On the Law, the Gospel, and the Religion of Weight Loss

Prayer of Consecration

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body as a holy and living sacrifice to you.

Jesus, We belong to you.

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Romans 2:12–16 (NIV) 

Consider This

Welcome back to Sin Swamp where today we will be talking about the Law.

A text like today’s seems irrelevant and even obtuse to the average twenty-first-century bible reader. It feels like Paul is dealing with a first-century issue we no longer deal with. Truth is, we don’t—and yet we do. I’ll say a word in the notes about the historical piece so we can get on to the present-day matters.1

Just as there is capital S Sin and little s sins so there is the capital “L” Law and all the little “l” laws.

The capital L law, according to Jesus, is, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ and to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’’’ (see Mark 12:30–31)

All the little “l” laws show us examples of what it looks like to break the capital L law.

Capital S Sin simply means the failure of love. Little “s” sins are all the ways we do so. The problem is we put all the focus on the little “l” laws and consequently the little “s” sins. We must get our focus back onto the capital L Law of Love. Only this will shift us out of sin management mode with its endless behavior modification strategies which is another name for religious legalism.

Let’s bring it all together with a practical example.

It might surprise you to know that I am obese. I’m not super fat, but according to the charts, I qualify. I am five foot eleven inches and I weigh (can’t believe I’m telling you this) 221 pounds as of yesterday. I have been stuck in a plus or minus range of 220 for the past four years. I’m actually down from 236 pounds at my high. The charts say I should weigh around 180.

I’ve done calorie counting, WeightWatchers, Atkins diet, Whole30, keto, Mediterranean diet, intermittent fasting, macro management, diet pills, the Noom app, weight training, 10,000 steps a day, and whatever is next. Still, I remain obese—stuck at 220 pounds.

I find all of these programs and approaches have in common a focus on little “l” laws and little “s” sins. Don’t do this, reduce that, measure this, count that, calories in, calories out, weigh every day, weigh every week, weight is just a number, don’t weigh at all, throw the scale away, analyze, monitor, track, record, and repeat. And rest too, yes, rest. Oh yeah, and I forgot, drink a ton of water. And the insane thing is all of it kind of works and yet none of it really works at all. It is a kind of religion in and of itself.

They are all just so many little “l” laws, aren’t they? And they are all addressing so many little “s” sins, aren’t they?2 More little laws will never get it done. And it’s amazing how in focusing on so many things we miss the one thing. The whole point Paul will make about the Law and legalistic religion in Romans (and the rest of his letters) is law is powerless to change people. Sneak Preview:

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:3–4)

So how am I going to lose thirty to forty more pounds?

It’s the wrong question, isn’t it? That is the question of little laws and little sins. It is the wrong focus.

So what is the right question?

Some of you are undoubtedly asking, what does any of this have to do with Jesus and Romans and being a Christian? What does my physical body have to do with being more spiritually alive and mature? What if the answer is—everything? Here’s another sneak peek:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Rom. 12:1)

What if the question is, “How might I offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God?” Every. Single. Day. This would mean asking this kind of question:

How might I love God with my body? And truth be told, what do we actually have outside of our own physical body?

From here, we might ask this question, “How might I live according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh?”

Now we are getting somewhere.  


Jesus, we belong to you. Yes, Jesus, I belong to you. Jesus, you are the gospel. I find myself wanting to throw off all the rules and regulations and simply abandon myself to you; to be embraced by you; to receive freedom from you; to behold you; yes, to love you with everything I’ve got, even my body. Something tells me this deeper love of you is the way to the deepest practical life change. I can’t quite grasp it but I’m beginning to get it. Praying in your name, Jesus, amen.

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