. There’s even a story in the Bible that illustrates the power of the appetite:
In Genesis chapter 25, Esau, the firstborn son of Isaac, and his father’s favorite, was in line to inherit the lion’s share of Isaac’s estate and authority. Esau was to receive not simply an inheritance, but also Isaac’s position, power and prominence. This was his birthright as the firstborn son. It was his whole future … and he gave it all away in return for a bowl of stew! Yes, he sold his life for a bunch of beans. Hard to believe? But wait, that’s not all, folks: Esau wasn’t malnourished; nor had he gone days without a meal. He simply had a huge appetite and didn’t have enough discipline to say no to his stomach (his gut). No doubt, long after that meal became just another outdoor memory, Esau regretted his poor judgement and rash desicion. Poor guy was just a victim of a kosher Mac Attack!
Now, before any of our readers declare that food is not their problem, let’s point out that our appetites (our gut inclinations and cravings) take many forms. We may crave position, power, fame, fortune, things (you know, grown up toys), and even sex (hard to believe that one, right?). In and of themselves, such things are not bad, nor is craving them a horrible thing. These are our natural inclinations and appetites, our gut feelings; what’s bad is when we allow ourselves to be controled by our appetites; When we eat so much sugar that we develop diabetes, or shop so much that we go in debt, or work so much to climb the ladder of success that we neglect and even risk losing our loved ones; or we … well, we’ll leave the last one to your imagination. Feeding our appetites may bring us temporary satisfaction, but it always comes at a price: our health, our freedom, our peace of mind, even our own self-respect.
Christ has a better plan for His fishes. He doesn’t want us controlled by our appetites; making decisions we’ll later regret (like Esau); shackled to our gut desires. Instead, He wants us to scoop out the guts. That’s how we prepare a fish and it’s how we prepare ourselves to lead healthy, productive, fulfilled lives without regrets, excessive debts, shackles or bonds. Scoop out the gut inclinations and appetites by asking God to help you live a disciplined life. Seek to do His will, not yours. Don’t be led by the things you want and crave, be led by God’s Word instead. Don’t buy in to that old Burger King ad to “Have it your way”; have it God’s way! In the long run, you’ll find it tastier, more (ful-)filling, and more nourishing. And you won’t need to buy larger jeans.
“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself.” (1 Corinthians 6:19 NLT)
“…Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” (Galatians 5:16 NLT)
“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)