false gods: the diet plan

Continued from False Gods + False Gospels

Quick refresher for those who might be stepping in on week 5 of this series (or for anyone who has slept in the past week): A distorted view of God comes with a distorted gospel. False Gods and false gospels. For the past few weeks we have been unpacking each of the two—not necessarily the things that we worship instead of God, but rather how our lifestyles directly reflect our view of God and how that skews our view of the gospel. Last week we discussed God the medicine cabinet and vending machine, and the week prior we discussed Jesus our homeboy. This week we will be discussing a diet plan view of God, which is as touchy (yet laughable) as it sounds:

The Diet Plan

Every New Years Eve, I, along idealists across the world, resolve to get my life together: to eat only bird food, to put my body in painful scenarios regularly and on purpose, and to go to bed at a decent hour… for an entire year. I always think that whatever year is going to be my year. After a year of consistency I assume I will see the results I want to see. So I download workout apps, clean out the fridge, buy new tennies, and subscribe to caveman meal plans. This focus lasts for a week/day or two until I’m confronted with something I want immediately; the immediacy of what I want in a given moment always seems to derails what I want long-term. Yes, I want to be able to run (will settle for brisk movement) more than a mile, but at the end of the day I would rather do a lot of things other than run. Yes, I want to feel healthy and fit, but I live in a land flowing with chips and guacamole. Yes, I’d like to wake up before the sun and start my day at my own pace, rather than dashing out the door, but that snooze button is bae. And so the story goes… I know I want these things long-term, I just get distracted in the moment. I could really use some focus and discipline.

The diet plan mentality views God and faith like I view my New Years resolutions: it is something I recognize is good for me, something that will yield the long-term results that I want, but one of those things that I’ll prioritize differently depending on the season. If you’re anything like me, a diet is also something that we can be “all into” or “all out of.” I know no middle ground, I’m either counting the calories of gum and toothpaste, or treating every meal like it’s Thanksgiving. Most of the time when I waver for the worst, I convince myself that I’ve simply fallen off the wagon and need to get back on. My diet always starts tomorrow.

I’ve treated God like a diet plan too many times to count. I’ve had seasons where he felt near, spending time with him felt essential, and walking in obedience felt desirable and easy—seasons where I’ve been in killer spiritual shape. But for every second I’ve felt that way, I’ve also felt the opposite—that I not only fell off the wagon, but that the wagon ran me over as it left me in the dust. The issue with this view of God exists in the subtleties, suggesting that the Lord and faith are comparable to self-improvement plans that we can get into when we feel it and get out of when we don’t. While this looks very similar to the natural highs and lows we encounter along our journeys with God, it is actually dangerously far from it. This distorted view of God comes with a false gospel that says that Christianity is about getting your life together. This gospel is about focus and discipline and seeing the results of self-betterment. It comes with a guilt upon seeing people who prioritize it more than you do, with regimented plans for improvement that focus more on you being focused and disciplined than it focuses on God, his mercy, and the work of the Spirit in your life. The true gospel is not about you becoming a better version of yourself; it’s about being made new. Therefore, faith is not something we get into and get out of depending on the season we are in; it is our new reality, our new normal, our new identity. The feelings of motivation and desire will inevitably fluctuate, but Christ does not (Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17) and because we are in him, and his Spirit resides in us, it isn’t getting into or getting out of the “whole God thing”, but rather it is who we are. We have to be careful to avoid reducing our faith to a workout regime that we do to impress God, our community, and ultimately ourselves. When addressing the church in Ephesus, which was #crushingit in the Christian game, God acknowledged that he saw their good intentions and efforts to make a task list out of the faith, but ultimately he noted that they had forgotten the why behind the behavior: “I know your good works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil . . . I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake . . . But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:2-5, NIV). If we are in Christ, we are new, not merely better. Therefore the whole God thing isn’t something we get into and get out of, but instead it is our new normal. Let us not forget about our first love because we are too distracted by our plan to self-betterment.

How have you treated God and the faith as if it was a diet? I would love to hear how you’ve seen this play out in your lives!

Over the next two weeks we will be finishing up the False Gods + False Gospels series. Stay tuned to see how this all ends!

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