Under the Influence

Philippians 4:1-9

You Are What You Eat

You know, when I was 18, it seemed I could eat whatever I wanted, however much I wanted, whenever I wanted. My gut was iron. My metabolism ran at warp speed. That……was then……

Now, I don’t feel so good after I eat that huge pile of chili-cheese dogs with jalapeños and cole slaw. My energy vanishes, I get irritable, and my body tells me it is not happy.

I’ve started paying more attention to how I feel after I eat certain things. And I’ve noticed a pattern:

When I eat processed food or when I overeat, I feel bad.

When I eat real, actual food (like fruits and vegetables and fresh meats), I feel good.

What I put in my body dramatically affects how I feel and how my body and mind performs. Maybe that’s what is meant by that old adage: “You are what you eat.”

Friendly Influences

But what you put into your life involves a lot more than just what we eat.

I had a best friend growing up. His family knew my family, and his house was only a couple blocks away. For a kid in my family, when I was growing up, that meant an extra measure of freedom. I can’t really share what happened in his life, but in adolescence he gradually turned to anger, drugs, and violence. We’d been friends for so long, I couldn’t imagine not being friends.

But still, he developed into someone who was not a good influence, something that was brought to my attention more times than I could count—and certainly more times than I ended up listening.

Eventually though—by the prompting of our Holy God—I began distancing myself from all that. I didn’t want to, but I recognized my life was heading in a direction I didn’t want to go. My friend and I didn’t have a fight or anything; we just started hanging out less and less. Our friendship kind of petered off into nothing.

But it was and is a small town. Everyone knows everyone’s business. So I also know that, of the four or five in our group of friends back then, I am the only one without a criminal record. Three have done time. One (I heard) was locked away for manslaughter. Another’s brain has been permanently messed up from drugs.

I look at them and I say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” And I am grateful for the divine prompting to remove these unhealthy influences from my life, even as I grieve their own brokenness.

That which we put into our lives, is that which we get out of our lives.

What is sown is also reaped 

It’s harvest time, of course. And in the few days before the recent storms moved in, all the farmers were out in their fields, furiously harvesting what they could before the skies opened up, the fields became saturated, and that nervous waiting game began of having ready crops but not being able to bring them in.

It is the time of reaping, and a time when all farmers hope in that ancient adage: “What is sown is also reaped.” They have laboriously planted and diligently tended good seed in the hopes of a good harvest.

You know, a lot of people think this adage of sowing and reaping comes from the Bible. It is in the Bible, in Galatians 6:7, but the apostle Paul is clearly quoting an already-known adage or proverb here. It’s origins are lost to history. But just as we do today, the biblical writers heard truth in it, and as we know, all truth comes from God.

“Whatever a person sows, that shall he also reap.”

Svengoolie

But it’s not just our stomachs, our lives, or our gardens that work like this. Our minds operate on the same principle.

There is a show called Svengoolie on a local TV channel out of Chicago. I think you’d have to call it a comedy-horror show. It’s a show that plays old horror movies, especially the old black-and-white monster movies. But it’s hosted by a character (called “Svengoolie”) who makes jokes about the movies and other things.

It’s not a show I remember my parents allowing us to watch, but as another adage says: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” So when staying over at friends’ or relatives’ houses, I’d convince them to turn the show on, laughing and being frightened over and over.

And what do you think would happen when I stayed up late and watched movies about monsters and vampires and mummies and death and spooky things?

Quite expectedly, I had dreams about monsters and vampires and mummies and death and spooky things: nightmares, I believe we call them.

What I put into my mind is the same thing that I got out of it.

Philippians

Now the apostle Paul (quite tragically) never had the opportunity to know of Svengoolie, but he sure could have predicted my bad dreams. Paul sees this truth. He knows it well. What we feed into our minds will come out in our lives.

He says in Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

I’m going to read that verse again, and I want to encourage you to listen to it from another translation (The VOICE):

“Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy.”

I don’t know what bad stuff they were dwelling on back then. But I do know it’s hard to be part of our culture right now without feeding your mind on dissension, violence, adultery, ignorance, and lies. They comprise our news. They comprise our politics. They comprise our TV shows and our movies.

If this is what we put into our heads, should we really be so surprised when our lives are full of these things too?

If we fill our minds with violence, division, adultery, ignorance, and lies, then those things will certainly characterize our lives.

Why?

Because you are what you eat.
What you put into your life is what you get out of it.
What is sown is also reaped.
What we put into our minds will come out in our lives.

Too many of us perform some unhealthy substitutions to Paul’s list.

We substitute volume,
for truth.

We value 15 minutes of fame,
above a lifetime of being noble.

We replace being right,
with more intense rhetoric.

Popular (to us),
is much preferred to purity

That which is sexual,
is valued far more than what is lovely or beautiful.

We’re much more interested in learning of some celebrity’s fall from grace,
than we are in hearing of anything admirable.

We’d rather be entertained by stupidity,
than challenged by excellence.

But remember, Christians. Remember and be warned:

You are what you eat.
What you put into your life is what you get out of it.
What is sown is also reaped.
What we put into our minds will come out in our lives.

When we consume these substitutes, we give our souls heartburn and cause our own distress and destruction.

And so Paul reminds us: Listen. Fill your minds with the good things of God. “Put it into practice,” Paul says in v.9, “And the God of peace will be with you” (Phil 4:9b).

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