Main Passage: Exodus 1:8-36
Secondary Passage: Romans 6:17-22
Memory Verses: "Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."
I went to the gym and got caught in the traffic of the New Year's resolution-iers. I found one elliptical free, so I got down to business with my cardio.The machine beside me opened up, and suddenly I was hit in the face with some woman's strong perfume. UGH! This woman, who was in my age group, wearing some hip workout "costume", slathered in perfume, caked with make-up, and "perfect" hair decided to do her killer cardio routine. No warm-up, she just went as hard as she could go from beginning to end. She acted as if she had blessed everyone around her with her presence. Pushing her heart rate as high as she could go, she looked like she was "working hard". After 25 years experience in health and fitness, I can tell you what this translates into, "I'm afraid no one will like me if I don't look perfect. I want to look like I did in my 20's. I want that perfect body so someone will notice me, maybe want me. If l look like I'm working really hard, then I will fit in with the gym-bunny crowd." This is the stereotype of slavery I see regularly in the health and fitness world. Slavery to false perfection, acceptance, sex, self. Someday, this mentality will fail her, if it hasn't all ready. Because beauty fades as we age, we lose the elastin & collagen in our skin and get wrinkles on our faces, hair color on snow white hair looks fake, and body parts sag, if you get what I mean. I would like to offer you freedom from what has you chained in slavery to acceptance, sex, self, perfection, or whatever that might be for you. You can have freedom to live a totally healthy lifestyle that truly glorifies God and to be a real blessing to others.
Israel was in slavery to Egypt after Joseph and his brothers died off. The new Pharaoh who didn't know Joseph, found the Israelites a major threat to Egyptian security. His plan was to put them under harsh slavery. They were majorly oppressed to the point of their baby boys' lives were at stake at birth because there were so many of them. Israel suffered for almost 300 years in this state. At first, what Joseph did for his family gave them protection. God set the stage to fulfill His promise to Abraham to make a great nation from his family, too numerous to count. Israel grew to become a very large nation within Egyptian slavery. They begged and pleaded with God for deliverance. They were about to become a nation belonging to God, but they needed to experience His deliverance, power, love, and provision. It was later, after they were freed from Egypt that they begged to go back (Exodus 14:12)! Israel proved to be an unfaithful, stubborn bunch. Are we really any different?
Jesus taught His followers in John 8 , after a rigorous debate with the Pharisees, that they would be set free. Confused, they told Him they had never been in bondage to anyone, what did He mean they would be free? He went on to explain to them that knowing the Truth from Him would free them from slavery to sin. Instead of being slaves, they would be children of God. Paul later taught in Romans 6:17-22 about freedom from the law of sin, but taught of a slavery to God which gives holiness and eternal life. The original readers were enslaved to sin from idolatry. He was offering them freedom in Jesus Christ to be rescued from death and offered everlasting life. The very same freedom Jesus taught His followers. I find it interesting that the people Jesus and Paul preach to were totally unaware of being enslaved at all, yet they were. Are we really any different?
When we think of being in bondage, we literally think of slaves; in current thought, we think of those who are caught in sex slave trade. Although a very valid concern, there is a more subtle slavery alive and well today. We willingly submit to a very harsh master without realizing it. In fact, we fall back into it over and over again. Our world teaches a slavery to self, being part of the "in" crowd, perfection by the world's standard, and approval seeking. Even more, there is also a slavery to New Age thought and practices disguised as health, fitness, and wellness. Most people looking to lose weight and get in shape this time of year want to look nice, buff, have the tight "booty", look sexy, look younger. It's not long before they get caught up in gazing at themselves in the mirror, wanting to be wanted, and chant mantras in exercise classes. I see it all the time in health and fitness. The woman I mentioned was caught up in it.I did at one point in my life. We fall for this hook, line, and sinker.
My husband shared with me an article about an extreme fitness class trend by invitation only. It was so intense that invitees had to sign waivers because, "1 in 35 die" according to the newsfeed article he found. Curiously, in a Wall Street Journal news article, those invited felt flattered to be selected for such a secret class! They found joy in their misery together. Some people in classes like this easily drop $500 per month for their fitness fix! That's a lot of moolah. I see this as yet another form of slavery in health and fitness, "The Extreme Team", I call it. Some will live for it and die for it. They become addicted to the torturous workouts that push them to their absolute max. This makes CrossFit and Boot Camp classes look like child's play. In all honesty, only those who are very athletic or ex-military should ever train this super hard. According to the National Exercise Trainers Association, the average person really only needs cardio for 30-60 minutes a day 5-6 days week, full body weights 2-3 non-consecutive days, and stretching of the major muscle groups daily. This certainly doesn't mean all extreme classes are bad or dangerous, but there is a price to pay for this type of training. These people are submitting to a very harsh task master indeed. Not much different than the Israelites under the slavery to the Egyptians in Moses' day. And for what? To call themselves bad
You can have freedom to live a healthy lifestyle that honors God, not giving glory to self or others, regardless of what exercise venue you choose. By living out His teachings to love God first, then to love others as ourselves, we find a healthy balance in our quest for being totally fit (Matthew 22:36-40). Take care of the body God gave you so it will serve Him and you well in life; don't torture it or worship it. Find freedom in Christ to live a totally fit and healthy lifestyle.
May God bless you!