Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. 1 Timothy 4:1-5
As Francis Schaeffer used to remind us, the devil rarely gives us the luxury of fighting on one front only. We see a monster in front of us wanting to devour us, and we back away in dread. But if we’re not careful, we might walk into the jaws of another monster right behind us. We usually fight on two fronts at once.
Today we fight the danger of materialism. But let’s not overlook the opposite danger of asceticism, which denies the goodness of God in the creation. This ultra-serious “holiness” is attractive, in its way. But it is premised in an audacious lie.
It is a lie so audacious, so destructive, that the apostle Paul calls it demonic. That’s serious. But this heretical teaching does not deny obvious truths like the virgin birth of Christ, his sinless life, his atoning death, his bodily resurrection, his heavenly reign, his imminent return. This bad doctrine influences people not to get married, because that involves sex, which is icky, and not to eat certain foods, because they taste good, which is risky. And if marriage and food are bad, then there is no end to the denials and deprivations that “serious Christians” must accept, if they are to measure up. So forget coffee and with cream and sugar. Take out the sugar. That’s bad for you. And stop using cream. It tastes too good. And why even drink coffee, for that matter? Why not just hot water? Or even better, water at room temperature? Once you start down this path of creation-denial, there is no way to stop, until you delete your very existence. And that lie will not only make you miserable; it will also end up denying Christ, the Word become flesh (John 1:14).
What then is the truth that we may and must stand for and rejoice over? The truth is, “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” This beautiful truth includes marriage and food and mowing the lawn and flying a kite and paying the bills and sharpening a pencil and sitting on the porch in the evening and playing Monopoly with the kids and laughing at hilarious jokes and setting up chairs at church, and on and on and on. There is so much divine goodness all around. To push it away, to be above it, would insult our gracious Creator.
Our earthly human existence is where true holiness thrives. How? By thanking the Lord for his gifts moment by moment, and by applying the word of God to them moment by moment: “. . . for it is made holy by the word of God [Genesis 1:31] and prayer [the giving of thanks, mentioned in verses 3 and 4].”
Good enough for God, and good enough for us, for the good is transformed by his grace into the holy.