Law and Diet

From the Archives. The following article first appeared on on December 31, 2009

This ancient wood engraving depicts the sin of Gluttony (Derived from the Latin gluttire, meaning to gulp down or swallow) It is the sin of over-indulgence, not just of food, but of anything that causes waste.

For me, trying to live a Godly life—one in which I do God’s will and not my own, is very much like trying to stick to a diet.

I start on a diet with firm conviction and stout resolution. I know what I must do and vow to do it. Then suddenly, I find myself eating a french fry, or licking a spoonful of ice cream.  I reason to myself that just a taste won’t add enough calories to tip the scales.

You know the rest—one taste turns into two. Excuses pile up with the calories, soon I’m even bigger than before. I resolve to do better—next time.

New Year’s is when we take an inventory of our past transgressions—the over eating, the failure to keep to a budget, the putting off of tasks that need to be done. We make New Year’s resolutions to do better.

But to make my diet stick, I need more than resolutions. I need to stop thinking about how my pants don’t fit and think more about what it means to have a heart attack or a stroke! I need a strong reminder of the consequences of my actions.

That’s the role that the Law plays in the lives of Christians. It is the Law that makes me an outcast from heaven. In the same way that one tiny little transgression knocked Adam and Eve out of the most exclusive club in the world, losing my temper, telling fibs, not reporting my full income makes me just as eligible for hell as, well, a mass murderer. The Law convicts me.

Fortunately, God sent His Son to die for my sins, and He sent the Holy Spirit to bring me to faith.

But God’s salvation is not a get out of jail free card. While it is true that there was nothing I could do on my own to get God’s loving forgiveness, or even to accept him as my Savior, I can lose my faith on my own. I have an solemn obligation to maintain the faith that I have been given. To keep is strong and to make it stronger.

That is how trying to live a Godly life is like dieting. I know what it is that I need to do but I ofttimes get lazy. I let my faith grow flabby. I have good intentions but I lack the follow through. I let little temptations distract me from sticking to my plan. If I continue down this path, I could very well lose my faith entirely. I’ve seen it happen to others, and I’ve come to realize that it can happen to me.

The same Law that convicts me, can also save me. In our traditional Lutheran sermon, there is always Law and Gospel. The Law must be preached in order for us to appreciate, to understand, to need the Gospel. Without being reminded of the Law, we tend to take the Gospel for granted—what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called Cheap Grace.

But being reminded of the cost that Christ paid for my salvation, and the cost to me if I ever loose site of that fact, goes a long way towards helping me stick to my resolutions.

Good luck with your resolutions this holiday season.

David Brugge
Read more about what Bonheoffer had to say about Cheap and Expensive Grace

About the Author: David Brugge is a Layman at Trinity where he serves as an Elder. He attended St. Paul’s College High in Concordia, MO. and Concordia College in Seward, NE.